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The Horses of the Apocalypse
The equine casualties of the IRA’s Hyde Park bomb of 1982 (pictured) have never been forgotten – but none of the names of the human dead have achieved iconic status. plus: computer war games.
Eamonn McCann, 13 Jul 2004
Alas, poor Yetti, I knew him well. And I knew his pal Sefton, too. He died back in 1993. The other of the three equine amigos, Echo, died last year. Now Yetti is gone, the last of the breed.
The sole remaining survivor of the horses caught up in the IRA London bombings of July 20th 1982, Yetti died on June 16th.
“The plumed Blues and Royals were a noble spectacle as they rode their black mounts at a walk through London’s Hyde Park,” Newsweek reported. “But as the cavalry passed a parked sedan, a bomb hidden inside exploded. Horses fell in a writhing mass, dying soldiers bled into the tatters of their ornate uniforms and a woman passer-by, her face shredded, screamed, ‘Help me! Help me!’”
Less than two hours later, the band of the Royal Green Jackets was playing a medley from “Oliver!” at Regent’s Park when a bomb hidden underneath the stage exploded. “Everything seemed to come up from the bottom of the bandstand and flew into the air, the bodies, the instruments, everything. A leg came within five feet of me,” reported an onlooker.
In all, 10 men died. Fifty were seriously injured, some disfigured and/or disabled for life. Seven horses also perished.
July 20th isn’t generally reckoned an anniversary worth marking. None of the names of human dead has achieved iconic status. The stumbling progress through life of soldiers and civilians left maimed has not been tracked by the media.
But Sefton, Echo and Yetti have stayed fresh in the psychic memory.
I recall Sefton on the main ITN News a few days after the bombings. A reporter explained that the trauma had been such that Sefton had lost the ability to whinny or neigh – then held the microphone under Sefton’s nose for 10 seconds or so, so the nation could hear the bombers rebuked by his silence.
Sefton, Echo and Yetti lived out their final years on the 250 acres of green meadow and gentle hills at the Home of Rest for Horses at Speen, near Princes Risborough in the Chilterns. Sefton died in August 1993, aged 30. Echo passed away in March last year at 32. When the last of the three, Yetti, succumbed to old age—he was 36 – Gilly Lloyd, spokesman for the home, said: “Yetti was the epitome of a grand old gentleman. He was, of course, increasingly frail, but never lost his zest for life and never forgot his manners.
“Everyone who knew these three wonderful personalities is devastated. They captured the nation’s heart. A part of ourselves died with them. They were true heroes and deserve to be remembered.”
As indeed they will be. The Evening Standard reports: “Yetti’s courageous spirit will live on. A younger Yetti is already making his mark, according to Riding Master Dick Waygood.
“We could not allow his name or the values he stood for to die” says Waygood. “The younger Yetti is quite a character. His favourite trick is to buck when he jumps. Over he goes, and then he bucks. It’s quite remarkable.”
Meanwhile, the families of young men shot or shredded to death in Iraq weep on screen as they describe how they are scornfully dismissed by the Ministry of Defence when they try to discover how their children’s lives were lost.
Like the man says, remarkable..
A piece in the Guardian’s dinky Saturday Guide section sent me scurrying to the US Army to check whether it could really be true. And it was. It is. In fact, the Gruniad hadn’t told the half of it. It didn’t even mention grunts4hire.
The US Army has become one of the biggest producers of video games in the world. America’s Army, for example, was launched two years ago, not at an industry shindig but at recruitment stands at US high schools, and made available for free download on the net. It recorded 1.5 million downloads in the first six months. Currently, it has two million registered players, almost all in the US, making it one of the top five online games in the world.
The follow-up, Full Spectrum Warrior (FSW), launched last Saturday, June 26th, even as George W. Bush was posing for propaganda pictures at Shannon, brings Pentagon war-games to the Xbox. FSW comes in the guise of a “tactical decision-making trainer.” You will lead a squad of NATO special forces on a humanitarian assault on the Muslim nation, Zekistan, ruled by the tyrant Mohammed Jabbour al-Afad, whose “hatred of the western world is well-known” and who has made his country “a haven for terrorists and extremists”, including “Taliban and Iraqi loyalists.” Your task is to hunt down and kill the “evil ones” commanded by al-Afad and thus “liberate” Zekistan.
Project director Col. Casey Wardnyski is spendidly frank about the purpose. “Young people need to know the army is engaged around the world to defeat terrorist forces bent on the destruction of America and our freedoms.”
The next project, Assymetric Warfare Environment, will have capacity for hundreds of thousands of players simultaneously to strategise and take part in anti-terrorist operations. Virtual reality locations model real hotspots with precise topographical accuracy. Baghdad is first up. You want to take out a sample crowd of Shia fanatics in Sadr City or blast a busload of towel-heads heading for the Green Zone, here’s your chance.
The games are nothing if not bang-bang up to date. The privatisation of warfare has been incorporated. Navigate your way through www.americasarmy.com to Grunts4Hire and you can join with other “contractors” in operations aimed at killing “Arab extremists” abroad or “subversives” at home. “Grunts4Hire is actively seeking new recruits who enjoy the game and don’t get too serious.” Gawd forbid we’d get serious.
In the Guardian piece, Steve O’Hagan makes the point that there’s a downside to recruiting youngsters more used to thumbing a PlayStation than laser-guiding a bomb. But Col. Wardnysk has thought of that, too. The same department of the army which is developing games simulating weapons is designing weapons simulating games: the command panels of remote-control weapons in use in Iraq are based on the PlayStation control pad. O’Hagan is maybe going a bit far when he suggests that, “You might describe this colonisation of youth entertainment as the biggest militarisation of an adolescent population since the Hitler Youth.” Maybe.