5 May 2023

For King and Country

 On a wing and a prayer

In 1964 Joseph Losey directed Tom Courtenay, Dirk Bogarde and Leo McKern in a film, wrapped in eighteen days at Shepperton Studios on a budget of just £100,000.  This was For King and Country.  

During World War I, the British troops are entrenched at Passchendaele, Belgium. Amongst the volunteers, there is a young British soldier, Private Arthur James Hamp (Sir Tom Courtenay), who is the sole survivor of his original company. Hamp spent three years in the trenches, and this makes him a veteran. He has never been accused of cowardice, but one day, he simply decides to leave the war behind him and walk all the way home to Britain. In Calais, France, he is challenged by a Military Police patrol, who promptly arrests him for leaving without permission. Hamp's commanding officers decide to convene a court-martial and charge him with desertion. If found guilty, Hamp could be shot by a firing squad. Captain Hargreaves (Sir Dirk Bogarde) is assigned to be Hamp's defending attorney, but he seems sceptical about the deserter's chances of acquittal. During their first talk, Captain Hargreaves is impressed by his client's utter sincerity and naivete. He learns that his client volunteered on a dare by his friends back home, spent three years in the front-line trenches, remained sole survivor of his company, and that he decided to leave the war and return home. When Hargreaves asks Hamp why he decided to leave the war, Hamp simply says that he got tired of watching his comrades die, and that the noises of war made him sick. On top of that, Hamp argued he received news from home about his wife's unfaithfulness. All of these reasons made him want to leave the war behind and return home to England. Captain Hargreaves remains unsympathetic. The military doctor's report indicated that deserter Hamp does not suffer from shell-shock and Captain Hargreaves accepts that fact. However, suspecting that his client's case is a more complex and peculiar case, Captain Hargreaves believes that Hamp is not responsible for his actions. He prepares the best he can for the upcoming court-martial.....

What has that got to do with the price of fish?  I hear you clamour.  Well, here's a quote from the film.  The officer in charge of the court-martial asks Dirk Bogarde if Tom Courtenay is a lunatic, and then says:  There must be hundreds of thousands of men who are in an unhappy mental state but who have not absented themselves from their duty.....

And at some time tomorrow (May 6th 2023, as I write) the Archbishop of Canterbury will invite us all to swear an oath of allegiance to someone whose family name used to be Battenberg.  

[I sometimes go by other names..... but I don't swear by them]

Please don't misunderstand.  I have nothing, absolutely nothing, against Charles, but I cannot forget Peter Cook (as an agent) auditioning (the one-legged) Dudley Moore (Mr Spiggot) for the role of Tarzan.  Your right leg, I like, says Mr Cook, It's a lovely leg for the role.......  I've got nothing against your right leg.  

The trouble is, neither have you.....

In my world (I shouldn't say that - it isn't my world) the hierarchy is not god-given, nor is it inherited.  There's a food chain, and so be it, but the worm doesn't need to turn.  The worm is a worm; the hawk is a hawk.

In the following sequence you can see a male Marsh Harrier passing something to his partner, while a distressed Lapwing looks on.  The female drops the package, but then swoops down to try to make amends:

And such, is life.....

Private Arthur James Hamp was executed for his innocence.  And things have not changed.

In another corner of the universe, a Mute Swan needs to take to the wing. Does it pray as well? Or is it just a myth? 

Leda, where is she now?

And that Grey Heron (the one in the picture above) takes umbrage and lifts away, strong but touchy, proud but in disregard of the rules.

And then settles, ruffled but unthreatened by arrogance or questions about his mental equilibrium:

Forgive me, but this has nothing to do with nothing. I have nothing against Charles's right leg, nor against his right to life, but there are fundamental questions about sanity that still need to be explored, and when someone spends £250 million pounds (of taxpayers' money) on an unnecessary attempt to gain popularity when that money could have helped save a life, or a species, I retain the right to raise an eyebrow....

With very much love......

F**King & C*untry


  1. Nothing may/will come of no thing...

    1. You and your maths! But what about the cost? Why should the taxpayer pay for nothing?

  2. Poor decision hopefully now modified. But what a fabulous spectacle! Love it!