My favourite account of British stubbornness and cool surrounds Lieutenant Frederick Young. A British officer who, in the nineteenth century, led a detachment of Indian irregulars into the Nepalese mountains ostensibly to pacify the unruly Gurkhas on their own turf. An optimistic mission for sure.
Because when the Gurkhas swarmed down brandishing their fearsome kukri blades, the Indians promptly deserted to a man leaving, according to legend, Lieutenant Young sitting calmly on a rock waiting to be mutilated, hacked to death and probably beheaded. Not necessarily in that order.
When the bloodthirsty Gurkhas took Young prisoner and demanded to know why he had not fled for his life when he had the opportunity, he is reputed to have stated, with a cool matter-of-fact sangfroid, that he had not come into the hills just to run away. A simple statement which struck a deep chord with the martial Gurkhas along the lines of ‘we could serve under men like this’.
And so began the incredibly successful and enduring relationship between the irrepressible Gurkhas and the British Army. How much of this story is legend and how much is fact is unclear but it does speak of a cool strength of character that is so sadly lacking in our current political leaders.