thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Monday, February 20, 2006
I was listening to music on the way up the road today and one of those strange synergistic things happened. There were some military recruiters and as I walked by this tune by The Pogues came on...

As I was walking down the road
A feeling fine and larky oh
A recruiting sergeant came up to me
Says he you'd look fine in khaki oh
For the King he is in need of men
Come read this proclamation oh
A life in Flanders for you then
Would be a fine vacation now

That maybe so says I to him
But tell me sergeant dearie-oh
If I had a pack stuck upon my back
Would I look fine and cheerie oh
For they'd have you train and drill until
They had you one of Frenchies oh
It may be warm in Flanders
But it's draughty in the trenches oh

The sergeant smiled and winked his eye
His smile was most provoking oh
He twiddled and twirled his wee moustache
Says he I know you're only joking oh
For the sandbags are so warm and high
The wind you won't feel blowing oh
Well I winked at a cailin passing by
Says I what if it's snowing oh

Come rain or hail or wind or snow
I'm not going out to Flanders oh
There's fighting in Dublin to be done
Let your Sergeants and your Commanders go
Let Englishmen fight English wars
It's nearly time they started oh

I saluted the Sergeant a very good night
And there and then we parted oh

This all jogged my memory. My brother once said to me that about 50% of the SAS was made up of Scots even though Scotland only accounts for about 9% of the British population. I don't know if it is true but he was quite proud of this. He is a supporter of Scottish independence so I asked why he should be so proud of Scotland doing England's dirty work for it. He didn't have a reply.

I decided to look into it a bit more. Not the SAS stuff but the general numbers involved.

As I said, Scots make up about 9% of the UK population but it seems that more Scots as a percentage get killed in almost every war we have been to.

Some stats...

World War 1 - 27% of the Scots that fought were killed as opposed to the 12% total for the UK as a whole .

In World War 2 the Scots accounted for a third of the UK's dead.

In Korea the Scots were one in four of the UK's dead.

In Iraq 14 of the UK's dead have been Scottish, which accounts for about 14%. I haven't been able to find stats for how many of those sent are Scottish as opposed to English. Incidentally, there is often talk here that the British run sections of Iraq better than the Americans but the UK total of just over 100 deaths is consistent with the amount of American casualties when you factor in the numbers of troops sent.

The historical record is even more damning. When the Jacobite rebellion was put down the majority of those killing the rebellious Scots were other Scots fighting for the British Crown. What reward for service and loyalty were these people given? Here is a quote that tells you...

[The Duke of] Cumberland gave orders for "No Quarter Given": in other words 'none shall live'. His army marched on and killed every wounded Highlander left on the field - and then made his way to Inverness to carry on the fight. Raiding homes looking for Jacobites, all were labeled as one and swiftly put either to the end of a musket - bayonet - hangmans rope or burnt alive in their homes. Women, children, old and young, his orders were "No Quarter Given" - and none was. For months his army moved around the Highlands clearing out any threat once and for all that Highlander should ever pick up a Broadsword against England.

The English parliament, in reply to Cumberlands reports, said that "It will be no great mischief if all should fall". The support for Cumberland's ethnic cleansing was total.

Some 500 years before Culloden it is also documented that King Edward (Longshanks) I of England said "The trouble with Scotland is that it is full of Scots". Famous words that were spoken not only by Longshanks, but by every conquering Englishman who set foot on Scottish soil. It was now 1746, and these words were being echoed by these gentlemen, albeit in a different sentence.

The thought occurs - why on earth do we keep doing it?

One possibility is economic conscription - Scotland is a poorer country than England and it is likely that more people go into the military because of lack of opportunities in other areas.

Another is that the interests of the Scottish people are deliberately kept from them.

Scotland has always been kept tied to England through a combination of force and bribery. Some people in Scotland have tried to fight this, others have went along with it and played their part in all the empire building and the genocide. Our hands are dirty, no doubt about it, but when Tony Blair goes on about being willing to pay "a blood sacrifice" I just wish the people of Scotland would realise that it is statistically and historically far more likely to be them that is paying it.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 4:45 pm  
  • At 5:16 pm, Blogger That Damned Jezebel said…

    I guess every nation needs their bitch, and we know which nation Blair belongs to. The way of the world?

  • At 5:34 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    to a point. it doesn't make it nice though. it i sort of slef-inflicted here though. the independence movement goes up and down but hasn't gotten that close despite the fact that a lot of people want it.

    if people are asked the straight question about whether or not they want scotland to be independent the polls usually show around a 50/50 response. its when theyasked if they want to vote for the main independence party that the vote falls away as people don't like them because of other issues. #

    writing this i was reminded of the bit in the southpark movie where the black battalion of troops are getting sent on the dangerous mission...not so much this time round but in previous conflicts i can envisage that happening with the scottish troops

  • At 6:32 pm, Blogger Delescluze said…

    Echoes from Hamish Henderson here...

    'O would you be a sodger
    And list with Sergeant Death-
    Queen's shillings in his sporran
    And whisky on his breath'

    I don't know what it'll take for the country to come round to the answer given in the same song:

    'If Sergeant Death struts near us
    We'll slash his painted drum.'

    Smout reckons on 110,000 Scots dead in WWI, 15% of the total British war dead, higher in proportionate terms than for any other country in the Empire. And, of course, of those dead 13 out of 14 were privates and NCOs from the working class: not enough is done to remind people today of the 1930s definition of a bayonet as 'a weapon with a worker at each end.'

  • At 7:22 pm, Blogger GraemeAnfinson said…

    We do the same here, with poor people. It used to be minorites, but now there are plenty of poor whites who go die for a rich white guys ideological war of choice. It is disgusting.

    South Park makes me laugh. "It will be your job to protect the tanks as well," as they strap the black soilders to the tanks as a human shield. exaggerated, but it has some truth to it

  • At 7:54 pm, Blogger Keir said…

    Michael you beat me to it. After reading the post and before getting to the comments, first thing I thought of was "Operation Get-Behind-The-Darkies".

    Seriously though. The statistics have to be worse in the States. What is needed is a way of articulating simply and widely that people never fight their own wars.

  • At 3:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Don't you have "student deferments" there, or Dick Cheney's "other priorities" excuses? Is it more misguided patriotism or just plain old economics that fuels the recruiters quotas? D.K.

  • At 3:27 am, Anonymous peacechick Mary said…

    I know! It seems every other time I go to the BBC, there is another batch of Scots heading to Iraq. I can't figure it out - I know the majority of Scots oppose the war, so why in the world are there so many soldiers coming from there? Do they not have any way to avoid it or are they forced? Sad, for sure.

  • At 9:47 am, Blogger a rose is a rose said…

    and now you have me singing the pogues 'and the band played waltzing matilda'. one of THE saddest songs i have ever heard

  • At 1:52 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    DK - they have a sort of student system but it is mainly for wannabe officers - called the officer training corp. they do 5 years or something.

    mary - there are a few scots regiments but they are not entirely made up of scots. it is a confusing picture because they get moved around. i am only using the stats for where soldiers are from and not which regiments

    delescluze, thansk for reminding me of that quote

    rose - it is a good tune. i saw a guy doing it brilliantly at an open mic a while back

    keir - right as usual

    graeme - yeah. scots are a minority in the UK sense.

  • At 6:11 pm, Blogger The Blind-Winger Jones said…

    Poorer areas of the UK contribute a greater number of servicemen and women - it was ever thus. Northern England, Wales and Scotland disproportionately contribute compared to the wealthier Southern England. When opportunities are limited the forces seem more appealing. Depressing, but true.

  • At 2:38 pm, Anonymous Croila said…

    Wow. Fascinating article - thank you. I know the Scots have a big tradition of fighting the English government's wars, but I had no idea the figures were so high.

    Seems like a disproportionate amount of Scotland's current army strength seems to be in Iraq, compared to the rest of the UK. Yet, they're pruning down the Scottish regiments. Hmmmm.

    Of course, years ago, round the times of WWI and WWII, joining up and going to war was a way of both escaping poverty and "seeing the world", particularly in the Highlands and Islands. The first time my grandfather walked on a tarmac'd road was when he left Lewis to go to WWI, and his first stop en route was Dingwall. I can understand how going to war would have appealed to guys back then, but not so sure why it does nowadays.

    But anyway, how I hate the all too prevalent "cap in hand" attitude!

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What is Tubthumping and who is doing it?

Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
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Thumping The Tub Video

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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

  • Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition
  • This was a REAL song from World War 2. I was so stunned by it I had to make a movie

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