August 6th 2011

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Norway's mass murder: time to learn the lessons

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Three delusions of the Gillard Government

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Who stands to gain from the Gillard-Greens gravy-train?

ENVIRONMENT: New study rebuts IPCC's rising sea-level claim

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Lessons from the global financial crisis

GLOBAL SECURITY: The war on terror takes a new turn

MEDIA: Gillard takes aim at Murdoch press

UNITED KINGDOM: Britain ashamed of Waterloo

SOCIETY: The manufacture and commodification of children

EUTHANASIA: Accurate terminology a matter of life and death

QUIZ: How much do you know about carbon dioxide and climate?

OPINION: No such thing as a free education


BOOK REVIEW Disproving fashionable orthodoxies

BOOK REVIEW History's troublemakers

Books promotion page


Britain ashamed of Waterloo

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, August 6, 2011

Further proof that Britain, or the governing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, has had its organs of self-respect amputated, comes with the news that, evidently in the interests of political correctness, there will be no official celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015.

Army museums, it is said, will be allowed to put on private displays.

One peer, Lord Laird, is quoted as having protested in less-than-ringing terms: “I am disappointed. It would be good for tourism and teaching history. People who don’t understand history are like children, doomed to be always going round in circles.”

True enough. But is that all? One feels there is more to life than tourism and teaching history, even if one is no longer allowed by the politically correct to say so.

Couldn’t it be said that the victory which delivered Europe from Napoleon’s tyranny and preserved England should be celebrated for its own sake? Could tribute not be paid to the British soldiers who throughout the Napoleonic wars had campaigned in frightful conditions with indomitable courage (like the Irish sergeant who earlier captured a French Imperial Eagle standard with the immortal words: “Bejabbers, Bhoys, Oi’ve got their cuckoo!”), or to the Duke who won battles despite every kind of handicap including mad staff officers?

The decision reinforces the suspicion which has been growing for some time that the Cameron-Clegg Government, which has cut defence below even the minimum level for national safety, simply has no concept of patriotism or any pride in Britain. Cameron, an arch CINO (conservative in name only), seems content to be the far-Left Clegg’s sock-puppet.

Author A.N. Wilson says: “Napoleon’s defeat was a glorious moment in human history, and the Government is mad to be ignoring the bicentenary of this great victory.” The French as well as the British have reason to celebrate Waterloo: it delivered them from a tyrant who had already impoverished France and was ready to spend her people’s blood like water to further his own ambitions.

Napoleon was not in the Hitler-Stalin league for deliberate, cold-blooded genocide, but he killed millions without a qualm. The best that can be said is that, unlike the 20th-century monsters, he did not kill simply for the sake of killing. His ambition — which he came near to fulfilling — was to make himself and his family emperors of the world.

By 1815 he had caused a loss of life comparable to that in World War II, and getting rid of him opened the way to real, if gradual, reform throughout Europe. Britain in particular had cause to celebrate. Its engineers, no longer tied up making cannon, became free to pioneer all manner of scientific advances.

The victory led to a generation of peace in Europe and kept Britain free of war on the continent for a century.

Further, Waterloo was in a sense one of the most democratic of victories. While the Duke of Wellington was an aristocrat’s aristocrat, the battle depended to an unusual degree on the steadfastness under fire of the common soldier — “The article”, the Duke said, pointing one of them out, “that all depends on.” It led to the beginnings of a change in popular attitudes towards the common soldier, who previously had been regarded as virtually sub-human.

Baroness Rawlings, a junior minister in the Orwellian-sounding Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said feebly that: “Initiatives are being organised by a number of national and regional military museums to mark the occasion, including the National Army Museum and relevant regimental museums.”

It is also possible there may be some kind of function at Wellington’s house and/or at Walmer Castle, though no-one seems quite sure what. Quite obviously, the government is highly unenthusiastic about any official celebrations. One can imagine embarrassing facts such as who won the battle and who it was fought against being discreetly air-brushed out of the picture.

In 2005, Tony Blair’s Labour Government turned on national celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, though in obeisance to political correctness and European Community unity it could not actually say the enemy had been the French.

The fleets of sailing vessels which re-enacted the battle were instead called the Red and Blue fleets and, in deference to health and safety regulations, the actor playing Lord Nelson, who scorned hurricanes and cannon-balls, was forced to wear a life-jacket over his glittering uniform while being rowed across the calm waters of the Thames.

In 2007, the same Labour Government turned on a national guiltfest to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. This included a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and an apology on behalf of the nation by then Prime Minister Tony Blair. (To whom the apology was made exactly was unclear). At the turn of the century, a billion pounds, more or less, was spent on London’s Millennium Dome, soon rotting and useless.

Since Britain had actually led the world in abolishing the slave-trade (apart from little Denmark a few years earlier) and had made a terrific effort over generations to intercept the slave-ships of all nations, one might have thought this would be an occasion for some national celebration. Perhaps even a little national boasting might have been excusable, as it would be now.

Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer. 

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