Saturday, 18 December 2010

Khartoum in 3 D

I feel the tension within rising as Christmas approaches and I may have to make the decision not to travel because of the weather and problems on the roads and rail.

There is chaos in most other parts of the UK but here while it is bitterly cold it has also been sunny without falls of snow or rain which would have turned the roads into skating rinks.

I have attempted to write several letters of interest to those where this remains my only form of communication once a year. I wrestle with writing as I wish the interests of the individuals concerned.

I should clean the house but cannot raise the enthusiasm

I am continuing to rise and swim and to watch or listen to the Test match and this lunch time I enjoyed Sunderland’s home win against Bolton the Test Match. I eat too much in part the consequence of shopping for over £40 to obtain £40 of shopping for £25 followed by £30 for £25 in the New Year although together with a Petrol voucher it will only be £20. I am way behind in film reports and I shall attempt a few now commencing with a time historical drama.

I enjoyed watching the greater part of Khartoum which I have written about before, including the real General Gordon who sacrificed his life for a principle. The film is high profile topical because it features the slaughter of British troops by Muslim Zealots in the Sudan. The Prime Minister, Gladstone, is under pressure to do something and in particular to send General Gordon who knows the country and the people having broken the slave trade.

In this 1966 film Gladstone’s Foreign secretary played by Michael Hordon hits on the plan to send Gordon but without an army thus appeasing the British public but without risking more British lives fearing a fight which the nation cannot win. In addition to showing the flag Gordon’s role is to try and bring out British nationals and those who have supported the British interests. Charlton Heston plays the General and Laurence Olivier the Mahdi determined to drive the non believers from his country. At the time 1885 the Sudan was being treated as part of Egypt but had not been formally annexed. Gladstone is played by Ralph Richardson and Peter Arne as the young Major Kitchener who went on to become General and Lord Kitchener. In order to ensure a win win situation, if Gordon fails Gladstone is able to deny responsibility given the man’s reputation for disregarding orders and following his inclinations and judgements.

Gordon is given a reluctant assistant, Colonel Stewart who is to remind the basics of the mission and keep the British Government informed and he undertakes this role when on arrival the city greets Gordon as its saviour and Gordon starts to organise a defence. Gladstone is faced with a dilemma because when Gordon refuses the command to leave, the public demand the sending of a relief army and this is supported by Queen Victoria. An army is sent but told to train and make their way slowly. In the film Gordon damns the river to create a moat around the city but as the river lowers, the barrier also lowers. Gordon arranges for the Europeans to leave with his assistant but they are captured and killed by the forces of the Mahdi. With over 100000 men at his disposal Khartoum is taken and Gordon killed. The relief army arrives too late and Britain withdraws from the Sudan. The victory was shortlived because the Mahdi also died within the year and public anger was such that within the decade the Government was forced to send a new army and recapture the Sudan in 1898.

Contrast such public determination with the present attitude towards our role in Afghanistan where it is the government which is having to continuously justify our presence as one or two servicemen are reported killed each week with the number of other casualties kept confidential. A major publicity drive is being undertaken to enlist support for the injured, those who have died, for their families and for those undertaking active service. This is designed to maintain recruitment, to ensure those returning injured receive the best treatment and after care, that those killed are honoured and those fighting are given the best training, preparations and equipment, together with an undertaking that they will be within five years. There has been some progress but in general the public is more interested who wins the X factor and Strictly Come Dancing, the weather conditions and the impact of the cuts in public expenditure.

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