Glancing through the Services Dinner section of the Court Circular, I was surprised to see that the Army Cadet Force Public Relations Unit had held its annual dinner and ladies’ night at the Manor House Hotel, Mortonhampstead, Devon, in the presence of Major Kevin Traverse-Healey and Lt Col Whitchurch.
It was not the location that raised an eyebrow – Mortonhampstead is, no doubt, a pleasant spot – nor the company of the ladies, nor even the guests of honour: It was the fact of an active Army Public Relations Unit.
Though I had got used to the idea of a world that cannot move without PR, there were, I had imagined, a few remaining pockets of resistance, of which the armed services must surely have been one. But no, the army cadets have been infiltrated so successfully and completely that they boast a whole unit devoted to public relations, and one moreover sufficiently large to merit an annual dinner and ladies’ night.
But it was not until I came across the following verbatim transcript of a military briefing by Colonel Buffy Twigsmire, 2nd Batallion, Queen’s Own Puffers, that I realised how far things had gone.
“Good morning, men – and I use men to mean persons of all genders, sexual orientations, and degrees of disability, this is a modern Army – I have brought you here to brief you on a mission that has until now been kept carefully under wraps. At 1100 hours tomorrow we shall be combining with units from other regiments across the country to mount Operation Overspill, the launch of a heat-seeking bra, price £15, from Fenwicks of Bond Street.
“Code-named the Triumph Simply Soft moulded bra, its modus operandi is to use body heat to mould the seamless microfibre garment to the wearer’s shape. After intensive field trials, it is now ready to go operational, and it’s our job to pull off the show.
“I warn you now that this will be no picnic, which is why we will be going in with lump fish caviare canapés and trays of Asti Spumante. Reconnaisance units report that we should expect stiff resistance from an enemy heavily armed with yawns.
“We shall, therefore, mount a full-scale media blitz. A hand-picked brigade from the 7th Army will bombard the enemy with embargoed press packs camouflaged as news. Meanwhile, a platoon of gunners from the Argyll and Sutherland Publicists will launch a salvo of complimentary foundation garments aimed at selected fashion magazine editors.
“There will, of course, be press conferences at carefully chosen venues. Watch out for loaded questions and pockets of indifference. The aim, as always, will be to soften up the enemy, and we shall be calling on a crack company of volunteers from the Durham Light Tottie. They will hand out canapés and glasses of warm wine at will. Reinforcements will be standing by, each with four rounds – bacon, lettuce and tomato, tuna on rye, egg mayonnaise, and salmon and cream cheese.
“It will be the job of the Specially Arranged Stunts (SAS) to go behind enemy lines and infiltrate specially trained medical experts into Richard and Judy, the Today Programme, and Panorama. Their job: to explain the health hazards associated with conventional bra-fare and the statistically proven benefits of the alternative seamless microfibre flexi-cup. Supporting data will include tests on laboratory rats showing the sample fitted with the moulded bra became slim and strangely alluring.
“The Honourable Propaganda Company have taken care of celebrity endorsement. I don’t know the details, but I have heard mention of Vanessa Feltz, Clarissa Dickson-Wright, Carol Vorderman and the chorus line from the Anchor Butter commercials. Product placement is crucial, as ever. To that end, the HPC has secured the agreement of the BBC’s costume drama department to feature our client’s garment being ripped from the heaving bosoms of Lady Macbeth, Madame Bovary, Emma, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lady Asquith, and Mrs Gamp, to name but a few.
“War isn’t a game, it isn’t pretty, and we fully expect there will be collateral damage, though our aim will be to keep it to a minimum. Bearing in mind that Davina McCall, the well known airhead, recently caused a car crash when she stepped out in a little blue number slashed to the waist back and frontÃÂ we shall be taking steps to ensure that Miss Feltz releases her buttons only when the lights are at red.
“I warn you, though, we shall be up against not only an implacable foe in the shape of a media corps trained in the latest close combat apathy techniques, but also rival militia groups advancing the the Variable Cleavage Wonderbra, which can put an eye out.
“Walking wounded should make their way back to base where they may be assured of receiving the best possible treatment from the Royal Spin Doctors Corps. Good luck to you all, and God be with you.”