What right have we on Civvy Street to judge these war widows
00:38 GMT, 13 April 2012
Moving on: The widow of bomb disposal hero Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid spoke of her new love for the first time this week
First it was the military wives hogging all the headlines — the eponymous female choir, formed and coached by Gareth Malone, which has been such a big, big hit with the British public.
The choir, comprised of the wives and girlfriends of military personnel deployed to Afghanistan, made a poignant single which went to No 1 last Christmas. Wherever You Are featured words and phrases from the actual love letters exchanged by the soldiers and their wives.
The BBC documentary series which chronicled the wives’ musical and personal triumph was a 21-gun weepie. It touched millions of hearts.
Now, with the kind of grim inevitability that war brings, the focus has swung from military wives to military widows.
First in the news this week was Christina Schmid, who has found love again. The charismatic widow of Staff Sergeant Olaf ‘Oz’ Schmid, who died three years ago in Afghanistan while defusing a bomb, has given an interview to Hello! magazine praising her new love, soldier Mark Clarke.
What can I tell you He’s hot, she’s a babe.
No wonder there is a spread of photographs featuring the handsome couple together, where she is quoted as saying: ‘I didn’t know if I would ever be able to love again after I lost Oz, but Mark has taught me that I can; that I have a lot of love still left to give, and a lot of life left to live.’
Feelings no doubt shared by Royal Marine
widow Kirianne Curley, whose husband, Corporal Stephen Curley, was
killed two years ago in Helmand after stepping on a bomb alleged to have
been planted by a 14-year-old Afghan boy .
Happy couple: Christina Schmid and her army bomb disposal expert husband Olaf Schmid who died in Afgahnistan
Shortly afterwards, Mrs Curley embarked on relationships with her husband’s two best friends — men he served with in Afghanistan. The men were so close that they were dubbed ‘the Three Musketeers’.
Mrs Curley first had an affair with Corporal Ben Wilmott. Later, when she also started dating Matthew Cotterill, the distraught Wilmott felt so betrayed he started a campaign of harassment that ended in court, in a jail sentence — and with his resignation from the Army. It is hard to think of a love triangle with sharper — or sadder — edges.
Yet is this really how war widows should
behave Some will say it is hardly dignified, not to mention patriotic.
Certainly, not everyone approves.
In Schmid’s case, some say that three
years is too soon, and that she is moving on with undue alacrity —
particularly bearing in mind the publicity she has garnered as an Army
Widow: Kirianne Curley holds a cross of remembrance for her husband Corporal Stephen Paul Curley from 40 Commando Royal Marines who died whilst serving in with British troops in Afghanistan in 2010
Not only did she write a book about her brave husband, she went on to become a kind of poster girl for the selfless nobility of Army widowhood; a celebrity campaigner, author and public speaker who was in great demand.
The public have made a big emotional investment in Christina Schmid — and while she may be ready to move on, are they ready to let her
Meanwhile, Kirianne Curley was just 27 years old when her husband died, leaving her with their 17-week-old baby boy and an uncertain future.
In public, the photogenic blonde joined campaigns to highlight areas of difficulty for bereaved military families and to improve support for them.
In private, she sought support and comfort of another kind altogether. With his friends.
These dangerous liaisons may seem unwise to outsiders — as indeed they do to me — but let us not forget that all three were bereaved and in deep grief at the time.
And while no one should excuse Wilmott’s subsequent behaviour, we must also accept that soldiers on the front line have experiences which change them for ever — and not always for the better.
A society which sends men off to war to do dirty, brutalising work on our behalf, perhaps should not judge them too harshly when they return unable, in some cases, to make good emotional decisions or to assimilate successfully back into normal life.
And, of course, the same empathy must be applied to the wives who wait at home.
Schmid’s book and the BBC’s
all-singing documentary series were both revelations on what it is like
to be a military wife. And one thing is for sure: the wives don’t have
They live on ‘the patch’ — in married quarters either on the military base or in nearby clusters of regimental accommodation.
Kirianne Curley holds her son William with her husband, and Williams father, Corporal Stephen Curley who was killed in action
They are a part of society but also apart from it — geographically and emotionally. Their anxieties and problems are unique, for only other military families go through the same rollercoaster of emotions that they do.
When their husbands are home, life revolves around their routines and shifts. When their husbands are not there, life revolves around their absence.
The current military tour of Afghanistan is six punishing months. Long enough to miss key moments in a child’s development, and to engender a sense of dislocation for both husband and wife.
It is a deployment which blows a hole in the middle of family life, and one that is shadowed with fear and worry. For everyone knows that the UK’s role in Afghanistan has brought a heavy human toll since 2001: 408 lives have been lost, while many more soldiers have been left maimed.
On Civvy Street, we can all enjoy the luxury of forgetting until the next death hits the headlines. But for the military wives, it is a life of constant pressure.
Hit: Members of a military wives' choir perform during a reception for service personnel who have returned from the NATO mission in Libya, last year
On the patch, the women have to learn to be self-reliant. But that is not the same thing as being bereaved. Nothing like it at all.
And while widows may have death in common, not all widows are the same. Some might choose never to move on, some embrace life with a white-knuckle grip.
Who is to say whether each and all of them are mourning in a ‘fit and proper’ manner Not every widow wants to be like Queen Victoria, wreathed in weeds and gloom until the relief of her own death.
Christina and Kirianne are both young and beautiful, with small children to care for and their whole lives stretching out ahead of them.
Is moving on necessarily a treachery Surely their husbands would want them to be happy again
However messy the circumstances, I feel these young women are doing the right thing. After such sadness, they deserve to find love again, be it next week or next year. And we should be happy for them that they did.
She's right not to suffer the clutter
Nigella Lawson's inscribed copy of Sophia Waugh's novel somehow ended up on internet auction site eBay
Sophia Waugh gave her friend Nigella Lawson a personally inscribed copy of her novel.
How lovely! Not.
It may have represented years of work for the author, but at Nigella Towers it was just junk.
Somehow it ended up on eBay.
Nigella may have a shard of ice where her sentimental steak should be, but she is 100 per cent right. Indeed, I’ve always admired her for opening her Christmas cards, then throwing them straight in the bin.
She’s a monster, but a tidy one — in both thoughts and action.
Anway, who wants to be reminded of friends’ achievements on a daily basis
So do a Nigella, and don’t suffer the clutter.
Oh Kev, you're so deluded
Deluded: Kevin Costner has said he spoke to Princess Diana about the possibility of her starring in a sequel of The Bodyguard
Some people find it difficult to separate celluloid from reality. These people are usually film stars. Quite often they are Kevin Costner, who seems happy to pretend he is still Frank Farmer, the detective who was Whitney Houston’s personal security in the 1992 hit film The Bodyguard.
This week, Costner has spoken in detail of discussions he had with Princess Diana about the possibility of her starring in a sequel.
He said: ‘I told her I’d take care of her just the same way that I took care of Whitney. She wanted me to write it for her. I said: “I’ll tailor it for you, if you’re interested.’ She goes: “I am interested.”’
Frank was going to protect Diana from paparazzi and stalkers, then embark on a steamy affair with her. Ahem.
At the time, Costner was one of the hottest actors in the world. We were all in love with him! A glittering-eyed princess said: ‘Sure Kev, whatever you say,’ as he outlined the fantasy — then hit the panic button under the Kensington Palace dining table.
Bruce is just a mummy's boy at heart
The boss: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band perform at Madison Square Garden in New York last week
Bruce Springsteen is 62 years old. He is in the middle of another sell-out tour.
After all these years, he is still handsome, fit, amused and amusing.
His songs may form the soundtrack to our dimly remembered teenage years, but he is still musically viable. He rocks out like a demon.
He can play a four-hour concert without a comfort break.
Recently, at Madison Square Garden, he got his 89-year-old mother onstage to dance with him. Repeat.
He danced with his mum — in front of thousands of people.
Springsteen is a walking, hip-swivelling, master class in how to be a rock star. Keep working hard, stay disciplined, always be a pro, love the music — and love your old ma, too.
Screechy, whiny and aggressive: Apprentice women a bad advert for young girls
The women on the current series of The Apprentice do not do females any favours, do they Have you ever seen such a bunch of screechy, whiny, aggressive, blame-shifting, tearful spivettes
Certainly not since the last series.
Setting a bad example: Some of the female contestants on this year's Apprentice
They are supposed to represent the young businesswomen of today — girls who would love to have an opportunity like theirs.
Yet not one of them has mastered the first lesson about how to behave in the workplace – which is to be powerful without being emotional.
And on present form, there is scant chance that any of them ever will.
Disagreeing shouldn't lead to death threats
Death threats: MP Louise Mensch has recently been the target death threats over the internet
Cyber death threats are everywhere. Hardly a day goes past without some demented loser threatening to kill someone he (or she) has never met because they have said or done something that he (or she) does not agree with.
Why can’t people just shrug, agree to disagree and move on, like we did in the old days
Emboldened by the comfort blanket of internet anonymity, cyber fatwas are now issued with the regularity of pizza delivery mail shots.
MP Louise Mensch (above), TV presenter Noel Edmonds and footballer Fabrice Muamba have all been recent recipients of kill-kill-kill threats and worse, all issued by people who never thought they would be held responsible for their murderous words. Wrongly, as it turned out.
Comedian Alan Davies became the latest victim after he mocked Liverpool FC’s refusal to play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. The club do this out of respect for the 96 fans who died in 1989.
First, why mock the desire of others to commemorate this tragedy The bereaved must take comfort that to Liverpool FC at least, the deaths of their loved one mattered.
That there are some things that are still more important than commerce, sport and profit.
Yet to threaten to kill Davies for voicing his opinion It’s not just ironic, it is inane.