Saturday, 21 August 2010

"Wrecking the land we love" (Tony Day of Wicken)

My very good friend, the world-renowned Fen artist and Wicken-born historian Anthony (Tony) Day (pictured right), has had an excellent letter published in today's Cambridge News. I can do no better than to re-publish it verbatim:

"Wrecking the land we love

I grieve to read of yet another enormous sum of money being poured into the grossly misguided "Wicken Vision" scheme. (News, August 7), the timing clearly to dissuade growing opposition that cannot reply in kind.

What body has the right to dispose of money on this scale without full assurance it will be used as intended? The hope is it will be used to provide habitat for endangered species, but the certainty is that it will not, within this muddled "vision" plan which has declared its intention to open up all frontiers for human invasion.

There are three new bridges over Reach Lode to let in the hordes and the goal is clearly commercial gain with not a whisper coming from any dedicated naturalist who might want a new definition of National Trust.

They will produce an environment from which birds and animals will take flight. This is already the story here in Wicken, a situation from which, I would agree, it would be very difficult to turn back. Here it is all for human diversion, descending into silliness. The RSPB never stops ringing what birds remain, putting statistics before sympathy, their only justification being to check on decline - caused by them. They even continue this through the nesting season, causing birds to desert.

No, the wrong people are doing the wrong thing in our area, wrecking so much that we love about the landscape here, robbing a growing population of food such as cannot be grown anywhere else. Taking away qualities, indeed, that the National Trust should be ashamed to lose, not to mention advocate further.

Anthony Day
Pond Green
Tony's latest book is highly recommended, too. It was produced in conjunction with Mr Mike Rouse, another local historian of note. Here is the book's cover and the link to it on Amazon. I have a copy that was a generous gift from Mr Day himself.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

"Bases in Sangin that were built with blood are destroyed with regret" (Story in The [London] Times)

There's a tragic story in today's Times. And it's accompanied by an equally tragic picture. Here is the tragic picture, followed by the tragic story.

"Seven bases in Sangin, many named after fallen comrades, will be destroyed.

In recent British military history few places have cost more in blood, sweat and lives to defend. Now most of the small bases around Sangin that exacted such a high toll to build and hold are being destroyed, blown up and bulldozed not by the Taleban, but by British engineers and their American allies.

The decision by US commanders to abandon many of the patrol bases (PBs) around the town where British soldiers have taken their heaviest casualties of the Afghan war has provoked deep frustration among British troops still serving there.

So far this month two small patrol bases, previously known as Pritchard’s Post and Marshall’s Post, have been abandoned and destroyed in the run-up to the handover of Sangin to the Americans.

One was named after Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard of the Military Police, who died in December, the other after Rifleman Mark Marshall, a popular reservist who was killed by a roadside bomb in February.

More bases will follow: US forces are to occupy fewer than half of those held by British troops when they take control of the area this autumn.

More than 50 British soldiers have died in Sangin since last summer and about 200 have been injured as they fought to hold and then expand their control in and around the disputed town, building more than a dozen small bases under fire, including the notorious Patrol Base Wishtan.

A non-commissioned officer told The Times: “The Americans are leaving all the ground that lads gave their lives for. It’s honking.

“Handing over to the Americans is not what is troubling them. They are annoyed because they had to hold this ground on the bones of their a***. In these PBs it is phenomenal how guys have been surviving. But it is hard to endure, knowing at the end you hand it to the US and the base is going to be blown up.”

The issue was raised independently by Marines whom The Times encountered in different bases in Sangin. “The lads are looking at what is happening at the PBs and wondering what was the point,” one said. “It seems a great shame after the Rifles [Battle Group] gave their all and the Marines have taken a lot of casualties.”

An officer said that the frustration of his men was understandable, although they understood that there was a “bigger picture”. He added that 3 Rifles, who built most of the bases, had endured an horrific time doing so. “It was an amazing effort to build the patrol bases,” he said.

When British forces hand over the area in the autumn, US forces will occupy six bases. Seven outlying bases are to be destroyed. Afghan forces will retain some bases that were previously jointly held with British troops inside the town.

Last month the names of bases in the town, many of them honouring fallen British soldiers, were renamed with Afghan titles.

Tribal elders said that, although the centre of Sangin was now solidly held by the Government and Western troops, Taleban fighters remained in disputed terrain around the outlying bases that British forces had abandoned in recent days.

Lieutenant-Colonel Paul James, commander of 40 Commando Royal Marines, said that the withdrawal was a tactical move made possible by security improvements in Sangin won by the Rifles and their successors in the Marines.

“Actually giving up ground because you think it is safe and secure enough to move on — that is what success is defined as. I would not be in this position now if those bases had not been created,” he said.

Colonel James said that there had been a substantial and sustained drop in violence recently around Sangin and that fewer bases would allow troops to adopt a more “agile patrol posture”. He acknowledged, however, that there might be frustration among British troops who had fought and lost comrades for the bases.

“I would be surprised if there wasn’t some form of attachment to what guys have achieved in their area,” he said.

“Every battle group that has been here has, unfortunately, lost soldiers and Marines. But I wouldn’t necessarily see that as any reason to stay here. Holding ground isn’t progress.”

I have commented on-line as follows:

"The lads are looking at what is happening at the PBs and wondering what was the point"

There is no point. We went there to assist the Americans to 'smoke out' Osama bin Laden. He's done a bunk. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but isn't this all part of what used to be called 'the great game'? It would be funny were it no so futile. Our brave boys have been sacrificed for no gain, nothing for us, nothing for the Afghans, who prefer their own version of 'civilisation.' Let's get out now and leave 'em to it. It's not our business. Our streets are no safer. Their country is as big a mess as when the Soviets were there and when we armed and supported the Mujaheddin that turned into the Taleban.

And we can't afford the cost in any case."

Friday, 13 August 2010

This war is a disaster - Bring all of our boys home now

The total of British military deaths either in or from Afghanistan has now reached 330. This war is a disaster, not only for the families concerned but also for us as a people. Bring all of our boys home now.

Two soldiers serving in Afghanistan's Helmand province have died after separate incidents, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The first soldier, serving with The Mercian Regiment, was injured on Tuesday, flown to the UK for treatment and died on Thursday in Birmingham.

The other soldier, from 21 Engineer Regiment, was shot dead on Friday.

The number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 330.

Soldier tributes

The first soldier, serving with Gurkha Reinforcement Company 1st Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire) was injured in a helicopter incident while in a patrol base in the Nahr-e Saraj district.

Major Ronnie Goodwin, Officer Commanding the Rear Operations Group, 1 Mercian, said: "He gave his life trying to improve the lives of people in Helmand by providing much needed reassurance and security.

"Our thoughts are with his family and close friends at this difficult time."

The second soldier was killed in the Sangin District.

Lieutenant Colonel David Southall, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "He was shot by small arms fire whilst supporting the 40 Commando Royal Marines Battle Group.

"He died a sapper, doing his duty amongst his comrades as he sought to improve security for the people of Afghanistan. His courage and sacrifice will not be forgotten."

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

'What, we should ask, have all our soldiers been dying for?' (The Times) 'Good question!' (Geoffrey W.)

As a true-born Brit with a lengthy local pedigree to prove it, I have long held to the view that, with all of their and its faults, British people are, and British civilisation is, probably superior to others.

Today, The Times reports that in a Taleban-controlled area of Afghanistan, a young widow, found 'guilty of adultery' by a 'panel' of mullahs, was 'given more than 200 lashes before being shot in the head three times.'

The Times also reports that, 'Afghan state law is only slightly better. Rape victims are jailed for having sex outside wedlock. Adulterers and runaways are normally jailed for two or three years, although police often return women to their families to face traditional punishments, which include "honour killings."'

A Times analyst writes that, 'Unfortunately, the Taleban are not the only savages who condone such brutal behaviour. Even the country's President ... rarely shows his own wife in public ... It was President Karzai who signed a law last year that in effect let men rape their wives, or starve them.'

The same analyst goes on, 'What, we should ask, have all our soldiers been dying for?'

Good question.

On another page, The Times further reports the murders in Pakistan of a 'British' couple who were shot to death for allegedly rejecting demands for their two youngest daughters to be forced into marriages. Had the couple acquiesced in the marriages and not rejected the demands, presumably the male 'better halves' from Pakistan would have been able to come to Britain through their respective marriages. Anup Minota, of Karma Nirvana, a 'charity supporting victims of forced marriage,' is reported to have said, 'Coming to England is a big thing, particularly for a man. It is seen as the way to wealth.'

The report goes on, 'Marriage also provides the route for other members of the family to come to Britain.'

Why do I quote so extensively from The Times?

Well, it's quite simple. If one believes, as I do, that British people are, and British civilisation is, probably superior to others, then surely one's belief is bolstered by these accounts of Taleban/Afghan and/or Pakistani 'civilisation' and, if that bolstered belief is founded in fact, what on earth are we and our boys doing in Afghanistan supporting President Karzai's idea of civilised behaviour and what on earth are we doing continuing to admit to our country, not only the beneficiaries of forced marriages in Pakistan but also a further following stream of family members?

The short-term effect of what we are doing in Afghanistan is to promote a semi-perverted so-called Islamic 'civilisation' as opposed to a fully-perverted Islamic 'civilisation.' I say, 'Let the Afghans decide for themselves to what extent they want their civilisation to be perverted.'

The short-term effect of what we are doing through our immigration policy is to let in to our country those who benefit from forced marriages. That is known and is seen to be wrong.

The longer-term effect of what we are doing in Afghanistan is to encourage even greater enmity and danger to be focused on ourselves and the longer-term effect of what we are doing with regard to immigration is further to enlarge that part of the population of these British islands that is alien and, compared with ourselves, uncivilised.

Our country is being changed by that enlargement and will be further changed more rapidly and more dramatically than most of us wish.

Many people say these things out of the hearing of the authorities. Some people who say these things are thought of as racist.

I am saying these things now because I care about our British people and our British civilisation, who are, and which is, I believe, superior to others.

Something must be done, and soon.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

"Call to join letter protest after A14 meeting snub"

The A14 is back in the news - in the Cambridge News. Go to -

In response, I have sent the following letter to the Editor:

"Dear Editor,

They're letting Cambridgeshire down!

I support the Cambridge News and Mr John Bridge but I am finding it difficult to justify - to myself or anybody else - any faith or confidence in any party politician.

I stood as an independent candidate in South East Cambridgeshire. I said publicly during the election that our greatest concern in Cambridgeshire was and is for the much-needed improvement of the over-loaded and very unsafe A14.

My Conservative opponent, Mr James Paice, agreed. His Conservative allies in South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdon, Mr Andrew Lansley and Mr Jonathan Djanogly, agreed. I lost big time. Mr Paice, Mr Lansley and Mr Djanogly won big time, retained their seats and are all important ministers in the Coalition Government.

The plan to improve the A14 is a likely casualty of the Coalition Government's cuts as announced by the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, Mr Danny Alexander, egged on by the Liberal Democrat Cambridge MP, Dr. Julian Huppert.

It seems to me that the Conservative ministers are now hiding behind the Liberal Democrats and all of them - yes, all of them, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - are letting Cambridgeshire down.

Maybe the people should have voted for a vigorous independent instead.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard."

© A14 picture copyright Rodney Burton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Monday, 2 August 2010

"The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 now stands at 327" (today's Daily Telegraph)

Go to -

Here is the report from the Daily Telegraph:

"Two British servicemen have been killed in southern Afghanistan in separate incidents, the Ministry of Defence said.

A soldier, from 1st Battalion Scots Guards, was killed by small arms fire in the Lashkar Gah District of Helmand Province on Sunday.

A Royal Marine, from 40 Commando, died in an explosion while on foot patrol in the Sangin District of Helmand Province the same day.

The spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel David Southall, said: "It is with great sadness I inform you that a soldier from 1st Battalion Scots Guards was killed in Lashkar Gah District of Helmand Province yesterday afternoon.

"Commanding his men, he was killed in action by small arms fire whilst providing security to the Afghan people.

"His selfless courage and sacrifice in the course of his duty will not be forgotten.

"In a separate incident, a Marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed in Sangin, Helmand Province, yesterday afternoon.

"Deployed within a foot patrol providing local security to the people in the district, he died in an explosion.

"He gave his life whilst seeking to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. His sacrifice will not be forgotten."

The deaths come as British troops are involved in a major push to bring the whole of Nad-e-Ali district in the province under total coalition control, although the latest victims of the war were not involved.

Operation Tor Shezada, or Black Prince, was launched with a helicopter assault on Friday and commanders said progress was "relatively good".

It is being spearheaded by soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment and is intended to take Sayedebad, the last Taliban-controlled town within the province which harbours up to 180 insurgent fighters and a shadow government.

The British death toll in the Afghan campaign since 2001 now stands at 327."

I wish that I had some local story or, say, another book review to publish here. Sadly, the news from Afghanistan supervenes again. I am sick and tired of this news and, though the spokesman for Task Force Helmand has an impossible job, I wish that he would change his tribute to the dead. It says, 'His sacrifice will not be forgotten.' Open today's papers or listen to the radio or watch the TV. We are served up the usual trash on all of them and the poor guy and his sacrifice have already been forgotten.

Did you see 'Big Brother' last night? Wow!