I write this on the 11th of November, having read the news of the day and reflected on where I think we are and where we have been.
I remember oh so clearly being at home 58 years ago in what was then known as Umtali, in the then Rhodesia, with my brother, three sisters and my mother and father. It was 1 o’clock in the afternoon when we sat in silence and listened to Prime Minister Ian Smith, tell the country that he and his cabinet had decided to seize independence unilaterally despite warnings from the British government led by Harold Wilson, that such action would be considered illegal. Rhodesia thus became only the second country after the United States in 1776 to follow such a dramatic course of action.
I was only nine years old then so the implications of this decision were unclear to me but I recall a grim countenance befall my father and this troubled me. Not long after the broadcast we heard that Britain might invade and we would be at war. It came as a shock; three days prior to this I had been at the cinema and as was normal for us then, we all stood to attention, watched the Trooping of the Colour, and honoured the Queen before the film started. The fact that she would soon be dispatching her soldiers to attack and possibly kill us was gut-wrenching stuff. The rest is history; 15 years later the government of the Crown prevailed and Robert Mugabe came to power with the blessing of an ebullient Prince Charles.
Last weekend I had the pleasurable surprise of meeting up with my old friend Bruce Drysdale at a regimental reunion. Bruce served in the SAS and the Selous Scouts, all three brothers in the Selous Scouts. The Drysdale’s were a stout-hearted farming family, so typical of the tough, enterprising breed of people that worked so hard to develop the country and improve the lot of all races.
I last saw Bruce 43 years ago when he, his three brothers and his mother and father, left the country for Australia in dismay, declining the opportunity to continue farming in the new Zimbabwe. Presciently, they did not believe the reconciliatory overtures and thought it was only a matter of time before Robert Mugabe would revert to type and purge the Europeans. Sadly they were proved right.
What is poignant and pertinent to events unfolding today relates to Bruce’s father Ron. Over 100 years old he is, I believe, one of the last surviving member of the famed Long Range Desert Group. Ron, along with a core group of fellow Rhodesians, was a founder member of this extraordinary body of men who tormented Rommel in the Western Desert and provided the tactical inspiration, along with the personnel for what became the SAS.
The reason I mention Ron in relation to what is happening in London today is because it reflects a sad irony. While pro-Hamas jihadists, openly calling for the destruction of the country in which they enjoy comfortable residence, will today enjoy massive police protection in registering their protestations, Ron Drysdale, if he were to appear in public representing the Rhodesian servicemen who died in both World Wars, would risk arrest. As Home Secretary Suella Braverman has pointed out, the police have shown a lamentable tendency to show little mercy to those of a conservative bent, while tolerating destructive behaviour from the left-wing extremists. Examples include the arrest of elderly people violating lock-down rules by sitting too close on park benches, while officers actually participate in BLM protests to show their support. Astonishingly, the British government of the day openly embraces those who seek its overthrow but denounces those who fought and died to preserve the empire and protect the motherland.
This is because Ron Drysdale hails from the country that had the impertinence to defy Harold Wilson’s socialists, and the courage to take on the world in a bid to maintain the systems and values that once imbued the greatest empire the world has ever seen.
From afar Ron might look at what is happening around the Cenotaph today and be reminded he fought fiercely and fearlessly to keep Britain free and has thus played a part in providing a platform for those who seek its demise.