The Duke of Cambridge marks 60 years of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Source: The Duke of Cambridge marks 60 years of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

The Duke Cambridge has visited RAF Coningsby to help celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).

The Duke of Cambridge is Patron of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), who today celebrated their 60th Anniversary. The BBMF acts a living tribute to those who served, and lost their lives, in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and in the Battle of the Britain. At a reception to celebrate this milestone, The Duke was able to meet a number of veterans who flew and worked on the aircraft during the Second World War.

UK Armed Forces Day – Saturday 24 June 2017

Armed Forces Day is a chance to show your support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.

Source: Armed Forces Day – Saturday 24 June 2017

Respectful salute to the men and women of all the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom! May God continue to bless and protect them, and the people they serve. And God save The Queen!

Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

Joan of Arc – you have heard her name, do you really know her story? The famous sword of Robert E. Lee contains one of St. Joan of Arc’s famous quotes: “Aide toi, Dieu t’aidera” – which means “aid yourself and God will aid you.”

Source: Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

At last! Provenance for this. Sometimes rendered – and often quoted to me by my mother – as “the Lord [or God] helps those who help themselves,” it does not appear in the Scriptures, but is (or used to be) a fairly common axiom. I had not realized that it was from St. Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc). Nor did I realize the Robert E. Lee connection! As the linked essay recounts:

There are many similarities between St. Joan of Arc and Robert E. Lee, the two most obvious being that they were both great generals and they both possessed incredible faith in God. How appropriate, then, that Robert E. Lee’s famous presentation sword, the one that he wore during his meeting with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, is engraved on one side with one of Saint Joan’s most famous quotes and spiritual truths:

“Aide toi et Dieu t’aidera”

(“Aid yourself and God will aid you”)

But there is more, which makes this especially meaningful to me, personally: this account confirms what I thought I understood: that the sword General Lee was wearing when he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse – a moment which must have been among the most, if not the very most, painful moments of his life – was the “Maryland Sword”:

This particular sword was a gift from an admirer who lived in Maryland. It was presented to him in 1863. It is said to have been commissioned in Paris by Louis-Francois Devisme. The giver of the gift has been lost over the years but the sword has been preserved and refurbished to its original state. The sword is forty and one-half inches in length, possessing a lion’s head on the pommel and has an ivory grip. The blade is inscribed, “Gen. Robert E. Lee CSA from a Marylander 1863.” The scabbard is of blued steel. Both pieces are flawless and priceless. Its beauty is something to be seen to be appreciated.

That the Sword of General Lee, the Maryland Sword, is also in a sense a Sword of St. Joan of Arc raises the hair on the back of my neck – but in a good way, a very good way! The essay’s author continues:

My thoughts are how many times Lee as a Christian in gazing upon the words [“Aide toi Dieu t’aidera”] did he think about the saying and use it as motivation to continue? During adversity, surrender and even death, those words inscribed upon that sword must have been recalled and shared with others.

I doubt it not. Amen, and amen!

Sadly, according to reports, some within “Take ’em down NOLA” – the main group behind the removal of four Confederate monuments from the city, which is dedicated to the removal or renaming of all “symbols of white supremacy,” so-called – are targeting not only Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, but the “Maid of Orleans”: Joan of Arc herself (*). Will idiocy never end? The lunatics, it seems, are running the asylum!

(* Jean d’Arc does not appear on this, supposedly “official,” list, but reports suggest that she may be on an unofficial list of “Take ’em down NOLA” targets. Sadly, I would not be a bit surprised!)

Stars and Bars and Union Jack – How the British Nearly Supported the Confederacy

An excellent article – book review, actually, of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, by Amanda Foreman – by Kev Lee on Britain’s role in the War Between the States:

Was it a civil war twice over? Not only did the “war between the states” divide the American people, it sundered the larger English-speaking community stretching across the Atlantic. The conflict was followed with consuming interest by the British, it affected them directly, many of them fought in it — and it split them into two camps, just as it did the Americans.

Now that Americans are taught that the war was a noble conflict waged by Lincoln and the forces of light against misguided and contumacious Southerners, it’s especially valuable to be reminded that this was far from how all the English saw it at the time. To be sure, almost no Englishman defended slavery, long since abolished in the British Empire. The British edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had sold an astonishing million copies, three times its American sales, and the Royal Navy waged a long campaign against the slave trade: during Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit to the White House in March 2009, President Obama was presented with a pen holder carved from the wood of one of the ships that conducted that campaign.

But while some English politicians, like the radical John Bright and the Whig Duke of Argyll, ardently supported the North, plenty sided with the Confederacy. They even included W. E. Gladstone, on his long journey from youthful Tory to “the people’s William,” adored by the masses in his later years. Apart from sympathy with the underdog, many Englishmen believed that the South had a just claim of national self-determination.

As Obama remembered to say at Buckingham Palace recently, a large part of the American population claims ancestry from British immigrants, great numbers of them arriving throughout the 19th century. Plenty of those took part in the war, and they were joined by more volunteers who came just for the fight, on one side or the other. The extraordinary cast portrayed in “A World on Fire,” by Amanda Foreman — who is also the author of “Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire” — extends from men who fled England to escape poverty to aristocratic Union officers like Major John Fitzroy de Courcy, later Lord Kingsale, a veteran of the Crimea, not to mention Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, a soldier of fortune whose knighthood was actually Italian. Some, like the Welshman Henry Morton Stanley, even managed to fight for both sides.

Then there were the reporters, like Frank Vizetelly of The Illustrated London News and, most notably, William Howard Russell of The Times of London, who had become famous covering the Crimean War and reporting on the activities of Florence Nightingale. (In an odd conjunction, Foreman says that “Russell was the ideal choice. . . . Overeating and excessive drinking were his chief vices.” This is sometimes said of journalists, but rarely by way of commendation.)

What for American readers will be a more riveting — because unfamiliar — tale comes whenever Foreman turns from the patriotic gore to her true subject of the British and the war. While guns blazed, another battle was being waged, for English hearts and minds, at both the elite and popular levels. From Fort Sumter on, the London government was in a quandary, and so was Lord Lyons, who had the bad luck to be sent as minister to Washington shortly before the war began (the British representative was not yet an ambassador, of whom there were then very few, although not just three, as Foreman thinks).

Lyons carried out his difficult task with patience and courtesy. On the one hand, Southern politicians threatened that if London did not recognize the sovereignty of the Confederate States, the cotton trade would be cut off, driving England to economic collapse and revolution. On the other, the Union administration warned that such recognition could lead to war. In the event, London toyed with recognizing independence, and angered the North quite enough by acknowledging the South’s belligerent status.

Both sides had agents hard at work in England. Charles Francis Adams, scion of a famous Boston dynasty, was sent as American minister to the Court of St. James’s. He did as well as he could, although it didn’t help that he hated small talk, drinking and dancing, and that, as his son Henry said, “he doesn’t like the bother and fuss of entertaining and managing people who can’t be reasoned with,” which might be considered a definition of any diplomat’s job.

What nearly did take Washington and London to war was the principle of freedom of the seas. To make his case in London, Jefferson Davis dispatched two Confederate commissioners in November 1861 aboard the Trent, a British mail packet. But the electrifying news came that crewmen from the U.S.S. San Jacinto had boarded the ship near Cuba and seized the two.

“Have these Yankees then gone completely crazy?” Friedrich Engels asked his colleague Karl Marx, who himself wrote a good deal about the Civil War. Taking “political prisoners” in this way, Engels thought, was “the clearest casus belli there can be. The fellows must be sheer fools to land themselves in war with England.”

Despite this provocation, war did not follow. Other Confederate envoys reached London, and many Englishmen remained susceptible to the Southern claim. An unlikely British best seller was “The American Union,” written by James Spence, a Liverpool businessman who had traveled widely in America. Although he was scarcely disinterested — Liverpool had prospered in the slave trade and then by cotton — he argued plausibly that North and South were so different that enforced union was futile. And he held, not so implausibly either, that since slavery was doomed in any case, it was better that it should be ended without violence. This was taken up by John Delane, the editor of The Times, who maintained that the war was a contest for Southern “independence” against Northern “empire.”

Still the Union blockade of the South continued, and many English ships continued breaking it or trying to; Wilmington, N.C., to Bermuda was one favorite route. Meanwhile, the Confederate government clandestinely commissioned warships from English shipyards. Most famous of these was the Alabama, built by Laird & Sons. The intended purpose of the ship was obvious, as Adams’s Liverpool consul told him, and as the London government belatedly admitted. But the Alabama escaped from under official noses in July 1862 to begin a devastating career raiding Northern ships, to the fury of Washington.

As if that rage weren’t enough, Lyons had to deal with the problem of British subjects caught up in the fighting. Both sides treated prisoners of war harshly. Of the 26,000 Confederate soldiers held over the course of the war at Camp Douglas near Chicago, more than 6,000 died, and at one point the prisoners there included 300 who claimed to be British subjects. They pleaded for Lyons’s intervention, but there was little he could do. One of the prisoners was the deplorable Stanley, who adroitly solved the problem by switching gray uniform for blue, unconcerned with politics: as he said, “there were no blackies in Wales.”

A succession of Southern victories further encouraged English sympathy for the South. In late 1862 Lord Hartington, subsequently a cabinet minister, and nearly prime minister, visited both North and South (it was surprisingly easy to cross from one to the other), at first proclaiming his neutrality. But in Virginia he met Jefferson Davis, as well as the modest and agreeable Robert E. Lee, and was persuaded that the South was fighting virtuously for her rights. Hartington couldn’t pretend that blacks were flourishing, but then “they are not dirtier or more ­uncomfortable-looking than Irish laborers” (an unhappy comparison so soon after the great famine, and from a man whose family owned huge estates in Ireland).

In its later stages, the war saw Southern terrorist conspiracies initiated from Canadian soil, which further inflamed the North. But English sympathy for the South lingered up until Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865. Then, within days, came the shattering news that Lincoln had been assassinated. All at once, “newspapers that had routinely criticized the president during his lifetime,” Foreman writes, “rushed to praise him.” There were some wonderfully hypocritical about-faces, one from The Times, but best of all from Punch. Having just included Lincoln with Napoleon III in a gallery of April Fools, the magazine now hailed him as “a true-born king of men.”

Not the least absorbing part of Foreman’s story comes after the war. Stanley was hired by The New York Herald and set off on his African journey to find Dr. Livingstone, before returning to England, a seat in Parliament and a knighthood. That fascinating figure Judah Benjamin, the Jewish lawyer who served as Confederate secretary of state, fled to London, where he became a barrister and published “Benjamin on Sales,” a commercial law textbook that made him rich.

No American politician was now more vehemently Anglophobic than Senator Charles Sumner, who continued to denounce England, and whose verbal violence delayed a settlement of the Alabama dispute. His great rival, William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, also turned up the heat, demanding the Bahamas in recompense for the Alabama’s depredations, although he had further designs on Canada, as so many Americans did.

In the end, the Alabama question was settled admirably, by jaw-jaw rather than war-war, as Churchill might have said, when an arbitration tribunal meeting in Geneva awarded large damages against Great Britain. The London government paid without complaint, inaugurating a period of comparative harmony, until ­Anglo-American war nearly broke out again in 1895 over an obscure Venezuelan boundary dispute.

Such eyewitnesses provide a wealth of vivid description — and here is the one drawback of this thoroughly researched and well-written but exceedingly long book. The presence of so many Englishmen means that Foreman can too easily slip away from “Britain’s crucial role” to a general history of the war and its every battle. But there truly is no shortage of such histories, and we have all often enough vicariously supped full of the horrors of Antietam and Fredericksburg.

Altogether Foreman’s remarkable book should be a caution against one foolish phrase. A relationship, no doubt — but “special”?

Those of us with Confederate sympathies often wonder what might have happened had Britain’s government of the time not allowed itself to be swayed by the blandishments of Lincoln’s so-called “Emancipation Proclamation” (which did not, in fact, emancipate a single slave in areas under Union control, including the four slave states that remained part of the Union), and come in on the side of the Confederacy…

Who’s To Blame for World War One?

Source: Who’s To Blame for World War One? – LewRockwell

Imperial German Army staff officers
Prussian officers, prior to the First World War.

The conventional answer to this question, of course, is “the Central Powers, and especially Imperial Germany.” But the conventional answer is not always or necessarily the right one, and the linked paper by Paul Gottfried points out the error of choosing to “attach overwhelming responsibility to the losing side while making the Allied governments look better than they were.”

The victor writes the history, of course, and so it has largely been in the hundred years, or nearly, since the “Great War,” the “war to end all wars,” finally came to an end with the defeat of those Central Powers  by a coalition (the Allied Powers) consisting primarily of France, Britain, Russia (until the Bolshevik Revolution took it out of the War), and eventually, the United States.

But what I have come to discover, in recent years, and what this article makes clear, is that the truth is much more complex; and a fair-minded look at the political maneuverings, prior to the War, takes some of the shine off the Allies. As Gottfried notes,

“The charge that Germany was the unprovoked aggressor should have rung hollow by 1914, given the intrigues that had gone before. Of course, no one is denying that Germany’s catastrophic blunder furnished the casus belli. But as the historian Thucydides noted thousands of years ago, a true historical study examines the genesis of events. Such an account is not limited to the immediate causes of a war nor to the pretext or excuse (prophasis) that is given for one when it breaks out.”

Furthermore, during the War itself,

“France and the US suppressed civil liberties more than their adversaries… In 1914 Germany and Austria permitted more, not less, academic freedom and free expression of political views than now exists in such ‘liberal democratic’ citadels as Sweden, Canada, and the German Federal Republic. These state-of-the-art ‘liberal democracies'” – unlike the Central Powers in WW I – rigorously punish so-called hate speech and monitor politically correct behavior, of course in the name of ‘democracy.'”

Ironic indeed!

World War One was a tragedy, plain and simple. It did not have to happen; it was the result of blunders and miscalculations on both sides, but also – as this article makes clear – of calculated and long-standing plans to bring down Germany. And the horrific casualties, including some 11 million European military personnel on all sides, and about 7 million civilians, was a catastrophic loss that continues to resonate to this day.

It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But we cannot learn from it properly if the lessons are obscured by ideology. A more clear-eyed and balanced view of the roots of the First World War might help us to avoid similar missteps, and similar catastrophic consequences, today. Or so one may hope!

Prince Harry carries out a reading at the Iraq & Afghanistan Memorial

HRH Prince Harry reads at the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial service [9 March 2017] which has been held in London’s Horse Guards Parade.

It was attended by many members of the Royal Family yesterday and is a dedication to military and civilian personnel who served over the past 25 years.

His Royal Highness read from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 at the service which was followed by an unveiling of the memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens by The Queen and a reception for around 2,000 military and civilian personnel, their families and the charities which support the.

Prince Harry has undertaken two tours of Afghanistan in 2007 and 2012.

Among the many skills and abilities His Royal Highness possesses is being an excellent reader! Not a surprise, of course, but gratifying (as someone who very much enjoys reading Scripture lessons as part of my ecclesiastical duties) to see and hear, nonetheless.

Royal Family honour UK Armed Forces as Queen unveils Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial – Royal Central

The Queen unveiled a memorial in London [on Thursday, 9 March 2017], recognising the Armed Forces contribution in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Source: Royal Family honour UK Armed Forces as Queen unveils Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial – Royal Central

The stone sculpture, in Victoria Embankment Gardens, features a large, two-sided bronze medallion depicting the memorial’s theme of “duty and service”. Its creator, sculptor Paul Day, said it gave “equal prominence to the civilian and military contributions.” Alongside Forces personnel, the memorial honours those involved in humanitarian efforts in the region and those families and individuals supporting troops back at home.

The 25-year conflict in the Gulf and the Middle East saw over 680 service personnel killed and many more wounded between 1990 and 2015. British troops left Iraq in 2009 and final operations ceased in Afghanistan, five years later, in 2015.

Many of the royals have served in the Armed Forces, have a link to them through patronages or hold honorary ranks. Prince Harry — whose 10-year career with the Army saw him serve twice in Afghanistan — made a reading at the service, from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The Prince left the Army in 2015 and has since been an advocate for service personnel and veterans’ welfare.

“Duty and service are important concepts in any civilised society, and we in this country have always valued them highly; the men and women who contributed so much to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan were the very embodiment of those enduring principles. This memorial is for them.” — Lord Stirrup, Marshal of the Air Force and Chairman of Trustees of the Iraq and Afghanistan memorial