Wednesday, June 26, 2013

General Compton Smyth and the Pea Shooter Brigade… Part One

Throughout military history the balance of power has often hinged on the adoption of new tactics, innovations and weapons. Usually a dominant army is backed up by a wealthy state and industrial might.

…Neither applied to post war Britain and even less so since Cameron and Osborne came into government with a pet theory they’d worked out on the back of a Top Trumps Box back at Eton they wanted to try out on the economy.

Thus they were on a mission to slash ministerial budgets to find out how much they could cut before the economy collapsed completely, with several bets placed at high class betting establishments about how long it would take!

Within the ministry of defence this brought nothing short of blind panic as the chancellor of the exchequer continued to insist on swaging cuts to the point that only soldiers from the rank of Sergeant upwards got boot laces and recruits trained with toy guns.

With someone in Britain still making a few pounds and able to support themselves, George (Jeffrey) Osborne, seeing his economic experiment to bankrupt Britain come perilously close to failing, piled the pressure on even more!

The Navy lost its last remaining active aircraft carrier and was now reduced to three rowing boats and a destroyer with no guns but a missile firing platform with a capacity for 36 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and only one active weapon among them. The sailors were then drilled in standing on deck to look frightening.

The Royal Air force suffered its own losses. Along with the Red Arrows aerobatic team reduced to doing ground displays on bicycles with red wings strapped on to their backs. Meanwhile their secret programme to stick sheets of cardboard and black paint to Tornado Jets to create a cut price stealth fighter to counter the Americans’ machines was also a victim of the cuts, losing all £342.25p budget and all the biscuits from the staff canteen.

Seeing the havoc wrought in their rival military services, the generals were in something of a panic, as first their specially commissioned brass paperclips were deemed an extravagance and then the cuts started effecting civilian support staff, with local businesses taking the brunt. Suzie Whipsnade’s Hen Den had to lay off three prostitutes as the general staff saw their entertainment budget slashed.

Next the Chancellor invested millions to pay French workers to upgrade the battle site at Waterloo for the 200th anniversary of us having an army of note instead of sending squaddies over as the generals had suggested, on the grounds that their plan to use this covert operation to re-take Calais was neither a good use of public funds or part the government’s plan to give money to French workers to appease our Gallic neighbours prior to us making a loud noise about Wellington peeing on their Emperors’ bonfire.

The generals decided they needed to come up with cost effective new tactic that would appeal to Whitehall minions and would enable them to ring fence funding to guarantee their investment portfolios in defence contractors wouldn’t go up in smoke alongside their brainstorming sessions at Suzie Whipsnade’s Hen Den!

General Peregrine Ant-Equated vaguely recalled an experiment the top brass did where they decided to take an unusually hands on approach to testing new products before trials were to filter down the ranks…

…On that occasion they did battlefield trials of Viagra and came to the conclusion that fighting, or even conducting a battle from the command bunker, was near impossible with a raging erection! Viagra was a great British invention and success story, and surely a scheme to combine two great British institutions would get favour from the men in suits?

Surely they could do something along those lines? After all the MOD still had a warehouse facility full of the drug which had been purchased when the procurement funding was a little more generous and Madam Suzie and her girls were not off limits on expenses.

It was, he reasoned a matter of time before some pen-pushing shit from the treasury stumbled on the purchase order and god forbid started looking at taking away their ability to choose what their budget was spent on!

The other generals agreed, one bringing up the time Whitehall tried to impose digestive biscuits on them instead of Hob Nobs! “And tea bags from a supermarket instead of Earl Grey!” added another.

The problem was that their massive supply of Viagra was in the traditional pill variety and persuading an enemy soldier to stop fighting and down a pill over a cup of tea was a little unlikely in modern warfare. Their American Allies certainly seemed to take a dim view of stopping proceedings for elevenses during recent war games, when things seemed to be going badly for the poorly equipped Brits.

On that occasion the Americans refused to drink the prepared cups of tea laced with Viagra, and one of the Brits accidentally drank from the wrong cup causing himself something of an injury due to wearing his tight fitting and restrictive leather underwear worn in the hope of an early getaway to visit Madam Suzie.

What the senior generals needed was a fall guy. Someone they could jettison if the shit hit the fan, so they sent for files on their senior staff to see who was available to take the blame should this idea fall flat!

Eventually it was suggested there was only one man incompetent enough for the job and that was General Compton Smyth, whose career had been spent mostly behind a desk coming up with schemes as ludicrous as to dump land mines and other obsolete weapons at sea rather than on British soil, causing untold mayhem when the pollution from these degrading weapons hit fish stocks and a trawler later sank having set off one of the supposedly de-commissioned landmines as it went about its desperate business in the strangely fish-free waters. The chain reaction as the other weapons exploded downed the small civilian craft in no time at all and the survivors had to be given a massive payout to keep quiet!

When he got the call to take up his new role in the field Smyth was busy working on a plan to equip soldiers with single seat hovercraft with sub-machine guns mounted on top. Not in itself a bad idea except that hovercraft very rarely pointed the way you needed them to in order to hit a target and the recent cut backs meant that there was no budget for sub-machine guns, let alone hovercraft that would require training to operate.

“We’re sending you on a commission in the field!” announced the youngest looking member of the assembled general staff present at the other side of the table.

“Afghanistan?” Smyth asked enthusiastically, thinking he was going to get a chance to put into practice his policy suggestion of persuading the Afghan farmers to grow Roses instead of inferior poppies.

“Not this time,” the senior general explained after clearing his throat. “We’re sending you to set up a top secret brigade.”

“SAS?” Smyth ventured optimistically.

“Even more secret, and so secret it will be a mini brigade.”


“Six men!”




Smyth was handed his orders in a sealed envelope and set out immediately for Aver Wallop (not to be mistaken for Upper or Lower Wallop), where the new brigade would be based just on the outskirts of the village on the site of a smallholding left to the ministry by an ex soldier out of spite for his son who broke the family tradition of a life in the army in favour of a career cross dressing in a burlesque club in Soho.

One thing is for certain, the peaceful World of the unsuspecting villagers in Aver Wallop was about to be turned upside down!

...To be continued.

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