My father was highly decorated in the First World War - DSM, MM and three times mentioned in dispatches. But his greatest pride was in the time when, escorting a deserter to death at dawn, he let him escape. This was not a latter-day judgement, but that of one who had been involved in all the perils of the front line, and lost a limb in the process. Compassion was not absent among comrades.
The policy was dictated from behind the lines. As Siegfried Sassoon wrote:
If I were fierce and bald and short of breath
I'd live with scarlet majors at the Base
And speed glum heroes up the line to death
And when the war is done and youth stone dead
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.
Heroes were led by donkeys. Perhaps it is time that Mr Major considered the removal of the statue of Lord Haig from Whitehall to, say, the War Museum. His arrogant, ill-conceived and ruthless campaigns sent millions to their deaths. His presence, so near to the Cenotaph, which commemorates the fallen, including 10 million with no known graves, is surely insupportable, and an insult to the dead.
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