Chris Floyd stopped off at the Royal Artillery Monument, took some photos and had a think about it
"I spend a lot of time sitting in the traffic at Hyde Park Corner and staring at the Royal Artillery Monument. It’s dignified and graceful. The four soldiers – one of them is dead while three of them are standing – embody stoicism, fortitude and dignity, all those quiet things that aren’t really valued any more. Keeping your mouth shut, not complaining, not talking about yourself. Today’s climate of individualism has got both good and bad points, the unfortunate byproduct is selfishness, which I think has got to such a point that you couldn't imagine us collectively making a sacrifice on the scale of World War One any more. For a lot of people, service is what they expect to receive in a hotel or restaurant.
I saw that Black Watch play about Iraq the other night, and there’s a fucking fantastic speech where one of the squaddies talks about why they fight. He says, We don't fight for Queen & Country, we fight for our mates. It’s a shame that people don’t often understand that and seem to think that army, the military and the government are all bundled up into one big club. It makes me ashamed and angry, and goes back to what I was saying about before about individualism
It's not new that some wars are unpopular, like Iraq and Korea. There’s that Rudyard Kipling poem “Tommy” - I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer/The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here" – which was written around the Boer war, talking about how people in Civvy Street blame soldiers for the decisions taken by their political masters. It's a lot different in the US, where people seem quite capable of separating the service the military perform from the decisions taken by politicians. We don't do that so well over here.
It's so ingrained that you can do whatever you want these days, and I get the feeling people think soldiers can say Fuck It if they don't want to go and fight in Iraq. But they can’t because they took an oath to serve. It's as if somehow, the soldiers are in agreement with what they’re being asked to when actually they’re giving of themselves, prepared to do something above themselves. They’re serving and it's sad that people can't seem to distinguish between the two."