Saturday, 14 July 2012


When the week began we had an army large enough to recapture Bradford, several suburbs of Burnley and even put a token force in Todmorden. By Wednesday we had lost a Brigade (3,500) and by next Monday I expect to see empty sentry boxes at Buckingham Palace and the Colour trooped by the Salvation Army.
An organisation called G4S, an acronym of God-forsaken which rivals in incompetence the Ministry of Defecation, was given three hundred million pounds to provide security for the Olympic Shames. This week it admitted it was terribly sorry but there had not been enough time to recruit enough men to carry out the job. The reason there had not been enough time was that they had not started recruitment earlier and the reason for that is they would have had to pay recruits for a longer time.
So 3,500 luckless service folk have been told leave is cancelled, the holidays they have booked will have to be cancelled and they are going to spend the rest of the summer as usherettes.The Argylls were paraded twice this week. To be told of their demise and the next day to be told their leave was cancelled and they were all going to the Games.
May I make a suggestion? Why not give them the money God-forsaken saved by not recruiting in time and the money they would otherwise have to pay to their staff during the games? So far they are still in profit because the Olympic oaf who drew up their contract omitted a penalty clause
Oh, and another thing. God-forsaken also runs our prisons, including one down the road from our house. I would feel a lot safer if they could hand the contract over to our redundant fighting men.
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This chap rang me up and asked if I wrote biographies for people. I said, “Only rich people” and he said, “That is OK, I am rich.”
That is how I found a dear chum Captain William Higgin.
When I got to know him better and heard something of his life, I said, “You must have spent a fortune.”
Three to be exact,” he told me proudly.
He was one of the finest game shots of his generation. His game diaries, kept since the age of eleven, show a total of 357,000 birds and vermin destroyed. Not recorded was the Dornier bomber he shot down on his family estate at Puddington, Cheshire, or the two sacred peacocks he potted which almost got him lynched by angry villagers in India.
He shot the Dornier bomber as it came in very low on its run to the iron works at Queensferry.
He recalled; “It was quite an easy shot and the next day Western Command in Chester confirmed it had come down.”
The peacocks he shot in India, on safari, and was saved from angry tribesmen by the Head Man, a Cambridge graduate, who smuggled him out at night.
His shooting career almost ended when as a 19-year-old company commander in the 5th Baluch (Jacob’s Rifles) Regiment, King George V’s Own, a bullet whistled past his ear on morning parade.
It had been fired by a deranged sepoy.
Bill’s dilemma was that if he reported him to the CO the sepoy would have been shot. He noticed the man was wearing a marksman’s badge and ordered another sepoy to rip it off.
He said: ‘If you missed me at that range you are clearly wearing it under false pretences.’
He felt justified when six months later the sepoy won the Military Medal.
Fighting on the North West Frontier was conducted in a gentlemanly way.
If a village became obstreperous it was given a warning that on an appointed day the Indian Air Force would bomb it. On that day, the villagers would scatter into the mountains and the Air Force would come over and drop a few bombs. Not many casualties and very little blood letting.



Posted to the Burmese jungle in World War 2, he was struck down with polio and it took ten days to get him to hospital.
He told me: “I warned my soldiers I would shoot anyone I found drinking water from a pond. Then twenty-four hours later like a bloody fool I drank from one.”
After a year in hospital, disguising his polio limp he was back on duty in India as ADC to an Army Commander, Sir Henry Finnis. Subsequently he was Pandit Nehru’s warder when Nehru was imprisoned by the British.
He remembered: ”I looked after Nehru for six months and he didn’t address a single word to me. Can’t blame him. He was kept in appalling conditions, literally in a cage built onto a shed like a dog kennel where he slept.”
After the war Bill ran three farms in Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire, but still managed to shoot five days a week. Then two years before we met he suddenly couldn’t lift a gun. After 59 years the crippling legacy of the polio had returned. Refusing to be defeated he hired a beater to carry him on shoots and hold his shoulder whilst he shot.
The biography we wrote together “Koi Hai” was published the day he went into hospital. He died two days later, a few hours after I had presented him with his first royalty cheque, which I had framed.
His ancestors included the Restoration rakehell 2nd Duke of Buckingham who killed the Earl of Shrewsbury in a duel whilst the Countess looked on, and a Pendle Witch.
He bought Peplow Hall, near Hodnet, “the second finest house in Shropshire”. It had a church in the grounds with a congregation of six and a very fine choir of twelve. The head chorister, who was 92, used to beat for shoots. One of Bill’s guests missed a partridge and shot the chorister in the forehead. Bill thought it would be the end of the choir but a couple of weeks later he was back singing.

RIP, old chum
According to Military records, 142 Skidmores served in the Napoleonic, Boer and two world wars. Only one was an officer, another was a bandmaster, three were corporals and I was the only sergeant (in military records though just missing the war). All the rest were privates, marines and able seamen (one was press ganged in time to be killed with the other three at Trafalgar).
My own career was by a wide margin less glorious. There was me and Flookie Anderson, both Black Watch (RHR), Paddy from the King's Own Scottish Borderers and Kerr, a PFC in the 8th USAF, and the plan we hatched in the Malcolm Club at Fassberg on the Berlin Airlift was to steal a C54 Skymaster bomber, fly it to the Eastern Zone and sell it to the Russians. Our CO Lord Langford would not have taken a forgiving view and I doubt if our long friendship could have been coaxed into blossom.
We had it all worked out to the last detail. The planes only touched down for a few minutes to be re-loaded and Flookie, who was a Hard Man, reckoned overpowering the pilot would be child’s play. We might even be able to sell the cargo of potatoes on the black market. Where the plan fell down was that none of us had the slightest idea how to fly a plane and though Kerr said it was easy we thought it better to err on the side of caution. Had we not, and been caught, we would still be in the glasshouse half a century later.
There would be Tote offices and steeple chasing on Mars if I had been caught smuggling a German boy out of the Russian Zone in Berlin on board a C54Skymaster with a cargo of potatoes. My wife still has the jewelled watch his mum gave me as a token of thanks. His step- father was less gracious. He stopped the bus which was taking me on demob to remind me I owed him ten shillings. Even the RSM who had escorted me to the bus to say farewell was shocked. And two days earlier he had put me on the charge that cost me three stripes. He said he just wanted people to know there were no hard feelings.


1 comment:

BeWrite Books said...

You know, Skiddy, I've read not a word -- during the worst fiasco since Darius screwed up the battle of Marathon 2,500 years ago -- about the vulnerability of other UK cities over the period of the fun and games.

London surely ain't the only city in Britain that's in open season ... there's Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow -- no need for a full list of handy targets, eh? All those centres of population, for instance, that are overlooked when non-Brits mention the 'London' Blitz.

Playing the armchair terrorist (I don't actively participate in the sport), I know where I'd make my mark, ol' chum. It wouldn't be where even half-cocked security was focused, but where it was overlooked. And I'd still get the splash all round and at least a page lead even in the Sunday Post. Neil