Let’s Paint the Dogs of War

I once knew a bloke who to everyone’s surprise joined the army. He said he wanted to learn a trade.
“And did you?” we asked.
“Yes” he said.
“Well what is it?” we enquired.
“I’m a machine gunner.” he said proudly.

A while later he was pleased to tell us he was learning a new trade.
“What’s that?” we asked.
“Well, you know the man who sticks his head out of the top of the tank…….”

Many people join the army to learn a trade. They are particularly good at painting, in fact they are experts. Take camouflage paint for instance. It is a little known fact that camouflage paint came about by accident. One day three privates were ordered to paint a tank, they painted the whole thing before they realised they had each used a different colour of paint. Then they couldn’t find the tank. Neither could the enemy.

The army was so impressed they asked military intelligence to investigate and years were spent unsuccessfully trying to find out how they did it. Eventually military intelligence gave up and spent a fortune developing camouflage paint. It was not easy you know, they had particular difficulty stopping the colours mixing in the can. It’s good stuff though, recently I tried to buy some camouflage paint……. I couldn’t find any.

Far more important than all this, however, is the fact that paint represents a foundation on which world military strategy is based. The whole of the military machine below commander level works to one basic philosophy:
If it moves shoot it, if it doesn’t – paint it.
This avoids that uncomfortable possibility that a soldier might think which, of course, could have dire consequences.

Henry the fifth, for example, fully understood the need for a bit of timely painting:

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead!”

“Er, excuse me your majesty”
“Yes what is it?”
“Perhaps we could negotiate.”
“Yes, you know, talk to them about it.”
“You see that rock?”
“Yes sire”
“It needs a coat of paint”
“Oh yes sire, I’ll do it now”
“Now where was I?”

“But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger:”

“What sort of paint should I use?”
“Well this is a rock and on any sort of masonry (except freemasonry) a water based emulsion paint will do, perhaps even whitewash or Taro.”

“Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage……”

“What is it now?”
“What’s Taro.”
“Taro is a kind of paint those nice Indonesian people use. It is made from earth mixed with glue. It is cheap, covers well even on rough surfaces, it comes in a rather nice range of colours with a sort of earthy feel but does have a tendency to wash off in the rain. Worms in the can can be a bit problematical.
Do you mind…”
“Oh, sorry sire.”

“Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide….”

“Sire, I am having a bit of trouble getting the paint to stick.”
“Look lad you have to make sure the surface is prepared properly. Rule number one about painting – prepare the surface, it should be clean, smooth, dry and with no loose bits.”
“Thank you sire, you’re a brick.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Sorry sire.”

“Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noble English.”

“It still won’t stick”
“Look lad I am trying to make a speech, this is a very important speech that will go down in history.”
“You don’t want me to paint the rock?”
“Yes I do want you to paint the stupid rock.”
“No need to be like that, I’m trying my best.”
“I’m sorry, right?”
“It won’t stick”
“Look with emulsion paint on a porous surface such as concrete or plaster you need to water it down a bit, add 10% water and mix well. It will soak in and give a good key for a second coat.”
“Second Coat?”
“Yes, you will need at least two coats to give a solid colour. Now do you mind?”
“Yes sire, I mean no sire, thank you sire.”

“And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture…..”

“It looks a bit rough.”
“The paint, it looks a bit rough.”
“That’s because you used cheap crummy paint. Pay a bit more and you will get a paint that will give you a good finish. A good quality average priced paint is Vinilex. If you want a really good paint that is easy to put on and really looks good you go for a better paint such as Dulux. Most of these paints are not good for outside use so for outside surfaces you need something like Dulux Weathershield that is water resistant and anti mould.

“Let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not,
For there is none of you so mean and base
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.”

“It still looks a mess.”
“Oh honestly. Look the secret to a good paint job is to have tidy edges. You need a small brush say 1 to 2 inches wide and carefully “cut in” the edges. Then you use a larger brush to paint the body of whatever you are painting. If you are using a roller you should paint a good 4 or 6 inches wide strip around the edges with a brush so you don’t get the roller too near the edge.”
“Forget I said that, they haven’t been invented yet, just use a brush”
Mumbling “Look at me, the greatest monarch in the free world teaching some dickhead how to paint a bleeding rock.”
“What was that Sire?”
“Oh nothing. Now where was I, oh yes…..”

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot!
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry! England and Saint George!”

“Oh for crying out loud, what is it now Mr Constable?”
“I don’t think I want to go fighting the French, I want to be a painter instead.”


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