Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Defence, Offence and being part of the worlds police force

This article prompted this post Once upon a while ago I was working with military officers who were studying to move into the mysterious world of higher command. It was one of the final phases of a year-long course that would see the soldiers pass from captain to major and beyond and the equivalent ranking navy and air force officers doing the same. I was there because of the particular role I had in my police force, that being firearms and CT operations. The idea was that this would give my khaki-clad classmates an insight into the vagaries of policing in what, for them, was low intensity warfare - N.B. for `low intensity` think small calibre, >7.62mm bullets rather than heavy artillery. I made it clear from the outset that, as far as I was concerned, any bullets coming my way definitely made it a `high intensity` scenario which they all found jolly funny, bless `em. Three weeks into my stay and I had met Terry Waite, Ken Livingstone and any number of high profile people involved in many and varied situations of conflict, including the first Gulf War. The lectures were totally absorbing but the `house rules` and my own sense of the need for discretion in such matters prevent me from divulging much of what was covered, even after all this time - I have my standards! I had role-played at a number of tabletop exercises including such things as being the chief of police of a `friendly foreign country's` capital city police force. The country was in crisis and was receiving `training and support` from the British military. No names, no pack drill, (but it was set in Belize). I found the experience very interesting, particularly in how it helped the budding colonels get their heads around the fact that, in such situations, the chief of police has primacy. The syndicate instructor, a wise Lt. Colonel, discretely briefed me that, despite being given the rules in a previous session, the military would conveniently forget them and would politely but firmly run roughshod all over me, but that I was to play along until they presented their plan which would be totally at odds with how things were done in a civilian world, at which point I would reject it out of hand and how they'd get all upset with me, throw their guns out of the pram and withdraw to the mess to plan their revenge. But I was not to take it personally. He was absolutely correct, but their revenge was had several evenings later, in the mess, when I least expected it but I daren't mention it unless there are photographs still in existence. But there is a serious side to this post and it concerns the current jostle for the financial crusts that our military chiefs are having to go through. After years of Brown's hands on the purse strings they should be used to it by now and there is no light at the end of the tunnel of the general election either, yet we are facing what is arguably one of the most crucial periods of modern times. One of the presentations I had to prepare and present to my syndicate at the end of my month at the College, was about the changing face of low intensity conflicts and how the miltary has to adapt to face them. It was a fairly lengthy piece and included aspects of internal strife facing any number of countries at that time. I cited any number of examples that were either full-on or brewing nicely at that time, including Peru's internal struggle with Sendero Luminoso, The Balkans. various African tribal atrocities and our own on-going problems with PIRA. Kosovo was over 6 years away as was the British intervention in the civil/criminal war/insurgency of Sierra Leone. I can't find the hard copy of my contribution to what was a fascinating month, as it was filed on a WP format I can no longer access, but one thing I do recall was my conclusion where I basically stated that, based on my research and recent anecdotal evidence, the gap between low intensity warfare/insurgency and that of high level criminality/terrorism would become wafer thin. As a result, there would be a greater call for military aid to the civil powers and a ramping up of the capabilities of the civil police to abate the demands for miltary intervention. With more frequent deployments of regular soldiers alongside civil police, the image of the soldier and the police officer would be less discernable and one could forgive the public if they looked at both and failed to tell them apart. At the time I thought I was being just a touch radical, after all it was expected but, eighteen years on, I have no reason to feel that any more.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Different lives

I read a very touching post over at my blogbuddy `Behind Blue Eyes`, first thing this morning. It was a very interesting and well observed comment, spookily encapsulating something I was pondering over the weekend. You should nip over and read it. As I was free from my own work over the weekend, I helped out a friend and drove one of his fleet of `wedding` cars. It was a bloody V8 top of the range supercharged Range Rover - oh the indignity of it all after all I've written about these behemoths, but that said, I would not have managed the frozen, snow laden roads in the usual Bentley, even though a supercharged V8 in snow is about as much use as a chocolate teapot - give me a short wheelbase Land Rover anyday! I arrived to collect the bride at the family home, an 8'ish bedroomed, security-gated mini stately home in Bigcitysuburb. Guests were being bussed to the wedding and reception in 56-seater coaches - we are talking big budget, the sort of affluence that could easily slot into the jealousy/comparison sentiments "Blue Eyes" wrote about over at his blog. His observations really did slot perfectly into my own experience of the weekend and has prompted me to jot it all down before heading off to work. It's a toss-up, but I think I will be travelling in on the bus today, judging from the unpredictably dicey roads in town yesterday. "Seen any mad old bikers lately?" No, because the mad ones aren't old and the old ones aren't mad. My involvement with this wedding family amounted to barely 5 hours, yet I was struck by what delightful people they were. Beautiful, relaxed, cool-as-a-cucumber bride; equally lovely but `in-a-flap` and ever so slightly dotty bridesmaid/sister; utterly charming, elegant yet friendly and totally down-to-earth (widowed) mother of the bride and doting Grandma who was just a total sweetie. The drive to and from the venue was accompanied by happy conversations and chit-chat that I was graciously involved in from time to time. By the time we arrived at the venue we knew quite a bit about each other. After what was quite a long service there followed a 30 minute journey with the brand new Mr and Mrs on board. I finally dropped them off at the reception venue, politely declining several genuine invitations from mother and grandma to join them for some food. As I trundled back home through the aforementioned frozen roads and snow laden countryside, I felt nothing but pleasure at having met such lovely people and I quietly wished the Bride and Groom health and happiness in their life together. I have met more affluent families whilst doing these jobs, families who were totally devoid of human kindness, communication skills and basic social graces and who I was glad to see the back of. I have also encountered people who have clearly had to dig deep into shallow, empty pockets to give their daughters a memorable day. For my part, I was warmed by the fact that I'd shared a miniscule part of the lives of who I perceived were just charming, unassuming, delightful people and although clearly not short of a scheckel or three, were totally unpretentious. I could so easily have felt resentment or jealousy for their considerable financial wealth compared to my own and speculated over the lifestyle they could afford and then compared it to my own and get all bitter and twisted, but I didn't. They put me in a very pleasant frame of mind, simply because of how they were. I think people should stop watching Coronation Street and Eastenders

Thursday, 7 January 2010

HOW much???

How soon the glitter fades...

Monday, 4 January 2010

A Straw Albatross and what it means, to me, to be British (and Canadian)

A few of the police blogs I stick my nose into had posts today about the recent comments by one of the eminently unimpressive `legends in his own lunchtime` (as that's about how long each one lasted) Labour Party Home Secretaries we've had to endure over the past decade. Normally I rise above such tripe spouted by the likes of Strawman Jack but, strangely enough, a little stroll with my dog nudged me back behind the old computer keyboard. This afternoon I was crunching my way through the latest dumping of snow listening, for a change, to a few of my favourite tunes on the amazingly tiny iPod my offspring got their old man for Christmas. I say ` for a change` as I'm more of a `country sights and sounds` walker these days and reserve the earphones for other times when I really do want to shut out the world. As I rounded the back of the cricket pavilion, standing cold, forlorn and empty on the edge of the green, I spotted the resting place of what was clearly a `six` that was struck out of the cricket field and lost, sometime last summer. There it sat in the snow like a big red cherry, with just a little green grass poking up around it like a hopeful, tempting taster of summer days to come. I took a quick snap with the mobile camera - I'm technology on legs these days. As I stood up from my picture, I picked up the ball and lobbed it into the snow for my dog to pursue and claim for his own. Then I heard a fast jet approaching. My ears and eyes locked on to what I quickly recognised as the latest frontline RAF Fighter, called a Typhoon, but formerly known as the outrageously expensive Eurofighter. I couldn't do it justice with a picture from my phone cam but, remarkably, I found a photograph on the web that pretty much represents exactly how I saw it as it flew directly overhead. Then the lucky Buzz Lightyear bugger who was flying it poured on the coals until reheat kicked in and booted him in the back and thence to infinity and beyond, in a matter of seconds. Our boys in Afghanistan could do with a few more of those covering their arses and sending down retribution and close support. As I watched this technological marvel climb out of sight it got me thinking about Britain and what it means to me. I suppose the Typhoon is Britains 21st Century equivalent of the Spitfire, planes that my father told me he watched almost daily as they fought for Britains very existence in the skies over his back garden in East London. My Gran's nephew Herbert, from our Canadian family, came to England and served with the RAF. Herbie's still alive and kicking and living in Cobourg, Ontario. His daughter is my second cousin, Jane. Dad was too young to fight in WW1 and a little too old to be conscripted at the start of WW2, but by then he was in a `reserved` occupation, a bus driver with London Transport and a special constable in the Metropolitan Police. Dad was a Special in the mid-thirties, at the time Oswald Moseley's fascist blackshirts were strutting through the Jewish areas of the East End causing riots and he told me he was involved in several dust ups and fierce baton charges. Dad eventually joined The Home Guard and was involved in driving thousands of British and American troops into Hampshire prior to the D Day landings embarkation. Other members of my family fought in WW2. Some in France during the D-Day landings and beyond. My favourite Uncle, my Mum's brother Len, was a gunner in the Royal Navy. He was involved in convoy escorts and had two ships (American "Liberty" ships) torpedoed from underneath him in the Med. His daughter, my cousin Sylvia, found a citation of commendation and letters amongst his personal belongings after he'd died in the 1980's. The letters were from several of his shipmates who wrote to him when he was convalescing after his second sinking. They said they owed their lives to Len, who went back into the oily, burning sea again and again to rescue men who were struggling to survive. Len was a champion swimmer in his schooldays. He never told us about this, despite me asking about his time in the Royal Navy when I was a young teen in mid 60's intent on joining. He had a lot of trouble dealing with his experiences and would often awake from the sounds in his head, of the screaming of the stricken shipmates he couldn't save. He would get so upset at these vivid images, which is why he never spoke much about the Navy. My brother in law's brother, Les, was a WW2 Royal Marines Commando. In June 1944 he was a gunner on HMS Scilla, bombarding the Normandy defences of Sword Beach in advance of the Allied landings. HMS Scilla hit a mine just over 2 weeks later. Les was de-mobbed after the war and joined the police. He was my divisional commander in the Met Police in the 70`s. One of the toughest men, and best leaders, I've ever known. He never rated politicians that much. Then I thought of some of the former Home Secretaries I've actually remembered and had chats with, some more than just passing words and some before they were in that post; Robert Carr, Roy Jenkins, Willie Whitelaw, Merlyn Rees, James Callaghan and Leon Brittan. Apart from Roy Jenkins, who didn't like us using sirens to get to his residence when the attack alarm was activated, I thought they all seemed very decent men who tried to understand our plight. I certainly don't ever recall them slagging off the police publicly or making snide and derogatory comments like Straw, either in or out of their high office. Leon Brittan was a very decent man. I single him out because I had closer dealings with him on one of the 3 day counter terrorist exercises all forces undertake from time to time, where he actually attended the command venues at a well-out-of-London location. I suppose that's what I noticed the most, because when Maggie was P.M. and we played counter terrorist exercises, she insisted that she and her ministers played it for real, along with us and the special forces. That was very reassuring and they scored big credibility points for that. As someone else's blog has pointed out, the Straw's were not made of such stuff, although I do have great respect for genuine conscientious objectors and pacifists. One only has to read "The Flag of Our Fathers" to learn a little of the bravery of the unarmed Corpsmen (Medics) of battlefields. So my musings are nearly vented and I have surprised myself in remaining so calm and respectful. It would be a shame to spoil it and end on a harsh word, but I can't help feeling that if Straw gave me the slightest reason, I'd probably.......... the little....... t and then take his........and....... it ...........rse . The harsh words were deleted out of respect for the true Brits I referred to in this ramble. You may add your own words to the gaps if you wish. I hope and pray that I have done my forbears, their deeds and their memory justice during my rather less remarkable life. I am truly blessed to have had such men in my family and I have also worked alongside some remarkably brave, compassionate and conscientious police officers, including special constables who do it for zero pay. I also read about todays officers and their current struggles on their fascinating blogs. Finally, I am so glad that the likes of Straw have been foistered on some other poor sod's family tree, for I would be so ashamed to be saddled with that albatross.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Don't Get Old, Get Even

Had a great New Year's Eve, just me and the sexydelightful Mrs H. Dressed up in dinner jacket and manually tied (after much cussing) bow tie(me) and a very sexy black velvet dress (Mrs H) I enjoyed a succulent beef wellington and Mrs H a yummy vegetarian creation before taking to the dance floor. We were amongst a non-eclectic mix of Yorkies who were probably best suited to a Saga holiday in Alicante, which would have us reaching for the cyanide pills whereas they would look askance at us with our 2 week tour of the American West on a motorcycle. They were more the holiday camp disco types, while we were more the quality 8 piece stonking live Blues band types. They were more the "Y M C A" and "Come on Eileen" communal naff wedding DJ disco crowd (Peter Kay does a great impression of this), while we were more the ` quality kick-arse rock/blues live musicians and outstanding female lead singer` types. The band didn't get the audience they deserved and usually get, but hey, it takes all sorts and there was more ball-room for us and the other outnumbered afficionado's who were up there with us, but when the disco-shite struck up we could sit it out and enjoy La difference. Ying and Yang, black and white, Labour and Tory, Christian and Muslim, Jew and Gentile, live and let live, each to their own, AC and DC. BUT, seriously, the disco really was playing shite....and those wankers loved it. So, am I getting old or does the attached video of the great `Small Faces` featuring PP Arnold kick more arse than a large proportion of modern dross? Well, I am actually getting a teeny bit older, but that's beside the point.