HRH Harry was for quite a long time my favourite of the Royal Family. He liked a drink and a good time, he did stupid things and was pretty open about his dislike for the press, plus he seemed charming enough. He even got a hug off a woman who’d campaigned to reject the Royal Family.
So, yeah, the ginger, gaffe prone partying Prince was my favourite.
But his recent decision to come out in support of the return of National Service rubbed me up the wrong way.
“Bring back national service!” Is the battlecry of a certain type of person; normally older, a reader of the Mail or Express who’s convinced Britain has gone to the dogs.
They see gangs of youths as threatening and believe the best way to deal with this is to send these youths off to become killers.
Apparently 2 years in the military can turn you from yob to upstanding citizen. Because nobody who’s ever been in the army has ever done anything wrong.
I used to get then “if you were in the army” line quite often when I was a long haired, lazy and cheeky teenager. Thankfully national service wasn’t around to see what the army would have done to me.
I turned 18 in 2003, so I could have wound up being shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan, possibly to my death in a war I disagreed with.
My grandad did national service, but this mainly consisted of driving lorries and larking about with mates. That doesn’t sound so bad, but the yelling of orders, silly rules and uncomfortable looking uniforms would have got to me. Its not an atmosphere where I’d thrive.
Harry, of course, is the poster boy for the good military service can do. We gave them the boy, they gave us back a man.
A man who does his duty and turned his back on his wayward youth.
Or, y’know, he just grew up, as all of us must.
Harry’s military career was far from typical, his Gran’s the boss for one thing, and while he did go to the frontlime, I’ll bet there were extra precautions to keep him safe.
But Mrs Page’s baby boy? I’d have to take my chances. I fell going upstairs the other day, so navigating around IEDs would probably be a challenge. And one I’d probably fail.
If I did make it back I’d be on my own, and like thousands of others probably struggle back in the world (example), Harry meanwhile would have a job waiting for him, being Harry.
Here’s the thing, conscription during WWII was understandable, if morally dubious, and post-war it just stuck around. But there’s a reason it was dropped.
The UK’s population has grown, so there were more volunteers and also war is more technological and long distance so there was less need for as many boots on the ground. Hence, no need for national service.
Harry’s comments legitimise the daft claims it should come back, especially as the supporters tend to love the royals too.
Harry may have loved his time in uniform, it was probably the most normal part of his life, and that’s great. For him.
You want to join the army? Crack on. But don’t make it a compulsory thing. There are tons of folks who probably have zero desire to do it, and it seems unfair to make them all do something with little/no benefits.
Will it look good on your CV? Probably not when everyone has the same thing.
And given that the Mail/Express talk about tax being wasted can we afford to pay every 18 year old to be a soldier for 2 years, and that’s not even with additional costs.
So, sorry, Harry but I think you’re wrong on this one.
And to all the nostalgic, flag waving pro-NS types, here’s a quote from someone who did it, the late, great John Peel:
You all had to work together – even if it was just in things like petty theft and evasion, which were the two things I really learned during National Service.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.