Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on a speculative fire, a misnamed gun and still no defeat for Putin

Yuletides are getting much of a muchness, all muggy, fuggy and tepid, with few blizzards or hurricanes to distinguish one from another.

Towering inferno – not

For a few hours recently, the latest one looked like being distinguished as “The Christmas when Blackpool Tower burned down.” Fortunately, the “flames” reported by passers-by in the Lancastrian resort were no more than plastic strips blowing in the wind. Hindsight is a wonderful thing; it looked like a fire to me.

My eye was caught by a news report concerning an Abbot self-propelled gun (or “tank” as most reports misnamed it). This 1960s Abbot was parked outside a kitchen supplier in Basingstoke to draw attention to the owner's long-running dispute with the company.

Images of the Abbot took me back to an argument on a drive across Salisbury Plain one golden evening in the 1980s. I was a young TA officer, my passenger was a dour old staff sergeant. Suddenly on the reddening horizon, a vehicle appeared, parked in a field with its barrel pointing at the sky.

“That's a US M90 mobile howitzer,” I declared, knowledgeably.