Sue Arnold: No wonder my son is willing to fight in Iraq

Until now, I hadn't given the prospect of my son dying for Queen and country much thought

Share

Never mind Harry joining the Army and going off to fight in Iraq, what about James? Funny, not once in my wildest dreams has the possibility of my having anything in common with Prince Charles ever cropped up. Now it has: we both have sons who have chosen the Army as a career.

Mine, thank heavens, isn't quite at the Iraq stage yet, having only just had his preliminary interview, received a stack of application forms to fill in and been given a date for his RCB. From now on I suppose we're going to have to get used to speaking in initials. RCB stands for Regular Commissions Board, a three-day event, I understand, after which he will be given a number. Four means get lost, three means get lost but more politely, two is always followed by another number like 18 or 12 or six which means come back in 18 or 12 or six months when you are fitter, sharper (braver?) and have another shot. The number that all raw recruits hope they are going to get is one, which stands for Well done lad, you're just the sort of chap we're looking for, come right on in.

Until now, I freely confess, I haven't given the prospect of my son becoming a soldier and promising to fight and/or die for Queen and country much thought. There were so many other things he said he was going to be - a professional footballer, a spy, a mountaineer, a deep sea diver, an ancient historian, a millionaire, a military dictator.

It may have been his school careers department that suggested going to university with an army sponsorship. The upside of the arrangement would have been that the Army picked up the tab for both tuition and maintenance. No monthly handouts from parents, no paying off student loans for years like his elder siblings. His father thought it a great idea.

The downside would have been having to sign upafter he'd graduated for five (or was it 10?) years. I don't remember because in the end, having had a pleasant enough interview with someone called Colonel Peacock in an office behind the Horse Guards, by the time he went up to university he wasn't sure the Army was such a great idea.

So what has changed his mind? Well, a few things like the realisation that a degree in ancient history doesn't actually qualify you to do much except perhaps unpack a few tea chests containing treasures of the ancient Persian civilisation. The summer he graduated, they had just arrived at the British Museum for the forthcoming exhibition. He did write to the BM volunteering his services as an unpacker but they didn't reply for three months when the treasures were on their way back to Tehran.

He went for interviews, of course, and was offered various jobs in PR and marketing and human resources and conference management, which seems to be where all arts graduates who don't want to be television presenters end up. In between he got casual work in bars, on building sites and for something called events organisation, which basically meant laying tables in a tent for 500 people who had each paid £150 to hear Bob Geldof or John Humphrys or David Cameron talk to them after dinner.

And then at a family christening last year James ran into a friend of a friend, who, it turned out, was a captain in the Royal Engineers, or was it the Fusiliers, the Green Jackets, the Horse Guards? No, that was Colonel Peacock. My knowledge of military regiments, I'm afraid, is limited to Flashman and Bernard Cornwell novels. Anyway, it doesn't matter, Captain Corelli, as I had better call him, had just come back from six months in Iraq where his regiment had been in charge of a prisoner of war camp in Umqasr. He'd had a great time, he said. They spent all day playing football with the prisoners, some of whom, he reckoned, could have given Arsenal or Spurs players a run for their money. He was now attached to the Ministry of Defence working on some secret project, living in married officers' quarters (his wife had just had a baby) off the Portobello Road and feeling altogether pretty content with life.

How big a role Captain Corelli played in James' reappraisal of his career options I'm not sure, but the upshot was that he applied for another army interview, not Colonel Peacock this time; a fairly fierce female officer. If he gets in he plans to start his Sandhurst training next year, preferably in January. That was Captain Corelli's advice, by the way; January rather than September. That way, by the time you get to the serious outdoor training six months into the course - you know, night marches over the Welsh mountains carrying 200kg backpacks and swimming across lakes with one arm tied behind your back, it will be summer. It makes a big difference.

Someone has to do the boring jobs, they say, and, by the same token, the dangerous ones too. If I were 22, crazy about sport and fed up with living in London I'd probably choose going to Afghanistan over writing press releases for Volvo or working in a bank. And as qualifications go, a degree in ancient history is maybe no bad thing for a military dictator.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Supporters in favour of same-sex marriage pose for a photograph as thousands gather in Dublin Castle  

The lessons we can learn from Ireland's gay marriage referendum

Stefano Hatfield
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?