The last battle – Why has almost everyone forgotten this great British victory?

THIS week marks the centenary of the Battle of Amiens – a great British victory. So why is hardly anyone celebrating or even aware that it happened?

Battle of Amiens
Building on the Battle of Amiens, the Allied counter offensive would drive the Germans from France (Image: ALAMY)

And what does this tell us about the way history is taught in our schools and about our increasingly fractured sense of national identity?

Sure, Prince William and Prime Minister Theresa May marked the centenary yesterday at a memorial service at Amiens Cathedral in Northern France.

Yes, it’s true that there have been one or two slightly embarrassed news items by reporters playing catch-up via a quick scan of Wikipedia.

But for the most part this vital moment in our history has gone all but unnoticed. Why?

I am sure the fact that we won didn’t help.

As George Orwell and others have noticed, we British have always been more drawn to tales of heroic defeat – the Charge of the Light Brigade, Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic, Dunkirk – than we have been to stories of resounding victory.

Read the rest in the Express.

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If only the Cabinet was more like the England players

ENGLAND face Croatia tonight and though I don’t know much about football there’s one thing I can say for sure: if we play this game anything like Theresa May’s Cabinet plays Brexit, we’re going to lose big time.

May’s Cabinet in Brexit discussions

If only May’s Cabinet possessed a few or indeed any of those qualities we might not be in such a dire state with regard to Brexit.

All that joy and optimism we’ve been feeling about England’s performance has been cruelly tempered by having to live under a Government so hopeless and craven and insecure it can’t even deliver on the biggest mandate in British history: the vote to leave the European Union.

The rot starts at the top. Team manager May seems to combine the aimlessness and poor decision making of, say, a Steve McClaren, with the dogged intransigence and ruthlessness you find in countries such as North Korea or Gadaffi’s Libya when players fail to perform.

Just when it seems May can’t mess it up any more badly she comes with something like last weekend’s Chequers fiasco.

That moment when she strongarmed the Cabinet into agreeing a Brexit negotiating position which Boris Johnson rightly described as a “turd” was the absolute nadir for me – when all hopes of a full Brexit faded.

In fact, it gave me the same feeling I got just after an England player called Southgate (whatever became of him, anyone know?) had fluffed his penalty in the Euro 1996 semifinal.

Or when Maradona knocked us out of the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals as a result of that wretchedly dodgy (where’s VAR when you need it, eh?) “hand of God” goal.

Read the rest in the Express.

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Let’s be PROUD to be English

EIGHTY per cent of English identify strongly as English, says a survey on The English Question commissioned by the BBC. The BBC seems to find this fact embarrassing – on which more in a moment – but I don’t one bit.

Alamy Stock Photo

I think it’s something we should all celebrate, preferably with a nice proper cup of tea, brewed for four minutes.

Or better still, with a viewing of that marvellous wartime propaganda film I caught on TV the other day, “Went The Day Well?”

Adapted from a story by Graham Greene, with a score by William Walton, made, of course, by Ealing Studios, the film perfectly evokes what England, Englishness and English culture mean – and why we’ve fought so hard through the centuries to preserve them.

It is set in the sleepy English village of Bramley End (in fact Turville, Bucks), where every cliché is duly realised: long shadows across the green, the benign, elderly vicar, the manor house, spinsters on wobbly bicycles, the cheery postmistress, the crafty poacher…

Then the Nazi paratroopers arrive (disguised as English soldiers), only to give themselves away with their arrogance and the suspiciously continental way they write the number seven.

The villagers unite as one to repel the invaders – even if it means having to bludgeon them with a hatchet (as shocked Mrs Collins finds herself doing) or sacrificing their own lives for the greater good.

Though much has changed in the 80 years since – housebuilding, the decline of churchgoing, a less rigid class system – it’s still impossible for an English man or woman to watch that film without a shiver of pride and a smile of recognition.

Read the rest in the Express.

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It’s Not Wrong to Honour the Magnificent Heroes of Rorke’s Drift

Zulu
Stanley Baker and Sir Michael Caine in the brilliant British war film Zulu

EVERY wise British father knows that as soon as your kids are old enough you must sit down with them to watch Zulu. Not just because it’s a cracking good war film and some first rate assegai action but because it embodies so many of the inspirational virtues that make our country great.

These virtues aren’t about arrogance or showing off. (We leave that to rivals such as Germany and France.)

Rather, they have to do with simple, honest things: pluck in the face of overwhelming odds, duty, loyalty, self-sacrifice, sang-froid and – with luck – victory snatched by the underdog from the jaws of defeat.

Zulu tells the amazing true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, the action in January 1879 when a garrison of just 150 British and colonial troops beat off successive attacks by a vastly superior force of 3,000 to 4,000 Zulus.

Rorke's Drift
The defence of Rorke’s Drift as imagined by Alphonse de Neuville

Had our chaps not held their nerve they would undoubtedly have experienced the fate of their 1,300 comrades massacred the day before at Isandlwana. Instead they held out with just 17 killed – and well over 300 enemy dead. And were rewarded with an unprecedented (for one action) 11 Victoria Crosses.

But that was then. Now apparently we are supposed to find this episode shaming.

Or so reckons a pop star by the name of Lily Allen, who applauded a campaign by fellow Social Justice Warriors to have a cheery message commemorating the event whitewashed from history.

The message was put up this week on a billboard at Dollis Hill Tube station by a London Underground worker who happened to be an Army reservist from a military family.

“The Battle of Rorke’s Drift is quite an important day in British military history so I put it up there. I never meant to offend anyone,” he said. Headlined “On this day in history” his message sketched out the details of the action without passing any moral judgment.

Read the rest in the Sunday Express.

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We Are Living in Crazy Times When Strictly Come Dancing Goes PC

FAR too often when I open the papers it’s as if I’ve been transported to a parallel universe in which all the rules of common sense and logic have been suspended, where shrill, bullying minorities tyrannise normal folk.

SCD

Let me list some of the stories that have caused me to drop my marmalade recently and see whether you’re as mystified as I am by this bizarre new world we inhabit.

A lesbian comedian has been vilified for choosing to dance with a man rather than another woman on Strictly Come Dancing.

A gay vicar on the same show has said it’s about time men were allowed to ballroom dance with men too.

A Christian couple are trying to sue their child’s primary school because it now allows boys to turn up in a dress, meanwhile across Britain more and more schools are – at considerable expense – replacing single sex toilets with gender neutral ones.

Read the rest in the Express.

 

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Bring Back Child Discipline

MY HERO of the week is Barry Smith, the new head of a Norfolk secondary school so strict and terrifying that he makes the Demon Headmaster sound as lovable and benign as dear old Professor Dumblebore.

schoolgirls
St Trinian’s girls’ antics may make us smile but the conduct in real life is no laughing matter Credit: ALAMY

Partly he’s my hero because of the magnificently uncompromising nature of the list of demands he has just issued to parents and pupils at Great Yarmouth High School in Norfolk.

After attacking parents for the “lack of support” which has previously helped make the school one of the worst in the country, he goes on to warn pupils that mobile phone usage and chewing gum are now banned, that breaches of the uniform code will be punished by “isolation” and more detailed rules will follow shortly.

These rules – we know from a leaked internal memo – include an extremely low tolerance for skiving (“If you vomit – no problem! You’ve got your bucket. If you are really ill we will make sure you get all the attention you need.”); mobile phones (“if it accidentally goes off or accidentally falls out of your pocket we confiscate it”); paying attention (“only ever look at your teacher or where your teacher has directed you to look”); and bedtimes. Pupils are advised to go straight home after finishing school, to be in bed by 9pm and set their alarms for 6.30am.

Read the rest in the Express.

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TFL Gender Neutral Rules Are an Assault on Traditional Values

LADIES and Gentlemen… was there ever a phrase more redolent of the qualities that make us such a civilised nation?

It’s good-mannered, it’s old fashioned and it’s generous in spirit. Of course not many of us really qualify to be called a “lady” or a “gentleman” any more – at least not in the sense that we are rich, leisured, landowning folk.

But the phrase charmingly conspires to pretend that no matter how lowly we are we’re all deserving of the same respect.

Often it’s a phrase that precedes one of those formal events we do so well: the Loyal Toast, school speech day, weddings.

And it’s also used in the context of safety announcements whether on aeroplanes, at train stations or on the London Underground.

Or rather it was: London Underground has decreed that from henceforward it will no longer be addressing its passengers as “ladies and gentlemen” on the tannoy.

Why? Because apparently it might be offensive to those customers who don’t identify as either a man or a woman and so prefer not to be called anything so gender-specific.

Read the rest in the Express.

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So Why Shouldn’t Older People Live in Large Houses?

THERE is a famous scene in Shakespeare’s King Lear where our elderly tragic hero’s horrid daughters Goneril and Regan are encouraging him to downsize.

Old Persons
The Government has advised our elderly that their houses are too big for them.

Lear, having ruled Britain for many years, has got very used to having a splendid retinue of staff.

But now he has retired and moved out of his castle, Goneril and Regan impertinently insist he really must learn to make do with fewer servants.

“What need you five-and-twenty, ten, or five?” asks Goneril.
“What need one?” asks Regan.

This prompts the moving speech which will be familiar to anyone who has studied the play for GCSE or A-level.

“O reason not the need…” laments the hapless, put-upon Lear.

O reason not the need. Yes, indeed.

These are the words I always think of every time some horrible upstart tic from the Government tries telling our elderly that their houses are too big for them and that it’s about time they downsized to make room for the younger generation.

Read the rest in the Express.

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What on Earth Does Ukip Think It Is Playing at?

Man down!
Ukip leader hopeful was flattened by one of his Ukip colleagues earlier this week (Credit: ITV)

STEVEN Woolfe is one of the most charming, likeable, charismatic men in politics – and with an amazing back story too.

Part black American, part Jewish, part Irish, he was brought up by strict Catholic Labourvoting parents on Manchester’s rough Moss Side estate, went to the same primary school as Oasis’s Liam Gallagher, won a scholarship to a private school and took a law degree from Aberystwyth University, before ending up as a dandyish Ukip MEP and favourite to become the party’s next leader.

So as both a Ukip fan and a friend and admirer of Woolfe’s I was naturally rather horrified yesterday to see photographs of him sprawled on the floor of the European Parliament in Strasbourg having apparently been flattened by one of his Ukip colleagues.

Sure, there are elements to the story which – now it’s clear that Woolfe is going to pull through – are funny and oddly pleasing.

I quite like the idea of politicians settling their differences man-to-man: just like in the good old days when Prime Minister Lord Canning fought a duel with his Minister for War Lord Castlereagh. Yes, it is hilariously apt that the man allegedly responsible was named Mike Hookem.

Read the rest in the Express.

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Laziness Is Killing the Magnificent English Language

DON’T you just hate the language of da yoof?

Rex Harrison Julie Andrews
Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins with Julie Andrews as Eliza in stage version of My Fair Lady

If there’s one thing guaranteed to turn me into a crusty old bore, a veritable Henry Higgins of a stickler for the rules of grammar, for clarity of diction, for correct pronunciation (which isn’t, please note, pronounced “pronounciation”), it’s hearing the younger generation utterly mangling our magnificent language.

It’s the greatest, most expressive and nuanced in the world yet the way they abuse it, it might just as well be Albanian.

My particular bugbear – actually don’t get me started, I’ve got loads – is this thing they do where they pronounce “worry” so it rhymes with “lorry”. And we’re not just talking illiterates here. I’ve even heard it spoken that way by kids who have been to the poshest private schools.

Pretty soon those of us who pronounce it the old, correct way – so it rhymes with “slurry” – will seem as fuddy-duddy and antediluvian as those affected, old-school Londoners who persist in talking about “Cuvvent Garden”.

The only evidence that it was ever pronounced differently will be when they play in the oldies slot on the radio that song “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

Well I for one am not happy. Basically, according to the report “Sounds of the Future” by linguistics experts at the University of York, what we think of as the Queen’s English is going to be pretty much dead within 50 years. Not even King William – and certainly not George, Prince of Wales – will speak it. Instead the already hateful common language known as Estuary English will have mutated into something even ghastlier called multicultural London English (MLE).

How will it sound? You can pretty much guess without needing academics to tell you.

Read the rest in the Express.

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