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June 08, 2004

Ronald Reagan, Knight of the British Empire

Smash excerpts from President Reagan's last major speech. It contains much of what was great about the man and yet I'd like to add a little something more, a reason why he was and is so well regarded in the British military, also the reason why both he and Caspar Weinberger were knighted.
First, just a litte detour about knights and similar awards. We in the UK have 21 different orders of Knighthood, all traditionally awarded for different things. When a Brit is given one they change their name slightly, for example, from Elton John to Sir Elton. However, if a non Brit gets one, they don't use the "Sir" bit, becoming, say, President Reagan KBE (ie, Knight of the British Empire, one of those 21 different types): this little detail just so I don't start a meme that he was in fact "Sir Ronnie".
Back to the main story. You might remember back in 1982 here was a little war over the Falkland Islands. Whether you think it was the last gasp of colonialism or a war of liberation doesn't matter to me now. I do remember that when it was going on we were living in DC, and Father was a Royal Navy guy working just across the street from the Pentagon. The previous decade's running down of the UK armed forces meant that there were not enough munitions in stock to actually go and fight this war. The Ministry of Defense tried to buy 7.62mm ammo from Belgium, not only our NATO ally but also a country we had gone to war for once and liberated twice (with help of course) in the previous century. Nope, no deal, we were not allowed to buy munitions from our oh so gallant and plucky little neighbour. Zip.
At which point an offer was made from the US. SecDef Weinberger and President Reagan simply opened the doors of the US Armoury to us. Majors and Commanders (the ranks who actually do things like this) were told to simply phone their US counterparts and ask for what they needed. Those counterparts were told to supply it ASAP, all the paperwork and invoicing would be dealt with later. The invasion fleet gorged itself on this offer, indeed it was vital to not only the recapture of the islands, but also to the later fall of the obscene Fascist dictatorship of Galtieri and the military in Argentina.
At the same time there were rumours, not sure if they have ever been proved, that our other fellow NATO allies, France, were continuing to supply spare parts and Exocet missiles to the Argentines, those very missiles that caused the worst casualties of the war in the Antelope and Sir Galahad.
I won't go on too much about how those experiences of the help our continental allies proffered coloured the feelings of several generations of the British military. Suffice it to say that when the chips were down we rapidly found out who we could trust and who we could not.
We have many other titles available to people who help us in times of peril, things like Baron, Viscount, Earl, even Marquis and Duke in ascending order. You in the US do not have such things, and I believe that they are specifically rejected in some of your founding documents. So the highest acknowledgement we could offer was that of an Honorary KBE, which is of course what was both proffered and accepted.
Various people over the next few days will remember him differently, as Dutch, Ronnie, The Gipper, Governor, President and more informal family titles. I'd just like you to know that there is a little corner of the world that will remember him as Ronald Reagan KBE for what he did back in 1982, some parts of that little corner currently part of the coalition in Basra, in Afghanistan and in other places where we are fighting with our tried and true friends.

Update. Doesn't change the tone of the piece but on actually checking I find that he was not a KBE at all. Actually a GCB, An Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. One of the other 21 different types of knighthood and a much more senior one to boot. Same as Eisenhower, Marshall and MacArthur got.
Apologies for the error.

June 8, 2004 in Military | Permalink


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I've heard the part about the US supplying the ammo and equipment before but I didn't know Reagan got a KBE for it. It was well deseved anyway, just as FDR and Lend lease, this shows that the US is the kind of friend that sticks with it's friends in both good and lean times.
The part about France I can easily believe, let a frenchman give you a hug and he'll knife you in the buck if there's a franc (or Euro) to be made.

Posted by: Henning Forsstrøm | Jun 9, 2004 2:27:43 PM

France - plus ca change la plus c'est la meme chose


Posted by: DirtyDingus | Jun 10, 2004 10:52:31 AM

The British have ever been the most trustworthy of friends that the US has had. We deal with other nations because of necessary diplomacy. With the British we deal with equals and friends. May it ever be so. God speed to the Queen.

Posted by: Constantine | Jun 10, 2004 7:12:52 PM

The US supplying the British with weapons is a good argument to argue... but the real story comes from the last paragraph of Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

Whats up with that?

Posted by: WakeUP! | Jun 4, 2009 11:40:19 PM