Published:

By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-06-01 at 13.12.39My mother's father and brother were both professional soldiers.  My grandfather survived the First World War more or less unscathed, but my uncle was not so fortunate during the second: he lost the use of a leg, and the partial use of an arm, at Anzio.  Then again, fortune is as fortune does, since a German bullet struck a cigarette case lodged in his breast pocket.  So if you were fanciful, you might say that smoking saved his life.  I don't know what the proportion of Jews serving as professional soldiers was then or is now, but suspect that it's unusual to have two in the family.

I mention this because the regiment that my uncle served in was the Sherwood Foresters.  So did Patrick Mercer's father – and he himself was commissioned into the regiment, or rather into the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, as it had by then become.  Mercer is very knowledgable about the history of the regiment, and was able to tell me, when we were Conservative MPs together, more or less exactly where my uncle was wounded during the battle. He said that there were then a small number of Jewish officers in the regiment who were regarded by their fellow officers with respect and affection.

I defend neither Mercer's misconduct nor him referring to an Israeli soldier as  a "bloody Jew" (which is re-heating the "black bastards" controversy, needless to say). It's evident that the latter was his idea of a joke.  Others will rightly make the point that it was not an amusing one and that anti-semitism is completely unacceptable.  But I think it worth writing as I have to explain why I don't believe that one appalling remark proves that Mercer is an anti-semite.  He used to say that one day we should travel to Anzio, and he would show me the spot where my uncle was wounded.  I expect the visit will never take place, and am sad at the thought.

Comments are closed.