Very little brains
IT IS Winnie the Pooh's fault. The cult of sentimentality inspired by the bear of little brain is a threat to an important military tradition: the bearskin, as worn by the Brigade of Guards. A Labour MP, Chris Mullin, is leading a campaign to force the Guards to use artificial fabric.
He claims that the bearskin has no military value. That is nonsense. Anyone who talks to senior officers will rapidly become aware of a recurring preoccupation: how to ensure that men stand and fight. History is full of examples of small units fighting well above their weight, whose heroism turned battles. Our generals want to ensure that British troops always fight like that, not like the French in 1940.
The bearskin is part of that bonding and pride. Of course the regiments would survive a ban, but it would help to convince the soldiers that the politicians neither understand them nor respect them. They already have to cope with being underpaid and overstretched. If, on top of that, their traditions are treated with contempt, morale will suffer, as will recruitment and retention. That is why our Army gives so much thought to training, discipline, morale and esprit de corps.
Throughout North America, bears are numerous. They raid dustbins and put picnickers to flight. Their numbers have to be controlled. Bearskins are made from the pelts of animals that would be culled anyway. Instead of being discarded, the fur is used to enhance the excellence of our finest soldiers. That is a point that only a politician of very little brain could fail to appreciate.
And I wonder if the importance of tradition and bonding also applied to all those other regiments that have been swept away in the rush to cost saving modernity, or is it only important in the Ceremonial Regiments which largely escaped the cuts?