Friday, 6 September 2019

York Army Museum

The UK government has, for its own low motives, adopted the language of war when discussing the subject of relations with our closest neighbours and most significant trading partners (there was a thought-provoking opinion piece on the subject by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian yesterday); it's all enough to make one wish that one wasn't interested in military history. However, I am indeed interested in the subject and so have been to York Army Museum, in particular to see their current D-Day exhibition before it closes.

The photo above explains the remit of the museum and they cover it in great detail. The regiments involved have antecedents dating back to the troops raised by James II to counter the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion in 1685 and in the subsequent three centuries been involved in actions across the world. I like a museum to have plenty of historical artefacts and here there are more than I can probably list: a standard carried at Dettingen in 1743, the flag that was raised over Quebec in 1759 to signify its capture by the British, the helmet worn by General Sir James Scarlett during the Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava (complete with dents made by Russian sabres), many medals and decorations including several Victoria Crosses, and much else besides.

There's a captured Great War German Machine gun, which looks exactly as mine do in miniature:

There is also a British Vickers machine gun of the same period, which looks nothing like mine do in miniature and of which I have therefore not included a photo. Captured equipment comes from a variety of sources such as an Iraqi AK47 from the second Gulf War, back through German, Italian and Japanese arms of the second war, Russian items from the Crimea, French uniforms from the Peninsula and Waterloo and so on. There are also souvenirs of Britain's colonial wars including a Maori axe, making one feel that perhaps the conquest of New Zealand wasn't a fair fight, and sufficient Boer weaponry to make one feel that to make one feel that perhaps that wasn't a fair fight either. I found the following especially interesting:

I had a surrogate grandmother (after whom the younger Miss Epictetus is, in part, named) and I can remember her telling me about the street parties that were held in the East End to celebrate the relief of Ladysmith when she was a child; yes, I am that old.

Returning to my opening theme, the museum contains tributes to two members of predecessor units to the Royal Dragoon Guards who seem to me to personify why we should treat the posturings of Boorish Johnson with complete contempt. Firstly that old favourite of this blog Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC. It is worth remembering that this man who won Britain's highest medal for bravery and had various bits blown off serving the country in colonial wars and the First World War (and of course memorably pulled his own fingers off at one point) and spent two years as a prisoner of war in the Second World War, was in fact Belgian. Secondly, Captain Oates of Antarctic fame, a man whose quiet self-sacrifice of himself for others stands in stark contrast to our current Prime Minister's bombastic determination that everything and everyone should be subordinate to his own ego and ambition. 

1 comment:

  1. Boris should be applauded for what he's done. In 2016 he said he wanted to return sovereignty to Parliament and, fortunately, he acheived just that.

    By God I'm enjoying this. I love the sound of chickens coming home to roost. If he hadn't been such a duplicitous bastard the Opposition wouldn't have been able to hide behind his well deserved reputation for lying. Then there's Dave's Fixed Term Parliaments Act. And finally, if all the right-wing buggers hadn't dismissed the idea Proportional Representation, then the Commons would be more representative of 'the People's Will'.

    It took Gordon Brown months to do what Boris has acheived in a week. Go from Stalin to Mr Bean. What a winner!