Army PR: it's a tough job but the Brigadier can do it

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The Independent Online
NOT VERY many people have heard of Brigadier-General Wetherspoon.

This is because Brigadier-General Wetherspoon is in charge of a very secret organisation indeed. He is head of AIDS.

AIDS stands for Army Image Defence Service. It's a crack corps that goes into action when the British Army has suffered an image reversal. The British Army is seldom defeated in battle, but it does suffer reverses from time to time in the press and media. And when it does, they send for old Wetherspoon. Get him to restore military pride . . .

'What the Army understands best is inflicting damage. Now my game is quite the opposite, that is, damage limitation.'

And now Brigadier-General Wetherspoon has been given perhaps the toughest job of his life. To restore the image of the British armed forces after the top man has let the side down. You're bound to get a certain image droop when the chief military officer of the armed services has resigned after it has been discovered that he had been having an affair with a lady with a Spanish name.

'Mark you, I couldn't see what he'd done wrong,' says Wetherspoon. 'In my day, there was nothing wrong with going out with a Spanish lady. No risk in it at all. Always neutrals, the Spaniards. Never got involved in a war. Unless they were killing each other. But you have to hand it to the Spaniards. They've been watching us give them a two-fingered salute from Gibraltar for 400 years now, and they've never come swarming over the frontier to retake the place. Can't think why not, actually. They'd get it back in five minutes.

'Do you know what I think their biggest mistake was? Not invading Gibraltar when we were trying to get the Falklands back. They'd have walked it while our backs were turned and while we couldn't afford another senseless rearguard action. The Spaniards could have swanned in and got the Rock back in 24 hours. I say, that's good] Rock around the Clock]'

But now Wetherspoon has to act fast to get a bit of gloss back on the British Army. To buff up the image of the British soldier until you can see your own reflection in it. Or, in the Brigadier-General's own words, to tell Johnny Civilian out there that there's nothing wrong with the British Army that a billion pounds couldn't put right.

'Just joking]' says Brigadier-General Wetherspoon - or Sir, as he likes to be known for short. 'Money's useful in this game, but at the end of the day do you know what makes all the difference? A bit of fun, that's what] No, it's true. If you can show people that the Army has got a sense of humour and can let its hair down, you're half-way home.'

And how is he going to do that?

'Well,' says Wetherspoon, measuring his words carefully, 'we're going to ginger up the D-Day celebrations a bit. I've been put in charge of a showbiz unit which is going to stage a few items and I think it's going to

be a hoot. As our friends across the Channel say, on va rigoler un peu.'

In what sort of way?

'Well, just between you and me - sure you can keep a secret?'

I nodded in a frank and honest sort of way.

'Well, when we re-enact the Normandy landings, we shall have a large contingent of troops rushing ashore from landing craft, just as they did back in '44, and racing up the beaches, and re-forming, and driving inland, and pushing all opposition before them as they go on to their objective.'

Which is?

'EuroDisney, old boy. We're going to go into EuroDisney and capture the place and put it to the torch] Absolutely destroy it] Or liberate it, as we soldiers like to say . . . Anyway, it'll be spectacular] It's going to be sensational.'

But what will Disney Enterprises say to all that? Won't they be furious if EuroDisney is captured and burnt by an Allied Army?

'Far from it. Life-saver, old boy. The insurance money alone will be enough to bail them out of the mess they're in. We shall get all the glory and the good reviews - they will get compensation. We've been planning this hand in glove with the Disney people for nine months now.'

At that point the phone rang. Wetherspoon answered it.

'Bubbles, my lovely girl]' he said. Then he looked at me and his face sank. 'No, I can't talk right now, darling. Got a chap from the papers here. Ring you back when he's gone.'

He rang off.

'Don't put that in the interview, there's a good fellow,' he said. 'I don't think the Army could take another top-level scandal and resignation right now.'