Ramillies

Ramillies_1706_Duprez

Marlborough accepting the captured standards at Ramillies

One swallow doth not a summer make.  Although the Duke of Marlborough won a great victory at Blenheim in 1704 in the war of the Spanish Succession, he was unable to capitalize on it in 1705.  Given a year to recover his position Louis XIV felt he could at the very least bargain a better peace if he made a military demonstration.

With this in mind in the Spring of 1706 he launched campaigns in Italy and Germany with some success.  On the back of the early gains he launched Marshal Villeroi from Leuven into the Netherlands.  At Ramillies he met John Churchill, hungering for an opportunity to deal decisively with the French.

The French, Spanish & Bavarian alliance collided with Churchill’s English, Scottish, Dutch and Danish army on open flat farmland near the village of Ramillies.  The ground was a flat canvas, the perfect medium on which a skilled general could dictate a battle.  In four hours the Duke of Marlborough demonstrated why he was the greatest general in the world in his day.  23rd May is the anniversary of the battle.

The beauty of such a decisive win early in the campaign season is what happened next.  Malines, Lierre, Ghent, Alost, Damme, Oudenaarde, Bruges, and on 6 June Antwerp, all subsequently fell to Marlborough’s victorious army.  The Spanish Netherlands was Spanish no more.

I wrote this post last night, before the news leaked through of the explosion at the Manchester arena.  This morning we hear that 22 people lost their lives and over 50 have been injured in a suicide bomb blast.  Some of the casualties were children, which is no surprise in the audience of the Ariana Grande Dangerous Woman show.  A lone suicide bomber was responsible.

I hate to jump to conclusions without the full facts, but it has all the hallmarks of Islamic extremism.  John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, had the benefit of a defined enemy with stated aims.  His opponents decked their troops in uniforms and lined them up on fields of battle.  Islamic extremists have no country.  Their aim appears to be the destruction of all that is not Islam.  They are happy to die to achieve this aim and have a constant supply of suicide bombers.  They are happy to slaughter innocent children to pursue their goals.  They are happy to recruit impressionable teenagers, and indoctrinate them in madrasas converting them into weapons of flesh and bone.  How do you deal with such people?

I think Ariana Grande herself said all that can be said:

Arianabroken

Tom Foolery

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We have this bomb shelter in our garden.  It is a silly thing, built in the second world war out of concrete.  Who ever thought that County Tipperary would be a target for bombers?  But it is very hard to go back in time and understand the motivations of those who built it.  I guess it is a small indication of the very real fear that people felt during World War 2, even those in supposedly neutral countries like Ireland.

This bomb shelter floods every autumn when the water table rises, and remains flooded all winter, drying out only in late spring.  It is pretty much a useless endeavor.  The entrance is steep, claustrophobic, slippy, dark and clammy.  A perfect nightmare.

What I find funny is how it has lodged in the childhood memories of so many of my wife’s cousins.  The house has been a constant fixture in the folk memory of her Tipperary family.  As kids they were paraded out here on Sunday afternoons to visit their terrifying Aunt Babe.  Strapped into uncomfortable Sunday best they were expected to behave, to be seen and not heard.

When released from the parlor and set loose in the gardens they made for the Air Raid Shelter.  Boys dared each other to descend into this dark, damp and frightening hole.  So it became a rite of passage for them to dare the horror and emerge unscathed, proud and just that little more grown up.  Any of the male cousins I have met have asked if the air raid shelter is still there.  It looms large in their memory of the house.

In a small way it reminds me of the entrance to Dwimorberg and the men of Dunharrow.  I thought I should stick a sign on it saying;

The way is shut.

It was made by those who are Dead.

And the Dead keep it.

The way is shut.

Lament for Eorl the Young; by JRR Tolkien
Where now is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?