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Home > Culture and Society

Bad idea #254,987: Sniper at work

29 June 2005

TFT has commented before on bad ideas, which seem to be much more likely to be actualised than good ones. The list is practically endless: the remake of Get Carter, the Vietnam War, The Proclaimers, the Amritsar massacre, pencil tops, going out with Pete Doherty, penis torture, invading Russia without proper winter clothing, The Princess Diaries, body popping, The Phantom Menace, the Dieppe landings, marrying someone you met on the Internet after knowing them for two weeks, giving the Mujahedin Stinger missiles, All About Me starring Jasper Carrott, etc.

Then, just when you think the worst idea conceivable has been floated, along comes something worse. Richly deserving of its own place in the pantheon of lousy ideas is a recent design for a 50p coin to commemorate 150 years of soldiers being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Sculptor Clive Duncan came up with the charming image of a soldier carrying a wounded comrade from the battlefield - with a sniper's crosshairs zeroed in on his back, ready to put a round through his spine. Duncan said the design was intended to suggest danger and bravery, but it looks more like an IRA sniper's eye view of an ambush in the Ardogne.

Some people have criticised the design for not being heroic enough, ie. it should show a soldier fearlessly charging a machine gun nest or similar, but this isn't really the issue. It's the sheer macabre nature of the image. OK, it's wrong to romanticise war, but is it really fitting to celebrate bravery with a cold and bleak image of anonymised killing? You wouldn't commemorate the charge of the Light Brigade with a picture of a severed hoof.

Which, as per usual, started us thinking. If commemorative coins are going to depict the brutal reality of our island history, let's really go for it with some of the following designs:


1) Battle of Britain to be commemorated with the image of an anguished pilot desperately trying to open the jammed canopy of his doomed Spitfire as flames fill the cockpit.

2) British efforts in Basra to be celebrated with an image of terrified Redcaps screaming at each other, 'OK, this isn't funny anymore. Who's got all the bullets?'

3) The defeat of the Spanish Armada to be celebrated with Sir Francis Drake gleefully filling his pockets with Spanish gold while his sailors lie dying around him.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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