‘Britons Strike Home!’



This picture ‘Scotland Forever’, showing the Scots Greys charging at Waterloo, hung on the wall of the classroom where my mother went to school.

This was in the twenties…the nineteen twenties…when things were not quite as child centred as they are at the present.

The child was there to learn to read, to write – neatly – and do ‘sums’, all of which would befit it for life. Girls would do needlework and cookery, boys would do woodwork and gardening and great emphasis was placed on the glories of the British Empire and the obligation to be patriotic.

Methods were somewhat elementary….when learning to read a number of words were chalked on the blackboard and each child was given a word which it must recognise when called to the front of the class. In mother’s case, her word was ‘burn’  and when she hesitated a little before pointing to it the teacher took both her hands and held them briefly over the red hot coke stove which heated the classroom, saying firmly, ‘burn’.

Later in school life the girls were shown how to run a household, though her mother’s comments on a whole afternoon spent washing, starching and ironing a shirt verged on the unprintable as in that time the redoubtable housewife, ‘dirty’ jobs being completed in the morning, could have ironed the shirts of a regiment and made a victoria sponge  while the flat irons were heating on the hob.

Cookery was undertaken too….enlivened by the presence of girl called Sybil who came from a large family. When asked to bring an oven dish to make rhubarb pie she arrived with the smallest possessed by her mother…large enough to take the sticks of rhubarb whole.

Her finest moment came in the end of year examination where the task was to make bread…without a recipe, as they were supposed to have learned this by heart during the school year.

Sybil had measured and mixed, kneaded and proved and was quite happy as she placed her loaf tin in the oven of the cast iron stove.

Later, however, she whispered to her friends that things had taken a turn for the worse..She had slid aside the peephole on the oven to check progress and a ribbon of dough had emerge, oozing its way down the oven door, solidifying as it progressed.

Clearly she had overestimated the amount of yeast …what should she do?

The council of war decided on drastic action. They would remove the loaf tin, scrape off the excess and put it back in the oven in the hope that it would look fairly normal…

Which was fine until they opened the oven door and something the size of a large cushion plopped out…leaving a heavy burnt crust on all the internal surfaces of the oven.

Discovery was inevitable and the clean up took forever.

So that day they missed playtime where the girls would skip or play hopscotch while one group of  boys would link arms and run round the playground singing

‘Are you ready for the fight?

We are the Romans’

To be met by another group of boys who would reply

‘Yes, we’re ready for the fight

We are the English soldiers’

After which a pell mell would ensue until broken up by the sound of the whistle for the end of playtime.

Patriotism was not left to the playground however.

Mother remembers the preparations for an Empire Day celebration for which the children were kitted out with broad brimmed hats in red, white and blue and were marshaled onto a slope in the gardens of the local charitable hospital which, despite being run by nuns, was pardoned for its catholicism by its care for veterans of the Great War.

The idea was that the coloured hats would make up an image of the Union Jack and the children were drilled into moving in groups in order to simulate the flag waving in the breeze to suitable patriotic music

Brigade of Guards, eat your heart out!

Patriotic music, in that time, seemed to consist of ‘God Save the King’ – George V – and ‘Rule Britannia’ accompanied by ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag’….though ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’ , nomatter how popular with the troops, was judged to be beyond the pale in polite society.

I suppose now that the globe is no longer coloured with  the red of the British Empire patriotic fervour is somewhat diminished.

You do hear it at the last night of the Proms.. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches…known to us in my student days as ‘Land of Bullshit and Tories’..


Long gone are the days when the House of Commons would rise as one to sing ‘Britons strike home’ – the classic patriotic song before the popularity of ‘Rule Britannia’ – as it did when Pitt the Younger announced that his attempts to reach a peaceful solution  with revolutionary France had failed and that war must inevitably continue.



Can you imagine for one moment the current time serving lackeys of finance rising to sing anything but  ‘Happy days are here again’ when their expenses claims are paid?

As Great Britain becomes a minor player on the world stage…enter right in support of the U.S.A….patriotic fervour seems to have been relegated to the sporting arena.

Thus the Barmy Army mangling Blake’s wonderful ‘Jerusalem’ at the start of Test matches…

But should there be  a competition for the best sporting anthem which reflects the Britain of today my vote goes to this…

‘Vindaloo’ by Fat Les.

Inclusive, happy and totally daft.


36 thoughts on “‘Britons Strike Home!’”

  1. If you were to explain life from your mum’s early life to the current crop of young people, no doubt they would give you that same blank look the dog does when he’s trying not to understand, as if you spoke to him in a foreign language. And then go back to their mobile device and a multitude of social platforms.

    1. I thought after posting it…’who will understand about heating the flatirons on the hob?’….
      Or the shop which she was forbidden to use when running errands for her mother because the owner was unlikely to have washed his hands between serving a customer with paraffin and cutting the cheese…
      Or the milkman coming round with the milk in churns on his horsedrawn cart, to be ladled out into the householder’s jugs…
      Or men taking off their hats in the bus as they passed the Cenotaph in London…


      1. Life back then was harder and yet somewhat more genteel considering today’s climate of visceral sniping and bullying and corporate misdeeds. When I look back at my own childhood, I am astounded at the amount of change that has transpired.

  2. ‘Britons strike home’ at least mentions Britons unlike the English imperialist Elgar pomp.
    I thought it too musical for today’s audience but as Purcell’s ‘The Fairie Queen’ came next maybe that would suit the English better today…?
    The dramatic charge is just too dramatic. The woman painting it had indeed the ‘Greys’ running towards her but she had to change things for ‘dramatic effect.’ As mum would note horses that close would bring each other down. They would be a distance apart.Painting, art, and reality are far apart.
    The world I entered had similar ‘Empire’ building, and a flat iron in the cupboard. The plastic toys were ‘Empire Made’ later changed to ‘ Made in Hong Kong’ and the map had pink everywhere. This not long after a war was understandable though by the time I left primary to the teachers satisfaction, not satisfied with my work just satisfied I had left, I note Ghana came into existence and soon all the rest bar Scotland followed. English oppression continues there.

    Of course women ought to be taught housekeeping, it’s what they were made for…

    1. Yes, it’s not all that accurate…and where are the Gordons…you would think she would have incorporated them even if they did not, in fact, catch on the stirrups to be carried along by the cavalry…

      Had to laugh at the Faerie Queen being appropriate for modern England….I suppose you could add Iolanthe to that…where all the peers are peris…

      Were women to be made for housework it would not be necessary to teach them…

      I wonder just whom were the dumb clucks who believed the lies in the Referendum campaign and voted to stay united….I expect they were the same ones who wanted to stay united to the E.U….must be a fair bit of gnashing of teeth going on there…

  3. For me the prize goes to 50,000+ England fans at Twickers bellowing out the lyrics(?) of ‘Swing Low’ whilst simultaeously miming the actions! For poignant tear-jerking then ‘Flower of Scotland’ to commemorate the one-time arse-kicking you dished out to the English and for which you are still paying.

    1. I am firmly convinced that ‘Flower of Scotland’ is responsible for the poor showing of Scottish teams in whatever sport you wish to name…live through the rendition of that dirge and any oomph you had while preparing for the match would be rapidly de-oomphed
      They should try ‘Johnny Cope’….

  4. As you say, there’s not much sign of patriotic fervour these days. A lot of warfare has got so tangled and complex (especially in the middle East) that people hesitate to automatically support the British. Patriotism now seems to take the form of rabid attacks on immigrants and anyone who seems not to be “one of us”.

    1. I’m not particularly nationalistic…though scratch any Scot and a hideous mixture of oatmeal, puritanism and grudge bearing will emerge…..and could certainly not find any sense of congratulation for the dirty wars the British government has involved itself in…but I do miss a certain pride in a country and its culture.

  5. I remember learning the words of Three German Officers Crossed the Rhine from other boys when I was at an army cadet camp during my boarding school days. Beyond the pale indeed.

  6. “We want to score one more than you!”
    Nothing ever changes. We have a sort of cancer over here I’ve dubbed “Screaming Eagle syndrome.” There is an RV sales lot near me that had to add about a mile of mesh link fencing to deter theft. The mesh is strung from metal pole to pole. The poles all bend outward at the top, and in every other one, on a flag pole, the stars and stripes. Well over a hundred flags. I need to do the math. I’m sure they sell guns, too.

  7. I notice that Americanisms are becoming more prevalent in this “outpost of Empire.”
    Things like “gotten” and “would of” are no longer being corrected.And it seems mandatory for all shop assistants to learn the “howsyerdaybin” salutation by rote.
    Never mind…there’s always music!

  8. Gosh do the kids of today play hopscotch and skip, I guess not they are all too busy on their phones!!
    I remember my mum getting her first washing machine, great excitement, and an electric iron, wow. Then I remember clearly we had a small black and white TV in 1951. What seemed like to me, the whole village came to our house to see the funeral of George VI in February 1952. Take care both of you, Diane

    1. Yes, the first all singing and dancing washing machine was a very welcome addition to the family!
      I don;t really know what kids do now, except that they bump into you on the pavement because they are looking at their ‘phones…

    1. They miss an awful lot….
      Life is physically much easier – and so it should be – but it seems to me that people just do not want to, or are not able to, think for themselves and take responsibility not just for themselves, but for whom they allow to get into power.

      1. Sadly true. Seems like the most important course in schools should be Critical Thinking. One has to wonder why independent thinking isn’t encouraged. It leads to “sheep societies” that follow men like Hitler. But then that’s probably the point, the power figures, the deep pockets, control the media/propaganda/etc. I’m lucky I get to work with dogs, who for the most part act saner than a lot of bipeds I know.

  9. That last clip was…diverse. I guess diversity, and the changes deriving therefrom, are a theme of your post. But really, putting up an earworm like “Vindaloo” without fair warning is simply cruel to your readers.

    :walks away mumbling “score one more than you”….:

    1. You hear it when you’re sleeping, you hear it when you wake…’
      Play that to a court and you might well get away with he murder of the person responsible…….

  10. That everything changes and nothing stays the same is inevitable; that Britain insists on diluting and destroying its own heritage and culture, its own pride in itself through fear of offending others is both disheartening and foolish. But we are not alone in this quest to whitewash history, culture and heritage – I watch with horror as France delights in following suit – Mexican aisles in the supermarkets in Cantal which is as profonde la France profonde as it gets maketh my skin crawleth. Meanwhile, back in the land of the free for a long stint I feel I may become a fully paid up recluse and just slink into a cave for the duration …..

    1. Delighted that you two are finally reunited….the Bean can now relax.
      Oh, good grief…Mexican produce in the Cantal! And to think that I remember when long grain rice was on the ‘exotic produce’ shelf together with Worcestershire sauce……..

      1. It’s quite dreadful – I feel that les Cantaliens are lambs to the marketing slaughter. The Bean is super-relaxed … very happy to be back and happiest that we are all together. The only rice that should be available in France is the Camargue red stuff … do I sound a little draconian?

  11. When I first moved to France the only rice available in the local supermarkets was pudding rice…not a grain of Camargue to be seen.
    Mark you this was in Poitou where at that point in time anything from further south would be regarded with shudderings and mentions of ‘gens bazanes’ – acute accent missing down to my incompetence with the keyboard.

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