Historical Reputations of Military Heroes

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by castlereagh, Nov 28, 2007.

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  1. By a simple twist of fate I found out something quite bad about a war hero and a quite famous one at that. The information has nothing really to do with his military achievements but more to do with his personal reputation. Now it turns out that the information I found it is well - 'unknown' and while it may cause a very minor 'raising of eyebrows'. I just feel that I should do what others must have done and stay stum but is this really fair? After all if a person is revered for their heroism does not his supposed personal behaviour extend to his public life? Or should societies be allowed to have their perfect heroes?
  2. The key thing is that most "heroes" are humans, and by the nature and volatility of innate character traits that make some of our best known "hero's" who they are, no doubt make some less than ideal citizens.

    you can not canonise someone for there great deeds done in the violent and bloody world of warfare, and then get upset and feel let down when they get in a scuffle, or drink too much. The key misunderstanding I think that many historians and the general public alike do not understand is that war is violent, and what we idolise in wartime, is not necessarily acceptable in peacetime, but does not change the man or his achievements.

    Nothing you know or think you know will shock anyone as “heroes” have been demonised for generations once the fighting was over.

    TE Lawrence was accused of having inappropriate relations with young boys, was it true, I have no idea, do I care, no

    Paddy Mayne was a drinker and a fighter; again does it affect the general perception of him, no

    Mike Calvert was also accused as TE Lawrence was. Does it change who he was, no.

    I would suggest that whatever you have found out will no doubt be mostly irrelevant when taken in context of the deeds done. If however you feel the public has a right to know then spill the beans.

    Just my opinion.
  3. Ineresting point - we live in an age when people are obsessed with the "back story".

    Most high acheivers are sh1ts to deal with. Part of what makes them special, I guess. Enormous self belief - there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
  4. If he was a hero then he was a HERO, what he did before or after for that matter does not affect what he did to be called a hero.

    Our Nation is to quick and good and trying to shoot down great people who are unfortunately too human and probably did not want to be put on a pedalstool in the first place... unlike some Fu[\b]ing sporting idiots from the Andrews brigade I could name.
  5. Blame Freud I guess, the 'back story' many times in a historical POV helps at times to explain the decisions and actions that some people take. Take for example my problem with 'Hero X' - I would probably term it as 'personal cowardice', others wouldn't.
  6. By all accounts Douglas Bader was an abrasive bully and Paddy Maine had a drink problem. It dosn't lesson their deeds in my book, just proves that they were human.
  7. Guy Gibson VC was a bit of a shit apparently. A snob, a bully and tried to shag every woman he ever met. So not all bad then...
  8. Should the hero be role model?. No.

    Their bravery is being marked, not their lifestyle.
  9. He was a pilot, need I say more?

    Bader was renowned as being rather prickly as well, but it doesn't detract from his ability as a pilot and the way he inspired his men.
  10. I have no problem with heros being flawed. Who amongst us - regardless of heroism - is not. They generally get awards for what they did and not what they were.
    What you may know, or think you may know, has no relevance. Schtum. Least said soonest mended.
  11. I imagine ‘heroes’ and ‘heroic exploits’ serve as examples to others of what can/has been achieved by people in combat and people, typically, on ‘our side’. Popular fancy may want to imply the individual led an exemplary life, which simple law of averages suggests very unlikely.

    Even citations usually only offer a guide to events rather than a faithful record, and sometimes contain quite a degree of ‘imagination’. Perhaps if some heroes were never in service or in a war environment, they may have ended up in clink for most of their life or even on the gallows? Equally, if never in service some may never have harmed a fly throughout their life?

    Surely awards are given for actions, not lifestyle. Is there a suggestion that awards should be rescinded if it can be established, for example, the individual was innately a homicidal manic?

  12. Gunner James Collis VC

    A perfect example: won his VC on the 28th July 1880 at the battle of Maiwand. It was discovered in 1895 that now a civilian James Collis had a wife in India and a 2nd wife in England.

    Under the existing terms of the warrant of the VC his medal was forfeited along with pension.

    He was facing hard times already and had sold his VC for 8 shillings
    ( 40p )

    At the outbreak of the WW 1 his enlisted aged 58 and served with the Suffolks until 1917 when he was discharged on medical grounds.

    He died in hospital in Battersea of a heart attack in 1918. Was buried in a pauper's grave with no headstone. At least he was given a military funeral with gun carriage and firing party with no mention of his forfeiture.

    In 1920 the Secretary of State for War approved amendments to the warrant that only treason, cowardice felony or an infamous crime should lead to forfeiture of the VC.

    However, it took until 1953 for his name to be included on the list of VC's.

    Thanks to Wandworth council on 22nd May 1998 he was given a headstone with the carving of a VC

    A typical example of a hero who was so unjustly treated for being a fairly normal male human being
  13. Kind of stunned to find out Ian 'Widge' Gleed , BoB pilot and Fighter Leader extraordinaire and KIA over the Western Desert was an alleged seriously predatory homosexual.

    I think it was on a Timewatch or some historical C4 programme?
  14. This isn't a dilemma only in the context you have it, castlereagh; when a squalid or infamous secret is found (and not only after his death) in the personal life of anyone who has previously been held up as an example, there's a decision to be made by the finder.
    I've had one instance happen to me. The GM of an organisation I worked for died suddenly and I had to take over as caretaker. He had been very much a larger-than-life character, with a hugely impressive professional history, more academic postnominals than a roomful of Oxford dons and a deeply envied record of achievement in a very competitive global field. He was also, as I found when I packed his kit, a connoisseur of some very peculiar visual aids, which I decided should certainly not be seen by anyone else, and particularly his wife (I held a bonfire on the bbq that evening). He had left a legacy of great respect for his work, and to tell the truth about any of his extracurricular activities would have done no good and caused a great deal of grief. It wasn't a difficult decision.