Monday, 19 June 2006

FIGHTING RETREAT FROM THE SUEZ CANAL

LAND IRONCLADS CRUSH ALL BEFORE THEM

RETREAT TO THE GATES OF CAIRO

Fragmentary reports have been arriving at our Khartoum office of the running battle being fought against the Turkish invaders across the Nile Delta and up to the very gates of Cairo. Many details have yet to emerge from this calamitous event and so this report will be a summary of the main points. At his stage, so confused is the situation we are not even sure which units are deployed where. Such is the intensity of the fighting that many units have been unable to contact their respective headquarters for orders and wholesale uncertainty is hampering all attempts at organising any meaningful counterattacks.

To attempt to give our readers an insight into the fraught situation currently engulfing the Nile Delta we have carefully selected two reports ‘hot from the fight’ so to speak, from which a picture may be constructed of the calamity facing our gallant servicemen. This action has been approved by the War Cabinet to whom this journal, and its readers, extend their most sincere and grateful appreciation.

A DASHING CAVALRY OFFICER

“My troop was engaged in a forward reconnaissance some distance from the canal. My command consisted of some eighty troopers and I was inordinately proud of their turnout and manly bearing. It was first light on the day in question and I was about to partake in my breakfast prior to resuming the patrol of the forward positions when an immense bombardment rained down from the East Bank. The shells screamed overhead; well to the rear of our position and I immediately gave the order to break camp and prepare to move out. Within a thrice the men were mounted and breakfast was but a distant memory. It was whilst the barrage was roaring overhead that I first saw the dreaded war machines of the enemy lumbering towards us. With great gouts of steam pouring from their funnels and making hellish clanking and squeaking noises; these iron giants lurched ever closer. Needless to say, the horses became skittish and the men were having difficulty in controlling them. I was debating the best way of flanking and taking one of these beasts when the wretched thing began firing at our proud and defiant troop. The men were magnificent; standing proudly as shot and shell and then maxim fire began to play upon that valiant band whilst I considered our options for the attack. The casualties began to mount and, having seen sufficient of the composition of the attacking force to be able to report to my HQ, I reluctantly gave the order to disengage as out attack would have little chance of success. We would have another chance to take one of these machines in due course I was sure of that; still it was a damned nuisance having to leave such unfinished business! Our journey back to HQ was a thrilling dash from cover to cover; hotly pursued by exploding shells and gunfire from giant airships flying so low that you almost touch them. We had lost no more men when at last we arrived at what had now become the rearguard. We were tired, angry and defiant and ready to take the worst that Mr.Turk could throw at us, given half a chance. Alas! We were to form part of the cavalry rearguard whilst the main body of the army fell back towards Cairo, so our opportunity for revenge for our gallant fallen would have to wait for some other time”.

What pluck! What courage! This unnamed officer has provided a shining example of all that is bold and resolute in the face of the enemy. Whilst shot and shell wreaked its bloody carnage all around him, he coolly considered the options for attack with no thought for his own safety. Such is the stuff of which empires are won!

Our second report comes from an altogether different source. From the other end of the social spectrum a simple cockney artilleryman, the backbone of Her Majesties Forces and the salt of the earth. From a modest and humble background, uneducated and of little or no pretensions to be other than that which fate has ordained; this artilleryman also has a tale to tell. It is a tale of simple heroism, of doing one’s duty in the face of the enemy and with no fuss or bother.

“Lawks, it was a rum do an’ no mistake. There we was, deployed in a forward position, stuck out in the middle o’ nowheres when the balloon wen’ up. Our six guns were set up just below the ridgeline wiv’ only the officers up front. It was ‘ot and we was gaspin’ for a brew. Then the ‘eavens opened. It rained shot an’ shell and me mate Nobby on number two reckoned he ‘ad’nt seen anythin’ like it since ninety eight. The shells were going over’ead an we was bein’ quiet like (still gaspin’ for a brew!), when the Captain galloped over the hill down to the battery. “Make ready with H.E., range one farsand yards,” he shouts. So we loaded double quick and got ready. Then we saw a first look at ‘em. Huge great fings they were, all steamin’ an clanking wiv flags flyin. I aint never seen anything like that before and it fair shook me rigid it did. Still, we kept at it and waited for the signal to fire. Then it ‘appened. A great airship swooped down out of the sky and started giving us some Maxim fire. Straight away men and ‘orses began to fall all about as the great steam machines ‘eaded straight up the slope towards us. Then it was madness as the machines opened up with guns and Maxims. Explosions, fires, screams and death there was as they lumbered up the hill. Nobby copped it early on – I told ‘im to be careful, the silly begger but ‘e ‘ad no chance against the machine. My gun got off around a dozen rounds before it jammed. By now they was on top of us, shooting left an’ right. Our Captain (a proper gent ‘e was) was standing, ‘is arm in a sling, firing off his revolver at the nearest of the brutes when we was overrun. He was a brave man alright, game to the last. There was nuthin’ I could do so I ‘id behind an upturned wagon and hoped they would pass by. I stayed put for ages, waiting until it was quiet. After the battle ‘ad moved away, I crept out to see if anyone was left alive. It was ‘orrible, all bits of broken guns an’ wagons and dead everywhere. I fink some of the crews was captured but I can’t be sure. The troop flag was still flyin’ so I took it down and stuck it in me pack – the Turks were not gettin’ their mitts on it, not if I ‘ad anythin’ to do wiv it! I ‘ad a quick butchers around and grabbed some gear – water and a rifle and made my way in the direction of the army. All I saw of our side was some cavalry, gallopin’ away from the machines, so I kept low and took it easy like. The journey back was a case of dodgin’ enemy patrols and lying low. Two days later I was picked up by a patrol and taken back to Cairo. I’ve still got the flag and when I get assigned to a new battery I’ll make sure they know how I got it an’ I’ll tell ‘em ‘ow we will get the scores even with Mr Turk. I owe me mates that.”

Both of these tales serve to show just how strong the mettle of our brave and plucky servicemen is; how, even in the midst of battle, unshakeable courage and resolve are the watchwords of Her Majesties Forces in the field.

However dark and troubled the path to victory is, whatever nefarious deeds and unspeakable beastliness our enemies may devise; there will always be the stalwarts of the Empire to shine the light of freedom in the heart of darkness.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN AND HER HEROIC ARMED FORCES!

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An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!