When all the songs are sung and all the flags and musical instruments are packed away for another year, the truth that the children of Boers, the Syrians and the Palestinians are the true heroes remains.
Saturday, September 10th was supposed to be the last night of the Proms, when Britons sing, as the Tommies’ own Vera Lynn sings, to both God and the world how great it is to be born, of Britain, that Land of Hope and Glory. This great British tradition consists of an orchestra and tens of thousands of folk waving flags, British in the main, but also Irish, German and French and even, in less turbulent times, Syrian and Serbian by those from those exotic, unbowed lands. Three songs, Jerusalem, God Save the (now departed) Queen and Land of Hope and Glory hold center court in this great exhibition of British exceptionalism in all its bombastic pomp and circumstance.
Let’s first dismiss the orchestra and the choirs before turning our attention to what they actually sing. British orchestras work on the British, not the more civilized model of Germany, which actually subsidizes the arts. In England, it is more a Darwinian mess, where musicians scratch about for a living by playing martial music like this to the tone deaf to eke out their own stunted dreams. Though the flagging British bulldog spirit the flag wavers reflect are the original inspiration for Britain’s legendary football hooligans, they should not be condemned as much as the drivel they sing. For these old fogeys and their menfolk, the Proms bring back memories of more halcyon days when Britain ruled the waves and those not born with that “stern and silent pride”, that stiff upper English lip the late Queen so perfectly epitomized, knew their place. All that now remains is Harry Potter, Meghan Markle, fading dreams of faded empires, freezing winters and talking tough over Ukraine.
God Save the Queen
The Proms have, for the last 70 years, finished with God Save the Queen, the national anthem of the so called United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where Queen Elizabeth, the recently deceased monarch, is still worshipped as a God whose blood, her cretinous subjects believed, was blue and not plebian red. Although not all of these exotic flag wavers fully buy into that garbage, they really think Prince Andrew and Prince Harry are a cut above the rest of them, especially when they dress up as characters from a Gilbert and Sullivan production. These plebs flocked in droves to view these Soldiers of the Queen peacocks when they strutted their feathers at their parades outside the Queen’s palaces on her birthday, which was a sacred holiday in their green and pleasant land that they believe Jesus walked before He expired. Now that Her Majesty has also expired, they must change their lyrics to reflect that changing of the guard and sing homage to the morally challenged King Charles III instead. God help them in keeping a straight face with that pathetic creature filling the late Queen’s shoes.
Though God Save the Queen has been the official national anthem for the British state for all of my life, Blake’s blarney about England being the New Jerusalem has doubled as its unofficial anthem at rugby, cricket and croquet matches, whilst also being the original inspiration for Christian Zionism, the most corrosive force the world has seen in the last 2,000 years and, one which underwrites not only the rogue Israeli regime but the pomp and circumstance of the British Royals. It was to play up to this Christian Zionism baloney that General Allenby, seen here with his French sidekicks, entered the Old City of Jerusalem by foot following the Ottomans’ collapse. Although Charles Wingate and the other British thugs who trained the Zionist terror gangs of the 1930s really bought into this crap, it more importantly served the conquering British and French imperialists, whose corrosiveness continues in the Holy Land to this day. The British, the French and now the American imperialists believe in nothing more than rape, plunder and pillage and it is for that reason that France supplied Israel with its illegal nuclear arsenal and the United States today uses Israel to murder Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and Iranians. When the orchestra plays Jerusalem and the flag wavers warble along, they are celebrating their British Christian Zionist myth and all the blood that has been shed to justify it.
Land of Hope and Glory
No matter whether we are listening to Vera Lynn singing it or the Proms’ lot with their Irish and Syrian flags belting it out, Land of Hope and Glory’s original Pomp and Circumstance beat is unmistakable. One can easily envisage the Redcoats marching stolidly across the South African Veld to exterminate the Boers and the Irish commandos who stood with them. Considering that the British massacred one in four of all Boers by starvation and other scorched earth policies, it is a thundering disgrace that the British Empire’s flotsam, who descended like flocks of migrating geese on South Africa to perpetrate the Boer genocide, are held in any regard at all as they were, to a man, war criminals.
Hurrah for the red white blue and green
Stick a bayonet in the Queen
If she roars, three cheers for the Boers
Hurrah for the red white blue and green.
Being, at heart, a rebel, I have to laugh at this little ditty which Dublin’s school girls skipped rope to at the height of Dublin’s massive protests against the Famine Queen’s Second Anglo Boer War. That said, although the Royal Dublin Fusiliers butchers are commemorated at Dublin’s Traitors’ Gate and their crimes and those of other Irish mercenaries against the Boers are also commemorated in Castlebar’s “Mayo” Peace Park as well as a host of Anglican churches and monuments in Belfast, Ballybrack, Bray, Blackrock, Brookeborough, Armagh, Cahir, Clonmel, Derry, most of Dublin’s Anglican cathedrals and churches, the Anglican schools and cathedrals of Enniskillen, Galway, Holycross, Julianstown, Kilkenny, Limerick, Monaghan, Newcastle, Omagh Town, Sligo, Stillorgan and Waterford, there is not one single monument, big or small, to the hundreds of brave Irish men and women who fought and died for freedom, democracy and national dignity alongside the Boers. And this is despite the fact that the Irish Transvaal Brigade, also known as the Wreckers’ Corps, or MacBride’s Brigade, was captained by John MacBride, who the British murdered by firing squad in 1916, that Arthur Griffith, the founder of the modern Irish State, was attached to them and that hundreds of thousands of Irish patriots, as evidenced by the Joe Chamberlain episode in Joyce’s Ulysses, wholeheartedly endorsed them. Because Irish democrats who rallied to the Boers were miners, they were dab hands at explosives, something the Boers put to good effect as they tried to hold off the British, Irish, Canadian and Australian imperialist locusts, who swarmed into their republics. MacBride’s Brigade was in the field from September 1899 to September 1900, when they fought in about 20 engagements, with 18 men killed and about 70 wounded from a complement of no more than about 300 men at any one time. When it disbanded after the Battle of Bergendal, most of them retreated into Portuguese-controlled Mozambique.
In all, some 300 men joined the Irish brigade, including a Catholic chaplain, some Gaelic speakers and about forty Protestants. Little if any thought was given to the prospect of joining a Calvinist army although other Irishmen fought with distinction in at least six other Boer commandos. The Irish commandos kicked ass in Natal which had an Irish governor, an Irish prime minister and several Irish regiments of the British army. MacBride’s Brigade was in the van of the Boer army when they liberated Newcastle. These Irish heroes fought gallantly at the battle of Talana Hill and at Pepworth Hill overlooking the besieged British garrison town of Ladysmith, which was under the collective jackboot of the Irish Fusiliers, the Irish Regiment, the 5th Royal Irish Lancers and the Dublin Fusiliers, all of whom wanted to massacre MacBride’s “flying Fenians”. Eighteen-year-old Killarney hero Tommy Oates, who fell at the battle of Modderspruit, where he fought alongside his own father, has no Heroes’ Gate to rival Traitors’ Gate to him in Ireland. Nor have those who fell bayoneting the Dublin Fusiliers at the battle of Colenso, where MacBride had his horse, John Wayne style, shot from under him. The patriotic Irish, undaunted at such adversity, led the charge across the Tugela River and captured Captain Long’s field-artillery pieces, which were a much-needed boon to the Boers. MacBride’s Brigade fought at Spion Kop (after which the Kop at Liverpool is named) and Vaal Krantz, as well as in the final battle of Tugela Heights when Buller’s army, with its 5th (Irish) Brigade, broke through and relieved Irish-born war criminal General Sir George White in Ladysmith. Most of MacBride’s Brigade escaped to the mountains of the nearby Biggarsberg.
A second, smaller Irish Transvaal Brigade fought well during the Boer retreat up to Laing’s Nek on the Natal border. MacBride and Blake took their unit to Johannesburg, where they were joined by fifty-eight heavily armed members of an Irish-American “ambulance corps” from Chicago and New York. Though there were seven American doctors among them, the rest of the men under Captain O’Connor flagrantly used their Red Cross accreditation to get out of America to Africa to defend the Boers. The new combined Irish force now moved to the front line in the Orange Free State where they faced Lord Roberts’ army of 45,000 colonial cut throats.
Both Irish brigades faced fierce hand to hand fighting in the streets of the Orange Grove where the British army and their Irish lackeys showed no quarter. The battered, bruised but unbeaten Irish joined the Boer retreat across the eastern Transvaal highveld. Although the Irish fought at the subsequent battles of Diamond Hill and Dalmanutha and even held the town of Belfast for several hours under heavy fire, the game was up and they reached Komatipoort and the Mozambique border on Sunday, 23 September 1900. With testimonials from State Secretary Reitz and General Botha in his pocket, Major MacBride said farewell to his horse, Fenian Boy, and set sail for Europe. Blake and some of the Irish bitter-enders remained and harassed the British army along the Pretoria-Delagoa railway line through the Transvaal, defeating the Royal Irish Regiment at Monument Hill on 7 January 1901 in the process.
Though accusations that they were more fond of the bottle than the battle abounded, the Irish commandos distinguished themselves time and again in battle. Although we know the names of ninety-one casualties in the Irish commandos, thirty-one of whom were killed, twenty-three wounded and twenty-seven made prisoners-of-war, Ireland has not one monument to these heroes, even as Ireland is swamped from one end of the country to other other with monuments to the 4,452 casualties Britain’s Irish mercenary regiments suffered at the hands of these heroes and their Boer allies.
Soldiers of the Famine Queen
The Second Boer War attracted the jackals of empire from far and wide and not just from Dublin. Harold Lothrop Borden, the only son of Frederick William Borden, Canada’s Canadian Minister of Defence, met his end from a Boer bullet; Sam Hughes, who became Canada’s Minister of Defense and Militia in 1911, made his bones slaughtering Boer women and children; John McCrae, today best known as the author of the Flanders Fields World War I poem, also saw “service” there, alongside Australian Harry “Breaker” Morant who got his rocks off by slitting the throats of Boer prisoners and German missionaries, a common Australian practice alluded to in Robert Graves’ excellent biography and one that is still popular with Australia’s armed forces; Winston Churchill, who sent the Black and Tans to Ireland and who gassed Iraqis, worked as a war correspondent for The Morning Post but he also got time to pop a few Boers; and Mahatma Gandhi raised a mini army of Indian coolies to serve the Famine Queen there during the Boer genocide.
Though Smuts led a very successful Boer Commando during the Second Boer War for the Transvaal, when the Boers were routed, he switched sides and became muscle for hire for the empire, most notably against General Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck’s gallant East African forces. From 1917 to 1919, he was also a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet and he was instrumental in the founding of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Although he was the only person to sign both of the peace treaties ending the First and Second World Wars and a statue of him stands in London’s Parliament Square, this muscle for hire was no friend of liberty. He was, at day’s end, an imperialist running dog and a traitor.
And so, at day’s end, the Proms’ scratch orchestra can remember in September when the final stumps are drawn their New Jerusalem till the cows come home in England’s green and pleasant land. They can worship their Kings and lately departed Queens and they can sing of their human locusts who crossed South Africa’s veld to kill the Boers. But, when all the songs are sung and all the flags and musical instruments are packed away for another year, the truth that the children of Boers, the Syrians and the Palestinians are the true heroes remains. May they too get their chance to sing, to do their dabkes and to live in peace, far from the clutches of those who celebrate their slaughter as they extol their new, make believe Jerusalem at their September Prom fests.