25 Aug 2013

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I am, unashamedly, a Sherlockian.

A Sherlockian who grew up having the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle read to her and watching Jeremy Brett create screen magic in the Granada TV series but who fell completely and totally in love with the BBC version that is currently gracing our TV screens. And I make no bones about the fact that, although I am fond of Sherlock, John Watson is the character I love the most, especially in the BBC incarnation where soft jumpers and good manners seem to hide a hardened soldier in plain sight.

My head canon for the BBC’s version of John is a little different from the Dr Watson introduced to us by Sir Arthur one hundred and twenty five years ago. In the simplest of terms it is but one change, but that change is huge, makes a big difference to how John spent the years before he met Sherlock. It is also a change that, I’m fairly certain, wasn’t intended by BBC Sherlock’s creators - Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss.

But since when has the opinion of a show’s writers ever stopped anyone thinking up their own version of a character’s back-story? That’s right, never!

So, as it says in the summary, this blog works from the premise that John was not an ‘Army Doctor’ but a doctor who, once he’d qualified as a GP, decided he wanted something different out of life and joined the Army. Only he didn’t do it the easy way and join as a doctor and serve in the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps). No, he decided he wanted to be in the Infantry, rose quickly to the rank of Captain and would have remained in the Army for the rest of his life had he not been shot in Afghanistan.

This head canon sprang into being, almost fully formed, in the first few minutes of the first episode of BBC Sherlock, when we were introduced to John via the medium of seeing him dreaming of front line combat. Initially I dismissed my thoughts as daft, right up until the point where John shot a man with barely a second thought. After that the thoughts refused to go away, despite Sherlock’s repeated use of the descriptor “Army Doctor” and John’s apparent acceptance of the term; my brain pointing out that John himself never uses the term, just agrees when other people use it.

Which made innate sense to me. I think John accepts “Army Doctor” as a descriptor of his time in the army in much the same way I accept the term “Accountant” to describe my current role; I am a qualified, paid up, member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, despite not actually having working as a “proper” accountant for over six years. Accountant isn’t the truth but it isn’t a lie either. Using the term gives the person who is asking about my job an easily understood label to hang on me that offers a clear indication of my skill set and what I’m capable of without me having to recite my entire history.

Which is something I find infinitely preferable to ending up in a detailed and convoluted conversation about my life and prevents me finding myself having to justify my choices from GCSE’s forward – yes, really, it’s amazing how nosy people can be with someone they’ve barely met – and stops the conversation ending in confusion on the part of the questioner and barely suppressed anger on mine.

For someone with ‘trust issues’ I would imagine letting people walk away with a  slightly incorrect impression of what they actually did in the Army would be much preferred to expounding their life story and reasons for their choices every time they’re asked about it. Especially given that, unless you’re from an Army family, you probably have no real idea how the Army works. Plus I can’t imagine John wanting to have to fight against stereotypes and misconceptions as well as explain why he went off to “get shot at” rather than stay in the UK and do something most people think of as a prestigious job.

And please don’t think I’m being rude about the general public’s understanding of the Armed Forces. It’s just that I know when I started researching the Afghanistan conflict I was, very quickly, really quite horrified at how little I knew about Britain’s Armed Forces, never mind the fact that much of what I thought I knew was coloured by Americanised war films and subsequently about 95% wrong!

It was actually my research that really drew me into wanting to understand my head canon for John better. As I learnt more about the British Army, both its structure and its role in the current Afghanistan Conflict, I found myself continually using bits of what I suspected about John’s pre-Sherlock life as jumping off points for further research. Questions like the ones in the blog summary leading me to pinpoint just what areas of the British Army and life on deployment I still didn’t understand.

It also morphed into me properly “playing the game” with BBC Sherlock canon and trying to construct a mapped out history for John that fitted with, or explained away, the mentions of his past life we’ve been given in the six episodes so far and was as true to real life as possible.

I have no doubt that the next series will blow half of this out of the water but hey, I’m having too much fun to stop!

It also made me realise just how much I needed to organise my research on the British Army and the Afghanistan Conflict and how much I still had to do.

The result of the above is this blog.

It’s very much a work in progress at the moment, but my intention is to have the bulk of my current research and “game playing” on here - hopefully by the end of the year.

You’ll find a full list of what I plan on posting in the Blog Contents page but, broadly speaking, there will be four sections:

  1. Playing the Game – This is the John H Watson section. Firstly there will be individual posts on each of the mentions of John’s history I could find in the BBC show canon. Then there will be an essay weaving these points together (or explaining them away) to see if I can make a case for my head canon from the real canon. Finally I will look at what John’s experience of the army – from joining up to being invalided out – might have been like. There will also be links to the fan fiction this has prompted
  2.  

  3. The British Army – Joining up, Army ranks, the kit, training … you name it, if I’ve come across it there’ll be a post on it
  4.  

  5. The Afghanistan Conflict – Anything and everything on the current conflict (including what it is like to be deployed out there in various roles), some history on Afghanistan, the landscape, the Taliban … you get the idea.
  6.  

  7. British Army History – The Army has changed a huge amount in the last hundred or so years and this section will contain histories of various different regiments and corps I’ve come across and found interesting.

I’m also putting together a Glossary of Military Terms (because seriously, I have to have my hand written one next to me when I’m researching, even now, because all the jargon won’t stay in my brain) and I’ve listed out all the books, websites and DVD’s I’ve been using in my research, if anyone else wants some source material to get their teeth into.

That said, I have no idea whether any of this will be of interest to anyone other than me. I’m hoping it will, though. In fact I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will provoke discussions in the comments, flush out other avenues of research I haven’t yet explored* and also that people will point out where I’ve got stuff wrong or completely misconstrued something. I’ve found investigating the British Army and the Afghan conflict a lot like walking through the metaphorical wardrobe and finding myself in different world and I’d really like to meet some fellow travellers!

*Please, if you think I’ve missed something out of the “Playing the Game” section or there is something you’d like me to research and share in any of the other sections, shout loudly. I’ll be happy to look into and write about anything you suggest!

johnwatsonswar: (Default)
Please note that this site is a work in progress and most of the below are not posted yet and simply listed to give you an idea of what I’m planning.

 

That said, I'm hoping to have all the posts listed below up by the end of the year.


Playing the Game

 

Posts on each of the mentions of John's past in BBC Sherlock canon

 

S1E1 - A Study In Pink

 

·         The Dream Sequence

·         The Mug

·         The Gun

·         Ella and the blog

·         Mike Stamford's comments

·         Sherlock's Deductions at Bart’s

·         In the flat

·         Sherlock & John in the taxi

·         Mycroft & John

·         "Use your imagination." "I don't have to."

·         The Shot

·         “Dinner?”

 

S1E2 - The Blind Banker

 

·         John's interview and CV

 

S1E3 - The Great Game

 

·         The Pool

 

S2E1 - A Scandal In Belgravia

 

·         "I had bad days"

 

S2E2 - The Hounds of Baskerville

 

·         Pulling rank at Baskerville

·         Shooting the Hound

 

S2E3 - The Reichenbach Fall

 

·         John at the grave

 

-      Deducing John, Or “Army Doctor, Sherlock? I don’t think those words mean to John what you think they mean.” – My interpretation of John's personal history and career based on the above.

 

-      A timeline of John's life.

 

-      Becoming Captain Watson, Or "What would John's life as an Infantry Officer have been like?"

 

 

Information on the British Army today

 

-           Joining the British Army and the Ranking System.

-           How the British Army is organised.

-           Army Training - the where and the how.

-           The Kit

-           Deployment

-           Rules of Engagement

 

 

Afghanistan and the Conflict

 

-           Background on the country itself.

-           The Taliban.

-           Previous Wars in Afghanistan.

-           Operation Herrick and the British Area of Operations

-           Life in Camp Bastion

-           Life in the FOBs

 

 

British Military History

 

-           A Brief History of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers

johnwatsonswar: (Default)
These are sources relating to the UK Armed Forces (the British Army in particular) and the British involvement in the current Afghanistan conflict.


Books

 

NB: All links go to Amazon UK - the books can be bought anywhere but this was the easiest way I could come up with for providing the book summaries where possible. I am intending to review all these books but at the moment I've only managed to write up one. The links to the subsequent reviews will be posted as and when they happen.

 

Memoirs/Accounts of deployment in Afghanistan by Army Personnel and Journalists:

 

plus

Enduring Freedom: An Afghan Anthology – Poetry collated by Ryan Gearing

 

 

Insights into the UK Armed Forces

 

Insights into the Afghanistan Conflict

 


DVD’s/Film clips

 

 

Some Websites to get you started

 

johnwatsonswar: (John military fan fic)
 

·         A Lack of Color - A look at a John right at the start of A Study in Pink, as he dreams of the front line ~ Approx 3,300 words ~ Character study ~ John as an Infantry Officer ~ Canon relationship status.

 

·         A Memory Kindled - Sherlock asks John about his scar and John relives being shot ~ First Person Perspective ~ Approx 800 words ~ Sherlock and John as a couple.

 

·         The Send Off - John tells Sherlock about the comrades he lost in Afghanistan ~ Approx 4,000 words ~ Mentions of Suicidal Thoughts ~ Three years after Reichenbach ~ John as a Royal Marine Commando ~ Sherlock and John as a couple.

johnwatsonswar: (Default)
 My need to detail this particular regiment’s history is, in a small way, down to Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle choosing the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers as Dr John H. Watson’s regiment. However it is mostly due to BBC Sherlock's John Watson claiming he was also a Captain in that regiment when I know, from my repeated attempts to understand the workings and history of the British Army, that the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers no longer exist today.


The Regiment today


Currently they are described on the British Army website thus:

 

The Fusiliers are a two-battalion Infantry regiment. The 1st Battalion is equipped with the WARRIOR Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle and skilled in the complex demands of fast-moving armoured warfare, while the 2nd Battalion is a Light Role battalion with the ability to deploy quickly and adapt to any operational scenario.

 

Where ever the Fusiliers have deployed to they have proved capable of meeting every challenge with courage, determination and a will to win.

 

The Territorial Army Fusiliers (5th Battalion) serve with their regular comrades on operations and on exercise, fitting seamlessly into the tough demands of modern soldiering.


The Regimental Creed

 

I am a Fusilier, trained and ready to deploy.

I will defend my country's freedoms with respect and integrity.

I will always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I will place the mission and the team first.

I will never accept defeat nor let down my mates or my Regiment

I will always be one of England's finest, a Fusilier.

 

Their motto is “Honi soit qui mal y pense” which can be translated directly as “Evil be to him who evil thinks” but is usually translated, within the Fusiliers as “Shame to he who thinks evil of it” or “Shame on him who thinks this evil”.

 

Their current cap badge looks like this:

 

 

(The above has been taken directly from the British Army website here and no copyright infringement in intended)

 

 

At the date of writing this history, 1st Battalion are currently preparing for deployment to Afghanistan in the second half of 2013 and 2nd Battalion are preparing for operations where they will be based in Cyprus. 2nd Battalion have already been involved in the Afghanistan conflict in a variety of rolls, with many of the soldiers and officers being attached to other regimental companies and units serving on the front line (thanks to the specific skill sets their training provides).

 

1st Battalion


The First Fusiliers epitomise the modern British soldier, drawing on regimental traditions dating back to 1674, whilst training and operating to the highest professional standards using modern technology to deliver maximum effect whatever the mission. The Battalion is based at Mooltan Barracks, in Wiltshire.

 

Equipment


The Fusiliers use the Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV), a formidable tracked vehicle, equally capable of providing the backbone for peace support operations or operating in high intensity warfare, moving at speeds of up to 50 kph across country to deliver overwhelming fire power from the Warriors 30mm cannon and chain machine gun, even before the infantry soldiers carried by the vehicle enter the battle.

 

Organisation


The 700 officers and soldiers of the First Fusiliers are commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel and grouped into five companies each commanded by a Major. There are three Warrior companies, a manoeuvre support company (reconnaissance, snipers, anti-tank missiles and mortars) and a Headquarters Company (equipment support, logistics, communications, intelligence, training support, administration, catering, and welfare).

 

Capability


The First Fusiliers can deliver a huge amount of capability backed by experience, training, professionalism, judgement and firepower as a modern armoured, digitised Battlegroup. Its command and control systems are trained, exercised and tested using modern state-of-the-art computer simulation systems and rigorous field exercises. However it would be wrong to imagine that the First Fusiliers work alone.


This description has been taken from the British Army website here and no copyright infringement is intended.


2nd Battalion


The Second Fusiliers are a superb, operationally hardened Light Role Infantry Battalion. The Regiment has served in every major campaign dating back to 1674, which includes the most recent deployments to Afghanistan.

 

Life in the Second Battalion is always varied and interesting, whether you are a mortar man, anti-tank missile operator, signaller, reconnaissance platoon soldier or machine gunner - you will be at the cutting edge of technology and fighting power.

 

The 600 members of the Second Fusiliers are grouped into five companies. There are three Rifle companies, a manoeuvre support company (reconnaissance, snipers, anti-tank missiles, heavy machine guns, grenade machine-guns and mortars) and a Headquarters Company (equipment support, logistics, communications, intelligence, training support, administration, catering and welfare).

 

The Second Fusiliers can deliver a huge amount of capability backed by experience, training, professionalism, judgement and firepower as a modern Light Role, digitised Battle Group. They have experts in jungle and arctic warfare, the battalion is trained, exercised and tested using state-of-the-art computer simulation systems and carries out rigorous field exercises. As a part of 7 Armoured Brigade (The Desert Rats) it forms an important part of the Brigade's fighting power which include tanks, artillery, engineers, medical and logistical support.

 

Again, this description has been taken directly from the British Army website here and no copyright infringement is intended.




The History of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers

 

The Regiment as it is today came into being in 1968, merging together the four regiments which made up the Fusilier Brigade Rgts; the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt), the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.

 

I’m going to give timelines for each of the regiments in turn, from their creation up to the date they came under the Fusilier Brigade Rgts.


It should be noted that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers did not take the Scottish Irish or Welsh Fusilier regiments – they were merged into their respective ‘large’ regiments; the Royal Scots Fusiliers were merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland; the Royal Welsh Fusiliers into the Royal Welsh; the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in to the Royal Irish Regiment.


Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt)

 
  • First raised in 1685 by Lord Dartmouth from Tower of London Guards, they were initially titled The Ordinance Regiment but soon became known as the Royal Regiment of Fuziliers.
  • Between 1655 and 1747 the regiment was known by seven different Colonels names and, in 1703, 1718/19 and 1756/57 served as Marines (the Royal Marines were not officially formed until 1755 but can trace their origins back to 1664 and have ties to many Fusilier regiments).
  • In 1747 they were ranked at 7th Regiment of Foot as well as being known as Royal English Fuziliers
  • In 1751 they were re-designated 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers) – comprised of 1st & 2nd Battalions.
  • In May 1881 they were renamed 7th Foot (Royal Fusiliers) but that was short lived.
  • In July 1881 they became Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regt), still with 1st and 2nd Battalions.
  • In 1948 the 2nd Battalion was disbanded.
  • In 1958 they became part of the Fusilier Brigade Rgts.


Lancashire Fusiliers

 
  • First raised in 1688 by Sir Robert Peyton as independent companies. Taken into the English service as a Regiment of Foot in 1689.
  • Between 1689 and 1751 the regiment was known by nine different Colonel’s names and in 1701 served as Marines.
  • In 1751 they adopted 20th Regiment of Foot, which they had been ranked as since 1747.
  • In 1782 they were re-designated 20th (East Devonshires) Regiment of Foot – comprised of 1st and 2nd Battalions.
  • In 1881 they were renamed 20th Foot (East Devonshire).
  • In 1898 they became known as The Lancashire Fusiliers.
  • In 1958 they became part of the Fusilier Brigade Rgts.

 

Royal Warwickshire Regiment

 
  • First raised in 1674 by Sir Walter Vane for service in Holland and known as Sir Walter Vane’s Regiment of Foot.
  • In 1688 they were transferred to English service.
  • Between 1688 and 1747 they were known by 12 different Colonel’s names and in 1701 served as Marines.
  • In 1751 they adopted the name 6th Regiment of Foot, which they had been ranked as since 1747.
  • In 1782 they were renamed Regiment of Foot (1st Warwickshire).
  • In 1832 they became 6th (Royal First Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot – comprised of 1st and 2nd Battalion.
  • In 1881 they were renamed 6th Foot (Royal Warwickshire).
  • In 1898 they became the Royal Warwickshire Regt.
  • In 1963 they became Fusiliers when they became part of the Fusiler Brigade Rgts.


Royal Northumberland Fusiliers

 
  • First raised, for service in Holland, in 1674 as Viscount Clare’s Regt of Foot. Also known as the Irish Regiment and a Lt Col Anselmne’s Regt of Foot.
  • In 1688 they were transferred to English service.
  • Between 1688 and 1747 they were know by 9 different Colonel’s names.
  • In 1751 they adopted the name 5th Regiment of Foot which they had been ranked as since 1747.
  • In 1782 they were renamed 5th (The Northumberland) Regiment of Foot.
  • In 1836 they were renamed 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot – comprised of 1st and 2nd Battalions.
  • In 1881 they were renamed 5th Foot (Northumberland Fusiliers)
  • From 1904 they were simply known at the Northumberland Fusiliers.
  • In 1935 they were renamed Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (the 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1948).
  • In 1958 they became part of the Fusilier Brigade Rgts.

 

The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers hold a special place in my heart because of this:

 

 

A cap badge of the design which was worn between 1904 and 1935. This is now mine, having been given it as a Valentine’s Day present by my OH this year.

 

Since they stopped making them in metal at the start of WWI (as they needed the metal for other things, like bullets and guns) and they didn’t ever manufacture that design in metal again, it is safe to assume, on the balance of probability, that this badge was worn by someone who served in the Regiment at the start of WWI and probably saw action in the trenches on the Western Front.

 

It is special to me because it sparked thoughts of who wore it and what it has seen and could tell me, if only it could talk, which were central to my creation a believable main character for the WWI novel I am working on.

 

All the information above has been gathered from the following sources:


The British Army Website: http://www.army.mod.uk/home.aspx


Amalgamations in the British Army 1660-2008. Ancestry & Cap Badges by Goff Lumley


The Oxford History of the British Army – Chandler & Beckett

 


No copyright infringement is intended.


 
johnwatsonswar: (Default)
These are defined on "Card A" and must be obeyed by all British Forces in all engagements in Afghanistan.

 

When you read them, the comment made by John Reid when he committed 3,300 more troops to the conflict in January 2006 that "We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction" does make slightly more sense, even if it seems no more realistic.

 

Rules of Engagement

  • Firearms must only be used as a last resort in protection of of human life. You are only to open fire against a person if he/she is committing or about to commit an act likely to endanger human life and there is no other way of stopping it.
  • A challenge MUST be given before opening fire unless to do so would increase the risk of death or grave injury to you or any other person other than the attacker(s).
  • If you have to open fire only fire aimed shots, fire no more rounds than are necessary, take all reasonable precautions not to injure anyone other than your target.
  • This guidance does not affect your inherent right to self-defence. However in all situations you are to use no more force than absolutely necessary.


This is all very well and good in theory, but when you are actually under fire or in the middle of ambush it's all so much bull**t -how on earth any soldier is supposed to determine how much force is necessary when half the time he can't even see the insurgents who are firing on his is beyond me!

 

I have taken these rules, verbatum, from pages 143 and 144 of Task Force Helmand by Doug Beattie MC.
Read the book, link in the bibliography, it's fantastic!


A Small Disclaimer

Please note that I am not part of, or affiliated with, any arm of the UK Armed Forces. These are my opinions and thoughts based on what I've read/seen in the various books, DVDs and websites listed in the bibliography on this blog.

It is entirely possible I've misconstrued, misunderstood or just got some things completely and utterly wrong. If you see any errors or omissions, glaring or otherwise, please let me know! In fact all comments, thoughts and discussions are actively encouraged.

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John Watson (shh, let's pretend)

November 2013

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