Two hundred years ago when Nelson was beating seven kinds of stuff out of Napoleon’s French Navy, the most effective way to recruit people into the service of the King as loyal sailors was via the Press Gang. A team of burly sailors would go ashore, get some likely lads drunk as skunks (with some of the drink paid for with the King’s Shilling) and while they were drunk they’d be taken aboard the ship and signed into a life at sea. It wasn’t a nice practice, but life then wasn’t very nice either.
Fast Forward to the present and it is clear the Blair government has given the go-ahead for the Navy to get involved with Press Gang’s again – but only if they have first been captured and then released by Iranian snatch squads.
Some people are saying “Scrap the Bloody Navy,” that it is rotten from top to bottom – based on the recent incident at sea in which the servicemen and woman were allegedly not supported sufficiently by their field command, nor were they particulary adept at defending themselves – because they got captured. Unless it was intended for them to be captured, of course. But let’s put that aside for now and assume it was entirely unintentional.
I don’t think it’s a case of the British Armed Forces being rotten from top to bottom; even if some at each end are a little iffy (and I personally do not necessarily subscribe to this view) there’s a very good, highly professional layer in between. Trouble is, not only are they not getting the resources they need to get the job done, they just aren’t getting promoted to senior positions where they can do something about it unless they pass the required political questions. Just as the chief of the US Army was chosen on the basis of whether or not he was willing to invade Iraq, I fear the same thing is happening in the UK: it’s the political end that has gone rotten.
The British sailors and marines recently released from captivity have been practically bribed by being told they can say what they like to the press and receive payment for it – meaning Fleet Street reporters will be wanting their money’s worth of salacious and blood curdling stories about how badly they were treated by the Iranians to make the pay cheque worthwhile; the Press like a lot of blood and gore for the £70,000 they are rumpured to be getting. I’m not saying they won’t tell the truth, it’s just that because they will be paid for talking, the message they will be sending will be devalued as a result.
It’s ironic though in a way that while the soldiers and sailors themselves can be paid by the press gang, it is the Armed Forces as a whole who seem so stretched for resources, equipment and air cover who could have done with the money a lot more!
Must have been the wrong Press Gang…