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For All Nails #75: A Helping Hand

by Henrik Kiertzner


London, 1 March 1973

Extract from Hansard:

Mr Edwin Jenkins (NR - Chingford): "Would the Prime Minister agree that the lamentable and tragic failure of American arms at Porto Rico reflects poorly on the state of training and competence of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Confederation of North America? Would he avail himself of this opportunity to associate himself with the entirely germane remarks of my honourable and gallant friend, the member for Thaxted?"

Sir Geoffrey Gold (NR - Kensington & Chelsea): "Mr Speaker, it is with enormous pride that I rise to answer my honourable friend, the member for Chingford. I should like to make a formal statement:

This House should be aware, Mr Speaker, that, since the sad events of January this year, the Ministry of War has been in close communication with our great associated Power, the CNA and that an agreement has been signed between the Ministry of War and the Defense Ministry of North America. The agreement provides for the provision by this nation of a Military Training Team, which will take on the responsibility of helping our allies develop a new programme of training for both their Regular armed forces and the Militia and a team from the Combined Staff College, which will consult with the CNA Staff College at Burgoyne, with a view to developing a new syllabus and thus training CNA staff officers of the future in modern methods and technology. Our cousins in Australia have been invited to despatch a number of officers and senior men to form part of the Training Team and the King of that happy southern land has been graciously pleased to approve the deployment of a number of very experienced men with that team."


Extract from private correspondence: Serjeant Barry Campbell (North Irish Horse) to his wife, Fiona - 16 March 1973

"...we arrived in Burgoyne and were mustered at the High Commission, where the Commander of Training Team, Major General Flood - a wicked-looking man, for all I could tell, but decently set-up and smart and not old - gave out assignments. I and two comrades - a Serjeant-Major from the Connaught Rangers, O'Keefe - although he spells it O Cuiv - and a Captain, brevet Major, Duncan, from the Life Guards - were assigned to our unit, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal South Vandalian Regiment. This unit is located at Camp Cornwallis, on Long Island, together with a huge number of others.

At first glance (we arrived just this last night), the soldiers (in the main, black men!) seem well-fed, but somehow sloppy. There is a want of smartness and, although the Regimental Serjeant Major, a fine-looking black man called Carpenter, had indicated that he expected all senior ranks to greet us in the Mess on arrival, fewer than thirty Serjeants and Warrant Officers were there in the event...

...Camp Cornwallis is enormous and there is even a camp ironroad station convenient to the Battalion lines, so I hope we shall have the opportunity to sample the attractions of New York while stood down from duty."


Camp Stewart, Manitoba, 23 March 1973

Lieutenant Colonel George Singh and Major Eric Fetherstonehaugh FN1, both of the 60th Rifles and both assigned to the British Training Unit responsible for Tarleton's Legion, were not happy. They were sitting together in the corner of the bar of the Tarleton Legion Officers' mess, isolated from the gaily-clad CNA officers around them - partially by being ignored by the revelling colonials, partially by choice.

Tarleton's Legion - despite its name, actually a combined-arms brigade incorporating armoured fighting vehicles, mechanised infantry, self-propelled artillery and airmobiles - had just returned from a major field exercise.

Although the unit was still engaged in making good the losses suffered by the 3rd Battalion, (which had been detached to the ill-fated Boricuan task force and had been very roughly handled by the German Infanterieregiment 77, leaving all its Coyote light armoured vehicles behind it on the beach when it withdrew), the entire available strength of the Legion had been put through its paces for a week of continuous activity. The results had not been good.

Singh, a massive, bearded officer with over 30 years' service, had been the chief umpire of the exercise and had been profoundly unimpressed at the performance of headquarters and leaders at all levels. The headquarters staffs were large, unwieldy and slow-moving, the officers either far too old or far too well-bred to engage in modern warfare and the NCOs unwilling or unable to take initiatives beyond writing a guard roster for the luxuriously-appointed "field" headquarters complexes. There was little wrong with the spirit of the troops, if one discounted overwhelming (and ill-placed) confidence and enthusiasm, which was unfortunately coupled with a poor state of training and a tradition of blind obedience to orders. They were undoubtedly smart and well-turned-out, though, which Singh and Fetherstonehaugh agreed was probably not actually a *bad* thing.

Both officers had been shocked to note that, immediately on return to barracks, all the officers had disappeared with their batmen to go about their amusements. They clearly saw supervision of the grinding hard work of recovering and maintaining military equipment, or even ensuring that hot meals were available for the troops who still had 24 hours' work before dismissal from duty, as being utterly inconsistent with the dignity of the Governor-General's Commission.

Fetherstonehaugh, like Singh a keen and convinced supporter of the National Renewal Party FN2, was particularly irritated by the aristocratic pretensions of the officers of Tarleton's Legion. Surely a nation deserved better of its Army than to provide a safe haven for imbecilic second sons to wear attractive uniforms? Fetherstonehaugh himself was from a sound, old, family, with a long tradition of service in his Regiment. If he felt able to don coveralls and grub around under an armoured vehicle, he saw no reason why the scions of parvenu industrial, colonial aristocracy should not do the same.

Those few officers Fetherstonehaugh had met who had impressed him were all junior, in rank if not in age. The commander of the Legion Reconnaissance Squadron, a cadaverous, forty-year-old Second Lieutenant called MacDonnell, had known exactly what he was about - but, then, he had only recently returned to the Legion after fifteen years away, commanding a specialist Border surveillance and special tasks troop, which would probably have influenced his world-view somewhat. It was significant that all the other "proper" Second Lieutenants in the Legion were under 25 years of age and that it appeared that a typical young "proper" officer could expect to don the three shiny stars of a captain before he was 30. Unusually, MacDonnell had been commissioned from his former rank of Regimental Serjeant Major and it was Fetherstonehaugh's impression that little effort was made by the officers of Tarleton's to welcome their latest member into their Mess.


(Proceed to #76: You Say "GrenAYda", I Say "GranAHda".)

(Proceed to 4 April 1973: Victoria's Secret (Part 5).)

(Return to For All Nails.)

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