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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Friday, 18 January 2013


The reason for this post's heading will become apparent soon; perhaps. Urged on by the likes of General Kinch, I continue my advance into the foothills of the Peninsular Campaign. Needless to say 'of the making of books [on the Peninsular Campaign] there is no end', and, indeed, has been no end for the last 200 years. However, this is a hobby, so I can do as I like, and go for handy, one volume type things. During my brief hol in North Norfolk (home of that nemesis of  Bonarpartism, Lord Nelson), I picked up this marvellous book:

Published in 1963 by those wonderful people at Batsford (aaah, the world we have lost), this second hand volume smells perfectly, its pages turn easily, the paper is the 'right' weight, and the frontispiece is nicely done. And, even more pleasingly, look where the book's first home was:

Imagine, if you will, some Frenchie who (quite by accident) found himself in the British Council Library in 1963. Smarting still from the loss of Algeria (as he may well have been, and understandably too), but, nonetheless, well turned out in the latest Parisian style, he smugly sneers to himself about the hairy tweed jacket of the spotty rosbif librarian, then browses the shelves. But, what is this ? MERDE! Wellington's Peninsular Victories ! Merde, merde, merde!! Poor chap. Mind you, he might have been a Royalist, in which case, he would have sadly shaken his head, and wondered what might have been if the regicidal Republic, then that dreadful little man had not been  in charge... 

You should not infer from all this that I am in any way anti-French, for, in fact, I count myself  a  Francophile. Indeed, whereas I would question the whole foundation of the UK's supposed policy in Afghanistan - a Fourth Afghan War that the British people neither want nor need - I feel a little more at ease over France's Mali intervention. Mali, and that too fragile (and too long suffering) country of Algeria, is just too close to our European homeland, to use Gorbachev's phrase (now, there's a prophet without honour in his own land), to allow the loonies to win. So, good luck to 'em - the French, not the loonies. That, of course, brings me to the title of the post - Logistics. As is well known in the UK, the UK government has sent two of its six (or is that 8) Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs to provide vital logistical support to the French in Mali. What an interesting thing. Firstly, it shows the capacity of the US built aircraft (did our old Belfasts have something similar long ago?), secondly, it shows a real lack in France's logistical infrastructure, and, thirdly, it shows how the UK Prime Minister (yet another Scot, in effect) s concerned about his tricky European position.  But, logistics:

Look at the subtitle to this new addition to my bookshelves - that very subtitle was enough to engage my interest. Not to mention that this marvellous book is currently available (in very small numbers) from the Naval and Military Press Ltd at a beggarly £7.96 !

A last word on the RAF's C-17s.  I live about 20 miles from Birmingham International Airport, which is not that far from the huge, state of the art Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Birmingham. It is where they take the British injured from Afghanistan. A C-17 makes a different sound from civil airliners, it looks quite different, quite military, it flies slowly, gently, calmly down towards Birmingham. Its cargo is fragile, suffering. I have yet to see a single person look up as it flies overhead. Mr Tony Blair, who once mentioned a blood debt in respect of the UK's involvement in the Fourth Afghan War, is an ex-politician from the Labour Party who earns, it is estimated, some £20 million a year. None of his immediate family has served, or is serving in Afghanistan.


  1. Michael Glover's book is an old favourite of mine. My copy is a Pan paperback edition with rather browning pages but remarkably still in one piece - bought around 1976ish I think. Another little favourite of mine, also released in paperback by Pan, is 'Corunna' by Cristopher Hibbert.

    Cheers, Dave

    1. Good, I've only just started reading Glover, and I've been a bit diverted by my new craze for the Mrs Bradley mysteries by Gladys Mitchell, but he could write well. As for Hibbert, he was a fine popular historian - I shall keep an eye out for Corunna.

  2. I really enjoy old "removed from service" library books .Some of my greatest finds were bought at library sales for a less than a pound.Enjoy your reading and stay close to the fire...
    best wishes
    friends in Redditch sent photos of their back garden with much snow...

    1. Yes, they often go for 10p or so. Mind you, given that Warwick's library, following its recent 'downsizing' no longer has any history books on its shelves (!!!), it won't be a source of such finds in the future. As for the snow - you're next, if the Met Office is to be believed!

  3. An an erudite, witty and moving post. A pleasure to read thanks
    best regards

    1. Thanks, Mike. That means I rescued yesterday from futility after all.