Thin Red Line


Then it's "Tommy this," an' "Tommy that," an' "Tommy 'ows your soul?"

But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes," when the drums begin to roll.

The thin red line is stretched thinner yet. Tommy Atkins, the quintessential British solder, is needed not only in Northern Ireland ("Tommy this") but now in Bosnia ("Tommy that") because the British government of John Major favors a large European peace-keeping force to protect supposedly safe zones for Muslims that are yet to be agreed upon. The Coldstream Guards get their turn at the duty Britain has already undertaken protecting convoys and such in Bosnia.

The magnificent bearskin-hatted Guards at whom tourists gawk at British military ceremonies are the real thing. They take their turn at the nasty assignments. The British peacetime army is a thin red line, indeed. New assignments tax the force structure.

And so the army has won permission to reduce the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace from a daily occurance in summer to every other day. Queen Elizabeth won't miss them; she isn't there, favoring other of her houses in midsummer. It's the tourists, flocking to Buck House by the thousands, who will miss them, and the tour operators and guides who live off the tourism, and their families and grocers.

Too much need not be read into this, beyond the British government's having undertaken military obligations slightly beyond its manpower. The Guard is changed at Buckingham Palace only every other day in winter season, anyway. This year, that schedule started July 16. So this is not the end of monarchy or empire. It is not the end of anything. It is, merely, winter in July.

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