Ray Massey
7 min readOct 22, 2022


I lived through post war 1960’s Britain, but is it any better now?

It all begins with a less than exciting sojourn in the British Military.

Sometime during the last Century I was a Squaddie in the British Army. I joined up from 1965 to 1969 and served as a Private in the Corps of Royal Engineers. Therefore, more accurately I was a ‘Sapper’ rather than a private, or even more accurately I was a Combat Engineer — that seemed to be a much cooler job title. Plus, I did get to put up heavyweight river bridges using the military version of a Big Kids Meccano Set. I also learned how to blow stuff up, which at that time was a really radical life skill for an almost 18 year old from London’s Angry East End.

Throughout the whole of my time in the Military, no matter what I was doing, daily life still seemed to consist of a lot of waiting about in order to hurry up to get to somewhere else, just so we could to start waiting around again. In addition, my life also involved a great deal of repeatedly moving things and carrying stuff from one place to another. Which in the incontestable logic of the Military World, obviously meant these things now needed to be cleaned: again !

Military job titles notwithstanding, its all the same down at the lower ranks of any Army Unit anywhere in anybody’s Army. This is the unalterable fact that having no rank at all is synonymous with being part of an uninformed, unappreciated, uniformed pool of cheap labour; a mover of things who is readily available for alternative use as a cleaner of living spaces and of equipment. Also more worryingly, as a biddable and highly dispensable ‘one time’ munitions carrier. But, in whatever manner you were called upon, you were always functioning as a lightly fuelled Gofer — in essence ‘A lowly Squaddie’.

Back in that 60’s decade the UK was no longer publicly at war. Military Compulsory Conscription was ended many years earlier and even the UN sponsored conflict in Korea was seen as having ground to a halt in stalemate. The war in Vietnam was happening but was still politically distant and had not really begun to involve the UK as yet. Although in reality the Prime Minister Harold Wilson had already sent British Troops there posing as advisors in aid of the American forces. However, with the blunt instrument effect of imposing ‘D’ notices on our Free (?) National Press forcing collusion from Editors; and with the involvement of the ‘non existent’ covert organisations of MI6 & MI5, this obvious Military entanglement was not allowed to be made public until many years later.

Curiously, this was the same cabal of Splenetic Secret Service Solipsists who had concurrently opened Political Dossiers on the same Harold Wilson PM, as well as on his duly elected Labour Government colleagues — because they were deemed to be posing a ‘Possible Communist threat to UK Sovereignty’. This is a particularly vicious example of the purposefully ignorant; corrosively spiteful and dangerously unrestrained power wielded by the Military/Political Old Boy Network still known today as the British Establishment.

By virtue of sharing access to Private Schools, particular Universities, elitist Clubs and Government jobs, these folk ensure they remain directly embedded in the heart of British Democracy — at Westminster and in Whitehall. Currently their progeny are still doing exactly what they did back then, actively protecting themselves and their own. Meanwhile, the rest of us are urged to believe that it is a direct attack on Britishness when similar action is attempted by a responsible Trade Union just trying to look out for its members.

Although previous wars and conflicts were slipping backwards in the National memory, their consequential effects driving social change were still present. Some people had returned from these combat arenas expecting to slot straight back into familiarity. Whilst others had experienced having a life with purpose and were not going to let that go so easily. Where I lived at that time, in East London, it generally seemed that people simply clumped together like a confused but compliant mob. Whilst at the same time trying to behave how they thought a proper 1960’s Western Nation should. I felt like the Adults around me had all wandered aimlessly into a Period of Peace without knowing what to do when they got there. So it seemed as though everyone just tried to keep themselves occupied doing something that was comfortably familiar and expecting a positive result.

A set of actions which we would now identify as symptomatic of Mental Health Issues.

Perhaps we actually acted as our own Show Business metaphor — just a bunch of dumb dancing Music Hall London Cockneys patronised into trotting out our party piece; a celebratory socially acceptable Hokey Cokey. Because it was the only response we had. For those not familiar with it, this traditionally takes the form of a communal dance where everybody is expected to join in but no one knows why.

As a teenager, the disorganised changeling 1960’s felt to me like the inept and incompetent opening scenes of an underfunded, poorly rehearsed Camp Concert. Which starts off presenting itself in a brightly amateurish and well meant way. But is clearly of highly inconsistent quality and definitely lacking in any meaningful content. But I stayed silent about my perceptions. Because I could recall previous occasions where even a gently critical observation such as this would be loudly condemned as an example of the sort of Loose Talk that should not be tolerated and should be immediately suppressed.

This was simply because the mindless mantra of “We mustn’t criticise anything because that supports the Enemy” was still powerfully embedded — even though it was just a witless reprimand left over from a frightened culture of more than 20 years ago. Disappointingly this darkly ingrained ignorant power of social condemnation could be deliberately and quite spitefully used against anyone who spoke up openly or honestly about anything. Mostly this style of mean minded bullying was carried out by those marginal folk who had always felt they had been wrongly ignored when the more acceptable forms of Temporary Local Power i.e. Home Guard Officers & Air raid Wardens and Special Constables etc, were being handed out to the ‘right’ sort of persons all those years ago.

My Political Uncle Sid told me some years later that after he was Demobbed he had tried to arrange a meeting to talk with other families in his road. This was to see if anyone else had food and fuel shortages and what could be done about it. Fortunately he was quietly tipped off before the vengeful “Busybodies” pounced and his planned discussions were carefully put aside for later. So thankfully all those other quite innocent people in his street also escaped the imposition of this shameful vilification from their supposed Friends and Neighbours !

Anyone who has seen the cartoon film ‘Antz’ or read George Orwell’s Animal Farm will recognise this spiteful form of Citizen Control. It also re -appears later as an underlying theme of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It is definitely an expression of the darker side of ‘Britishness’ and our notions of ‘Community Spirit’. Moreover, its portrayal is notably absent from any of those Post War Feel Good Social Comedies that were constantly being repeated as propaganda on British TV throughout the 50’s and 60’s — I wonder why?

In those supposedly peaceful times, it seemed to me that our ordinary social rules were not building on previous good experiences or an understanding of what might work well today. Rather, they seemed to arrive as instructions issued by the ‘’The Good and the Great’ along with that other elusive bunch of ‘Your Elders and Betters’. Most of the population had spent the war years having been subjected to a life of ‘Do what you are told or we won’t win the War’ as a form of verbal subjugation. Consequently, social instructions that emanated sinuously from that mainly unelected Pantheon of the Self Promoted, were simply accepted without question by almost everybody.

If you did try to speak your mind about perceived inequities and injustices, then this ‘do what you are told’ mindless mindset was liable to get you accused of ‘upsetting’ people. And this was done by the very folk you were trying to address about their own situation. But we mustn’t do that must we, because talking about things is dangerous, because it leads to people thinking about things and because it could lead to people thinking for themselves. Quite clearly the self selected folk who make up the Great and the Good Governing Cabals cant abide that so they get the ‘surviving huddled masses’ to stamp on any responses for them — no wonder Mr Marx got so annoyed with it all !

Now here we are in our own time and well into our new century. Its as if nothing has really progressed has it? We have our previous shaggy look Prime Minister and his team promoting safety oriented Covid rules sensibly spoken to the Nation from lecterns. Whilst they themselves were covertly pulling out the secret Bullingdon Privilege Pass and popping party corks in Whitehall. Before his finally finally being ‘Brung Down by a Woman’. Well no actually; far more accurately he was brought down by speaking a series of lies to Parliament unsuccessfully disguised as Prime Ministerial statements in the House of Commons. So he just smiled and went off on Holiday.

And the next one hasn’t been any more honest has she? Conclusive proof that scattering promises to the electoral herd at Political Hustings is just a code for “Its really about what I do when I get the Office not what I say in pursuit of it”. Consequently, her then proceeding to cloak herself in a dead fox Thatcherite mantle and then conjuring with equally barren Financial theories, made even the Old Boy Network move to shuffle her off the stage.

Today the British media are announcing the imminent return of Pig Poking Boris from his Caribbean hideaway. He has already confirmed his intention to get back in the Prime Ministerial saddle when we haven’t even finished investigating him for his initial illegalities in High Office. Must look to everyone else like we are truly demonstrating the arrogant self delusion that we are in any way a beacon of Democracy.

I recognise that the line offered by that fine band all those years ago — “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” — rings true once more. Whooo Are Ya?

I wish us all well because we are really going to need it.



Ray Massey

Intelligent, sensitive, humorous writer — new to this stuff. Offering life comments and observations from a Grumpy Old Man.