As a young ship's officer, I often wore a balaclava to protect myself from the biting cold during "anchor stations" in bad weather. A balaclava or ski mask is essentially a form of woolen headgear covering the whole head, exposing only the face and often only the eyes. It was first worn by soldiers at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War in 1854, which was also the scene of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade where an entire section of British cavalry was almost wiped out after a reckless and foolhardy sabre charge at Russian artillery. It later transpired that the fiasco occurred chiefly due to faulty intelligence reports, miscommunication and deep animosity between two aristocratic battlefield commanders, the Earl of Lucan and Lord Cardigan (who also had a piece of woolen clothing named after him) out to impress their boss.
Nowadays, the balaclava is usually worn by Alpine skiers, covert security forces to prevent identification and very shy criminals out to rob a bank or something.
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was arrested yesterday by balaclava-clad police commandos (photo) in 15 cars in a scene reminiscent of a similar arrest 10 years ago, but was not charged and has subsequently been released on police bail. The manner of this high handed police action, one hour before the stated deadline he was to report at a police station was absolutely amazing and has been described by his wife Dr Wan Azizah as an overkill and "absolutely unnecessary". This is now a subject of much discussion in the blogosphere. Read Rocky's take, "The Bala-clavas are back!", here and Lim Kit Siang's "Police Black Eyes", here.
In another development, fellow blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was also reported to have been arrested and charged in court for criminal defamation earlier today (read the Malaysiakini report, here), but he is now believed to have been released after he posted bail.