Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I was intrigued by Jeremy Paxman`s assertion that he "could have been even tougher if he had served in the Armed Forces."   He said he felt guilty that he had had such a privileged life whilst his parents` generation had to fight in the Second World War.  He went on to say that conscription and National Service taught the importance of duty, whereas modern generations are expected to `do nothing but gratify themselves.` 

"I`d have done better for having time in uniform," he said, "I`m not arguing in favour of National Service but I feel in awe of the generation who had to do that and I feel a bit guilty having had such a privileged life.  We`ve had it pretty easy and never been tested. Obviously I`m not wishing war on anyone but it might have been better for all of us if we`d been obliged to do something rather than choosing for ourselves."

And it got me thinking once again about my late father`s experiences and, to a lesser extent, my own;  the difference between he and I was that he `volunteered` for an army career whereas I was conscripted into National Service without any choice.   And although there`s no doubt that his experiences were far more traumatic than any I encountered in my 731 days of relative peacetime, we both had the learning curves, the `lessons` of army life and the enforced compliance with Regulations, good order and military discipline.

And so I take Mr. Paxman`s point which is, basically, that those like him who were not subjected to those experiences might well feel themselves in something of a privileged position.   But he shouldn`t worry too much, for some of us who were made to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous conscription might also feel a tinge of envy that we were never given the opportunity of a University education and that we might feel a little in awe  of those who were not so deprived.   

It cuts both ways, of course, and it`s all about circumstances and opportunities.   But I do wonder whether Mr. Paxman would really have swapped Malvern and Cambridge for the University of Life, and I do suspect that I would have preferred those seats of learning to anything my father lived through or even the 731 days I was forced to spend in the green hell of BFPO 16.  But the curious thing is that, even after all these years, I`m still not sure whether my service to the nation was as valuable as the nation`s service to me.......

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