I run The Book Club for the Army Rumour Service and manage the PR for that and the various other forums within the Olivenet stable, Rum Ration for the navy and Rear Party for families. One of my user names is – PR_Totty, the other is ARRSE Bandit, who is universally hated, and the other is amodernmilitarymother, which I created to showcase the blog. It will be a shock to some on the forum to discover that I am both PR_Totty and ARRSE Bandit but it’s time to out myself, because I haven’t got time for multiple personas and multiple blogging. I am indeed coming out of the ARRSE closet, plus I had a great day yesterday and I want to blog on here too. As I own the words, then why not share the audience.
I had a military literati fab-fest yesterday. It was truly sumptuous indeed. A veritable feast of some of the hottest writers on the British military literature scene. Pararegtom, an ARRSE forum member, introduced me to the truly charming Max Arthur a few weeks ago at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge and we have become new BFF (Best Friends Forever) for the two whole weeks we have known each other. He very kindly invited me to the launch of his new book, The Last of The Few which has been reviewed in The Book Club by the boy_syrup who gave it 4.5 out of 5 Mr Mushroomheads. The launch was hosted in the President’s Suite at the RAF Club and Max had persuaded the Last of the Few veterans to turn up to meet the media. It was very well attended and most interestingly, by mainly news and defence journalists rather than the literary press.
While Max was giving his witty, informative, succinct yet engaging speech; I was stood to the rear of the room next to the door, when a tanned latecomer, surreptitiously opened it. I smiled engagingly at him, as us PR_Totty types are want to do and he assumed that I was part of the gaggle of tottsters that were clucking around Max co-ordinating his launch.
“Hi, Randolph Churchill, pleased to meet you,” he said beaming from his not massively dissimilar, but tanned younger, and if may say so, more handsome face.
“Hello, ” I replied, “Are you related to the big man?”, a little taken aback.
“Yes, great, great grandson.”
“Well, I am PR_Totty from the Army Rumour Service. Have you heard of it?”
“No, but it sounds rather fun,” was his reply.
I ushered him towards the more relevant tottsters, who were much better equipped with his needs, than I, but it was indeed a fine encounter.
While I was taking a photo of Max, the veterans and Randolph Churchill, I happened to overhear a conversation between the only literary journalist attending and the publisher’s editorial director. This conversation made my Totty fur raise, my claws out and a strange evil cat hiss come out from the back of my throat. The journalist, who did not look dissimilar to Viz’ Millie Tante, was lucky that I did not cause a big Totty scene of handbags, hair pulling and face scratching.
“Thanks for coming xxx” said the publisher, in a very deferring way, because of her literary might I assumed.
“Well you know, xxxx, this is not really my thing. I think we should just move on. Was it really Britain’s finest hour? Is it even important.”
I am still boiling. We should never forget those who sacrifice their lives for our freedoms.
The veterans are very old now. Obviously, the Battle of Britain celebrates it 70th anniversary, and they are slowly passing. Soon, there will be no-one to speak on their behalf, and their voices will be ghostly echoes reverberating through pages of book’s likes Max Arthur’s, Last of the Few. How many people have lost friends and relatives and thought I wish I had listened more, recorded the stories of their life, so that I can preserve their memories, now they are gone. This is what Max Arthur has done with the Last of the Few, he has taken the stories of those remaining heroes and preserved them so that after they have passed future generations can learn about Britain’s finest hour and the sacrifice that it took by many to achieve it.
“Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fall, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour!”
Sir Winston Churchill
So still boiling about Millie Tant and her very arrogant lack of understanding about military sacrifice, I tottered off to my next military literary event.
This was a speaking engagement with Patrick Rupert Hennessey, author of The Junior Officer’s Reading Club, held at the Prince’s Consort Library in Aldershot. The library was founded by Prince Albert a 150 years ago to contribute to the education of soldiers in the British Army. During my drive to the library, I couldn’t help but feel sadness about the gradual demise and erosion of the old military town of Aldershot. There are many building of magnificence and heritage there that are slowly decaying that truly deserve preservation. However, I would urge all of you who are still serving to make the time in your career to visit the Prince’s Consort Library in Aldershot and benefit from this rare gift. Please USE IT to make sure that you don’t lose it.
The talk was one of four talks from the shortlist of the British Army Military Book of The Year.
(If you are serving and would like to attend any of the talks, which I recommend you do because they will provide access to great literary minds in an intimate, boutique, historic setting, then please contact the librarian at the Prince’s Consort Library for more information. I think they have Mallinson and Tootal lined up over the next few months.)
The Junior Officer’s Reading Club has enjoyed remarkable commercial success, although amongst the Army Rumour Service Book Club thread dedicated to it there has been somewhat mixed opinions on the book, and also, it’s function as a memoir. I am going to confess that I haven’t read it yet, so, I personally can’t comment on the book as a read, but obviously having heard how delectable Patrick Hennessey was I was pretty keen to meet the fella himself.
I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed – er hello! Mr Hennessey is hotter than a snakes ass! I did manage to contain my Totty fluttering and hair twisting and present myself as the articulate, intelligent, media whore that I obviously am.
(Let me just interrupt this blog for a bit of girl talk – he is one very eligible bachelor. Now let’s see – he is handsome, fresh faced (I am rubbing my knees now – young man!) about 6ft 4, slim but strong build, Oxford english major, ex Grenadier Guard officer, bestselling novelist and just about to become a barrister – whichever literati debutante lands this fish, will have caught herself a fine catch. Drooling over, now down to business.)
Now obviously, a man who has just sat his bar exams is going to be an easy speaker. His presentation focused on the rationale for the delivery of his tome. Within this talk he briefly addressed the issue of dialogue and trust. In summary, he said that first the MOD has to trust the soldiers to deliver the message, and secondly, it has to engage in the dialogue in the first place. Hennessey whose obvious love of the Army, clouds his objectivity, thinks they do it well. I, who talk to journalists constantly, think they don’t.
Part of the challenge as I see it is that the military likes it’s closed door policy. It has a boys club mentality, so, like all cliques with their own dialogue and terminolgy, it can’t come as huge surprise that the non-club members (majority of civilians) haven’t the foggiest what you are talking about. Hennessey has done something that will begin to bridge the gap but once the hype dies down and the good intentions are forgotten the bridge will crumble and the impetus will be lost. Henessey, the media, communication and dialogue – these are weapons in the MOD’s arsenal but most of the time they are manned by untrained and unskilled operators, so are not deployed as effectively as the could be in an overall winning strategy.
For me, he was just a little too self-deprecating because Hennessey surely has golden balls. He is well connected and he obviously works hard to deliver his life, which, I have no doubt, will be extra-ordinarily successful. There was some definite poetic licence in what he said, but it delivered great comic effect, so I’ll forgive him and move on. The origins of the novel lie, according to Hennessey, to bridge the gap between the Great British Public and the military, specifically the army. He wanted to generate awareness, and like Aldous Huxley, open the doors of perception so that people reverted their sympathy to empathy. I don’t disagree with him. I think there is a definite need here and this beautifully packaged, shining example of humble intentions is a very honest way to do it, so more please. However, we have already established the Hennessey is rare breed of a man so is there another Hennessey out there who is ready to stand up and do something similar to take the story to the next level? Now of this, I am unsure, so I think, unless the opportunity is harnessed and continued, the momentum that he has created will be lost. But Patrick Hennessey will do very nicely out of it, and he deserves to because he wrote this book with the right intentions and from what I have seen he seems to be ‘a bloody nice chap!’