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There was a time when the British Navy was the unparalleled master of the seas. No other naval force, no matter as mighty as the Spanish Armada or the combined Spanish and French fleets of the Napoleonic period or the massive battleships and myriad u-boats of World War II, ever displaced the British Navy on the high seas. The British Navy was the guarantor of free trade, the eliminator of the Atlantic slave trade, and the wall of wood and iron that protected the British Isles -- never invaded since 1066.
As recently as 1982, when the Argentine dictatorship seized the Falkland Islands, a British Naval task force responded and repulsed the invaders.
The moral ethic of the British Navy was stern and unforgiving. The Articles of War
, first codified by Parliament in 1749, demanded the utmost in patriotism, professionalism, discipline, and self-sacrifice from all the officers and sailors aboard ship. Here are three typical Articles:
Every flag officer, captain and commander in the fleet, who, upon signal or order of fight, or sight of any ship or ships which it may be his duty to engage, or who, upon likelihood of engagement, shall not make the necessary preparations for fight, and shall not in his own person, and according to his place, encourage the inferior officers and men to fight courageously, shall suffer death, or such other punishment, as from the nature and degree of the offence a court martial shall deem him to deserve; and if any person in the fleet shall treacherously or cowardly yield or cry for quarter, every person so offending, and being convicted thereof by the sentence of a court martial, shall suffer death.
Every person in the fleet, who shall not duly observe the orders of the admiral, flag officer, commander of any squadron or division, or other his superior officer, for assailing, joining battle with, or making defense against any fleet, squadron, or ship, or shall not obey the orders of his superior officer as aforesaid in the time of action, to the best of his power, or shall not use all possible endeavours to put the same effectually into execution, every person so offending, and being convicted thereof by the sentence of the court martial, shall suffer death, or such other punishment, as from the nature and degree of the offence a court martial shall deem him to deserve.
Every person in the fleet, who through cowardice, negligence, or disaffection, shall in time of action withdraw or keep back, or not come into the fight or engagement, or shall not do his utmost to take or destroy every ship which it shall be his duty to engage, and to assist and relieve all and every of His Majesty's ships, or those of his allies, which it shall be his duty to assist and relieve, every such person so offending, and being convicted thereof by the sentence of a court martial, shall suffer death.
Every person in the fleet, who though cowardice, negligence, or disaffection, shall forbear to pursue the chase of any enemy, pirate or rebel, beaten or flying; or shall not relieve or assist a known friend in view to the utmost of his power; being convicted of any such offense by the sentence of a court martial, shall suffer death.
In the days when the ships were of wood, but the men were iron, it was adherence to this code of martial virtue that enabled the British Isles to become a great naval power.
From news reports this week, however, it appears that the British Navy no longer subscribes to the behavior that such a martial code implies.
As everyone knows, a boarding party of British sailors and marines engaged in the inspection of an Indian ship in Iraqi waters was attacked by Iranian small craft. The British seamen (including one woman) surrendered without firing a shot, and during their Iranian captivity, made propaganda films for the hostage-takers, groveled and apologized to the unlawful tyrants as if they had done anything wrong, and then thanked the Iranians for their hospitality and kindness.
There is no doubt that the initial attack took place in Iraqi territory. The Telegraph reports
The Ministry of Defence says it has incontrovertible evidence that the eight sailors and seven Royal Marines were 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi waters when they were arrested during a search of an Indian vessel on March 23.
From the same Telegraph story:
The British Naval personnel chose their words carefully and adopted measured tones for the informal interviews on Iranian television, but as they spoke each broke into a grin.
"I feel great, very happy and just relieved and thankful to go home," said Leading Seaman Turney, 26, a married mother of one.
"The treatment here has been great but it will be nice to get home and see my family."
Lieutenant Carman, 26, said: "To the Iranian people I can understand why you were insulted by our apparent intrusion into your waters.
"I hope this experience will help to build the relationship between our countries."
The nature of the relationship between Britain and the terrorists who confront Western civilization was underscored when - just hours before the British hostages were released - four British soldiers, including two women, were killed in a roadside bomb attac
k in Basra.
But, never mind.
Great Britain's Defence Chief, Sir Jock Stirrup, is apparently pleased
with the way British sailors and marines comported themselves after coming under an Iranian attack in Iraqi waters and during their subsequent captivity.
"They did exactly as they should have done from start to finish and we are proud of them," said Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, the head of Britain‘s armed forces and top military adviser.
Do you think he will recommend them for the Victoria Cross? It wouldn't shock me.
The British Press in general, and one-time British subject John Derbyshire in particular, have not been as enthusiastic about the conduct of the hostage sailors and marines as Sir Jock Stirrup has been, at least in public. Derb commented
Able Seaman (I assume that's his rank) Summers had no business going on Iranian TV to tell the world that his country was wrong (even if it was) and Iran right. That was unpatriotic behavior. In the Queen's uniform.
Capt. Air and Lt. Carman disgraced themselves and their uniforms by groveling to their captors and thanking them.
Leading Seaman Turney should have pulled off that headscarf. It is not part of a British serviceman's uniform, and so she should not have worn it.
At a bare minimum, these servicemen should have stayed silent and refused to do what the Iranians instructed them to do. I would, in fact, say the same if they had been apprehended by a friendly power.
The Articles of War impose a stern and unforgiving standard of martial conduct. To today's Britons they must seem harsh and Spartan. But the Articles embody the principles which made the British warrior a feared enemy and welcomed friend everywhere he went. There was a time when Britannia ruled the waves.
Conduct such as Nelson demanded made Britain and strong and worldwide empire. Unfortunately, conduct such as Sir Jock Stirrup extols will render Britain weak and defenseless. In fact, such conduct is the result of a weak and defenseless, politically correct attitude that has already vitiated England's martial spirit. In England, for example, homeowners are prosecuted when they defend themselves against robbers, and the police advise victims of crime to submit to their attackers without a struggle.
The Mullahcracy's victory this week consisted of demonstrating to its subjugated people and to the entire world that the spirit of acquiescence, appeasement, and surrender is so pervasive in British society, that it has apparently permeated the Armed Forces.