Saturday, July 2, 2011


Second Battle of El Alamein, Deployment of For...

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We had a family friend, Vivian Gilchrist, who liked to tell a story of how his unit had met up with U.S. troops in North Africa in WW II.

Vivian was a tanker who had lost numerous comrades in action and had several tanks shot out from under him during the seemingly unending series of battles that see-sawed along the Mediterranean coast.

He was wounded several times, and ended the war with a steel plate in his head, more than glad to return to his job as an architect.

Command decided that a football match between the British and the Americans would be appropriate to mark the occasion of their meeting. Quite what was meant by football is a good question since British soccer is decidedly different from American football, but those details are lost in history.

Either way, goal posts were needed. The British deployed a platoon of men to do the job by hand, and they achieved a respectable result after several hours. Most of the time was taken up by digging but pulling the poles vertical, and sliding them into the holes took considerable effort too.

The Americans arrived minutes before the match was due to start, dug the holes in only a few minutes with a mechanical digger, and used only a small fraction of the number of troops the British had used; and were ready on time.

“They were can-do buggers,” Vivian liked to say, “and we were torn between jealousy and admiration. But that’s when I knew the British Empire was over, and the future belonged to the Yanks.”

What ever happened to that can-do nation? I miss it.



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