Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Fine men

I went on the tube today for what seemed the first time in ages. I guess I've not really had any business in central London recently and have been driving about quite a lot instead. My underground experience was every bit as horrible as ever. Sweat. Grime. Claustrophobia. Someone's arm periodically brushing my elbow as he turned the pages of his newspaper. Me edging further and further into the glass partition by the door and leaving a weird deposit of greasy moisture. Ah! The joys of a first world country.

I took the tube to Pimlico for a meeting about the First World War musical. The meeting went really well, but I kept getting the impression that the guy I was taking to wanted to say something which he never got around to saying. Maybe that was my imagination! 

I spent the rest of the day reading about the Leeds Pals, which I'm finding greatly upsetting. The city was so proud of their Pals division, who really were the creme de la creme of young men in the area. There were university lecturers, lawyers, clerks, and even Leeds United footballers and Yorkshire County cricketers amongst the ranks. When they paraded through the streets of Leeds, huge numbers of people turned up to cheer and throw flowers. They were like film stars, really, the embodiment of the spirit of the city. Fine, fine men. 

...And yet they were obliterated. 700 were killed of the 900 who went over the top on the first battle of the Somme, and then, when they were merged with another West Yorkshire regiment, they were re-obliterate at Vimy Ridge and then again during the Great Push in 1918. A mere 42 of them returned. 1400 went away to war. That's about a 3% chance of survival. They say not a single street in the city didn't have at least one blackened window. 

The 42 who came home marched proudly through the streets of Leeds behind a police brass band. It upsets me to think what an astonishingly pathetic sight this must have been. 

I know. Let's bomb Syria...

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