I know that most readers think of August 4 as the birthday of the late Queen Mum. It was that, after all, for over a century. And I agree. It is sad not to see her round face and gin-softened smile beaming at the members of the working press through the gates of Clarence House, but time does march on, and now, perhaps, more attention will be paid to Coast Guard Day which this is. Inlanders, whose experience with the USCG is usually limited to a bassboat safety check, know rather less about the erstwhile revenue cutters than they should, but they will find out about that service’s mission pretty quick they next time they find their little kayaks being carried halfway to Honolulu by the tides and the Columbia River current, something that happens more than you might think and which involves an unusually high number of thoracic and oral surgeons who have to be rescued thanks to their idiocy. It’s the Coast Guard that picks crab fishing crew off the viciously corkscrewing deck of the incapacitated crab boats in the Gulf of Alaska amidst raging storms and the hedge fund managers off the viciously corkscrewing deck of the incapacitated $1.5 million sailboat amidst raging storms somewhere off Cape Hatteras. And it was the Coast Guard that actually did useful rescue work in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
So. When you pour yourself a stiff gin after work tonight in memory of the late Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, perhaps you might raise your glass to the smallest but most efficient and most self-effacing of the nation’s uniformed services, the United States Coast Guard.