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Walter Wentz and Charlie

The Fights

History suggests that there are few things that the English enjoy more than a good fight, especially one fought on the other guy's turf. Lucky for them, they are very good at it. They are also very good at getting the Americans to join in. Of course none of this is lucky for the French, Germans, and Spaniards.

The British have succeeded it doing battle on someone else's soil ever since that unpleasantness in 1066 when a bunch of Vikings, who had been camped in what is now northern France, decided to holiday in Britain. They met the forces of the English King at a place called Hastings near the English Channel. The Vikings, who were high on rape and pillage, won. They immediately put one of their own boys, XXXXXX, a.k.a. William the Bastard, on the English throne and began dividing up the country amongst the barons in William's entourage. They are still here. [The English king was dispatched by shooting an arrow into his forehead.]

Since that most famous date in English history, the British have successfully avoided battle on their own ground, save for domestic disputes such as the Civil War and the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland. [The Battle of Britain (1940) was fought in the air, not on the ground.]

As in France, and I suspect in Germany, there is a memorial to the local war dead in every village and town. The one in Broadway has 52 names on it. That may not seem many until you realize that the village had less than 1,000 households when the monument was erected shortly after World War One. That means one dead son for every twenty families.

The nearest battle ground to Broadway is about ten miles distant near the town of Evesham.  It was the scene of a Civil War battle in which the forces loyal to the king prevailed. Another Civil War battle was contested at Stow-on-the-Wold, about 12 miles away. Every few years the Sealed Knot Society recreates the fight. This is one helluva show with about a thousand participants including a padre who climbs a light pole a shouts threats of damnation down on the spectators and camp followers who service (Don't ask.) the troops. There is an infantry engagement and a cavalry charge. Muskets and canons are fired. You'd love it. [Incidentally, Evesham has a beautiful war memorial and garden on the bank of the river.]

The British likely have the finest professional army in the world. I would argue that the United States Marine Corps is superior in terms of fighting ability, but it is not an army. [Only in the U.S. Marine Corps do they teach soldiers to hate their own mother because she is not a Marine.]

All of this has come at a very high cost. The Mendes Gate straddles the road into Pashendale (Belgium) where the British took on the Germans in 1916. That memorial has engraved on it the names of 52,000 British soldiers killed in the fight. Those are just the ones whose bodies were never found. The other 250,000 lost in the battle are buried in the adjoining cemetery.

Eleven, eleven, eleven is very important to the British people. It denotes the time of the World War I armistice. [The eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, 1919. the cease fire became effective.] The British Legion, of which I am a member, is the equivalent of the American Legion. It sells paper poppies every November to raise money for the needy families of servicemen and the veterans themselves. In November you dare not go onto the street without your poppy in your lapel. [Until recent years the same tradition was followed in America. It is sad, and I find it discus ting, that the practice has been discontinued.]

I shall close with a message engraved on many of the British war memorials:

    'Remember us, for we have given our today for your tomorrow.'

Walter Wentz

Former Lieutenant, United States Navy 


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The Fights