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  1. Member
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    Nice baby you … of baby.

    Dear all!
    What is the exact meaning of the following passage? It is from the book “Persian Gulf Command” by Ashley Jackson, pp. 74-5. The sentences in bold are problematic. But, for more information, I have included all the paragraph. It is about the battle between England and Iraq in 1941.

    Whatever the heroics being performed by the defenders of Habbaniya, the strategic picture from a British point of view was distinctly unedifying. They needed to lift the siege as soon as possible and defeat Rashid Ali’s attempt to snuff out Britain’s presence in the country before the Germans arrived. On the morning of 5 May Anthony Eden summoned the Iraqi chargé d’affaires and ‘told him that if matters continued his country would be at war with the whole of the British Empire, and if German help was received Iraq would beturned into a battlefield’.37 As this was taking place in London, outside Habbaniya a King’s Own Royal Regiment patrol was making an unsuccessful attempt to drive out the Iraqi troops defending the village of Sin al- Dhibban, site of the vital ferry point used by the Iraqis to cross the Euphrates to reinforce the plateau. At noon, General Wavell assumed responsibility for operations in northern Iraq at London’s insistence, taking over from India Command. That evening, Wavell sent a most secret cipher telegram to General Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. ‘Nice baby you have handed me on my 58th birthday,’ it said. ‘Have always hated babies and Iraqis but will do my best for the little blighter.’ Dill replied: ‘What a birthday present. Sincerely hope that you will be able to kill the little brute. Many happy returns of birthday but not of baby.

    Many thanks in advance.

  2. Skrej's Avatar
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    English Teacher
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    Re: Nice baby you … of baby.

    Wavell is using making a metaphor out of the messy and problematic strategic situation he inherited command of as being like an unwanted baby. Like a baby, it's messy, noisy, and disruptive to his plans and routine. He has assumed command of a failed battlefield.

    Solving the problem and winning the battle would be akin to killing or getting rid of the unwanted child. General Wavell is sarcastically saying 'thank you' to General Dill for the birthday 'present' of seizing the strategically important site, which Britain has already failed to gain control of, all on his birthday.

    It's not clear from the text whether it was troops under General Dill's command who failed to win the battle at Sin al-Dhibban, or if General Dill was just the person who assigned General Wavell to clean things up. I kind of think it was the former, but either way, Dill is responsible for leaving the situation for Wavell to clear up. Dill then wishes Wavell luck in 'killing the baby' (winning the battle), while simultaneously wishing him many more happy birthdays to come (but with such 'baby' problems).
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