Monday, 23 November 2015


It is the battle of Waterloo, and Major Peregrine Carruthers is talking to his batman,
Private Humphreys. They are waiting for Blucher’s army to arrive.

‘I say, Sgt. Humphreys: what’s that smell?’
‘I believe it’s more of a whiff than a smell, sir.’
‘Yes, but what is it?’
 ‘It’s grapeshot, sir.’
‘A whiff of grapeshot, eh? Is that good or bad?’
‘On the whole, it’s not that good, sir.’
‘Not that good? How so?’
‘Well, it’s a bag full of metal balls fired from a cannon; the bag explodes all over the enemy, killing them.’
‘Nonsense, boy! You can’t get killed by a canvas bag!’
‘I believe it’s the metal balls which do the killing, sir.’
‘That would certainly make more sense.’
‘Indeed, sir.’
‘Well, we’d better be leaving then, hadn’t we?’
‘Really, sir? Shouldn’t we stay and fight?’
‘You may be a brave and fearless warrior, Humphreys, but that’s no reason for me to hang about getting killed. Look around you. There are thousands of soldiers. I won’t be missed.’
‘But you can’t just run away at the first whiff of grapeshot!’

John Humphreys on R4 this morning complained that the British-trained Iraqi Army ‘ran away at the first whiff of grapeshot.’ His interviewee, rather than saying, ‘Well, wouldn’t you?’ just carried on blah-ing (as is usually the case on Today, where the rules state that the interviewers must not listen to the answers of the interviewees and the interviewees must not answer the questions). He is, to coin a phrase, ‘Coward-shaming’ the Iraqi soldiers. What he meant to say was this: ‘at the first sign of the murderous psychopaths of ISIS, armed with Kalashnikovs and beheading swords, and drooling at the thought of filling more mass graves,  the Iraqi soldiers deserted.’ 

It is surely the pinnacle of crassness to call ISIS a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ and it left me wondering if Mr H would have stood his ground in the face of such... whiffs. 

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