Part one, war as it affects the individual I wish to apologise to those serving in the armed forces, their families, and the families of those who have died or been severely injured, for any hurt this essay might give them. When you read on you will find that I have been there, done it, and got the bruises, in many forms of service. The position is that you and I are nothing more than cannon fodder. Somebody with influence and a personal agenda, can very easily send us to be killed and maimed, where the outcome will be far worse than the conditions before it all started. Over the Christmas period television was constantly giving instances of war from as far back as the Trojan War right up to today, and in my view these films were a celebration of war, so-called heroism, but beneath it there was a clear message that war for any reason denigrated both the individual, the family and the condition of life generally.
My father was a pacifist, but had nonetheless joined up in 1914, along with all his friends, in that initial wartime hysteria, that affects young men, so that they take on a life totally foreign to them, while blind to what that life will be, and the outcome. In my case I had the same hysteria to the point when I returned from evacuation to have a year of the London Blitz, before I was old enough to go into the services. During that year I and my friends sought danger and excitement by going out at night, with white-hot shrapnel falling round us, and revelling in it. My war service caused me to lose the pleasure of a teenage education at university, nine years of pension, five years of promotion in my peace- time job, because others had replaced me while I was away. My period at university was highly pressurised because the government ex-service grant gave you only one chance.
The people who instigate a war, our so-called leaders, are not the ones who are expected to suffer the tensions, the incredible conditions, and the total change of perspective, with injury and death just around the corner, something which we generally ignore. A large proportion of the time spent by servicemen is totally wasted, and often a ploy, a psychological interpretation, rather than a necessity. In ’39 I was in Sussex just behind Brighton, and enrolled in the Local Defence Volunteers, LDV, the forerunner of the Home Guard, where we, some with shotguns, others with pitch forks, stood on the Downs waiting for the German parachutists. The fact that we didn’t realise the absurdity shows the level of brainwashing that takes place during a war. Later I joined the Westminster Battalion of the Home Guard and did guard duty in blockhouses, with the Grenadiers, in Westminster. In retrospect there was no way that we were going to be attacked, paratroops couldn’t land there, an army would have landed miles away, and government buildings had security guards inside them. The whole thing was for show, but I believe I and the regulars never thought to work that out for ourselves. At sea, I was bolted down in the bowels of the ship, and the men I was supposed to be fighting were similarly bolted down in their Sub. It was purely tit-for-tat. At the height of the troubles in Belfast, in the 70s, I was so incensed when a young woman, was killed by being shot in the back, by some young gunmen, because she was dressed in army uniform and carrying a piece of paper. Similarly, old men, augmenting their pensions by acting as cleaners in police stations in army barracks, were considered by the IRA, to use that disgusting phrase, ‘ a legitimate target’. In disgust I joined the police as a part-timer, and spent many an evening, into the night, guarding the house of a judge, chasing shadows in a Land Rover, or standing at the gate of the police barracks, vetting what came in and went out, conscious that I was an easy target from the top of a block of flats about half a mile away.
No war would mean no armed services, no paraphernalia that costs billions, but our infrastructure, which varies in quality, almost directly with the cast of the paraphernalia, for no return, would steadily improve. We are not only the cannon fodder and the source of the money for war games, we are the ones who suffer, we are the ones who pay financially, with our quality of life, our lives or our futures through injury. The question I can’t understand is, accepting the initial hysteria, why the populaces across the world, allow themselves to go to war, when it makes no sense, when the outcome is worse than before it started ? Why do we stand for it? The atomic bomb is the only thing that has reduced large wars encompassing the whole world from breaking out. A hideous anomaly!
Part two is the opinions of others as to why we should go to war in spite of all that I have a said.