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|What he probably looked like|
caubeen. 1. Big green hat traditionally worn by the London Irish Rifles to this day and adopted by the rest of the Irish Brigade in Italy in 1943. The Irish Brigade memory kept alive by the Royal Irish Regiment wearing it today. Note the LIR wear it with the capbadge over the right eye and the Royal Irish over the left.
2. (pr n.). Academic, wit, raconteur, sportsman, falconer, soldier, name-dropper and liar.
An interesting cautionary tale in the rise and fall of an internet Walter Mitty. Caubeen first appeared on ARRSE in March 2007, weighing in on a range of subjects. For reasons that were never clear, he used to type most of his contributions in 'bold', possibly as a subconscious shout for attention.
Although, at this early stage, caubeen was rarely, if ever, explicit about his military career the occasional allusions he made suggested that he had served as an officer and was probably now retired. Clearly, his username pointed towards the Royal Irish Regiment and his posts on ARRSE were larded with references to Ireland and the Irish.
Like many, if not most, members of ARRSE, opinion was split over caubeen. Some found him a witty and entertaining poster; others found him a snobbish, bullying bore. Nothing new there then?
One of caubeen's earliest clashes was in the 'Universities and Degrees' thread in the Officers' Forum of ARRSE. Caubeen denigrated the majority of British universities, disparaged several modern degree subjects, and sneered at contemporary post-graduate degrees, comparing them unfavourably with his own education which was apparently conducted at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin and London University. These exchanges made him some real enemies amongst well-established ARRSErs: a fact which was to contribute greatly to his subsequent downfall.
Questions began to be asked about caubeen as the result of two threads which appeared in the Current Affairs forum during which he claimed to be personally acquainted with both Robert Nairac GC and Lt Col H Jones VC. Caubeen's initial claims about these men were fairly limited and there is no reason to believe that they weren't true: he wrote that he had met Nairac through a shared interest in falconry; and that he had met Jones at a cadet shooting competition at Ballykinler.
Both of these claims are entirely plausible but as the threads developed, so did the degree of acquaintance that caubeen was claiming. The implications of some of caubeen's posts about Nairac, particularly, was that he had some professional knowledge of what Nairac had been doing when he was abducted and murdered by PIRA. However, it was clear to some ARRSErs that caubeen was either wrong about or ignorant of several aspects of the Nairac case and this began to ring alarm bells.
A desultory discussion of caubeen ensued in the Bat Cave. It was agreed that he was pompous and irritating, that he was Irish and that his 'revelations' about Robert Nairac might draw some possibly unwelcome press attention to the site. However, it was also noted that caubeen had joined Arrse using an email address which gave his name and initials.
A check of this indicated that the only person with that particular surname and set of initials who had held a commission in the British Army had done so as a 2nd Lt and Lt in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution contingent of the Combined Cadet Force in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This, of course, fitted in with caubeen having met H Jones at a cadet shooting match but suggested that he was greatly exaggerating his claimed knowledge of Robert Nairac's activities.
The information that caubeen appeared to be a Walter Mitty was shared amongst a small group of ARRSErs and various types of bait were sown amongst the threads that he was contributing to in order to see whether he would out himself. He did.
Romanes Eunt Domus
It appears that the success that he had enjoyed on the Robert Nairac thread had emboldened caubeen and he began to let slip further details about his military past. Amongst the most extraordinary of these was the claim that, as the commander of the Londonderry area of operations, he had sent a sitrep to HQNI in Latin as an example of brevity in military report writing. The text of the message was supposedly:
Quercetus quietus est. ('The oak-grove is at peace.')
And the reason caubeen advanced was that:
Int from HQ had alerted me to the fact that the Duty Brig. was a Classic, who might enjoy a little touch of Latin in the night, as well as the good tidings. He elegantly responded, 'Sed Hibernia recordat haudque excusat' ('But Ireland does not forget and never forgives').
This anecdote might be dismissed as a whimsical little fantasy but it is, in many ways, very telling. Firstly, according to caubeen's general account, it took place in the early 1980s when he had a 'crown on his epaulette' (i.e. he was a Major). Apart from the fact that this was by now known to his questioners to be a lie, it also pointed towards caubeen's scanty knowledge of the British Army in Northern Ireland: the individuals who might be said to be commanding the Londonderry AO were, at this time, the commander of 8 Brigade (a Brigadier) or the commanding officer of the Londonderry battalion, a Lieutenant Colonel; it also suggested that he didn't know much about the set-up at HQNI, the idea that there was (or is) a 'duty Brigadier' waiting to receive sitreps in Latin was fanciful to say the least.
The Man Revealed
The 'Latin sitrep' incident began to sow doubts about caubeen in the wider ARRSE community and it wasn't long before he was being openly challenged, primarily in the 'One for the Irish' thread in the Infantry Forum on Arrse. It was in this thread that caubeen announced:
Darling lads of lusty valour and stylish swank!
Tis high time to inform all on ARRSE that I am no connection of Lt (retd) C L McKelvie, late the RBAI CCF and sundry vigins (sic) of that and adjacent parishes.
I am a humble retired Brigadier of Irish infantry, eking out my pecunious pension amid pals on ARRSE and looking forward to the fishing season in the UK.
Quite how caubeen had come to hear that he was believed to be C L McKelvie, a biologist and author of books and articles on field sports and game, is not clear but that is, indeed, who he is. The two email addresses which have been associated with his ARRSE account: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org both point directly towards him.
Well educated as he may be, caubeen is clearly not aware of the old dictum: 'When you're in a hole up to your neck, stop digging'. From this point onwards, the caubeen story became slightly surreal. He continued to maintain his denial that he was McKelvie; he continued to claim that he was indeed a retired Brigadier; and he threatened ARRSE and his detractors with sundry legal actions on his own behalf and that of McKelvie.
Even more bizarrely, he now brought the widow of General Sir John Hackett into the equation. In the course of one thread, caubeen had introduced Hackett as a classically educated soldier much to be admired. He had then, somewhat implausibly, gone on to promote him to the status of 'friend and mentor'.
Now caubeen suggested that Lady Hackett would vouch for him and confirm his status and identity. How was she to do this? By supplying caubeen with a statement which he posted to ARRSE and which stated, broadly, that 'caubeen was who he said he was'. Unfortunately, apart from the inherent implausibility of this forgery, caubeen was unsure about the proper title of the widow of a knight, styling her 'Lady Margaret Hackett' and 'Margeret, Lady Hackett' at differing points in the post (he subsequently claimed that as an Austrian, Lady Hackett spelled her Christian name 'Margeret').
When the 'Hackett letter' was widely derided, caubeen went on to introduce two new characters: a 'ColonelGrytpipeThynne' named after a character from the Goon Show who made a few menacing posts and PMs in support of caubeen; and 'Laganbanks' who claimed to be caubeen's former Platoon Sergeant and Company Sergeant Major (and coincidentally - or not - named McKelvey). Laganbanks was no more plausible than Lady Hackett, in so far as he claimed to be twenty years older than caubeen, which would have made him 48 when he was acting as caubeen's Pl Sgt: a very ripe age indeed, and some years over the usual retirement age for senior NCOs.
The Chimes of Big Ben
Caubeen's last hope to stem the tide of scorn and abuse which threatened to overwhelm him appeared to be the threat of legal action and on Monday 4 June 2007, ARRSE stood poised for writs. Caubeen claimed now that his 'old fishing friend' Jamie Farrer would be acting on his behalf and that he - and C L McKelvie - had engaged Mishkon deReya (sic) as their solicitors.
As the clocks ticked towards 12:15pm, when caubeen claimed the case was scheduled, something of a party atmosphere prevailed in the ARRSE Naafi, as the assembled masses waited to see what possible claim in law caubeen could make. Of course, the threat proved empty and the assembled ARRSErs drifted away, pausing only to heap more abuse upon the bogus Brigadier in the various threads on the subject.
Hardly an Earth-shattering story in the great scheme of things, of course, but it will have consequences. The most serious of these are for McKelvie/caubeen himself. Anyone conducting internet searches for him in future is likely to come across the many, many pages on ARRSE in which he is denounced as a liar, a fantasist and a fraud, and his reputation is roundly defecated on. Hardly a good thing for him.
The odd thing is that it is likely that he didn't come to Arrse with the intention of 'walting'. His literary style, and his evident knowledge of and love for Ireland and field sports created a circle of admirers on ARRSE and had he stuck with what he knew, he would yet be admired to this day.
ARRSE is open to all: you don't need to be a serving or ex-soldier to offer opinions on many of the subjects which are discussed and civilians who are successful in the 'real world' are respected just as much as the military. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the temptation to lie about his military status, probably in order to elevate his social status, and when he was challenged, he compounded the situation with further lies.
The lesson of all this is, I suppose, that 'Walting' is a high risk sport and that anyone trying it on ARRSE needs to do a lot of swotting. The ARRSE community is so diverse and knowledgeable that a sustained and effective Walt-a-thon is a virtual impossibility.
Alas, the epilogue to this story is that, on perusing his weekly copy of the 'Shooting Times' at the beginning of June 2008, ARRSE user Cuddles noticed that it contained an obituary of the late and probably lamented Colin McKelvie. Caubeen had bitten the dust and the ARRSE nation mourned the loss of one of its more entertaining Walter Mittys.
What consequences will this have? Well, for a start, there can be little doubt that Mulligan, caubeen's faithful Irish manservant, will be looking for a job. Any ARRSEr seeking a reliable man who can mix a mean Bushmills and water would do well to put the word out.