Can I say a word about…a no-frills message from the highest-ranking woman in the military | Jonathan Bouquet


I was very impressed with the recent appointment of Major General Sharon Nesmith as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the first female Lieutenant General, and her bold “mission statement”: “I am deeply honored to to be appointed Deputy Chief of the General Staff at a crucial time for the British Army. I look forward to playing my part in leading our Future Soldier transformation to become a more lethal, agile, digitized, and expeditionary force.

Blimey, martial or what? Especially the use of the word mortal. And I have no doubt that she will succeed admirably in her designs, but I could not help remembering what the Duke of Wellington said while contemplating his troops on the eve of the battle of Waterloo: “I do not know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but, by God, they scare me. I am eternally happy to have her on our side.

His remark reminded me of some of my favorite military quotes. “It’s beautiful, but it’s not war; it’s madness”, was the incomparable opinion of General Pierre François Joseph Bosquet on the charge of the light brigade, while I especially cherish: “My center gives way, my right retreats, excellent situation, I attack”, Marshal Message from Ferdinand Foch to Marshal Joseph Joffre during the First Battle of the Marne in 1914.

After my column last week about going to hell in a hand basket, I was cheered by an email from Ruth Eversley: “The woman who thought we were going to hell in a hand basket” perhaps influenced by actress Joan Collins who once said she thought the country was going to hell in a ‘hand castle’. She also pointed to an invaluable remark from Grant Shapps, who recently said his department was reviewing the legislation with a “choice of fine teeth”. I fear being Boris Johnson’s chief apologist is finally getting to him.

Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist


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