A piece for the Guardian about Britain's wars and British soldiers' invisibility.
Something unusual happened in Britain yesterday: British soldiers at war received a lot of attention. Those in Afghanistan were described helping re-take the town of Musa Qala: true, on the BBC1's Six O'Clock News the event was deemed less important than three groovy crime stories - about care homes, a canoeist and Conrad Black - but at least it was there. Later in the evening, Panorama documented British troops' defence of Basra Palace last summer. Reporter Jane Corbin said that "many soldiers feel resentment that their efforts ... went unrecorded by the media".
Such resentment is not uncommon among British service personnel or their families, and is often seen by them as symptomatic of a more general attitude. A British soldier and his wife told me recently about a holiday they took in Florida in the time between the soldier's first tour of duty in Afghanistan and his second, from which he's just returned. During a show at Sea World the announcer asked if any US military folk were in the audience and, if so, would they please stand. There were, and they did. Applause rang out and hands were shaken as The Star Spangled Banner boomed. The announcer then inquired if any allied counterparts were present. My interviewee got to his feet. He too was rewarded with whoops and cheers as a stranger embraced him. Not surprisingly, the Briton was moved. And he felt it wouldn't have been quite the same back home. "If I showed myself at Alton Towers," he joked, "I'd probably get kicked out."