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How long be­fore we put Rorke’s Drift on trial?

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There’s a rather jolly later episode of The sweeney, from 1978, fea­tur­ing that fine ac­tor Colin Jeav­ons as Lionel Gold, an east end boy-made-good up for a knight­hood.

A few days be­fore he’s about to get the tap on the shoul­der from her Maj, a two- bob gang­ster turns up at his hamp­stead man­sion with a set of com­pro­mis­ing pho­to­graphs.

Noth­ing Fifty shades Of Grey, mind you. No, these snaps are of Gold when he was a squad­die in Malaya and found him­self caught up in a mas­sacre of civil­ians dur­ing the up­ris­ing.

Long story short, chummy wants 50 grand in cash to stop the pho­tos find­ing their way into the news­pa­pers.

soon, we’re into a full- scale blackmail con­spir­acy, in­volv­ing ev­ery­one from Gold’s for­mer com­mand­ing of­fi­cer to Vic­tor Mel­drew — a youth­ful richard Wil­son stand­ing in for Frank hask­ins as re­gan’s boss at the Yard. I don’t bee-lieeve it! The ex- CO, now a dodgy mer­ce­nary re­cently re­turned from An­gola and down on his up­pers, reck­ons Gold will pay a lot more to save his rep­u­ta­tion and de­mands £300,000.

This be­ing The sweeney, none of it ends well and there’s claret all over the Axmin­ster af­ter Gold tops him­self in his study, rather than risk the shame of ex­po­sure.

even then, the Malayan emer­gency was 25 years ago. The idea that some­one could still be hounded by ghosts from a past life seemed ab­surd.

I was in my early 20s when I first saw this episode and, frankly, the mil­i­tary ad­ven­ture in Malaya, be­fore I was born, seemed as re­mote as the relief of Mafek­ing.

Yes, jus­tice does have to be seen to be done. But I’m baf­fled by the mod­ern ob­ses­sion with re- lit­i­gat­ing the past, es­pe­cially when it’s re­fracted through a present-day prism.

The po­lice have spent years dig­ging up the grave­yards to pur­sue lurid al­le­ga­tions of ‘his­toric’ sex abuse against longdead politi­cians.

Celebs from the seven­ties have had their lives turned up­side down by claims that they may once have touched up a go-go dancer on Top Of The Pops, back when slade were Num­ber One ev­ery week.

It’s bad enough when blame­less MPs and disc-jock­eys find them­selves in the frame for some long­for­got­ten al­leged in­dis­cre­tion.

But the real scan­dal in re­cent years has been the per­se­cu­tion of ex-ser­vice­men ac­cused of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour while on ac­tive duty. What’s been vis­ited on soldiers who served in North­ern Ire­land is es­pe­cially mon­strous — par­tic­u­larly when hard­ened IrA and Loy­al­ist mur­der­ers were given an amnesty by Tony Blair. AT

Least the Trou­bles are rea­son­ably fresh in the mem­ory, even though it’s now 20 years since the sign­ing of the Long Good Fri­day Agree­ment.

What had me hark­ing back to The sweeney’s re­gan and Carter in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Lionel Gold blackmail plot was a story yes­ter­day that Bri­tish veterans of for­eign wars dat­ing back over half a cen­tury could still find them­selves be­ing ar­rested and tried for ‘colo­nial abuse’.

Claims have emerged that those who served in Malaya (or Malaysia, as we must now call it) could face charges un­less the Gov­ern­ment ur­gently in­tro­duces a statute of lim­i­ta­tions on so- called ‘war crimes’.

same goes for squad­dies sent to Cyprus and Kenya in the af­ter­math of World War II.

All this has come out of one of the long­est civil tri­als in his­tory, which most of us had no idea was tak­ing place (me nei­ther) and only ended a cou­ple of days ago.

It was a class ac­tion brought on be­half of 40,000 Kenyans who al­lege they were mis­treated by Bri­tish forces in the Fifties.

For­tu­nately, the case was thrown out by the high Court af­ter five years of wran­gling, cost­ing mil­lions of pounds in tax­pay­ers’ money. how much, we’re not told. But think of a fig­ure, dou­ble it and you still won’t be in touch­ing dis­tance once the assorted rumpoles have had their sticky fin­gers in the honey pot.

Most of these vex­a­tious ac­tions are led not by the al­leged ‘ vic­tims’ them­selves but by spiv law firms har­vest­ing claims to milk the le­gal aid and com-pen-say-shun bud­gets.

re­mem­ber the ghastly Phil shys­ter, the pink-be­spec­ta­cled, Left-wing Brum­mie chancer who got rich per­se­cut­ing Bri­tish ser­vice­men in Iraq and Afghanista­n and later de­clared bank­ruptcy when he was found out? Couldn’t have hap­pened to a nicer man.

With no spe­cific time limit, Jonathan Duke-evans, who used to run the lit­i­ga­tion sec­tion of the Min­istry of De­fence, warned that ‘large num­bers of new claims from other end-of-em­pire op­er­a­tions many decades ago would sud­denly emerge from places like Cyprus and Malaysia, and that ev­i­dence to de­fend the cases would no longer ex­ist.’

Why stop there? Once the briefs sniff a bumper pay- day, all bets are off. We’ve al­ready had the Old Bill try­ing to pros­e­cute politi­cians posthu­mously.

With Bri­tain’s rich mil­i­tary his­tory, the sky’s the limit. There must be a few old sweats who landed on the beaches on D-Day and are well over­due for a tug on war crimes charges.

Maybe the lawyers can launch a ret­ro­spec­tive ac­tion against the es­tate of the Duke of Welling­ton for fail­ing to ex­er­cise enough re­straint over his troops at Water­loo.

The ev­i­dence is star­ing us in the face. On the eve of battle, Welling­ton re­marked of his own soldiers: ‘I don’t know what ef­fect these men will have on the enemy but, by God, they frighten me.’ Case closed. Tre­bles all round. Come

to think of it, my great-grandad Lit­tle­john was at Mafek­ing. I won­der if he al­ways obeyed the Queens­berry rules when deal­ing with the Bo­ers.

If not, I could be get­ting a dawn raid any time soon, as the fam­i­lies of the south Africans in­volved launch a civil suit for com­pen­sa­tion. Maybe they can put Michael Caine in the dock over rorke’s Drift for atroc­i­ties against the Zulu na­tion.

At this rate, no one who ever served in the Bri­tish armed forces will be safe, dead or alive.

‘ Lance- Cor­po­ral Jones. I’m In­spec­tor Jack re­gan of the Fly­ing squad and this is sergeant Ge­orge Carter. You are charged that at the Battle of Om­dur­man, in the su­dan, in the year of Our Lord 1898, you did fix bay­o­nets and were heard to shout: “Them fuzzy­wuzzies don’t like it up ’em!” — in con­tra­ven­tion of both mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline and the race re­la­tions Act 1976.

‘Put your trousers on, Jonesy. You’re bleedin’ nicked!’

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