The 2015 Greek Crisis within the EU and Eurozone juxtaposed with the UK Crisis of the late 1960's into the early 1980's and the very near Military Coup we might have suffered!

As I delight in watching my children prosper in a period of national peace and stability chiefly since 2010, with what clearly augers well for my five grandchildren, two of whom have now attained the age for further education and are at university, I can't help remembering the time-period late 1960's to 1983 or thereabouts, when things were very different in the UK and things were anything but stable and well!

 To set the scene for what is to follow, I remember well, executing the duties of the Leader of the Coffin Bearers at Lord Louis Mountbatten's Ceremonial Royal Funeral in September 1979, marching towards the catafalque in Westminster Abbey with the Queen and the whole of the royal family in front of me on my right, on my left, those of the Mountbatten family who were able to attend {death and injuries had depleted their numbers sadly}, and sitting in the choir-pews with the world's VIP's, Mrs Thatcher and her husband Dennis, newly elected as our Prime Minister*. On that day and well before and afterwards, my mortgage with the Alliance Building Society had an interest rate of 22.3% such was our burden during those years. I am pleased to note that my boy's pay around the 3% mark! Of a more marked interest, the man my bearer-party were carrying was thought by many [and people of great influence and inside knowledge in the land] to have planned a military coup against Mr Wilson [Prime Minister 1964-1970 and 1974-1976 who won four elections], and had he succeeded, Mountbatten would have assumed the duties of leader of the coup!

* Mrs Thatcher supplanted Mr James Callaghan in 1979, who in 1976 had taken over from Mr Wilson [who resigned rather abruptly] in No 10 Downing Street. Love him or hate him, he was a charming man hailing from Portsmouth. He was famous for two reasons and infamous {?} for one reason. Still today in 2015, he is the only politician to have served in all four great offices of government: Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. He was also a veteran, serving in the Royal Navy during WW2 joining as an ordinary seaman and leaving as a lieutenant after having being diagnosed with TB. His demise as the P.M., came about after a disastrous period of civil unrest which became known as "the Winter of Discontent" bedeviled with strikes. Mrs Thatcher inherited sky-high inflation ergo my mortgage interest rate, which only started to creep down from 1982 onwards under her stewardship and fiscal policies.

In my chosen title I have aligned Greece in 2015 with what was happening in the UK in the late 60's onward as qualified above. Greece has a left of centre/extreme left wing [but also has an ultra right wing group] in their parliament. This ultra right wing group of course has absolutely no parallels to the UK government then [1960's] or indeed at any time. We had a left wing government but many affiliated to it, specifically the unions, were ultra left wing activists, and it was they, and not Callaghan and his ministers, who brought the country to its knees, despite the rampant political mismanagement of the times. However, before Callaghan's time as P.M., but very much in Wilson's first period of office [1964-1970], Wilson himself was considered by the security houses [MI5,MI6] as being not just left wing or indeed ultra left wing, but an out and out communist with healthy allegiance to USSR ideals. More of that in a minute. Under the Labour government the UK finances came perilously close to Greece's dilemma in 2015, and at the very last minute we were saved from corporate bankruptcy and international embarrassment and shame. As mentioned our inflation rate was unbelievably high, and in 1978 it peaked to 24.8% very close to the highest ever which was in 1918 after a disastrously expensive WW1.Put simply £100 in 1914 was worth £9700 in 2013, but four years on £100 in 1918 was worth only £5900 in 2013. When Labour came back into power for the period 1974-1979 £100 in 1974 was worth £1000 in 2013, but in 1979 that £100 was worth £470 in 2013. The country suffered from riots, civil unrests, recalcitrant behaviour from hitherto respected people and organisations, which resulted in the government ordering a three-day week, resulting in total chaos, the melt-down of the transport system, food shortages and long blackouts when electric generation ceased, caused by union action whose aggressive and omnipotent picket lines stopped non-strikers from gaining access and non-union private haulage companies from delivering coal the primary fuel of those days. Anarchy was the order of the day issued by a fiercely political TUC, with a hapless government unable to stop the tail of the TUC-dog wagging the parliament-dog.

Inevitably, given the mega-serious nature of the state of the UK, a credible government was needed to steady the ship, and that was clearly not a government formed of politicians, or at least not the ministers appointments. While some on the hard left believed revolution was imminent, former military figures angry at the extent of union control were building private armies, in preparation for the coming conflict. Mr Wilson feared it was these mercenaries, who would be used to stage a coup against him - and that the British army might not come to his aid.   Was this the time for currently serving military figures to take the initiative to stage a coup? Yes was the answer, and some set about the planning stages.

Eminent people stressed the need to bear in mind the backdrop to the alleged plots, telling the media: "Our establishment, from the intelligence services down to parts of Fleet Street, are paranoid about the threat of communism. So paranoid it seems, they were prepared to believe a prime minister of Britain was an active Soviet spy."

At a time of continuing Cold War tensions, industrial unrest was rife, the country had suffered power cuts and a three day working week, and in 1975 the government was being warned privately that the economy faced "wholesale domestic liquidation" unless it could tame inflation. It was also the proverbial brewing-pot wherein the seeds of a revolution or civil war are brought to the boil, and our armed forces leaders were becoming understandably agitated  and goaded into action - at least some tangible action.

Wilson's sudden retirement in 1976 was recorded for posterity as a "shock retirement", and at this time a meeting with him was secretly recorded by journalists Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour. Mr Wilson was candid and outgoing in what he said and the fears he harboured. 

Wilson spoke darkly of two military coups which he said had been planned to overthrow his government in the late 1960s and in the mid 1970s, Penrose writes.

Both were said to involve high-ranking elements in the British army, eager to see the back of Labour governments.

Both involved a member of the royal family - Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Lord Mountbatten would be installed as an interim prime minister following the military coup, Wilson believed.  Baroness Falkender, Wilson's political secretary, also told the two journalists about her belief military coups had been planned and that she and Wilson would be arrested with the rest of the Labour cabinet, Penrose wrote.  Unbeknown to Wilson, Courtiour and I secretly recorded many of our meetings with him, almost always conducted at his Georgian house at 5 Lord North Street, close to the House of Commons, Penrose said.  Wilson told the journalists they "should investigate the forces that are threatening democratic countries like Britain". 

They were also startled to be told at their first meeting with him: "Occasionally when we meet I might tell you to go to the Charing Cross Road and kick a blind man standing on the corner. That blind man may tell you something, lead you somewhere."

The pair were never asked to go to Charing Cross Road but Wilson went on to tell them about his distrust of a group of MI5 officers, who he said were trying to smear him by planting stories in the press about him being an adulterer and a Communist spy.

In one of the secretly recorded tapes Wilson says: "I am not certain that for the last eight months when I was prime minister I knew what was happening, fully, in security."

New and trustworthy  witnesses interviewed by the journalists, talked about these military coups and Mountbatten's role in them. Penrose says they confirm such plotting "wasn't in the fevered imagination of an embittered ex-PM".

Penrose concludes  "You may ask, at the end of all this, how much of it can be believed. My view now, as it was then, is that Wilson was right in his fears.... in answer to the question 'how close did we come to a military government?' I can only say - closer than we'd ever be content to think."

I said earlier on that Jim Callaghan was famous. Well after 1979, Mrs Thatcher took those TUC destructive activists and cut them down to size, so much so, that when she had finished, they were a shadow of their former selves, almost lacking in power, and unwilling to flex their muscles. They are tamed, and seemingly Mr Cameron P.M., since 2010, is flexing his muscles in 2015 to curb the power of the TUC even further. Mrs Thatcher is doubly famous, and although sadly passed on we thank her from the bottom of our hearts for her bravery!

From all accounts, we came very close to being ruled by a military junta, and Greece has had its fair share of such a harsh rule.

Now as in all things, the UK had an 'oracle', and in my days in uniform that was the Daily Express newspaper. They had a part time journalists [part time because he had so many exacting interests] called CHAPMAN PINCHER, and not a day passed when not at sea, that the newspaper was read by all members of the crew. Chapman was bang-on in everything he had published about defence, and the Express was the best possible source for factual up to date defence information.   At one stage, the then Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was so exasperated with Pincher's 100% defence stories that he wrote this in one of his many 'minutes' now available at the National Archives:-

In May 1959 the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan wrote in a personal minute to his minister of defence: “I do not understand how the Express alone of all the newspapers has got the exact decision that we reached at the cabinet last Thursday on space. Can nothing be done to suppress or get rid of Mr Chapman Pincher? I am getting very concerned about how well informed he always seems to be on defence matters.”

Chapman died in his 100th year.

Pincher was convinced that, alongside Wilson, many other members of the Labour Party were Soviet agents, among them MP Tom Driberg, who was Chairman of the Labour Party. Pincher claimed that Driberg was an active double agent for MI5 and the KGB despite his well-founded reputation for total indiscretion.

Chapman Pincher was also a good and faithful friend and in 1981 when Wilson had left politics and Mountbatten was dead, he didn't want his friend Lord Louis left holding the babe of the proposed coup, and so he wrote to the Times seeking to clear his name and the association of the coup with the royal family. Many believe that it was a gesture of no substance and that Lord Louis had in fact been dabbling in high level politics, and that he might, just might, have led the first coup in our history.

The_Times_1981-03-31.jpg LORD LOUIS COUP.jpg

The saying "there's no smoke without fire" is accepted as universally true! Another of our British oracles is the Times Newspaper, and yet another, Hansards. They both agree about the story concerning Mountbatten's involvement into high-level politics during the 1960's and later. Reading this Times article leaves no one in doubt as to how near a very nervous and distressed Queen got to "hiding" behind Lord Louis, this irrespective of him being a royal family member the Queen trusted implicitly, choosing to ignore the traditional advice given by members of the Privy Council, and not being able to seek the advice of her P.M., during the Buckingham Palace weekly visit. Perhaps like the recent scare of Scotland ceding from the Union in their recently failed Scottish Referendum, the Queen saw a very real national scare in the break-up of all that her family has done to achieve the unity we thought we had without question. The Queen was also upset but not traumatised when the only army regiment to mutiny on the UK mainland occurred some year ago, when the Scots Guards walked out of Pirbright Barracks and refused to return to duty. All these incidents deeply affect the monarchy, but when her Prime Minister was thought to be an active communist along with some of his ministers, it was too much to bear. Again, this story was published after Lord Louis murder, but of course the incident was well documents a few years earlier.

The_Times_1981-03-30.jpg LORD LOUIS COUP 2.jpg - Click twice to open if necessary

According to records from MI5 and MI6 files, there are many secret service men and women who believe that Mr Wilson rests in peace in the Scilly Isles but with a big question mark above his tomb stone!

It really goes without saying that Greece having borrowed European and International money which it can't or won't pay back even without the interest due, must be suspect in its recent overt courtships with the Russians and the Chinese [hardly Europeans] seeking to gain a foot-hold in a continental country that has nothing to trade with except the use of its ports and possibly airspace. I wonder if Brussels sees a large question mark over the Acropolis ?

The analogy with Greece is the mayhem and chaotic state of the country and the near fatal destruction of both countries, with sadly, that possibly still on the cards for Greece. That the Greek economy is in turmoil is clear to see, based on years of abuse, mismanagement and corruption of previous governments, although the Greeks of today, were throughout and with all previous governments, on the gravy-boat-train, ducking and diving, not paying taxes, taking early retirement and receiving very large pensions, in fact, enormous pensions when compared with the basic retirement pension paid in the UK. Even cash-strapped, the Greeks still received their unsustainable perks, and then the economy hit the crash-barrier and the gravy-boat was derailed. In the UK case, it was the very opposite. We all paid high taxes, VAT and interest rates on borrowings [mortgages], and as a manufacturing country [which Greece is not nor has it ever been] we exported much and balanced the account with healthy imports. That was until the unions started to call the shots! Yes, things were still made and services delivered but at a pace, as and when, set by the strong unions.  Eventually, international customers shyed away from re-ordering UK goods, for whilst still world beating products especially machined tool technology, they wouldn't put up with hit and miss delivery dates which also affected an after-delivery maintenance contract not available on demand. Eventually, the clients sought products from other countries not shackled by petty rules and bigotry. In addition to that, some of our finer products were sold off to foreign owners [cars in particular] who shut-out unions whilst continuing to manufacture the near-original product [models] at the original UK site. However, whilst such a new foreign company still employs a UK work-force albeit under stricter rules of employment, the profits go abroad, so it is really a net-UK loss situation. Our left wing Labour government which lasted for many years in the 60's and 70's, either encouraged, supported or turned a blind-eye to the closed-shop procedures exercised by the union bosses, all the while witnessing the economic destruction of the UK economy and in some cases our infrastructure. Come to think about it, isn't this the modus operandi of the Labour party, ruining the economy whilst at the same time collecting thousands of pounds from union members?

I was promoted to the warrant officer rank in 1975 and appointed to HMS Mercury from Portland on the staff of Flag Officer Sea Training, Rear Admiral James Eberle. On arrival there I was interviewed with others by the Training Commander, Commander Hugh Dickins. Although my appointment was to oversee the training of newly arrived sailors into the Communications Branch, I was warned to apply myself to the possibility of total civil unrest/breakdown, ready to assist in the deliverance of essential services to local people in/near Petersfield in Hampshire. Such were those times, which fortunately can never happen again now that the TUC teeth have been pulled, leaving them with virtually harmless gums. Their bite has gone but they can still give one a nasty suck, so beware with a lower-case 'b'.

I'll wager that Lord Louis would have been an excellent enforcer prime minister!

Take care.