Friday, 4 September 2009

Bugles (and a Trumpet?) at Henry Allingham’s funeral

aux-morts-v3 I see the sad obsessive type who runs the Last Post Bugle Call page has written something about Henry Allingham’s funeral. It would seem that expensive and perhaps even painful research has led him to write a line or two describing what happened. One rousing (aha) cheer.

I must say that, as always (uh?), I’m astonished by the way in which, if you know anything about a news story, you quickly realize how much inaccuracy creeps in (like ejector seats in a Whitley!) and so I fear it has been with this story's coverage in the mainstream media. Journos and others happily assert what they think may have happened, or what their prejudices tell them happened, or even (horrors!) what a press release told them happened. In the meantime you, if you happen to know anything about bugles or yoghurt or aircraft or football or crochet or archaeology or theology or sociology or phrenology (OK OK) or just to have Been There When It Happened, you sit there chewing your knuckles in rage and muttering how could they possibly write that until the nurse arrives with your medication. What? Oh yes, sorry.

I remember once many years ago when the local paper did a piece about a dig on which Mum was working as a volunteer. This was my first encounter with Press Disillusionment, harmless really though it was. There was a nice photo of Mum holding up an artefact and the caption said “look, a piece of 12th Century pottery!” Great. lovely, nice story. Why’s this a problem? Well, no-one died but I do remember Mum pointing out that (a) she’d never said anything of the kind and (b) it wasn’t C12 anyway but a bit (a century or two or three) younger than that. In other words, the journalist simply made it up or, if we are to call a spade a spade, they – er - lied. Now as I say no lasting harm was done but experiences like that do make you suspicious; and every subsequent story of which I’ve had personal knowledge has been wrong in some detail or other … and of course the message is that if on my or your small sample of personal-knowledge stories there’s always something wrong, then how right is all the rest of what’s published?

And indeed does it matter? If some little detail is wrong in every story then it still means most stories are say >95% right – maybe that is good enough, and obsessing over pottery or bugles profits us naught. Sigh. I dunno. What do you think?

Anyway, back to the funeral. It was a splendid, impressive affair, and hardly sad at all – which is pretty reasonable, when you think it through. The musicians were great and their performance enhanced the whole thing immeasurably (yes, I would say that, wouldn’t I?). It was especially good/interesting/whatever to hear the French guy play Aux Morts, and to hear the Royal Marines at the end play the Naval Reveille, which took me more than a moment, though it should not have, to recognize. All good stuff.

Picture credit: The image showing the French player in mid-call and the two Royal Marines ready to go next was “borrowed” from the BBC News story mentioned above, thank you.

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