I was started down this train of thought by the recent saturation of UK television programming with various services and historical documentaries with regard to the 100th Anniversary of the start of the First World War.
Let me say right here that I am not intending to denigrate in any way the sacrifice of virtually an entire generation of European youth – it is the fault of my weird sense of humour that the first thing to occur to me when I watched some of that TV coverage was Private S Baldrick’s explanation of how the war started from “Blackadder Goes Forth”.
For those not familiar with it, he stated “The war started when a man called Archie Duke shot an Ostrich because he was hungry”.
My own immediate family suffered very little from this conflict – both of my grandfathers were 11 years old and, because they were both the youngest of large families, THEIR fathers were considered too old to serve. The only fatality that took place was my paternal grandfather’s older brother Alfred, after whom my father and, consequently, my own pseudonym were named.
Thinking of the aforementioned “Blackadder” series I was reminded that the principle of mocking the Generals conducting the war is not that recent. When I was at secondary school (somewhere between 50 and 45 years ago now!) one of the very few extra-curricular evening events we had was a trip to the old Ipswich Arts Theatre to see the local Repertory Company performing Joan Littlewood’s famous satirical play “Oh what a lovely war!”
I thoroughly enjoyed it and, now I think back on it, the portrayal of the General Staff was probably the beginning of my continuing antipathy to Managers generally – my introduction to the concept of “Lions led by Donkeys”!
Continuing my original train of thought, however, I noticed that the TV commentators were going out of their way to mention the contributions of the peoples of the old British Empire (probably because the Commonwealth Games were still on in Glasgow and a lot of their descendants would have been watching). And that got me thinking about who they might still be omitting to mention.
“What” I thought, “other than food, clothing, weapons and ammunition does a soldier in imminent danger of death at all times REALLY need?” And the answer came to me at once – Prostitutes!
How is it that everyone ignores the part that these intrepid professionals played in keeping up the…… errrm….. “morale” of the fighting men on all sides?
And how many brave soldiers found much needed physical comfort in French or Belgian brothels and then died in the trenches before being able to go home and transmit their exotic venereal diseases to their loved ones?
I thought initially that this idea was a book waiting to be written. Then I thought “why stop there”? There has to be a hit West End play in there to be performed with the full benefit of modern technology. I just have to write it! I already have the title ready for the advertising hoardings!