At a dinner in the early sixties it just so happened that a discussion came up about how ineptly the politicians had handled the Suez situation in the fifties. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to a very genteel man with great diplomatic skills. However, something had obviously touched a sore that evening. This, most humble of men, very discreetly started to tell of his frustration when, as a young man of just eighteen years of age, in The Royal Flying Corps in France in 1916.
He, like all the others, risked their lives every time they took off to survey the battlefields from above. On this particular mission he lost two colleagues. Obviously distraught, he went directly to his superior. There in front of him was a General and other Senior Officers. Their heads were bowed in deep concentration, studying an enormous map. His spirits lifted. He realized he could give them vital information as to where the guns were laying in wait. He enthusiastically saluted and started to give the latest from the air. ” The guns lay right along this ridge Sir.” Before he had finished one of the officers said words to the effect of “That is of no interest to us and you will be disciplined for such insolence” He was then told a disciplinary letter would follow. Stunned, he saluted and went back to his muddy barracks. Fortunately his career continued with distinction until his retirement in the late fifties.
From this he had hoped many of his age would learn from the experience. Listen to all the intelligence gained from your scouts. He certainly did during the next war. But as he indicated some politicians had not.
After further debate the one thing he was very clear on. That was – not to blame others for their actions in very difficult situations but learn from them. As he so correctly indicated, you cannot change history but oh how one can learn from the mistakes of those who will not listen.
I, for one, am so grateful to all those courageous people who gave so much for us to be free today. Let us not criticize those who did not make sense at the time, but learn from them.
“I am not fit for this office and never should have been here.”
Warren G. Harding