Tuesday, May 8, 2012

All Are Heroes In The End


Another much-renowned son of the English county of  Kent, alongside the recently referenced Zen philosopher Alan Watts, was of course bank manager and Captain of the Walmington-on-Sea Local Defence Volunteers - George Mainwaring.

The BBC television series Dad's Army ran for 12 series between 1968 and 1977 with an accompanying radio series, stage show and feature film. Of the seven main actors associated with the programme, James Beck - who played the resident "spiv" Joe - died in 1973 at the age of only 44.

The film version of the series released in 1970 received mixed reviews though time has been kind to it in hindsight and, along with the Steptoe and Son movies, is probably one of the better film adaptations of classic British Sixties and Seventies television comedy.

The film of course is rich in pathos and in three particularly moving and well-recalled sequences in particular. The opening of the movie shows the gallant and defiant Home Guard platoon on England's southern shoreline - Union Flag in hand and ready for battle - being ridiculed by a watching Wehrmacht general on the Pas de Calais to the accompaniment of the Horst Wessel Lied. Meanwhile Mainwaring's expressed surety, during a sunset talk with Sgt Wilson, that the British will fight down to a last bullet of honour for each man is qualified by a lack of ammunition for such a Kentish Twilight of the Gods. At the conclusion of the film in turn the platoon are back to the cliff top again and listening suspiciously for some cunning Nazi cross-channel mining device which could signify an imminent invasion of British sovereign territory.

Last week's local council elections across Austerity Britain, and the predictable sense of despair and discord at our national political stasis that the results produced, yet again underscored the grim likelihood of very little significant change ahead in the next decade. And indeed the scale of distance between a broken and greed-fixated Britain and a country that could once produce selfless and spirited public service of the like of the Home Guard or the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The credible right and left-wing critiques of these morose and anxious times from certain worthy commentators notwithstanding, modern British life has surely never found itself in such a time of total and open-ended political stagnation, social immobility and mad dog economic imbecility.

The sinister general at the start of Dad's Army who scoffed "How can those stupid British ever hope to win?" at Privates Godfrey, Pike, Frasier and Joansy the Butcher - in light of their no-doubt imminent incarceration in ghastly underground SS slave labour camps in Yorkshire or South Wales - didn't know the half of it after all in terms of what would lie ahead for that now vanished and truly great country.

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