Thursday, 9 July 2015

A National Characteristic.

There’s a very big book on my bookshelf called The Rules of the Game. It’s a blow-by-blow, more or less real-time account of the Battle of Jutland, in which the Germans were getting the upper hand at one point and British battleships were exploding and sinking with alarming frequency, taking thousands of men to the bottom of the North Sea with them. Catastrophe loomed (from one point of view,) although some balance was restored in the end.

However, what I find interesting is the reaction to this watery carnage-on-a-grand-scale. A German admiral might have muttered ‘Gott im Himmel!’ and his French counterpart ‘Mon Dieu!’ An Aussie variant would have been something like ‘Jeez, mate!’ and the American version ‘Ah, shit!’ By contrast, Admiral Beattie’s famous response was a calm:

‘There’s something wrong with our bloody ships today.’

That’s the attitude referred to affectionately over here as British phlegm.  

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