[LMB] Re: Betan military
tonyz at eskimo.com
Thu, 27 Dec 2001 06:40:55 -0800
>> I assumed it was a Kipling reference
>> It's Tommy this, and Tommy that, and "chuck 'im out, the
>> brute!" but it's "thin red line of heroes" when the guns
>> begin to shoot.
>Okay. So, a question for historians on list. What
>was the strategic mission of the British Army of
>the Tommy Atkins period, which afforded that body
>the nickname "the thin red line" ?
"Thin red line" actually comes from the Crimean War, when a
column of Russian troops came pretty close to breaking through
the British troops, and was stopped by a hastily-mustered force
including some guys scraped up from the hospital. (One observer
actually used the phrase "thin red line" of this battle -- it's
one of the great examples of heroism from the Crimean War, along
with the Charge of the Light Brigade; unlike that charge, it's not
also an exercise in futile stupidity.)
The strategic mission of the army in Kipling's time was primarily
to guard India against (a) raids from the Pathan tribesmen on the
Northwestern Frontier (what is now Afghanistan/Pakistan) and (b)
the Russian army. In other words, to protect the sources of
British imperial might (it was troops from India, and the wealth of
India, that made Britain into a Great Power.)
"Tommy Atkins", along with a number of other poems from the 1890's
and early 20th century that Kipling wrote, had a primary goal of
making the British aware that this much-maligned force was
actually an honorable profession and worthy of respect for its
defense of the British homeland (Kipling was greatly concerned
over the ineffectiveness of Britain's army compared to the
>If it's a Kipling reference -- and always provisionally
>assuming the holovid guys have a historical as
>well as aesthetic reason for making it --
I don't think that we can assume that -- certainly Miles conveys
to Elena his mother's opinion that they took a lot of liberties
with the story!
Then again, Cordelia had a fairly unique perspective on things.
It's quite possible that "The Thin Blue Line" was a very accurate
docudrama -- somehow one expects Betans to produce something like
that -- and that Miles was just trying to soothe Elena.
(Particularly since she seemed upset by reports of Barrayaran
atrocities, which we know happen.)
>why is that reference appropriate?
I think the holoproducers just found a very nifty line from
history and used it. But we might suggest that the Betan military
was, as in Kipling's day, little-funded and little-honored, and
hence in need of drastic expansion in wartime.
(As with Kipling's army, which was so small and so badly-battered
in 1914 that it couldn't accomplish much until 1916, even with
mass expansion -- part of the reason for the slaughter at the
Somme was that the troops literally weren't trained well enough
to do anything other than march forward into machine-gun fire.)
"The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
His fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air,
And he that stays will die for naught, and home there's no returning."
The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.--A.E. Housman