“Why does everybody hate the French so much?”

“Why does everybody hate the French so much?”

These words were spoken by Frederick the Great at the onset of the Seven Years War – in reality, as history buffs know, this was ‘the first world war’ in everything but name. However ‘old Fritz’ knew a thing or two about international politics; he was well-read, well-liked and conversed with everyone, so it is fair to say that, at least in the mid-late 1700’s everybody really did. Well I can’t speak for the Germans as a race. Frederick actually quite liked the French (until they tried to invade him, of course) but there was something there, certainly.

Now, before I go on, I should add that this should be taken with a heavy pinch of salt and accepted with an extra large measure of British jingoism. The fact is that we don’t actually ‘hate’ the French; they’re just annoying. By rights we (that is the British) probably should dislike them a deal more than we actually do, but it isn’t our way. We just like to let them think it. It is a very old game we are playing which goes back a thousand years, and which the British and French have seemingly forgotten how to play nicely. Of course, it’s their fault (see, here we go!) and it isn’t really our fault that we won the game. It had become a bit like those epic games of Monopoly though that go on for days until everyone hates playing but refuses to lose. But really the French deserved it and worse, they are still sat there at the Monopoly board buying up houses and hotels and declaring themselves the winner, hoping to annoy us.

I want to take us on a waltz through history (with a bit of ‘John Bull jingoism’ thrown in) to explain why we British, at least, dislike the French. As you will see, they really are like the horror-movie characters Mike Myers or Jason Voorhies; you knock them down and they just get up and come back after you. Even when you think they’re buried and gone, they come back for an ever more dull sequel. In fact, to liken them to a mad serial killer is too much credit. Anyone remember the ‘Gobbledigooker’ from the WWE wrestling? He was the mad guy dressed as a chicken who formed part of Wrestlemania legend. Every year he came out with a new plan to attack the 6’10 monster Kane – nobody ever knew why, or what his problem was – and every year Kane put him away with a chokeslam and a tombstone piledriver to the roars of the crowd. Next year, of course, he would be back. That is France; an annoying man in a chicken suit who just won’t give up or go away.

Let’s have a look at fifteen reasons why we hate the French through history. An episode which I typically refer to as ‘The Thousand Years War’:

1) Hastings – Yes, as I said, they started it. The battle of Hastings in 1066. William ‘the bastard’ – some like to call him that – decided that he should be King. Someone had done a deal somewhere, he got cut out and now determined to cross the sea and come and get us. Of course, being French, he decided to not do it on his own and to wait for the Vikings to do the bulk of the work in Yorkshire, and then to turn up and finish us off. Sadly for him, Harold Godwinson destroyed the Vikings at Stamford Bridge and them marched the 300 miles to Hastings in the frozen weather with his army peeling away.Even then, old William was losing until he feigned retreat to drag the English soldiers down from the heights where his cavalry did for them. In modern terms it was like a weak guy crying that he had had enough and then pulling a flick-knife. Still, the French won, and they won’t let us forget it. For our part, we had Robin Hood though, who embarrassed and mulcted them at every turn, so we can get over it well enough.

2) The Crusades – The French determined to show everyone what great blokes they were by dragging us all off to the Holy Land and leading us to certain destruction. Only England’s King Richard the Lionheart (whom the evil French had previously imprisoned) really gave Saladin the right-about (see battle of Arsuf) but in the end, he was dead and the Crusades were lost. Except that the French determined to send about 10,000 school-boys out there with some kind of religious zeal, considering that God would see victory done if they said their prayers and sang hymns at the Persian horde long enough. Perhaps not surprisingly, nobody came back.

3) The Hundred Years War – The French love this one of course, because they won. Sadly, however, nobody cares or remembers that they did. We think of the Hundred Years War and we remember Crecy, Agincourt, Poitiers and Verneuil. Particularly in the first three, we gave them amongst the most embarrassing kickings of their ignoble careers. Again this was their fault. Having conquered our country and joined together the Royal Houses, they then didn’t much like it that the crown fell to England by succession and even pulled out their farcical bit of ‘Salic Law’ to try to prove the case…except that it was some old document pertaining to land in Germany. Finally they pulled up a French peasant girl named Joan of Arc who led them to victory, turning the tide at Orleans (and other battles the world has forgotten) but we got the last laugh, capturing and burning poor Joan as a witch. They have never forgiven us for that, mind you.

4) The War of Spanish Succession – This was the first time where Britain really got to have a good slap back at the French, and we did it in fine style. Good old Marlborough gave them a kicking at the battle of Donauworth then wrecked them at the battle of Blenheim, then at Ramillies and Oudenarde, took all of their principal fortresses including the impregnable Lille and then fought them at Malplaquet. This was a typically French battle; ‘If we can’t win we’ll just ruin the game’ – they didn’t even try to win, just to cause casualties. In the end, and despite never having lost to the French, Britain pulled out of the war due to their ministers ‘fiddling’ with the British court and persuading everyone that Marlborough was an old warmonger. They couldn’t beat him on the field so stabbed him in the back. Still they lost, though on much better terms than they deserved to.

5) The Seven Years War – Okay there were other wars, such as the Austrian Succession, but this one really gets my goat. The true ‘First World War’ raged across the globe for seven years, and everywhere the British went, the bloody French were there ready to butter the proverbial stairs for us. On our own doorstep they paid and equipped the Jacobites. In India they paid vast armies to attack us and do nasty things, whilst in Canada and North America they decided to fight even dirtier. Converting the local tribes to Christianity they produced their very own ‘French’ copy of the Bible. In it, Jesus was a lovely, happy little French boy who was one day brutally crucified by the evil English who were the Devil’s own people. They then diddled old Mary to death in a fiendish orgy and God decreed that all men should therefore hate and kill the men in red. This was a work for which the term ‘malice of forethought’ falls very short of the mark. Perhaps one of the lowest, dirtiest tricks ever played, and a subject they should have stayed well clear of. It didn’t help them though, of course, General Wolfe delivered the knock-down at the battle of Quebec, they lost, and ‘New France’ went the same way as old France – down the swanny, something we had ensured by embarrassing them at the battle of Minden. It was now ‘British North America.’ Meanwhile in India Robert Clive won an unlikely victory at Plassey and booted them out there as well. When the war ended, France had lost pretty much everything. You’d have thought they would have given up!

6) The American War of Independence – Again, the dastardly French had to stick their oars into stuff which didn’t concern them, and while Britain’s back was turned, they decided to take another swipe. This time they made sure that Spain and Holland were with them too – indeed by the end of the war Britain was fighting the entire known world and actually forced a half-decent draw on them all. Still, Lafayette and Washington between them won at Yorktown and the French raced back to Europe to announce ‘their’ victory, cutting Washington out of the picture completely. However after the surrender, the Americans were amazed to find the bitter enemies of Britain and France as the best of friends. They were disgusted that bayonet charges and death were instantly replaced with dances and dinners. Of course, they didn’t realise that we had been doing this for hundreds of years already…it was a game, the French had scored a point, and somewhere else they would all be killing each other somewhere else instead. Once the fighting stopped, they were old friends until the next show. This is something which seemingly the French have forgotten.

7) The French Revolution – What nasty sods they were to execute their own King (said the British who had done the same 150 years before) – but our own method was at least civilised. The French, by comparison, were carving up the Madamoiselles of Versailles in the most atrocious and fiendish fashion, killing children and losing all sense of fashion and common decency. Of course, all Britain went just a bit ‘Francophile’ at this. We rapidly opened our doors to accommodate the fleeing French nobility and there were real life ‘Scarlet Pimpernels’ who did a fair job of saving many of them. Of course, this brought to the front a young Corsican called Bonaparte, and he was to give us some troubles, but again the dastardly French were finally beaten at the early turn of the 19th century. We even forced them to surrender en masse in Egypt and nicked the Rosetta stone off of them, which serves them right!

8) The Napoleonic Wars – Yes there were a lot of them, and for once the French were more like a Myers/Voorhies character than an annoying chicken. Of course, Bonaparte had a lot to do with that. Now I like him. In fact, I am a confirmed ‘Napoleon worshipper’ – so this is a little difficult. But again, not to let sleeping dogs lie, the French were arming, equipping and training the Indians to pay us back. They didn’t even really want India at this point, they just didn’t want us to have it! Enter stage young Arthur Wellesley – later to be Duke of Wellington who crushed the Tipoo Sultan at Seringapatam and the Mahrattas at Assaye, Argaum and Gawilghur. Meanwhile the French tried to raise revolts in Scotland and Ireland, invaded Wales and generally made a mess of our back yard although beaten at every turn. When Nelson crushed the French at Trafalgar (good show!) Napoleon tried to block Britain off from European trade by his continental system and when Portugal didn’t comply, Napoleon invaded them…and thought he might have Spain with it. Enter once again Arthur Wellesley who trounced them from Hell to Huddersfield at the battles of Rolica, Vemiero, Oporto, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d’Onoro, Cuidad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, Nive, Nivelle, Orthes and Toulouse…along with a hundred more smaller actions. After that, they gave up…for a bit.

9) Waterloo – Yes the stunning  sequel in which the crazed psychopath gets up once again and goes for the jugular and this time it was Wellesley, now Field Marshal Lord Wellington who had to ‘save the world again’ in the words of the Tsar Alexander. Despite the measly old Prussians going down to a beating reminiscent of a bar-room-brawl at Ligny, Wellington held firm at Quatre Bras (with not much help from the Dutch who seemed inclined to throw the whole game away) and pulled back to Waterloo, which he had long-since considered would make a mighty fine battlefield. Finally after hundreds and hundreds of years, here it was: The decider. Whoever won this one was going to win a game that had started at Hastings in 1066 and Napoleon got drubbed. Of course, this being the biggest thrashing the French had received since Blenheim 111 years before and infinitely more decisive) they were forced to do a ‘patch-up’ job on it and to award the victory more to the Prussians who had turned up in the dying light and popped off a few shots on the French right flank. Meanwhile they decided to educate their children that they had, in fact, won, and built statues everywhere to show it. French thinking in the 200 years since Waterloo has been marked; if they made it ‘Napoleon’s battle’ then maybe in a thousand years people might forget that he had actually lost. Meanwhile ABBA sang a song about it just to remind them, and Wellington conducted his second tour of the Paris salons, rogering his way through the best ladies of French society, putting the proverbial ‘nob’ into ‘nobility’ and ensuring that half the top sons of France could answer to the name Wellesley if only they knew it.

10) The ‘entente cordial’ – Of course, now that the vile Frogs had (as far as Britain was concerned) had their medicine and were finally and officially ‘not better than us’, we could all be friends. We decided to team up and show them how to rule the world properly which, considering they had done such a stinking job for centuries, was a lesson long overdue. The problem was, of course, that they still weren’t quite as good as us. In 1845 in Paraguay they seemed to get hit from all angles by a bunch of cannon-toting peasants and limp away. Though we won, the whole thing became quite unpopular. They still had mercenaries funding, supplying and training the Indian princes which was annoying in the extreme. In the Crimea they were hard to work with; at the battle of the Alma they stood there and let us do all of the hard fighting while they climbed a cliff instead. At Balaclava whilst we gave the world the ‘Thin red line’ of the 92nd Highlanders, the charge of the Heavy Brigade and the world famous Charge of the Light Brigade, the French contribution was to sit there actually crying and watching us do it. At Inkerman they kept out of the fight until the last minute, and despite spreading rumours that at least they were better organised, they managed to lose two and a half times our number through sickness exposure and starvation. In China in the 1860’s we found something which we always knew – that they were good at running. So we tried to get them to run forwards as we provided the backbone and the firepower. At least it worked although they made an absolute wreck of the Summer Palace which was considered the eighth wonder of the world. Heathens. Finally we left them to it in the 1870’s to see how they got on, and the Prussians thrashed them hands down in the Franco-Prussian War which proved they had been too arrogant to learn a damned thing. The last actual battle of the century between Britain and France happened in Sierra Leone in 1896 where one of their patrols, lost and creeping around at night, walked into one of ours. It was a nasty mistake and wholly regrettable…but the British even won this one.

11) World War One – Arrogant and annoyed that they had lost Alsace and Lorraine to the Germans in the 1870’s the French were itching to have another slap at them, and didn’t they get their wish, just? Running off to fight the Germans in what became known as ‘The battle of the Frontiers’ still waving flags and in enormous red pantaloons and Fez’s the French copped an absolute mauling and luckily their British friends were there to save the day. In our thought-process the French were ours to beat up. We didn’t want anyone else to do it in case it looked easy! So we mangled the ‘Hun’ at the battle of Mons, fought our biggest battle since Waterloo 99 years before at le Cateau, and went on to save the day at the Somme, 1st and 2nd Ypres, the Marne, Passchendael, Amiens and a thousand other very nasty places until we had those nasty pointy-headed sausage-suckers on the run! The French for their part had decided upon the novel tactic of getting shot until the Germans ran out of ammunition, which was embodied by the battle of Verdun. Hundreds of thousands of French soldiers were fed into the organ grinder, with many mutinying at the thought, but after  fashion it worked, and when soldiers from across the British Commonwealth turned up (those places France had been trying to thieve off of us for years) and then the Americans, the Germans were defeated. The French didn’t like this at all, of course. Still reeling from Waterloo, they were damned in the British were now going to save them as well. Until about ten years ago French History textbooks still taught their children that “France won the first world war after the British ran away and the Americans turned up at the end but didn’t really do anything.” – and they still wonder why we hate them??

12) World War Two – France entered the second world war with an announcement which personified their by-now all-too-typical arrogance; “We are not Poles, it could not happen here!” – Of course it did. Sat behind the giant works of the Maginot line the French felt very secure…except that they hadn’t built it to the sea and the Germans simply walked around it. Even then, when some did try the Maginot line, it was found that some genius hd made the whole system work with one master key that opened the gun turrets and powered the whole system. And the bloke with the key happened to be on holiday in Spain and not very inclined to come back! Enter the British again (Yay!) who threw in a counter-attack, stalled the Germans and got over 100,000 Frenchmen back to old blighty, even at the cost of many of our own soldiers. Not content, half of the French now teamed up with the germans as ‘Vichy’ French and their navy – a wonderful collection of beautiful and modern ships, refused to join in and sat there in Vichy North Africa which forced the British to come and sink them at anchor. The French hate us for this, but in truth, well, we were trying to help them and they were in danger of handing the lot over to Germany. Britain had already pumped millions of pounds into France and now funded the ‘Free French’ war effort, finally returning to liberate them in 1944 with our American and Canadain friends. The bloody Vichy lot fought hard – particularly against the Americans to whom they handed a couple of frightful drubbings at Kasserine and elsewhere. It also didn’t help that their high command – especially de Gaulle, seemed intent upon feeding all of the allied plans to the Germans in a move which prompted Churchill and Roosevelt to codename him ‘The Bride’. Finally by feeding him a load of old rubbish, they conned the Germans and won the day. At the war’s end, France (who had lost the war twice, half as an allied power and half as an Axis power) now got all haughty again: ‘Quel surprise!’

13) The post-war years – Where were we? Ah yes, de Gaulle…First the Americans were shown the door by de Gaulle who didn’t want to feel ‘liberated’ or grateful in any way, then he reneged upon countless millions of war debts for loans given to him by Britain, prompting the Belgians, the Dutch and everyone else to follow suit. For a Britain who only finished paying its debts to America for the war in 2006 this has always been an annoyance. In effect, we paid for all of it. Thanks France! Of course, there was the newly-forming Common-Market to consider, so that we could all benefit financially together, but what wonderful and colourful comments did de Gaulle provide when asked if Britain should be included? – “Non” – That’s it. Twice liberating his country, hundreds of thousands of men killed and maimed and even him helping the bloody Germans out and we got one guttural sneer: “Non.” – he even tried to present us with the bill for houses, bridges and factories we had blown up whilst liberating his country. Naturally we tore that one up. Some national hero he is, eh? Still, Britain got to sit back and chuckle as the French surrendered to Giap at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam and lost another part of their dwindling empire. We might have helped but, well…why would we?

14) The Falklands War – Just when the old ideas of the past differences between Britain and France were dying out, up came an issue in the South Atlantic which had started with the French poking their noses in two hundred years before. The Falklands – British for time immemorial and first claimed in 1594 would have remained so had not two very bitter Frenchmen; Bougainville and Choiseul – both of whom had been forced to sign the surrender of ‘New France’ to Britain determined to get their revenge. Seeing the new British discovery proclaimed to the world, they quickly set up a base on it and declared it for their King, letting the British know about it whilst declaring a faux pas to Spain who, by treaty, should inherit it. Thus began a dastardly French plan to set Britain and Spain on a collision course in the South Atlantic as no less than three plans were submitted in Paris for an invasion of Britain whilst our navy was 8,000 miles away. In the end, Britain and Spain came to blows, Britain mobilised like a demon and Spain backed down in an almost identical pre-cursor to the war which was going to happen 192 years later. because of this act of French perfidy, however, Spain supported a claim which Argentina later claimed to ‘inherit’ and lo and behold in 1982 it all kicked off…it was the bloody French again, returning to haunt us after death! Even then, the French had sold the Argentines modern Exocet missiles which did incredible damage to our ships, and had French maintenance and training crews in Argentina throughout the war, despite claiming to be backing us – at least on paper! Only when Thatcher demanded the codes to disarm the Exocets on pain of dropping a nuclear bomb on Argentina did France’s President Mitterand give in. And so Britain won the Falklands war which really was all France’s fault in the first place because they were bitter and vengeful losers again.

15) The Modern Day – You would have thought that after all the beatings we gave them and then all of the help and benevolence we gave them (and the money they still owe us) that France would have found a special place in its heart for Britain…on which planet? After the Falklands War, an embarrassed and bearded Mitterand hatched a plan to build ‘The Channel Tunnel’ citing his real reasons as Britain’s final defeat and humiliation that it would no longer be an island of which it was so proud (what a thoroughly nice man!). Even then, they complained that their train came in at ‘Waterloo’ station and campaigned to have it changed. When we refused, they tried to return the favour and had the station we would come in at renamed ‘Fontenoy’ – ever heard of the battle of Fontenoy? Feeling violated and depressed by this? No – another epic French fail, but this is truly how bitter they are! Of course, they don’t have a Waterloo or a Blenheim, do they? From then on, there have been no end of troubles. The French would rather go on strike than actually work, as we know. Even when they do work, it is 35 hours a week and they effectively close the entire country during the month of August. So they like to burn all of our farm produce going to the continent, famously including lorry loads of livestock which has the animal-loving British public abhor. the European Parliament has given leave to let France play some quite ridiculous games; it wasn’t too many years ago that the European parliament was forced to listen to a lengthy motion from a French lady commissioner to have all British men classified as homosexuals! – Naturally this didn’t make it to the debating table! When attacked, they squeal for help yet, when called upon to add their weight to allied causes they signally shirk their duty and let the British do it instead, something which led our American cousins to replace the word ‘French’ with ‘Freedom’ instead – as in ‘Freedom Toast’ and ‘Freedom Fries’ – which many also termed ‘coward sticks.’ Today, and with their ports heaving with economic migrants eager to get to what they consider as ‘the promised land’ of Britain, the French instead of deporting them, set up classrooms to teach them what to say and how to work the British system, just to annoy us and so they don’t get them back again! If we catch them and send them back to France, the French send them right back to us!

Conclusion – In conclusion, it is very hard to like the French. We have lived next door to them for ever and they are generally weasly little creatures who seem intent upon crashing their car into ours just to ruin our car even at the expense of their own. Their media in Paris (as one helpful Anglophile in Normandy asserted to me) fuels this ridiculous hatred born of jealousy and bitterness and combined with that arrogance and rudeness which has marked their tenure on this planet and which has only increased as their defeats and reverses have become more embarrassing. In Spain and in Italy they are hated. The Germans refer to them as ‘monkeys’. And still they aim at Britain like some crazed kamikaze pilot determined to do everything possible to reverse the fact that they lost the thousand year war. Every time something goes wrong to do with Britain, even to this day, the damned French are usually behind it. Anything we do, they get hold of and still, though the wars are over, try to ruin the party. Not for nothing did Shakespeare write “That is so French, catching every breeze.”

I only feel sorry for the countries who have to live next door to them!

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Soldiers versus Zombies – Ten actual stories from history.

Ever wondered why our governments spend millions of dollars on ‘anti zombie apocalypse’ strategies? I mean it’s a joke, right? It’s Hollywood stuff. Zombies don’t exist, do they? It makes a decent film – of which there are hundreds, and a good TV series (I am told, I’ve never watched it) – but hang on, let’s answer something: Why is a serious and respected military historian even entertaining this concept and writing about ‘Soldiers versus Zombies’?? – Well, let me tell you.

This started as something quite casual as I read an account from an American Civil War veteran who claimed that he had encountered zombies – actual flesh-eating undead type zombies during the war. Typical me, I hate mysteries and decided to look at how much the US Department of Defense spends – to this very day – on ‘anti zombie apocalypse’ strategies. I mean, I don’t have to believe this stuff, right? But someone high up does, and it got me to wondering why. So it’s a rainy Friday here and my mind gets to wandering and thinking this American veteran was obviously high on goober-pea coffee or something. However, being me, I just had to go and look for myself, and the evidence is actually there from soldiers around the globe who have experienced the same! I’m not saying I believe all of this – let’s not shoot a good reputation to bits in under a minute – but it’s good fun nonetheless and, we have to allow, some major world governments are actually spending taxpayer’s money on this stuff…the plot thickens!

Now tales of zombie attacks date back to cave paintings dated at 60,000BC – it isn’t a new concept. In Haiti they actually exist; one can legally be classified as living, dead or zombified. Haitian zombies seem to be the victims of tribal voodoo with-doctors and a concoction known as ‘zombie powder’ largely made up from the toxins of puffer-fish. The ‘zombies’ are actually pronounced dead and wake up three days later with vacant stares, low moaning and necrosis. But they don’t have the compulsion to eat brains. They just stand there, moan and smell a bit. One guy famously died and turned up in his local village 18 years later where he found his sister. When American scientists got hold of some of this ‘zombie powder’ and tested it on laboratory rats, the effect produced was very similar. But these aren’t real zombies like we see in the movies or like we are discussing here.

Now let’s make this a bit military shall we? – Governments have experimented for decades with viruses and concoctions to cause ‘zombie outbreaks’ as a form of warfare. In Russia in the early 1950’s there was an experiment carried out on five prisoners. Sentenced to death but promised freedom if they would undergo an experiment (which was a lie, by the way, they planned to kill them anyway) they were to be shut in a room and subjected to a gas which would keep them awake for thirty days. All they had to do was last 30 days to prove this gas would work. Russia planned to build super-soldiers who needed no sleep. The prisoners did not last 30 days; soon they became unhinged, talking in strange whispers and making crazy noises. They began to grow suspicious and killed one of their cell-mates and then ate him! Then they started to gnaw at themselves. The scientists looked in and found the men to be ghoulish creatures, grinning from ear to ear with their organs showing through their rib-cages where they had pulled the skin from their own bodies. They tried to stop the experiment but the prisoners fought them with a super-human strength and soon the army was called in who dragged the nightmarish creatures from the cell after a savage fight in which a Russian officer shot one of them in the head and killed him. When they retrained the remaining three, doctors tried to patch them up desperately. The three creatures screamed to be put back and for the gas to be turned on and, when two were given knock-out gas, they died straight away. The third man they had to operate on without anaesthetic and he sat grinning at the doctors as they operated on him. One of the doctors stopped and stared at what was once a man and the prisoner’s grin widened. “Keep cutting” he said. In the end, they shot him. But they did take his picture first:

Still interested to read on? – Well rumours are that Russia has carried this on and Japan’s own experiments codenamed Projects “Cherry Blossom” and “Sturgeon” have been well-documented – more on these later. And should we be so surprised? Even the USA experimented with a ‘gay bomb’ back in the 70’s and 80’s to cause widespread disruption. In short, everyone has been at it, and the hunt for a ‘zombie apocalypse’ weapon has been ongoing since at least 1944.

Zombies in ancient history: In 2003 a fictional zombie-making virus ‘Solanum’ was dreamt up by ‘World War Z’ author Max Brooks but in 2007 traces of just such a virus were found in the brain of a mummified body in Hierakonpolis, Egypt by a British expedition whose findings were even recorded in the respected Archaeology magazine of the Archaeologic Institute. Ancient carvings and writings from this time – 3,000BC – indicated a great battle won against, of all things, an army of zombies! In 500BC Hanno of Carthage recorded on his voyages just seven men escaping out of a party of 35 sent ashore who reported crazed and rotting zombies who ate his crew. In 329BC Alexander the Great’s soldiers in modern-day Afghanistan recorded zombies who bit their victims who then died only to rise up and attack their comrades. In China a fragment of  manuscript was found dated at 212BC during the Qin Dynasty which gave a remedy for those affected with what it termed the “Eternal Walking Nightmare” – a sickness with no cure, which gave the infected ‘an unquenchable desire for human meat’ – it recommended decapitation, dismemberment and burning. There are, in fact, hundreds of accounts of soldiers in ancient times fighting zombies – too many to list, and even the Romans recorded a battle in Scotland against a horde of several thousand Pictish and Celtic warriors who were infected with a strange contagion which made them impervious to damage and highly contagious to all they bit. The Romans, outnumbered, made a fort and a ditch filled with lamp oil and other combustibles and fought – as they recorded, for nine hours. Of 480 Romans in the cohort, 150 were killed. There were no casualties because those who were bitten were quickly decapitated by their comrades. Emperor Hadrian issued Army Order XXXVIII following the battle, warning against the contagion and recommending a line of defences. Many attribute this to the real reason behind the building of Hadrian’s Wall.

Zombies in modern history: It would be possible to list hundreds more accounts, however I thought it might be fun to stick with some more modern accounts from the last 150 years or so and find out what they said.

1) 1893 – Fort Louis-Philippe – French North Africa – Foreign Legion Vs Zombies.

In 1890 a detachment of the French Foreign Legion under Colonel Drax was surrounded by a horde of crazed locals and quickly took to their key stronghold of Fort Louis-Philippe, a square stone-built fort near the coast. With a good well and ample supplies, the detachment was surrounded for no less than three years against a foe whom no rifle ammunition seemed able to kill except for by a shot to the head. By 1893 and at the end of their supplies, the garrison opened the gates allowing the zombies to flood into the central courtyard as meanwhile they scaled down the walls and closed the gates, locking the zombies inside. A number who were outside were quickly overpowered with head shots and bayonets. The men of the foreign legion then marched an incredible 240 miles to Bir Ounane, an oasis where there was another French garrison who had believed them all lost to the plague. Some 50 years later a US B-24 crew was forced to make a landing in the desert and found the remains of the fort.One of the gunners, Anthony Marno recorded in his journal that; “What we found inside looked like a kiddie’s nightmare. We walked to the courtyard and found skeletons, mountains of them!”

2) 1942 – Atuk – Central Pacific – Imperial Japanese Army Vs Zombies.

In 1942 a special naval landing platoon of Japanese soldiers was put ashore at Atuk, one of the Caroline islands in the Central Pacific. After several days on the island, the party was attacked by a horde of seemingly-crazed locals who, emerging from the jungles unarmed, seemed impervious to rifle fire and who attacked their victims with bites which soon became infected. Those infected now joined their former attackers against their own comrades and the Japanese soldier retreated to a base they had fortified on a rocky outcrop to the north of the island. Here they held the zombies off until Ashi Nakamura – a platoon sniper, found that a head-shot would keep the creatures down for good. After two weeks of virtual imprisonment, and almost starving, the Japanese soldiers had dispatched the zombies and now advanced across the small and narrow island, killing all they saw with head shots, finally being relieved by a larger force several days later.

3) 1944 – Manchuria – Chinese Army Vs. Zombies.

It is considered that the Japanese experience with zombies on Atuk had been recorded and studied, for later in 1942 they managed to capture eight of the creatures for study. What transpired was a secret operation codenamed “Cherry Blossoms at Night” – a plan to attack the west coast of America with a plague. All sorts of human experiments were carried out on prisoners and rounded-up Chinese civilians and tested with biological warfare involving bubonic plague, cholera and anthrax which killed as many as 580,000 Chinese. The Japanese attempted to train the zombies, but when 10 out of the 16 ‘handlers’ were bitten, they abandoned the project and decided instead to simply drop the zombies from a plane instead. In 1944 in Manchuria a Japanese plane carrying these zombies was shot down and crashed. The zombies came out of the aircraft intact but were quickly surrounded by the Chinese army who, with some prior intelligence, managed to despatch them quickly with head shots.

4) 1957 – Mombassa – Kenya – Gikuyu Rebels versus Zombies.

In the 1950’s the Mau-Mau uprising had taken hold in Kenya and British soldiers were sent to quell the insurgents. when one was captured, he insisted that he had surrendered to the British for protection and told a British Intelligence Officer the story of a battle he and his party had had with zombies. The following transcript is from that intelligence report:

Q: How many did you see? – A: Five.

Q: Describe them. – A:White men, their skin grey and cracked. Some had wounds, bite marks on parts of their bodies. All had bullet holes in their chests. They stumbled, they groaned. Their eyes had no sight. Their teeth were stained with blood. The smell of carrion announced them. The animals fled.

Q: What happened? – A: They came for us. We drew our lalems and sliced off their heads, then buried them.

Q: You were not wounded? – A: I would not be here.

Q: You were not afraid? – A: We only fear the living.

Q: So these were ‘evil spirits’? – A: Evil spirits are invented to frighten children. These men were walking death.

The full transcript appeared in a story in a British tabloid newspaper some months after. Little was made of it.

5) 1960 – Byelgoransk – Siberia – Russian forces Vs Zombies.

When Russian forces overran Japanese-held Manchuria in 1945 they captured a great many Japanese scientists involved in zombie and plague-warfare experiments from Project “Cherry Blossom” and many of the zombified test subjects. Realising a potential military use, the Soviets took these to a research laboratory in remote Siberia for further study in a project they codenamed “Sturgeon.” When the contagion broke out, a number of staff were infected, and a group of scientists, soldiers and prisoners retreated to the prison ward where they held out for a siege, radioing for help and continuing a running dialogue of reports. The Russian army did arrive, but instead simply encircled the remote Siberian town and observed what was happening. Finally a one-megaton nuclear bomb was dropped on the town, obliterating it completely. Russia passed this off as simply one of its early nuclear tests, at first denying the town had ever existed and then stating that it had been evacuated and used to gauge the effectiveness of the blast.Only in 1992 with the onset of free press did some former KBG and Army officials begin to tell a story of some form of virus outbreak. The story finally came out when Russian mobster and former KGB Archivist Artion Zenoviev leaked a wealth of documents to the West to the tune of 643 pages, including the full radio transcripts, before and after aerial photographs, official army and air force reports, signed statements and laboratory data. Russia still maintains that the entire case is a hoax.

6) 1968 – Eastern Laos – American forces Vs Zombies.

During a psych-evaluation in a Military Hospital in Los Angeles of former US Special Forces sniper Peter Stavros – a Vietnam War veteran who had turned to substance abuse, an incredible story emerged. He had been, as he recalled, part of a team operating along the Vietnamese border tasked with eliminating a village across the border in Laos which was being used as a staging area for Communist forces. He reported that, upon approaching the village, he and his team witnessed the townsfolk under siege from several dozen people whom he described as ‘the walking dead.’ Quickly withdrawing, the US soldiers called in an air-strike which was delivered by two Skyraiders equipped with napalm bombs. Most of Stavros’ former team were later either killed or missing in action in the war, or had died of natural causes. Those few who remained refused to give evidence to corroborate the claim.

7) 1975 – Al-Marq – Egypt – Israeli special forces Vs Zombies.

In 1975 the small Egyptian village of Al-Marq suffered an outbreak of zombie-plague with the village quickly being overrun by flesh-eating creatures. Calls to the police went unheeded, even calls to outside police units from the overrun officers of the town, and even an appeal to the Egyptian 2nd Armoured Division, stationed only 35 miles away at Gabal Garib went unheeded. As fate had it, the radio commander at Gabal Garib was an Israeli agent of the famed ‘Mossad’ intelligence service who reported the incident back to his homeland. In Israel, the call was treated as a hoax – perhaps some Egyptian ploy to see, by a fantastic story, if their security had been breached. There it might have stayed had the information not been passed to Colonel Jacob Korsunsky, an American Jew in Israeli service and an aide to the then-president Golda Meir. Korsunsky persuaded Meir personally that zombies were in fact a real human plague and that if left unchecked they might quickly spread. By some miracle, he received the go-ahead to lead a small covert team into Egypt to investigate. It had been 14 days since the first report of the outbreak at Al-Marq when the Israeli special forces parachuted into the town and fought a twelve-hour battle to eliminate the threat. Of the town’s population there were only nine survivors who had barricaded themselves into the local mosque with barely and food or water. By now, the Egyptian 2nd Armoured Division and other units had closed in around the town and forced the Israelis to surrender where they were now to be executed. However the pleading survivors showed the Egyptians the zombie corpses and swore their own testimony, pleading for the soldiers’ lives and curiously, the Egyptians gave them safe passage home. This fantastic story was corroborated by several international journalists who interviewed the survivors, by nine sworn statements from Egyptian military personnel and Gassim Farouk – a former Egyptian Air-Force Intelligence Officer who later emigrated to the United States.

8) 1979 – Sperry – Alabama – US State Police Vs Zombies.

On a quiet day in Sperry, Alabama, mail-man Chuck Bernard was delivering the mail to the Henrichs Farm when he heard gunshots and screams fro inside the house. terrified, he drove ten miles to the nearest payphone and called the police. Two deputies arrived with a Paramedic team and found the Henrichs family slaughtered, save for one; Freda Henrichs, who seemed to be in a crazed state. The deputies called for backup and tried to restrain her and she bit both Paramedics resulting in a third deputy – just arrived, to panic and shoot her in the head. The two Paramedics were taken with a fit and were driven to the local hospital where they subsequently died, only to get off of the table during the autopsy, attack the coroner and his assistant and to run into the street. By nightfall, no less than 22 zombies were reported and 15 people eaten almost whole. The town panicked as residents armed themselves and barricaded themselves into their homes.A local arms enthusiast Harland Lee, now determined to free the town and, arming himself with an Uzi sub-machine gun, a double-barrelled shotgun and two .44 Magnums (one revolver, one automatic) he ventured into the street to combat the creatures. Lee was seen to run towards a group of twelve zombies, emptying his Uzi then his shotgun at close range into their bodies but causing no real damage. Backed up against a car, he was then seen to empty his two pistols into them before being attacked and overcome. By morning the state police had arrived, backed up by a number of deputies and armed locals. Armed with hunting rifles, the state police engaged the zombies with head shots and finally killed them all. The bodies were cleared away and ‘men in black’ quickly arrived to confiscate any footage or recordings from the locals and to quieten the press. The Department of Agriculture followed up with a statement explaining the cause as “Mass hysteria caused by accidental pesticide release in the local water table.” One hundred and seventy five lawsuits were issued by the townsfolk. Ninety two of these have been settled out of court by hefty payments. The rest – including some requesting the return of their property and media footage, are still outstanding to this day.

9) 1987 – Khotan – China – Chinese Army Vs Zombies.

In March 1987 Chinese dissident groups informed reporters in the West of a near disaster at the Xinjiang Nuclear Power Station in Khotan and after several months of questioning, the Chinese government had finally admitted what it termed a ‘malfunction’ at the site. The month following, they released a new story, stating that there had been attempted acts of sabotage by counter-revolutionary terrorists”  – however in August of that year, a Swedish magazine ‘Tycka!’published a story which had leaked from the USA that an American spy satellite had captured images of Chinese tanks and other armoured vehicles firing point blank into a great crowd of what looked like unarmed civilians and several images of these ‘unarmed civilians’ looking very much like they were feasting upon their victims. The US government threatened ‘Tycka!’ with a lawsuit, stating of course) that it had no such spy satellite, and the magazine retracted the story. Later, however, a Chines Professor Kwang Zhou reported that he had spoken to one of the soldiers involved in the incident. The soldier had confirmed the incident and told him that the Operation was codenamed “Eternal Walking Nightmare” and that all soldiers involved had afterwards been sent to a ‘re-education camp’. Zhou later surmised that China has captured some of the Japanese “Cherry Blossom” experiments and had begun its own investigations into an army of the undead.

10) 1996 – India / Pakistan border – Srinigar – Indian Army Vs Zombies.

In 1996 Indian soldiers along the ‘Line of Control’ – the border between India and Pakistan, Lieutenant Tagore of the Indian Security force noticed a man approaching his outpost. Here is his post-action report: “The subject approached at a slow stagger, as if ill or intoxicated. I could observe that he wore the full uniform of the Pakistan Rangers, odd since none were reported to be operating in this zone. At three hundred metres we ordered the subject to halt and identify himself. He would not comply. A second warning was given. Still no reply. He seemed to be moaning incoherently. At the sound of our calls his pace increased slightly. At two hundred metres he tripped the first mine, an American “Bouncing Betty.” We observed the subject receiving shrapnel wounds to his upper and lower torso. He stumbled, fell on his face, then regained his footing and continued forward. . . . I deduced he wore some type of body armour. . . . This action occurred again at one hundred and fifty metres. This time the shrapnel tore the subject’s jaw from his face. . . . At this range I could observe that the wound did not bleed. . . . The wind shifted in our direction. . . . We detected a putrid odour from the subject similar to decomposing meat. At one hundred metres I ordered Private Tilak (platoon sniper) to dispatch the subject. Tilak placed a direct shot through the subject’s forehead. The subject dropped immediately. He did not rise, nor make any further movement.” – The body was quickly taken for autopsy to the military hospital at Srinigar before being removed by the National Security Guard.

Conclusion

These ten cases raise some questions – yes there are hoaxes, of course, and conspiracy theories, but if I added in all of the civilian cases, and particularly in the USA, China and Siberia, there would be hundreds. So is there something in this? Why does the US Government spend millions of dollars on anti-zombie-apocalypse strategies? Even in the UK in December 2012 the British Government and Ministry of Defence announced that they do actually have an anti-zombie strategy in place. In the USA, a document dated April 30th 2011 and called CONOP8888 (sub-titled ‘counter-zombie dominance’)is a detailed plan ” to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde … zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, (Strategic Command) will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”

So Romans, Carthaginians, American Civil War veterans and a whole host of others seem to tell us that they have fought against actual, real-life zombies, and our governments are actually spending lots of money on this. Is it a virus, perhaps something ancient and eradicated and brought back to life – which the excavations in Egypt seem to have confirmed? Sherpurs in Nepal have reported seeing ‘grey people in clothes from last century’ and a Canadian family hiking in the Swiss Alps in 2006 called police after a grey man with dead eyes shuffled towards them on a pass, ignoring a shower of rocks hurled at him. I hate zombies and zombie movies myself. I want to disbelieve this entirely. But sometimes being a historian is about asking those questions, regardless of the subject matter. It seems that there is something and that the stories all seem to be the same for hundreds, even thousands of years.

So next time a friend asks you that timeless question; “So what’s your anti zombie invasion plan?” – and most of us have actually considered one – just remember that it might not be that stupid a thought.

Your government doesn’t think so either 😉

 

 

 

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Six pieces of Russian kit that are ‘too cool for school’

As a break from some of my more recent posts, I thought I would put together a bit of a look book on some Russian kit which is out right now. I’ll be honest, in terms of military kit, I am like a big kid. In an age where reliability, maintainability, lifespan, cost and obsolescence set the trend for military vehicles, Russian kit seems to be bucking the trend. Ignore the practicalities for a moment, the modern Russian stuff looks like a child’s drawing – guns and missiles sticking out of every nook and cranny!

To be honest, it does look cool, but I must say that the mundane and practical issues which guide countries such as the UK and the USA will probably catch up with it in the end. It will break, be hard to fix, impossible to replace, be too complex…all the boring things which rationalise the thoughts of those of us who drool over it and wish we had it ourselves!

One of the endearing things about Russian technology has always been its simplicity and robustness. Not technologically the best, Russian kit always did what it said on the tin. It could take a knock, be produced by the tens or even hundreds of thousands and was interchangeable. Give Russian engineers a problem and they take a hammer to it and somehow make it work. But are they coming away from that? Something tells me that, for once, the Russians are trying to be a bit too clever with their kit and, whilst there are some amazing examples for the opposite being true (as we shall see) there are some interesting new developments.

Let me give you a few examples:

T-14 Armata

On paper, the T-14 Armata seems to have it all – and that includes racing stripes! Produced in 2015 this tank really breaks new ground. One of the endearing things is that adherence to core Russian principles; this tank forms the MBT (Main Battle Tank) variation of the ‘Armata Universal Combat Platform’ – a chassis, engine and all-round package which can be converted and copied into endless variations all using the same parts. A clever trick! Next we have the whole experience. Why spend money training crew to drive, aim and fire the tank when there is an obvious solution? Use a Playstation! Yes the Armata, with it’s crew of just 3 men is controlled by a Playstation controller and a screen! I mean, feasibly you could crew it with every teenager in the country – THIS is what I love about Russian kit!

It is armed with a 125mm smoothbore main gun which fires a discarding-sabot round for armour penetration, a high-explosive fragmentation round for anti-personnel roles and even comes with guided missiles for air defence! There are rumours of a 152mm upgrade, which is bigger than anything fielded by allied armies but this comes with disadvantages, notably in weight and also amounts of ammunition carried. For protection, the T-14 has a 12.7mm machine gun and some really natty new kit in the form of an active defence system of ‘hard kill’ and ‘soft kill’ systems. Effectively an array of jammers and scramblers to confuse guided missiles and then radar controlled ‘explosively formed penetrator’ rounds in the turret – effectively a giant shotgun which intercepts incoming rounds. It is also supposed to be radar proof and to have an almost invisible heat-signature. Finally the crew are protected by a hard inner shell. There is nobody in the turret and, it is predicted, the crew should survive even a direct hit.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? Except that on its first outing when it was unveiled to the world, it caught fire and has never been seen again. Those three different types of munition mean simply less. Tanks carry armour-piercing and HE rounds, but now the Armata – a pretty small tank, has to pack in missiles too! The 12-speed automatic gearbox, active hydraulic suspension and powerful engine are great, but very complex and have been anticipated to significantly reduce the operational lifespan of the vehicle which is, as we have seen in just one outing, a huge reliability problem. Yes it looks cool, but in trying to produce the perfect package, has Russia churned out the tank equivalent of a FIAT or an Alfa Romeo? – Looks good, but it will break endlessly, be wholly impractical, cost the earth and you will regret having it. It says much that Russia, with a defence budget of $70 Billion and a titanic production ability has only produced somewhere over twenty of these.

Now let us admire a few more:

The BMPT “Terminator”

Unveiled in 2009, produced from 2011 onwards, the “Terminator” is a close-support tank whose design came about in reaction to the mauling that Russia’s heavy tanks took in Afghanistan and then in Chechnya at the hands of the irregular rebel forces in built-up areas. This beast carries two 30mm autocannons, one firing anti-personnel rounds and the other armour-piercing rounds with 850 rounds in the box. To either side there are a brace of 130mm Ataka anti-tank missiles and at the front corners of each side, a 30mm grenade launcher with 300 rounds apiece. It looks good, but yet of a crew of five, two men simply sit there in the corners working a grenade launcher now and again! The autocannons may have 850 rounds but have a combined rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute – that’s just 85 seconds of firing! Still, let’s not be too harsh here; it’s a good use of an old chassis and perhaps Russia has learned some lessons.

The BMPT “Terminator 2”

The second generation of the terminator is – of course “Terminator 2” – more really it is the Terminator in a dress. Mrs Terminator, perhaps? Essentially this is a retrofit package, based on the same T-72 hull but with nicer curves and predominantly designed for the export market. The first thing the designers did was take away those ridiculous grenade launchers which reduces the crew to three men and sheds the weight of the men and 600 rounds. It is 11mm lower and 20mm thinner than its predecessor, which in all reduces the weight by four tonnes which is no bad thing. The reduced armour is augmented by additional bolt-on slat armour to protect against shaped-charge HEAT rounds and extra armour is provided to the missile launchers whilst a new screening system protects against laser-guidance systems. With an improved Fire Control System it can also detect and engage armoured targets at longer range. Proof, perhaps, that Russia has learned from this one?

The 2S19 Koalitsiva 

The picture which launched a thousand humorously doctored pictures on line, with six guns and even with twenty or more! Of course, photoshop aside, this was the original. a massive turret housing ‘over and under’ dual-autoloaded 152mm guns. A clever thought (and yes it looks cool) Russia abandoned this in 2010 due to the obvious complications and added weight and other issues. It says a lot that they even considered this – I mean it wouldn’t make the drawing-board in the Western world would it? But they learned…

The 2S35 Koalitsiva

Is it a house or a self-propelled gun? This vast beast of a vehicle came out of the double-barrelled project above. Originally this was set to be formed on the Armata Universal platform but, perhaps with the issues inherent in that system, the current version sits on the six-wheeled T-90 chassis – an older but more reliable system at present. The gun is a 152mm system with an effective range of 70km for precision guided rounds and 40km for ‘dumb’ rounds with a rate of fire claimed at from 16-20 rounds per minute – improved with the addition of a new pneumatic auto-loader and 60-70 rounds stored. The reloading process takes just 15 minutes. The crew is expected to be just 2-3 people due to a very high level of automation. It sounds great but, we must allow, the newer kit isn’t always very reliable, the chassis-change to the Armata isn’t complete. With production and delivery still earmarked for 2016, will it be ready in time?

The Pantsir S-1

It looks like that ‘child’s drawing’ I spoke about, doesn’t it? Essentially this is another show of that Russian cleverness – the chassis is one thing, but make a turret you can stick on anything. This turret has the ability to be truck and tractor mounted too, and is being converted so that it can be mounted on to ships, with the carrier Kuznetsov scheduled to receive it along with a number of other smaller ships. An anti-aircraft platform (with the ability to engage ground targets too) the Pantsir packs two dual 30mm autocannon (yes that’s four) and twelve surface-to-air missiles. However the gun system has a rate of fire of 5,000 rpm and yet carries only 700 rounds, split between HE and armour piercing and tracer variants of each. That’s a smidge under eight and a half seconds of firing. And that’s if you fired everything! But Russia has come up with the answer…sort of. This constitutes eight other vehicles to support the Pantsir in the field with spare ammunition, spare parts and repair. Suddenly this doesn’t look so ‘stand alone’ does it? I mean all that is a lot of cost and a big target! Still this has already had confirmed kills and has been exported to ten countries since it was released in 2008. It remains to be seen whether the Armata platform can be reliably made to accommodate this.

Conclusion: In some ways, Russia seems to still be applying many of those time-tested principles which have guided it. A universal platform, turrets which can be placed on almost anything from a tank to a truck to a ship, and all controlled with a Playstation controller which could turn any teenager into a battlefield-dominating warrior. But in other ways, this stuff is well…just a little too complex. It either doesn’t work, is made to work in a half-arsed cut-and-shut / chop-and-change way, is still being improved or else is almost ridiculously unsupportable. You’d have thought that Russia would have learned from the overly-complex German tanks they ran rings around in the Second World War. Certainly these weapons platforms have ‘cool factor’ when compared to what we in the West have but, and it’s a big but, our stuff – however boring to look at – is reliable, sustainable and dependable. Russia’s strength was always in a simple but clever idea (take the T-34) which could be replicated and mass-produced cheaply, not in this complex and technical series of ideas which are slow to produce, hard to maintain and often impossible to support. So ‘too cool for school?’ I asked – well yes. It’s great to look at, but operationally, I reckon ‘boring’ will win through every day.

 

 

 

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Falklands / Malvinas – Let’s set the record straight…

I write this in a spirit of reconciliation…as my readers know, I am currently working on a book covering Operation Rosario – the invasion of the Falkland Island on April 1st-2nd 1982. It is quite a task, first-off. Whilst I am known for a very ‘first-hand’ style taken from the men there at the time, none of the people I have ever written about before has actually been alive! So much of my stuff has been Napoleonic, sometimes ancient and the most ‘recent’ I ever wrote about was for a lecture I gave on recipients of the Victoria Cross from a military academy…the last of those was in World War Two. And he is dead as well.

So the chance to write about soldiers who are still very much alive has been amazing and, as people might know, it was unexpected. I was asked to write this book. I didn’t decide to! First-hand ‘interview-based’ history is tricky stuff. Memories can fade, there is the inevitable ‘fog of war’ to contend with, nobody quite agrees as to what happened and when. I suppose the Duke of Wellington was right when he said that the history of a battle is like giving the history of a grand ball or a party – who said what, to whom, when, why, in what spirit….everyone has their own piece and the pieces never fit exactly! – Now try doing that from both sides; British and Argentine. It would scare most of my military history peers!!

However, we get ahead of ourselves. The purpose for this blog post is to publicly reconcile a few views and, in particular, it is directed towards my Argentine friends and those veterans who have been helping me with this project, without whom so much of this would simply not be possible. One in particular, Diego Garcia Quiroga, is perhaps the most consummate gentleman I have met on either side of that conflict, and his help, support and accounts deserve my gratitude immeasurably.

Let’s get this straight first: I am not a Falklands War historian. I have written upon everything from Megiddo in 1479BC (the first recorded battle in history) up until the second world war. My fortes are the Napoleonic Wars, 30 Years War, 7 Years War, the campaigns of Hannibal and Caesar, the military art in general – I’m what they (sometimes ungraciously’ call a ‘Kings and Battles’ historian . In my case not specifically Kings, but focusing upon one central character, be he Alexander the Great or Napoleon or whoever, and then his campaigns and battles. True, I take every opportunity to throw the reader into the action ‘first hand’ with accounts of the soldiers, but I’m not a modern warfare specialist. That said, history is history. Men are men. If you can apply the same theme and personal ethos then you can do it in any age.

I have been called upon to defend my position with this work in light of other posts, opinions and more…that is fair. One thing about me is that I am, quite intentionally, very ‘visible’ – I will talk to anybody on any subject, honestly. Of course, as I have also found out, this does leave me open to the usual run of cyber-bullies and what they term ‘trolls’ which anyone will attract in any walk of life if they are open about themselves. I always answer them back, even the most offensive or aggressive – on whatever subject, with as much courtesy and grace as I can. Education can cure ignorance…well, sometimes!

And so let us come back to the whole crux of the storm brewing around my head. Something we British use a term for – “The elephant in the room” – the ‘great unmentionable’ and I mean of course, the Falklands debate. I would like to explain my position and my book – and I am happy to answer any questions on it – there is a ‘Comments’ section so all can see. I approve all comments too!!

Firstly, let this answer all points, other posts, conjecture and the ‘but what about this?’ stuff going on. This isn’t – or it should not be – about who is right or who is wrong. I don’t think anybody anywhere is going to say “Yes I admit it, our side is wrong.” – Nobody will. Now, do I support the British side of this debate? – Yes, of course. But even then it isn’t that simple, and here is where we need a little education – and it is a big subject!

I am British. I am not a Falkland Islander (by the way, they don’t like being called ‘Kelpers’ it’s derogatory) – I can’t just go there to live. It is a foreign country. Britain doesn’t ‘own’ the Falklands, it protects them. Britain takes not one penny from any non-self-governing territories. They pay a voluntary contribution, if they want to, towards defence and foreign affairs. It isn’t mandatory. In technical terms (and stay with me, this is going somewhere, I promise) an NSGT (non-self-governing territory) is a territory whose people manage their own affairs, tax, governance, business, laws and everything any other country has. However, not being of the size, wealth or stature as their parent state, they look to that state by what is termed as ‘free association’ to provide for its defence and foreign affairs. That is the entire difference between an NSGT and a country.

But the Falklands are not Britain. Britain cannot tell them what to do. They have a constitutional right to simply ignore anything Britain says. The Falklands are a country. I would need a VISA to go there and, if I stayed longer, I would be arrested as a foreign national overstaying his welcome. It is as hard for a British person from the mainland to go there and live there as it is for an Argentine citizen. Hence ideas of ‘colonialism’ or whatever are at least 70 years too late. If anything, they have us at their mercy, not the other way around.

Now, we can go into decolonisation commissions, what UN Resolution said what and even, as I have, the laws of territorial acquisition. It doesn’t make us better people though, does it? And I mean all of us. The outstanding thing about the Falkland Islanders is that they want to be left alone by everyone. You and me. All of us. They don’t want to be that interesting! Theirs is a home which, if we are all being honest, is cold, windy, a little lonely probably – and ultimately the kind of place most of us wouldn’t want to live. The fact that they do, that they like it, that they prefer it…well, it’s a credit to them. I would love to visit there; they seem such nice people. But no, I don’t want to live there. They do and I am happy for them.

What I do not understand about the Argentine claim – be it in the past or those who espouse it today, is what it achieves. The chances are you – whoever you are – do not want to live there either! Just like me, it is not your home, it is their home. So what that it is closer to Argentina? I have never been to the Faroe Islands. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to live there. They are Danish and yet, they are much closer to Britain than to Denmark. It really doesn’t upset me. If the people there like it and want to be Danish well then, great! – My point is this…we could produce pieces of old paper or the injured rights of men long-since dead, or a quote from somewhere or even a piece of current law. Does it matter? Some 3,000 peaceful people, living in the only home they have ever known, that they and their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and going back sometimes nine generations, have called home. It is their home.

I understand the war and the causes for the war. I understand why some in Argentina might have felt aggrieved and, if it was just barren rocks with nobody there, I don’t think anyone would care who they belonged to. But it is 2016 and people are important. Not land. I’m not going to say that anybody was wrong or indeed that anybody was right – that is to get into politics. Surely people – whoever they are and however they got there – as a multicultural society as Argentina knows well, have a right to call that place home and to damn anyone who tells them otherwise. Argentina did this in 1810, definitely by 1816 and was only recognised in 1863 by Spain. Argentina was not Spain. The Falklands are not Britain. Argentina speaks Spanish. The Falklands speak English – I think you have a lot more in common than you know!

Argentina seems like a beautiful country. Every Argentine person I have ever met in person has been wonderful. In the little village of Stockbridge in Edinburgh where I lived for eight years, there were three Argentine people I knew. One, though in his late-forties, was the star of the local Rugby team. Sergio the local tailor is from Buenos Aires and I have never met a man who could make me actually cry with laughter like he can! Once, out to dinner with him, I had to hide under the table, I was laughing so hard! I am a huge fan of Tottenham Hotspur (the greatest football team in the world, as we all know) which has enjoyed a timeless relationship with Argentina – our manager Pochettino is Argetine, we are a club whose hero and mascot is Argentine player Ossie Ardilles who also became our manager and even the star of a famous song about him, and I myself am named after Ricardo “Ricky” Villa – the Argentine player who came over with Ossie. My dad, a Tottenham fan, liked the name. On another day, my name might have been ‘Ossie’!

Argentina has always seemed like a fantastic place. I remember watching the fateful 1986 World Cup and collecting the stickers for my album. The Argentine players were always the hardest to get, and the most prized. Burrachaga became an instant favourite of mine and the rarest stocker in the world was Maradonna. My Mum spent hundreds of pounds towards the end on stickers, just so I could finally get his sticker! – One week later he was less popular in England, certainly! But it didn’t matter. I had the Maradonna sticker and the other kids at school begged to see it! Argentines and British seem to get on so well. We share a love of football, rugby, polo – I hear Argentina has a half-decent cricket team too? Cricket, of course, is an institution not to be taken lightly!

So this one issue over some islands which over 99% of people on both sides have never been to and will never go to. Isn’t it silly? The one thing we do share – and this sadly, is a war. It should not have happened. The men I have spoken to from both sides were not championing a cause…fighting men don’t generally do that. They fought for their friends, for the men beside them and a few so their families weren’t going to be ashamed of them. They all had families. Many have told me that they had resigned themselves to the fact that they were going to die and were hoping for the strength to face that inevitability. This is not uncommon; I have read this and written it about soldiers from every country and from every time. Only the Spartans seemed to enjoy it.

The men who have contributed to this book…well, they are the heroes. I am just the guy who weaves a narrative through their personal stories to bring them to life and set the scene. It is not and it was not, to those men, about who was right or wrong politically. I see very little hate on either side. Certainly less than in the ‘keyboard warriors’ of either side who were not born then and who assert what ‘we’ are going to do (again on both sides_ and the fighting men who were there laugh and tell me that, if it came again, ‘we’ would not include the people who write so passionately for other people to do that job.

I accept that my attitudes and opinions have changed as this has progressed. There is no bad feeling in the fighting men because they did their jobs. Anything bad that night and into the morning came out of the end of a rifle. They were Marines and soldiers, not politicians. When you start to talk to ‘the enemy’ and realise they are the same as you, when you talk to veterans with PTSD (which I myself have had) or people who were just scared, as we all have been…well, we all become more human.

In reconciliation I write this book because the guns are gone as are those politicians who, rightly or wrongly, through action or inaction, set in motion the course of events which saw this conflict unfold. Only the people remain; those Marines, soldiers and sailors whose lives were thrown together that day of April 2nd 1982 and whose stories, from all sides, I am daily enthused by and always more compelled to tell. And then there are the Falkland Islanders – a nice, quiet, sometimes funny and sometimes insular bunch of people whose example is probably one of the best to follow. For it is they who look out on this vast, two-hundred year old struggle, wonder what all the fuss is about and wish, seemingly beyond hope, for the world to leave them alone again so that they, just like the rest of us, wherever in the world we are, can cling to that little piece of the planet that they call home.

And at the end of the day, whoever and wherever you are, we all deserve a place we can call home. I think that’s all they ever asked for.

 

 

 

 

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Ten books and counting!

I thought I might drop in an update on ‘what’s in the works’ for me right now, as it has been a little while. Books, as we know, are my life and sadly for me (and to coin and ancient history nerd’s own joke) I am like Pyrrhus of Epirus – starts brilliant, middle gets interesting…never quite finishes!

That said, it looks like a lot of good things are coming to fruition right now, with no less than ten books in the works and at various stages of completion from ‘almost there’ to ‘just starting’, ‘half done but on the shelf’ and the invariable ‘I promise I will come back to it’ – I have promised myself that I will have at least three out before I even contemplate another one!

So what’s in the works, you might ask? Well I’m going in all sorts of directions right now and am, by necessity, keeping a few cards a little close to my chest. Sadly, the writing game is full of thieving little wotsits who would nick your idea as soon as look at you (how they get the time is beyond me!) well here goes:

#1 Falklands Project

Still bandying about with titles, so these are just going to go by ‘Project names’ right now. This was a real roller-coaster, which began as a blog post…then two and finally three, until it grew legs! Currently I am working with the Royal Marines veterans of Naval Party 8901 as well as Falkland Islanders and now even Argentine veterans to bring the first ever account of the British stand in the Falklands against overwhelming odds, taking from a myriad of brand-new first-hand accounts from all sides.Think of it as a double-ended ‘Band of Brothers’ tale from the Falklands with a bit of Rorke’s Drift thrown in. A fascinating account which explores the untold tale of the Falklands War. Written in conjunction with co-author Andy Macdonald, and drawing on hundreds of previously unpublished accounts from all sides military and civilian, this will see the Falklands War re-written and a small band of forgotten heroes will take their rightful place in the history books. More importantly than anything else, this is the most fun project I have ever done, for one simple reason. For once, there heroes are alive! And what an amazing bunch of guys they are!

#2 Hannibal Project

So much for my old adage “I don’t do ancient history” – that failed miserably! However there was a reason for this book coming out. It had been two and a half years in intensive study and research which began with a question, as all history books should. As ever, it was an idle ‘I wonder’ question which led me to uncovering something rather unique in the career of Hannibal – for my money the cleverest, sneakiest military commander who ever lived. If I said to the right person ‘Hannibal fought a battle you don’t know about’ they might get excited. And it is amazing that, between the sheer amount of history covering the battles of Trebbia, Trasimene, Cannae and some other quite small and often unknown ones, that one should have gone missing somewhere. Until I found it. Cut to a meeting with the incomparable Dr Tony Pollard at the centre for Battlefield Archaeology, Glasgow University who was sold on the idea and we have a whole new battle which changes the face of everything we knew about Hannibal. Oddly, Tony’s next project is in the Falklands and as chance happened upon me, so was mine. This book, already quite large, is rapidly taking shape…then I wrote a blog post about the Falklands. It is coming!!

#3 Caesar Project

Along with “I don’t do ancient history” came another crazy thought; “I don’t do Romans.” I mean, Romans are just a bit boring aren’t they? So tactically perfect and strategically uninventive that every battle is like grabbing a cat and seeing what happens if you run over it with a steamroller! Same result every time! There are, however, one or two exceptions and for me, Caesar was the man. The first commander to ever fight fifty battles, a titanic statesman and a name which will outlive his current legacy tenfold still. What fascinates me about Caesar the most is that he was the first actual commanding general to write his memoirs. Okay we have Xenophon’s ‘Anabassis’ but he was a sort of Captain as such (okay and tactical genius) – but Caesar’s Commentaries always fascinated me. Officially, of course, there are two ‘Bello de Gallico’ and ‘Bello de Civili’ (the Gallic War and the Civil War for the layman) and to us buffs we know there are five. And here begins 2,000 years of literary warfare! Who wrote the others? What proof do we have? Can they be trusted? How do we go from Book 1 – the masterpiece of Latin literature still learned today to Book 5 – ‘the single worst book in Latin literature ever written’?? So for the first time we have all of them. Added to which are the ‘approved’ addendums and inclusions over the centuries…the full amount for the first time ever. a two-part book, we explore the full amount of the the Commentaries and also a war which has raged between writers and historians for 2,000 years. Oh yes and there are battle maps….lots and lots of battle maps! – Currently completed and in with the graphic designers for the last ‘pretty up’ the man who doesn’t do ancient and definitely doesn’t do Roman is shaking up a bit of ancient Roman history! – Out soon!

#4-10 Napoleon Project

Seven books on Napoleon? – Yes…I admit it. There’s a huge bust of him above my bed! However this isn’t a rehash of old stuff. Nobody could top David Chandler and I wouldn’t try either! But like it or not, Napoleon fought more battles than any man ever apart from one (Suvurov – whose dying wish was that he had fought Napoleon) and almost each one was some kind of masterpiece or monolith of ‘how to do it’. So how did he do it? – Seems a fair question to me! What resulted was seven volumes of military doctrine; of battles, campaigns, wars and you name it where the master of warfare shows us how it should be done and always referencing back to what he learned, who from and exactly how he applied it. This started as one book, then two…then I gave up; it was going to be seven. I finished book seven on December 23rd 2013 and on the last page I found something – completely by accident. Anyone who knows the Little Corporal’s memoirs knows that they are a sack load of tripe filled with self-aggrandisement, and I make no defence of that. Because he wrote them in a sort of code. It was a throw-away statement I made which I thought “Hmm…better check that again” which led to a new discovery. Sweating profusely and turning pages and exclaiming with every turn of the page “You clever, clever bastard!” realised that I had just broken Napoleon’s final code. Forget Scobell. The substantive rewrites and checking of information has taken an age, but we are getting there, and Napoleon’s code holds up at every test. This is something nobody has seen for 200 years and the worst of it is turning up a dozen or more taunts from him where he tells people like me “There’s something more and you’ll never find it!” – So all seven exist, a relative of the Emperor’s (and indeed of half the people in the book) has read it over for me and has approved it…but it still needs work. Someone from West Point was interested too…I’ll have to dig his number out again one day.

So there’s me…on my tenth book, not one on the shelf yet but so much more coming, and coming soon! Finding battlefields, breaking codes, debunking 2,000 year-old arguments and teaching myself how to draw battle maps. At nearly forty, I guess I have to keep going now! (Oh yes if anyone has any cash, please give generously, it’s a wonder I haven’t starved to death!) – and trust me there are thirty-odd more books in the works until I collapse with senility.

It is a curse and a blessing for which I blame my Mum; an avid military history reader who started me on the path with ‘Sharpe’ and who bought me my first ever military history book (Wellington’s Regiments by Ian Fletcher – a great book, I stall have it and speak to Ian frequently) my first-edition of Chandler’s ‘The Campaigns of Napoleon’ and started a military history library of over 3,000 books. This great lady passed to the ‘Big C’ in 2003 leaving me a wish to write military history after I wrote a few bits and read it to her at her bedside…what a curse to give a son!

I suppose this is why I do it…people pass on, but these heroes – Napoleon, Caesar, Hannibal and these wonderful Royal Marines, deserve to live for ever. I get to live amongst superheroes. Wouldn’t you give up the day job?

 

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The Falklands – Right or Wrong by law?

Being as today – April 2nd 2016 is the 34th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War I thought I would apply myself to a little piece of International Law to examine the competing claims. Argentina invaded the islands to ‘reclaim’ them under what it saw as a ‘lawful right’ so I thought I would examine this by use of International Law. Now, I should add that this is difficult. What I want to see is a reconciliation between three nations; Argentina, The Falkland Islands and Great Britain. Oddly, Britain has the least to do with this. The sovereignty of the islands is in the hands of the people there. Here in Britain we don’t have a ‘position’ – ours is simply “What they want.” – It isn’t taught in schools in Britain as it is in Argentina, and most British people know very little about it. We leave the decision up to them. It’s the way of the world.

The Falkland Islanders are sometimes also quite confused by all of the ‘hype’. They are a close community, many eight or nine generations long, who can’t understand why a small piece of the world which they have always called ‘home’ should spark such a tug of war. In truth, they want ALL of us to leave them alone! They are a country in their own right. There is no ‘colonialism’ or ‘imperialism’ – just some people in their own home. A quiet corner of the world. Also – despite what the internet might have us all believe, many Argentines – probably most – view this as really not an important thing to everyday life. I have met a good few fanatics – but every cause has, and attracts, those in any country. This said, it is confusing why these islands and their people attract such fierce opinions, so i thought I should try, at least, to clear away a lot of the conjecture by a study of international law.

When it first came out, this post attracted a lot of attention – for good and bad. In this sense I have thought it prudent to write a slight update of the original. The biggest issue has been that – as is well known – I am currently writing a book about the Falklands war from both sides. The Argentine veterans – and one in particular – have all been outstanding. There is no hate nor malice and a general call for reconciliation. The men I have spoken to have been wonderful to deal with. This is not a post, therefore, which aims to promote bias or even opinions upon the subject, but simply a piece of interesting fact. One of the interesting things about the whole Falklands argument is the politics – who said what or wrote what, when, what they might have meant or inferred…historically this becomes a game of ‘one upmanship’ with seemingly no end and greater misunderstanding on both sides. The many ‘keyboard warriors’ who clamour for war or conquest seem to be very different from the men who actually did the real fighting – but such is so often the case.

What I have been asked to do, therefore, is to examine and write about a legal case which, having a little knowledge of from something else I was writing, I was asked to apply here. The hope is (and this is written retrospectively) that an understanding of the legal basis will lead to…well, more understanding. Sadly this is a case still wreathed in a lot of ignorance and opinion. The best result, surely, is that people stop calling for others to take up a cause and fight – and possibly die – for it. We know that those who shout loudest will be hiding under the bed anyway. So to those people who shout loudest and do the least and have not the slightest idea of what warfare is like, I thought I would present a case to silence the keyboard-warrior arguments.

Essentially, we are going to look at the five laws and then see if history can allow us to determine which, if any, apply on either side.

Now, International Law holds – and has always held that there are only five methods by which territorial sovereignty can be acquired; these being Cession, Effective Occupation, Accretion, Subjugation and Prescription. Let us define each and see the relevance to the Argentine case which, if it cannot be proven, must be voided:

1) Cession: a territory may be ceded by treaty under international law. Such cession of territory would include Hong Kong, the Louisiana Purchase, the purchase of Alaska or ongoing discussions with Canada in regards to the Turks & Caicos islands. This is a legal agreement between two volunteering states. Since the law of self-determination came in, it allows that, if a nation wishes to cede occupied territory to another, it must at least take into account the interests of the population. NOTE: There is not, not ever has been a law of ‘Succession’ – only of ‘Cession’ – and this clears up one massive piece of confusion straight away.

Does Cession Apply:  – For Argentina, the answer is no. Neither Britain nor Spain who both held competing claims, ever ceded the Falklands to Argentina by any agreement, implied or real. Technically, France, who held a garrison there which BOTH Britain and Spain protested, can be deemed as having ceded it claim to Spain, however (and here we get technical) Spain absolutely refused to recognise this as an act of cession or of purchase – money changed hands for ‘expenses’ although the wording of the contract was made to mean different things to different people by intention; something which angered Spain no small end . Moreover, the deal was not done between France and Spain but the St. Malo Company and Spain, which was also a touch ambiguous in terms of international law. However, Spain did recognise British sovereignty over the territories in 1863 (the same year that they recognised Argentine independence) which in itself is an implied act of cession – of course, Britain never accepted that territories which it had always called its own could be ceded by a foreign power anyway, but this is a moot point. Spain – who held a claim to those islands at one time – the ONLY other competing claim, recognised cession of that claim in favour of Britain. Britain could therefore claim an implied form of cession (and more likely ‘prescription’ – see below) whilst Argentina could not in this instance. Certain parties in Argentina often claim ‘Uti Possidetis Juris‘- which is not a law but a principle founded at the Congress of Lima in 1848 which uses law of cession – always with consenting signatories, to mutually settle territorial disputes. This does not apply to the Falklands in any way and is an agreement, not a law. It is an applied principle of the law of cession and nothing more.

2) Effective Occupation: Effective occupation occurs when free and newly-discovered territory has sovereignty enacted upon it for a considerable time. To use case law from three cases, such quotes from those rulings as “an intentional display of power and authority over the territory, by the exercise of jurisdiction and state functions, on a continuous and peaceful basis” (Eritrea case) – “by immemorial usage having the force of law, besides the animus occupandi, the actual, and not the nominal, taking of possession is a necessary condition of occupation. This taking of possession consists in the act, or series of acts, by which the occupying state reduces to its possession the territory in question and takes steps to exercise exclusive authority there” (Clipperton Islands Case) and “a definite title founded on continuous and peaceful display of sovereignty” (Palmas Case). Although ‘Effective Occupation’ is not a new concept, it has been Latinised to ‘Uti Possidetis de Facto’ – an application of this law which was successfully proclaimed by Brazil in the Congress of Lima in 1848 when determining its own borders against the former Spanish colonies.

Does Effective Occupation Apply: – Again, for Argentina the legal answer here is no. Argentina has never occupied the Falklands except by force over a period of 74 days in 1982. There was, of course, the case of Luis Vernet who occupied the islands between 1826-1832 with a small group of people (more than half of who were British ironically) but Vernet had asked permission of the British government to come and set up a ranching business, actually suggesting that it would show effective administration of the territory. Vernet was no patriot; he was a businessman playing both sides. When Britain grew concerned over his intentions and ordered him to withdraw, he refused, but was removed by the American ship USS Lexington in 1832 for acts of piracy against three of their ships. However, by contrast, Britain has held effective occupation for over 183 years of continuous and peaceful sovereignty which I think more than satisfies ‘immemorial usage‘ as prescribed by the International Court of Justice.

3) Accretion: Accretion is the physical expansion or territory perhaps as a result of the sea retreating or new territory being created by geological or volcanic means. Naturally this does not apply to any side in any case, so we can move on past this one quickly!

4) Subjugation: Subjugation or ‘Conquest’ occurs when a power physically takes by force a territory and holds it to the end of that conflict. This is directly associated with the idea of ‘Uti Possidetis Ita Possedeatis‘ – “As you possess – so may you continue to possess”(normally given as the most common form of Uti Possidetis and referred to by that more simple term) which pertains solely to ground ‘physically held’ at the end of a conflict. It became a legally accepted term and means of territorial acquisition in the early 1770’s but had died out by the mid-1800’s and was abolished by Article IV of the Hague Convention 1907.

Does Subjugation or Conquest Apply: – Again for Argentina the answer is no. At no time did Argentina subjugate or conquer the Falkland Islands and hold them at the end of any conflict. This puts to bed the idea of ‘Uti Possidetis‘ as no land in the Falklands was held at any time during the revolution from Spain. Britain could claim this from 1833 if so wished, however does not due to the fact that Britain always upheld Hawkins’ 1594 claim. You cannot conquer your own territory!

5) Prescription: Prescription is the acquisition of sovereignty by actual exercise of effective sovereignty over a territory for a ‘reasonable’ and sustained period – normally given as fifty years or more. This is applied in cases of extended negligence and forms the basis of ‘easement by prescription‘ law in use in most countries today. Importantly, the law does state that there should be ‘no protest or contest from the original sovereign.’

Does Prescription Apply: – Once again, for Argentina the clear answer here is no. Argentina has never exercised effective sovereignty over the Falklands except in the case of Vernet and the 1982 invasion – both of which cases were strongly protested and contested by the ‘original sovereign’ – Great Britain. Spain’s 1863 act of cession or of recognition made Britain the only original sovereign of the Falkland Islands. Britain can claim prescription over Vernet’s settlers and others and has held its title for a ‘reasonable and sustained period’ from at least 1863-present since Spain – the only other country which might claim a right to ‘original sovereignty’ formally recognised British sovereignty, thereby satisfying international law. Of course, Spain did begin a period of negligence from 1811 and a case for full British prescription can be made from then and certainly from 1833 onwards.

Conclusions and the case for each side.

Britain: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can therefore claim Cession, Effective Occupation, Prescription and an implied Subjugation if it wished. It takes only one law to be found evident to prove sovereignty. Now, we should rationalise this however, and seek to understand it. The strongest cases are for Cession and Effective Occupation – Uti Possidetis Juris and Uti Possidetis de facto – Spain ceded its claim in 1863 and the settlers had been there uninterrupted since 1833 and so remain there today. Was there ‘Prescription’? – Well if one case be true, there was. If the other case be true, there would be no need for it anyway – and the same goes for ‘Subjugation’. In effect, and considering that ‘Accretion’ simply doesn’t apply in any case, every single one of the four points of International Law apply to the British case. If Spain held title then ‘Cession’, ‘Prescription’ and ‘Effective Occupation’ apply also. If Argentina ever did hold a claim then again ‘Subjugation’ and ‘Effective Occupation’ side the case to Britain. Finally we might add that, even allowing for an Argentina claim – although based, as we see, on no act of law, then Britain might rightly claim ‘Prescription’ from them and, we might allow, ‘Cession’ too. For in the 1850 Convention of Settlement, Britain and Argentina sat down to work out their differences and end any and all points of grievance. The resulting treaty assured that “all territory – unless otherwise specifically mentioned is to stay in the possession of the conqueror” – if Argentina ever did hold a claim, then here was an act of Cession. It has been argued that Rosas, signing for Argentina, might simply have overlooked the Falklands, but this is not so, for he had written to Lord Palmerston about them twice just before the Convention of Settlement, offering to drop any claim from Argentina. Following the Convention, Rosas wrote and asked if this did, in fact, include the Falkland Islands and was told absolutely yes, with Palmerston stating that “I understand the case to be exactly as described to me in your letters.” Notably, Argentina from here on ceased any protests towards Britain over its possession of the Falklands. There had been eleven protests between 1833-1849, but between 1849-1888 these protests stopped. Forty years of acquiescence until a letter was sent, ignored and the matter largely dropped until Peron placed it again before the UN in 1946.

Argentina: Seen against the legal – and also historical evidence, it is hard to see a justifiable basis for this claim; and that isn’t bias. Argentina cannot claim Cession – for there was none (although some try to confuse cession with ‘Succession’ for which there is no law), there was no Prescription, no Subjugation and no Effective Occupation either, and these are the ONLY ways in which sovereignty can be gained over a territory in this or any age. When the argument flares up, as ever it will, it comes down to these five laws only. However, I think it just and proper to explore some of the conjecture around this case. Firstly there is a case for the Falklands being part of the Argentine Continental Shelf – well the law has no basis for this. America might as well claim Mexico and Canada, or France claim Britain (which is much closer than Argentina is to the Falklands). The ICJ has rules that ‘Continental Shalf’ arguments are invalid as are proximity – something which Argentina should know since such a claim by Uruguay against Argentina was thrown out for these exact reasons in the late 20th century! Next is an argument that the British claim extended only to West Falkland (the Spanish being on East Falkland) – yet again this vanishes if we add that Spain ceded this territory to Britain and the whole has been under Effective Occupation since 1833. Finally there is a charge of ‘Abandonment’ by the British between 1775 and 1833 which should be addressed. The law of Prescription does – after all – allow for abandonment being taken into consideration, but for this we have to look at the prescriptions for this to be in effect. ‘Abandonment’ in those times was a legal definition which stated a period of fifty years or greater with no effective administration, no demonstration of continued usage of that land and a demonstration of no intent to return to that territory. However, Britain had always maintained the international stance that it would return to the Falklands. The plaque left there when the British garrison pulled out even stated as much. Britain administered anything to do with those islands throughout this period, appointed ministers to oversee South Atlantic possessions and relations, had sealing and whaling bases on them and administered and taxed the proceeds of those ventures. The Royal Navy used the islands frequently too and Lord Cornwallis even negotiated their status with Napoleon in the 1802 Treaty of Amiens – yes, even Napoleon – the world’s greatest statesman and military commander knew they were British.

Final thoughts: In conclusion, therefore, there is every legal right for the Falklands to be British and none for them to be Argentine. This is simply the law. There are some who might conjure up certain historical arguments – and we have dealt with those too, but let us be clinical; these all come back to the same five laws of Cession, Effective Occupation, Accretion, Subjugation and Prescription – and Argentina can answer to not one f those whilst the British case stands up from every angle on at least two or more of these laws.

The original ending of this post stated ‘Case closed’ – I wanted to expand upon that and, if I admit a fault, it is in being too headstrong. My purpose has been to quieten some who shout the most ignorance. Those who call for a war and seem to do it by stalking and ‘trolling’ ones friends and family which I have received a few times.

The law is not wholly ‘just’ – we all know this. There is a saying in the UK “The law is an arse” – it is. But without laws there is a problem. I would rather appeal to what is ‘morally right’ than what is ‘legally right’. If we were talking about some barren rocks in the south Atlantic, maybe with a small garrison – from whichever country – then maybe someone would have a case. But these are people. They are lives. Nobody in this day and age could possibly think that avenging some 200 year-old grievance on behalf of a few dozen long-dead men (most of whom were British) is worth disrupting the lives of 3,000 peaceful farmers in this day and age.

There is a new act of law which has come into effect, that of the “Enshrined Right of Self Determination to all People”, and surely this should answer everything. Yes, Britain holds right and title both legally and historically, but in the modern age, this is not a case purely for Britain. Since 1961 Britain has been proactively working to encourage her colonies of a bygone era to become independent. The United Nations has provided a way to do this in a safe and controlled environment. These fledgling nations are encouraged to achieve self-determination and then ‘free association’ with a country of their choice. Full independence is not a requirement, only that they always have the option. The Falkland Islands are getting there. A land and its people are indivisible. There are claims that “The land is ours, the people can be whatever they want” – well, legally no. The land is not Argentine, as we have seen. It never has been. This isn’t ‘against Argentina’, just ‘for the Falkland Islanders’ – I don’t think anybody has a right to claim anybody else’s home.

I believe that the Falklands may one day become an independent country and, if that is their wish, good luck to them! But they like being British, the same as someone from Tenerife likes being Spanish or someone from the USVI likes being American. They aren’t colonists, not are they colonised…they are just people in their own home and on their own piece of land. Most importantly their right; that of Self determination – is a law which trumps any and every law stated above. People are the law now – not land. It is wrong to claim somebody’s home, particularly when you don’t want to live there yourself. I bet that if those in Argentina who clamour for the Falklands were made to live there, they would soon stop shouting. It is a hard life on the islands…can anyone imagine CFK herself walking around the streets of Stanley in her Wellington boots and a woolly hat? In short, I think the people there have more than earned the right to call that place home.

Argentina is a vast and beautiful country. It occurs to me that the world would be a better place if everyone appreciated more what they had already and stopped trying to take from others who want nothing more other than what they have. A wise man told me once that there is only one race – the Human race. When we accept that, the rest is simple and laws are probably unnecessary.

For more on this, and also on my own personal views on the subject please view my latest post: https://rickydphillipsauthor.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/falklands-malvinas-lets-set-the-record-straight/

 

 

 

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