Troops in foreign fields

PUBLISHED: 13:28 15 June 2007 | UPDATED: 22:51 28 May 2010

From prayers being said in our churches, it seems quite a lot of our young people are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. A surprising number of conversations also turn to the fact that someone knows someone who is out there. It would be interesting to know

From prayers being said in our churches, it seems quite a lot of our young people are serving in Afghanistan or Iraq.

A surprising number of conversations also turn to the fact that "someone knows someone" who is out there.

It would be interesting to know if a particularly high number of young Fenlanders have joined the armed forces.

This month, British fatalities in Iraq have reached 150. No wonder it is desperately worrying for any parent with a son or daughter serving out there. It was equally worrying, 25 years ago, for the relatives of those serving in the Falklands.

What does strike me as odd however is the number of people who seem surprised when our armed forces have to fight abroad. I remember my late mother getting unusually cross when some Falkland wives were on television, weeping because they hadn't seen their husbands for eight weeks. She had to manage without seeing my father for a year at a time during the Second World War.

It may be the fault of the armed services. A lot of their recruitment advertising has been on the lines of "Join up, see the world and learn a trade".

They don't actually spell out the extra words "you won't see your wife for ages" and "you may get killed". Perhaps they think that's obvious.

Loads of people think we should never have got involved in Iraq. "It's nothing to do with us," they say.

That's not quite true. The British helped to invent Iraq. After the First World War, we divided up the old Turkish empire by drawing straight lines on a map. The part that got called Iraq was a British protectorate from 1920 until 1932.

Unlike the rulers of the Turkish empire, we've never understood that three very different peoples live in that area and they don't all get on. We made a mess of it in 1920. We've made a mess of it again.

Nearer home, when the landowners originally decided they'd drain the Fens, the locals objected - because we'd lose our livelihoods.

The landowners sent in troops from Germany and Holland to sort us out. We didn't like being invaded, and ambushed the troops.

Somehow, our present Government thought the invasion of Iraq would please all the locals.

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