Harry knew the futility of war

I DON'T know if you feel the same but I've heard enough about helicopters and our army and what we have and haven't got haven't you?

James Marston

I DON'T know if you feel the same but I've heard enough about helicopters and our army and what we have and haven't got haven't you?

It has got to the stage where everyone is saying such different things I don't believe a word of it from any of them.

Military leaders always bleat on about more cash and how they've never enough while our current batch of politicians clearly don't have a clue.

I know one thing though.

Whether we are justified to be fighting in Afghanistan or not, we cannot ask our army to do a job without providing the right equipment.

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And the fact we have been forced to effectively admit our military forces are unable to do what we are asking of them humiliates our country in the eyes of the world, and tells me the choice is simple - if we have the kit we need we stay, if we don't we leave.

History teaches us that Afghanistan is a place where no one ever wins and history also teaches us that war itself, violence met with violence, rarely solves problems.

Harry Patch, the last survivor of the Great War, died on Saturday and he was anti-war.

The Queen, Prince of Wales and Prime Minister paid tribute to the 111-year-old on behalf of us all.

With his death the carnage of the First World War is no longer within living memory and today there is no one left to ask what it was like.

Mr Patch only talked about his experiences late in life.

Nowadays everyone is expected to talk about their feelings at every available moment though whether or not this really helps people who have lived through such trauma has yet to be proved as far as I am concerned.

But for many years Mr Patch kept his thoughts to himself.

When he did speak, however, his memories were profound. He talked of how he was held down as shrapnel was removed from his body - there wasn't enough anaesthetic - he spoke of the lice, the mud and the rats.

He said he never got over it and that it wasn't worth it.

Five thousand men died a day at the height of Passchendale and Mr Patch was there, he witnessed the wiping out of a generation.

When asked how he felt about being among the last left who remembered he said: “I sit there and think. And some nights I dream - of that first battle. I can't forget it.”

The tragedy is that it was the war to end all wars, and yet it did no such thing.

James's Mailbag:-

One reader, and I think she's a regular one, seems to have taken a hint of umbrage at me daring to suggest public art is rarely pleasant. Helen, who tells me she knows people in the north, even put finger to keyboard and e-mailed her thoughts.

Dear James,

Never seen a pleasant piece of public art? Never heard of Antony Gormley?

You should have kept going in your recent trip up north, and visited Gateshead. The Angel of the north is awesome, staggering, wonderful...built with local resources and skills, and much loved by everyone I know who lives in the north (actually quite a lot of people).

And Gormley's latest "One and Other" project is at least fun, even if you want to argue it's not real art. I'm sure you can appreciate the fifteen minutes of fame this offers random members of the public.

Helen Treen

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IT'S been a busy week with rehearsals at the Ipswich terribly Operatic and frightfully Dramatic Society.

I have been learning bits to sing, my plain speaking photographer friend Lucy has been doing a spot of dancing and all of us have been told where to stand on more than one occasion for the forthcoming production of Sounds Familiar.

Costumes are, of course, a worry for the larger man like me.

I happened to mention to my theatrical friend Julian that I was anxious to avoid having costumes specially made for me of more than one garment sewn together.

“I can slim down by October.” I said fully expecting Julian to concur.

After a short pause and a glance in my direction he spoke.

“Not by this year,” he replied.

Felixstowe, the lovely Edwardian spa town where I enjoy the benefits of a small flat with sea views (distant), is suddenly overrun with wheelie bins.

Finally after years of having none each household in the area of the town where I have made my home has been handed three of the things. Like triffids they have taken over gardens and passages.

I live on my own - what on earth do I want with three wheelie bins?

It's all to do with the highly fashionable pastime of recycling apparently.

Liam Gallagher has put a smile on my face this week after storming off stage after a few pints of beer were thrown in his direction.

Poor man, you have to feel almost sorry for him don't you?

If I'm not mistaken he's often been in fights and contretemps - perhaps he gets anxious.

Camilla, my favourite Royal, as regular readers will know, has been up north at an event called The Gathering - a clan gathering for people in clans.

Of course she does very well, behaving herself and not complaining too much.

Apparently she's called the Duchess of Rothesay when she's north of the border though I don't really know why she has to change her name when she goes there, I don't when I go to Norfolk.

Anyway, she wore a frock with cream coat while everyone else was in skirts and tweeds.

But I think that's normal in Scotland.

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