Dateline  Newcastle upon Tyne - Tuesday 16th July, 2024 15:25


by Tim Jones, 14th April, 2018

Light BrigadeThe Charge of the Light Brigade
Fresh from the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, the British army, still clinging to its brash, we can dominate, red tuniced, arrogance entered the Crimean War.

The events leading to France and Britain declaring war on Russia in 1853 arose from the French emperor, Napoleon III, attempting to regain his uncle's glory. Catholic support came from Eastern Orthodoxy. He tried to force Turkey to allow him power over the Christian population. Russia pressurised the Ottomons to agree that it was the sole provider for the Christians in the Ottoman Empire.

The religious angle was only an excuse for the European desire for hegemony over its neighbour beyond the Urals.

If Russia gained control of Constantinople it would have access to the Mediterranean, threatening the French colonies in North Africa, British lines of communication to India, and other territories on the Mediterranean seaboard. The British and French fought to prevent this.

The Crimean War was the first conflict to employ modern technology such as explosive naval shells, railways, and telegraphs. Today, we benefit from its being documented in written reports and photographs.

The Charge of the Light Brigade led by Lord Cardigan, against the Russian artillery, was part of the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854. The generals misread the situation, bickered with each other, then attacked the wrong position.

The troops were sent headlong into the fire of the Russian guns.

Out of six hundred men, 156 were killed, and 122 were wounded. 336 horses were killed or had to be destroyed. The French Marshal Bosquette commented, "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."

The iconic story of the Charge of the Light Brigade became a symbol of logistical, medical, and tactical failure. British military mismanagement was catastrophic. The public reaction was a call for a more humanitarian approach, most famously pioneered by Florence Nightingale, who gained worldwide recognition for inventing modern nursing whilst treating the wounded.

Faced with an all out conflict, the British people and their leaders called for a halt to destruction and a return to diplomacy.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Rudyard KiplingRudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)
During the Victorian era, and for a while after, poets were the pop stars of the day. Wordsworth's bucolic verses gave way to Tennyson's more rounded descriptions of the human condition, which in turn was taken up by Masefield's salt caked smoke stacks, and Dylan Thomas' refusal to go gently into that dark night.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Rudyard Kipling found fame with tales of life in India, with its fantastical beasts. Today he is most remembered for The Jungle Book, an inspiration for Baden Powell and his scouting for boys.

Kipling was born in India of British parents, but was educated in England. Throughout his life he struggled with his own national identity, but was a staunch supporter of the British Empire and an implacable opponent of communism. He dubbed Ramsay MacDonald's Labour government, "Bolshevism without bullets", being convinced that it took orders directly from Russia.

Kipling's journalism, books, and poetry were popular in the English speaking world as well as abroad in translation. Unlikely as it may seem, it was during Lenin's time in Russia that Kipling's work was published there.

Without doubt, his anti-communist views were adopted by his admiring public. It was not a great leap to conflate communism with Russia; hardly anyone trusted the bear.

G.H. MacDermottThe Great MacDermott, sheet music cover 1882
Gilbert Hastings MacDermott was one of the most renowned Victorian music hall performers and melodramatic actors. He was famed for "MacDermott's War Song", written by George William Hunt in response to the surrender of Plevna to Russia during the Russo-Turkish War, which opened the road to Constantinople. Its fame peaked in 1878, although it has been adapted many times since.

We've proved our might, we've claimed our right, and ever, ever will,
Should we have to draw the sword our way to victory we'll forge,
With the battle cry of Britons, "Old England and Saint George!"

We don't want to fight, but by jingo if we do,
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too.
We've fought the Bear before, and while Britons shall be true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

It was from this song that the word jingoism entered the language.

Britain's distrust and suspicion towards Russia turned to the white heat of hatred following the Bolshevik Revolutions of 1917. The Tsar was deposed then killed, with communist rule taking centre stage in the formation of The Soviet Union.

Britain had lived in fear of the French Revolution spreading to its shores, but had learned to live with the neighbours. However, this worker's uprising, demolishing capitalist structures, with no levelling Thermidor in sight, filled Britain, most of Europe, and America with horror. Such international naughtiness must be stopped.

It's That Bogeyman Again

So it has been for generations now. Britain and Russia have developed a special relationship based on distrust and hatred. Despite a brief period of uneasy truce during World War Two when the common enemy was Germany, diplomacy between Britain and Russia has been as frozen as the Steppes.

Britain has long welcomed disaffected Russians in its attempts to destabilise Moscow. We are now home to those famous oligarchs, with their stolen fortunes and murderous back stories. We have set the scene for a deadly game on the streets of London. Bully boy Putin will flex his honed muscles in the only way he knows, swift and terminal retribution.

So, when the balloon goes up, as it surely must, Russia will remember that special relationship. We will be in line for some special treatment. Has it not occurred to those jokers in the Palace of Varieties at Westminster, that with a flick of the wrist, Putin could reduce this country to ashes?

Bashar AssadBashar al-Assad, President of Syria
Russia has an established alliance with Syria, as its foothold in the middle east. It is not going to give it up without a bitter and bloody struggle. America, and by default therefore Britain, wants an oil pipeline from Iran to the Mediterranean via Syria. Russia does not want this to happen as it would reduce its own market for oil and gas. That is why the government of President Assad is such a focus for attention.

America and Europe have waged a campaign of regime change in the region but the domino effect stopped at Syria. Assad continues to enjoy popular support in his country. Furthermore, with a little help from his friends, has seen off the attempted occupation by Daesh, Al-Qaeda, and the Army of Islam.

Gas VictimA gas victim is carried from the basement by a rescue worker
In the latest twist to the seven year long civil war that has gripped Syria, an alleged poison gas bomb was set off in the city of Douma, 10km north east of Damascus, on the evening of Saturday 7th April, 2018. Medical personnel on the scene said that at least 70 people died in the attack which exposed people to chlorine and sarin gas.[1]

American, British, and French political pronouncements all accused President Assad of killing his own people with forbidden weapons, despite the fact that rebels in the area were preparing to withdraw peacefully.

Both Assad and Russia have denied involvement in the attack, with Russia saying it doubted that it was real, suggesting a third party (Britain) staged it for the cameras. There is some credence to this interpretation as the UK was forced to reveal that it has special forces deployed in Syria following the death of an SAS Sergeant a fortnight ago, and the only evidence of the attack is a video provided by Jaysh al-Islam containing some questionable scenes.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that as the Syrian Army had the upper hand, with the armed terrorists on the run, it would be illogical for Assad to bomb Douma, even less with chemical weapons with all of the international opprobrium that it would attract. The spokesman went on to say that it was a plot against the government of Syria, raising an excuse for military action by America and Britain.

Clear the Air

AkrotiriPlanes take off from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus
Controllers at the RAF base at Akrotiri in Cyprus, have cleared the air space in preparation for action. Warships gather in the eastern Mediterranean, whilst Russia puts its Syrian bases on high alert.

Donald Trump, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, and a grisly gang of kings in surrounding Arab nations will rain down ordnance on Syria at £500,000 a time, killing thousands of Syrian people. They may even try to kill the President. The Russians have pledged not only to intercept any missiles headed for Syria but also to destroy the platforms from which they are launched.

China has sent some of its warships to the area to help out the Russians. The forces are circling for an almighty clash. Will it escalate to nuclear? Are we right to be afraid? Is this the trigger for World War Three?

It is only 160 kilometres from Damascus to a little town called Armageddon. It seems that we have a bunch of political leaders who are in a bit of a rush to get there.

[1] BBC, 70 killed in suspected chemical attack last accessed 14th April, 2018.

Timothy Pickford-Jones

Timothy is a mature northerner with a background in electronics and public transport, who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.

As well as having a keen eye on the political scene, he is a photographer, with an interest in architecture and history. Timothy has been active on the web since the mid 1990s, having curated the Timmonet site from its inception.

Since retiring from full time work, Timothy has found time for travel, creativity, and maintaining his lifelong interest in the arts.

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