Inevitably, once the supported boys started returning from war with bits missing, the governments and newspapers that backed them most enthusiastically decide that they’re an embarrassing nuisance. Then their attitude becomes like that of the First World War general who, when he visited a hospital full of soldiers back from the Somme with shell shock, shouted, “Why are you shivering? Only drunkards and masturbators freeze.” This must be what causes so many old people to conk out from hypothermia every winter, the filthy minxes.
But that general has been challenged for callousness by defence minister Des Browne, who yesterday went to the High Court to try and prevent a coroner from criticising the Ministry of Defence, during inquests on soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The trouble is that a coroner reported, in the inquest into the death of Capt James Phillipson, that the soldier had been given, “a lack of basic equipment”. Whereas from now on, presumably, he’ll have to say, “The soldier had piles of equipment, so much he didn’t know where to put it all. What must have happened is, well, obviously, I’ve got it – the Taliban magicked it away, with their equipment vanishing cream. So there we are, no one to blame, just one of those things, I’m afraid.”