Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Heroic and The Unheroic

London's Imperial War Museum

I was lucky enough to attend The Sun newspaper’s Military  Awards, affectionately known as The Millies at the Imperial War Museum on Tuesday.  You could describe it as a mini Oscars ceremony for the heroes of our armed forces on active service, except that every one of the recipients who had put his or her life on the line neither wept nor postured on the podium. They all spoke articulately with impressive modesty and it was, if my smudged mascara was anything to go by, terribly moving. 

Princes William and Harry presented awards and showed they had inherited  the natural compassion of their mother, Diana, and the good humour of their father, Prince Charles.  There was an affecting moment when a bereaved mother laid her head on Harry’s chest and he responded by putting his head down towards hers and his arm round her shoulder.  Nothing fake about that.

You can read more about it all on The Sun's website here.

But it was not a mawkish occasion at all.  A host of famous actors, comedians, and icons of popular culture added glamour to the presence of men and women in uniform and there was a real buzz of excitement.  I myself had a teenage moment on being introduced to Alexander Armstrong of Brit comedy duo Armstrong & Miller. 

That man is so gorgeous, so amusing.  It’s lucky he hadn’t changed into his Royal Airforce uniform to do one of their signature sketches (World War II pilots speaking chippy street slang and claiming their human rights in the face of the enemy) or I might have not have been answerable for my actions.

At our table I sat next to a really charming man, Michael Ball, heart-throb singer and actor who has just finished starring in Hairspray.  I warmed to him instantly when he confessed to leading a mutiny in his school cadet force, which took the form of firing blanks at their commanding officer.  Not clever, not heroic, not funny.  Except it was, very.


 I hope my pals abroad will enjoy being introduced to Armstrong & Miller in one of their most famous sketches.  You can find more of this perfect juxtaposition of the heroic and the absurd on You Tube.

Images from top:,,,


  1. Rosie, you've been hobnobbin' with them toffs again! The older I get I find I have more and more appreciation for what the Forces did and continue to do. The ones left behind, too. God help 'em.

  2. Nobody could have failed to be impressed by them that night. A pint-sized female navy able seaman got the MC for running 70 yards under fire to treat a wounded soldier. She was only 21.
    Anyway, did you like theA & M sketch? Would it go down in the States?

  3. I shall look at the sketch when I get back from chiropractor this morning. Last night was too tired to appreciate anything like humor so decided to wait. Do you remember Morcambe and Wise? Let you know what I think later today.

  4. Great sketch. Apt too. I think it would work here pretty well with the generation cognizant there was such a thing as RAF slang and that they'd probably have been into hip hop, being all kids and shit.

  5. I enjoyed the sketch very much - a perfect illustration of caste with all the irony I expected from Brits (when did we begin calling ourselves Brits and not Briton?). As to whether it would go down well over here - I'm not sure. I'm too close and too knowing I think. Liked it a lot, though, and will look at the rest.

  6. Blue and rurritable, thanks for looking at the sketch. And Blue, I thought Briton went out with Boadicea (as in Ancient B..) Brits is a bit ghastly I know.

  7. Rose, it's Blue's "Celt" here. Just wanted to say thank you for a beautiful and entertaining post (as usual) – but especially thank you for alerting me to Armstrong and Miller. At least I think I should thank you, but having just spent the past hour-and-a-half devouring everything they have on YouTube, I wonder... A great accompaniment to my morning coffee. They are wonderful!

  8. Hi Celtic Rory, I am thrilled you love Armstrong and Miller - me too, obviously.
    Ben Miller was doing a PhD in nuclear physics or something and gave it up for comedy. Armstrong was at Cambridge. I get off on their brains! And that's not all. Thanks so much for commenting!

  9. I remember visiting this place when I was 17... Chanced on those big guns quite by accident, wandering solo on the far side of the river. I went inside to escape the snow, and spent like the next eight hours watching documentaries. The Blitz room - and that film where they took all those contemporary families and dressed them up as if it were 1940 again. Good stuff, great haircuts :)

    Thanks Rosie, for recalling the memory and for linking that video - Totally ace!

  10. Those guns are something, aren't they. Glad you loved the museum.. it shows all sides of war and has a fabulous collection of paintings. Oh, and another fan for Armstrong & Miller yipeee.

  11. I haven't been to that museum, but have spent time at the National Army Museum. I was there last year to donate a painting from my father's collection to them. It was right before Remembrance Sunday and was very moving.


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