I have always been a huge fan of the Gurkhas, who are among the best soldiers who have served and are still serving for Queen and Country. In that regard, I have the privilege of being in touch with Sir Peter Duffell, author of Gurkha Odyssey: Campaigning for the Crown (Pen & Sword), a former commanding officer of the Gurkhas, who later went on to commanding British Forces in Hong Kong between 1989 and 1992. This impressive and generous military figure also served as British Army’s Inspector General.
Upon learning of Prince Philips’s passing two weeks ago, I wrote Sir Peter to ask him about the relationship between the consort and the Gurkhas. Here’s what he mentioned:
Originaire de Montmagny et diplômé du Collège militaire royal Saint-Jean (CMR), le Major-général Dany Fortin est actuellement vice-président de la logistique et des opérations à l’Agence de la santé publique du Canada depuis le 27 novembre 2020. À ce titre, il est en charge des opérations de distribution des vaccins pour lutter contre la Covid-19 à travers le pays.
Sa longue feuille de route l’a notamment mené à servir sur les théâtres d’opération en Bosnie et en Afghanistan. Détenteur d’une maîtrise en arts et sciences militaires du Collège de commandement et d’état-major général de l’Armée américaine (CGSC) à Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (États-Unis). En 2017, il a été affecté au Bureau du Conseil privé (le saint des saints du gouvernement fédéral) à Ottawa, à titre de directeur des opérations au secrétariat de la politique étrangère et de défense. En 2018-2019, il a dirigé la mission de l’OTAN en Irak.
Le Major-général Fortin est, en quelque sorte, celui qui fournit les minutions aux provinces pour vaincre la pandémie, un vaccin à la fois. Un leader très bien outillé pour mener ce combat.
Malgré un horaire surchargé et d’énormes responsabilités, le Major-général Fortin a néanmoins accepté de répondre à mes questions. Et c’est avec grand plaisir que je partage avec vous le contenu de cet entretien exclusif.
Face à une demande mondiale grandissante et des défis de production chez tous les manufacturiers, les quantités de vaccins et les calendriers de livraison nécessitent une coordination étroite et sans relâche avec toutes les parties prenantes.
Major-général Fortin, pourriez-vous me dire ce qui, dans votre carrière militaire, vous a le mieux préparé à ce que vous accomplissez actuellement?
Harry S. Truman always ranked among my favorite presidents of the United States, if only because he made sure America was the first country to recognize the birth of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. In his new book Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization (HarperCollins), bestselling author and renowned TV personality (MSNBC) Joe Scarborough reiterates that the 34th president faced stern opposition from his Secretary of State George C. Marshall and his deputies, which “[…] led to an open conflict between the State Department and the White House.” Although such a conflict is to be expected, I was surprised and amazed to read that it only took 11 minutes for the president to make his decision, against all odds.
Not much is written about Truman. Not enough in my humble opinion. After all, there is much more to the 34th President than the decision to use the bomb to end World War II. In Joe Scarborough’s words, he was “the most consequential foreign policy president of the past seventy-five years.”
Apart from showing tremendous courage in facing headwinds about Israel, he had previously been instrumental in blocking the Soviet Union’s advance in the Mediterranean area. Upon learning in February 1947 that Great Britain could no longer shoulder its global role because “[…] Hitler’s war machine wreathed that nation in everlasting glory, but exhausted its resources and its people”, the Truman administration had a choice to make. Revert to isolationism or espouse a leadership role in the world. Great Britain would pass the torch to the United States and Washington would undertake the mission of developing and implementing a policy to prevent Greece and Turkey from falling under the hammer and sickle.
La réputation de l’historien militaire Benoît Rondeau n’est plus à faire. Il a déjà publié des livres et biographies remarqués au sujet de Rommel, Patton et l’Afrikakorps pour ne citer que ces exemples.
Dans le contexte du décès de Son Altesse royale le Duc d’Édimbourg, la maison d’édition m’a généreusement donné la permission de partager quelques extraits relatifs au prince Philippe. Qu’ils en soient sincèrement remerciés, en cette journée où je tiens à manifester tout mon respect et ma profonde gratitude envers le Duc d’Édimbourg.
Le prince Philip a servi dans la Royal Navy sur les fronts de la Méditerranée et du Pacifique durant le conflit mondial. Benoit Rondeau résume ainsi l’importance du premier dans la conduite de la guerre :
In my humble opinion, one of the aspects that deserves the most interest about the Duke of Edinburgh was his military service in the Royal Navy during World War II. As I’m right into reading the French edition of Professor Craig L. Symonds excellent book World War II at Sea(Oxford University Press, 2008, published in French under the title Histoire navale de la Seconde Guerre mondiale and published by Éditions Perrin at the beginning of this year), I submitted a few questions to this internationally renowned specialist about maritime warfare and the significance of Prince Philip’s service in the Royal Navy. Professor Symonds generously accepted to respond to my questions and I am extremely pleased, on this very day when we bid a final farewell to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, to share this exchange here.
Anyone interested in learning more about the naval dimension of World War II should definitely get a copy of his insightful and well-written book.
The strategic significance of the battle of Cape Matapan was that it dissuaded Italian naval authorities from attempting to exert influence in the eastern Mediterranean afterward.
In your book, you explain that the Battle of Cape Matapan – in which the late Duke of Edinburgh took part – clipped the wings of Mussolini’s Navy in the Mediterranean Sea. In the larger context of the war, could you tell us more about the significance / importance of the battle?
In the aftermath of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh’s death and the publication of my review of her excellent biography about him, Editor in Chief of Majesty Magazine, Ingrid Seward kindly and generously accepted to respond to a few questions about the longest serving consort in the history of the British Monarchy. For anyone interested in knowing more about the life and times of Prince Philip, I could not encourage you enough to get a copy of Prince Philip Revealed (Simon & Schuster). Without any further introduction, here is the content of our exchange:
Lots has been said and written since the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, but what would be, in your opinion, his main legacy?
His main legacy is his remarkable sense of duty which enabled him to do so many things. I suppose the Duke of Edinburgh awards are the main thing he will be remembered for.
As a biographer, you have certainly met with Prince Philip on several occasions. What is your best memory of those encounters?
Much has been written in the last couple of days about the late Duke of Edinburgh being a rock for his wife, Her Majesty the Queen, and the Crown. But it is rather as “the man of the house” of Windsor that we can realize the extent of the centrality of his role. Thanks to Ingrid Seward’s amazing biography Prince Philip Revealed (Atria Books – Simon & Schuster), anyone can understand why this consort was so instrumental in the success of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.
A “product of a broken home”, Prince Philip understood, from a very young age that life is difficult and that you need to prepare for its challenges. Private school gave him the structure and discipline he couldn’t find in his own family. Later in life, his insistence on ensuring that his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, follow the same path would leave scars in the soul of the future king. But that’s another story.
In a nutshell, Philip ensured that his family would live in a relative environment of normalcy. From his drive to modernize the kitchens of Buckingham Palace to his designing of “[…] a portable barbecue that would fit into the back of a Range Rover so he could take it out onto the moors at Balmoral”, or his insistence for the adoption of television as a medium to reach out to people, the author succeeds in making you feel that Philip was a down-to-heart man. He was keener to “[…] adapt a range of clothing that would keep him warm during the winter months” than to succumb to pump and circumstances and obsequiousness.
11 months ago, right into the first wave of the pandemic, I reviewed Admiral (ret.) William H. McRaven’s excellent book, Sea Stories. Devouring this book was one of the most uplifting moments of this somber period. Not only because I’m a big fan of the author, but also because it is extremely well-written, and the content touched a chord.
That was before I put my hands on Make Your Bed, his shorter previous book which is the companion to the famous commencement speech he gave at the University of Texas in May 2014. While Sea Stories inspired me “from the outside”, Make Your Bed is not in the same category. The 10 life lessons it contains make you dive right into your own life and path. And that’s not always easy.
During his training to become a Navy SEAL, Admiral McRaven was told by one of his instructors: “[…] life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be.” The purpose of this review is not meant to be autobiographical, but I have no choice but to share a bit of my own story to make you understand why this book has had such a powerful impact on me.
As a young adult, I witnessed my parents’ divorce and suffered greatly from it. In a nutshell, everything kept spiraling from bad to worse, with no end in sight. The temptation to “ring the bell” (a Navy SEAL wanting to quit only needs to ring three times the bell that’s located on the courtyard of the SEALs training camp in Coronado, California) was extremely strong. A few months before the family house was sold, I made a crucial decision. In hindsight, that was the best one I could take. I was moving to the University’s student’s residence. I wanted to be close to my classes, to the library where I spent lots of time and to live with other people my age. It was a huge gamble. After I paid the rent for the first month, I found myself with only 50$ in my pockets.