UK Veterans have started a campaign for a UK National Defence Medal (NDM).
They are demanding full recognition for proud Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who have protected our nation through all types of political turmoil since the Second World War.
It is their belief that an NDM as recognition for putting yourself at the mercy of the Country’s leaders in the hope it will act in its citizens best interests is fair and reasonable. A medal that can be “officially” worn on parades with pride.
THE CASE FOR A NEW NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL.
On the 6th March 2008, Mr. Roy Wilson, London & District Liaison Officer for the National Service Veterans Association and the writer Mr. Charles Lovelace, NSVA, were graciously afforded a meeting at Portcullis House with the Rt. Hon.Don Touhig, Esq., MP, former, Minister for Veterans, to discuss the compelling case for a new National Defence Medal. Both NSVA delegates will then attend the 8th Veterans UK Annual Conference (formally called the Veterans Plenary Forum) in London on the 13th March 2008. This written paper will also be presented at that time and hopefully receive a hearing.
Over the past few years there have been frequent letters sent to the MoD and to the Government requesting that all veterans, both men and women, irrespective of their form of military engagement should be honoured with a medal. More recently the December 2007, issue of the Soldier Magazine reported that more than 75% of those who contacted the magazine believed that the Government should recognise time spent in military uniform, and in particular those who completed National Service. Sadly various Governments of the day have wittingly excluded National Servicemen and others from proper recognition. In view of this egregious and pernicious mindset it was decided to promote the idea for an all encompassing, National Defence Medal, similar to the Australian National Defence Medal. (Appendix A)
This paper is not intended to be as lengthy as John Milton’s Areopagitica pamphlet published on the 23rd November 1644, during the height of the English Civil War. However as former veterans who have served our country, with honour and fidelity, we like the poet, also believe in the principle of a right to free written expression.
When I and many others have written to the Government, MoD or HD Committee to propose a medal for all servicemen and women, encompassing National Service, Short Service, Regular and Reserve Service the reply is always the same. All the arguments for the award of a medal to honour these men have been made by many ex servicemen to a whole cross section of MPs’ and the majority have been entirely sympathetic. However when these same arguments are put to those MPs’ in various appointments specific to the armed forces and to MoD civil servants, there is a completely different attitude. They appear to be working to a standard script in which any understanding or concern for our loyal service has been sedulously written out.
If the Government is seriously adhering to the Military Covenant then it should recognize all veterans as well as our current gallant servicemen. We do however acknowledge that the Veterans Badge is purely a first step to remedy the just and permanent sense of grievance held by former service men and women.
We are not however in favour of wearing any unofficial or commemorative medals at public ceremonies.
A NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL FOR ALL VETERANS AND CURRENT
SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN OF ALL ARMS + RESERVISTS.
To further the above aim we have approached various RN, RM, Army and RAF Associations, the NSVA, MPs’, Local and National press. To our great pleasure articles have been published in the national press promoting our cause. We have also started our own website which has created great interest both on a national and international basis. We commend it to you. Various MPs’ have registered support. However to be unbiased we also record the *only negative comment. This is from the Rt.Hon.Des Browne, Esq.,MP.,Secretary of State for Defence, who in a reply to a letter sent to him stated ;
“The British Government is under no obligation. There are no plans to introduce a new National Defence Medal. There is nothing further to be gained by continuing this correspondence.”
In contrast however, Mr. Mike Penning, MP wrote; “ I take great pleasure in personally supporting the National Defence Medal and you are quite right that many of the ministers who serve at the MoD have no concept of what it is to serve our country in uniform.” He had the honour to serve in the Grenadier Guards!
OUR CASE -THE GOVERNMENT, MoD & HD COMMITTEE RESPONSE.
Before presenting our case we ask you to reflect and ponder on the following-
In 2006, the highly acclaimed journalist Tom Brokan , received the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award, from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
In his acceptance speech he said;
“ I THINK THAT WE HONOUR OURSELVES BY HONOURING OUR PAST.”
1/ Our case is simple, compelling and just. We are seeking a National Defence Medal similar in criteria to that of the Australian Defence Medal. (Appendix A)
2/ We believe that the precedent has been set. The Commonwealth of Australia instituted the Australian Defence Medal. This was formally approved by Her Majesty the Queen and the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No: S48 of 30 March 2006 refers.
3/ Even France under Minister of Defence, Charles Hernu and on the proposal from Gen.De Boissieu, instituted the Medaille de la Defense similar in criteria.
4/ We do not consider that HD Committee has acted in a fair and equitable manner. We are still trying to determine when the committee last met to discuss the question of medals. We specifically asked the following questions-
1. Have they ever discussed a proposal for a National Service Medal?
2. Has a proposal for a Cold War Medal ever been discussed?
3. When did they last sit to discuss any medal?
4. Is it correct that the last time the HD Committee met was in 2002?
The HD Committee is undemocratic. Democracy is government by all the people through elected representatives giving equality of rights in society. Our rights are blatantly ignored
We are still awaiting a reply to these questions posed in our e-mail dated 08/02/08 at 09:29:52 GMT Standard Time. If necessary we will make an application under the Freedom of Information Act to secure this information.
5/ We believe that the Rt. Hon. Des Browne, Esq., has a duty with his Minister for Veterans to ensure that veterans are properly recognised. His indifference is both incredible and shameful. We note with astonishment his comment made during his recent visit to the ATR Bassingbourn , that “Politicians do not do medals, nor should they- it is not a political decision.”
THE OFFICIAL RESPONSE.
The replies received from the Government, MoD and HD Committee are all off the same hymn sheet and from the same template.
Re: 1. The standard reply is that Australia withdrew from the Imperial Honours System in the mid 1970s. Any awards are the sole responsibility of that country and have no bearing on the rules pertaining to medals instituted in the UK.
Re: 2. Hence No Precedent has been set. *Our Legal Counsel advises otherwise. Also, Her Gracious Majesty the Queen who is head of our Armed Forces promulgated the Australian National Defence Medal. (Appendix A)
Re: 3. This point relating to the French stance has been studiously ignored.
Re: 4. In his letter Dt.7th February 2008 Mr. Denis Brennan, Secretary of the HD Committee- Cabinet Office- replying on behalf of all its members dismisses out of hand the proposal for a new National Defence Medal.
He then goes on to state that even if the Armed Forces were to submit a case on the lines suggested the HD Committee would not endorse any suggestion to issue the medal retrospectively, as this would contravene their long maintained five- year rule.
The Committee will not consider any case for service that was carried out more than five years previously
*Perhaps the HD Committee has forgotten that this rule is already in disrepute. We know that a precedent has already been established, historically twice. The first time was in 1846 to honour the Battle of Waterloo, of 1815. The Suez Canal Medal was issued retrospectively after 52 years, with the risible claim that this was a one ‘off’. This was after an unnecessary, acrimonious, lengthy and intense lobbying campaign by our associate and a prime mover the late Charles Golder, MBE, who served as a regular soldier attaining the final rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. They also conveniently forget that Her Gracious Majesty the Queen is head of our Armed Forces and that she has allowed a similar medal to the one that we suggest for the Commonwealth of Australia.
Re: 5 *The statement can only be disingenuous. Of course the Government of the day, the MoD and its specific ministers play a part in the medals scenario.
It is apparent that the Government, MoD and HD Committee are uncaring.
The case for a National Defence Medal is reasonable. However all of the above continue to prevaricate. This is ill behoves them, since by doing so they insult the intelligence of veterans. Such continued intransigence and misplaced hubris is to be deplored.
The majority of the ‘body politic’ and those in the ‘corridors of power’ have never served in uniform. This unaccountable cabal of decision makers has never experienced the rigours of basic training, let alone the personal determination required for the Pegasus Company selection or for the RM Commando Course. Consequently they can never comprehend the comradeship, which shared hardships imbue. They are thus unable to say; “I had the honour to serve.” Despite their exalted posts in Government, the MoD or HD Committee, even with an occasional visit to the officer’s mess or to a combat unit in the field, they still do not understand the military ethos. Having never served they can hardly fathom the élan and panache of certain regiments. They must remain as ever, ‘mere’ spectators to honour and tradition.
As the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784) stated in his often quoted discourse with James Boswell , (1740-1795) ; “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.”
We can justly and proudly say; “WE SERVED.” We may rightfully then ask, “who are you to sit in judgement over our reasonable and compelling case for a new National Defence Medal?”
Quite simply if they think so, they should take time out to read the following letter which can be found on our website- http//www.nationaldefencemedal.webs.com –or alternatively-
CONCLUSION CONTINUED – “THE LETTER.”
I served as a Cold War warrior from 1972-84, including six years in Germany, where the invasion of West Berlin was taken as a real threat. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan everything on wheels, tracks and jet powered was mobilised.
For nine months of the year we perfected our craft in the art of radio communications; all traffic was in real time in all weathers under all conditions, and if you have not experienced a German winter at 2 a.m.on the Deister Ridge you do not know what cold is.
All elements of the British Army of the Rhine were ready and willing to repel the Russian Bear. When not on exercise we were putting out forest fires and patrolling the inner German border, guarding atomic rocket and warhead sites.
Living in field conditions, eating field rations, burdened with weapons and back- packs, month after month, took its toll, but we did it with a will and solid determination.
Now I’m a civilian, I have nothing to show that I served my country. That is why I will stand on the sidelines and applaud the be-medalled warriors who were able to prove themselves under fire.
The Veterans Badge I wear on my lapel is no substitute for a more tangible symbol of time served as a soldier. What’s left of Gt. Britain? A medal would suffice.
*This is a singularly passionate and cogent letter.
We demand to be treated in the same manner that other countries treat their veterans. We will continue to campaign as long as is necessary for a National Defence Medal. We believe that we have a just, lawful and compelling case. We require answers to the questions posed with the HD Committee and maintain that it, with Government and the MoD have all manifestly failed in their duty.
Finally the onus now lies with the Government, MoD and members of the HD Committee to show some humility and rectify this unhappy situation. If they fail to act they will suffer obloquy.
Charles Lovelace. RMV202910- 20/06/1956. (Mne.)
Member NSVA & RMA HQ Roll Life Member.
RM Green Beret Commando Association Member.
Former 2Lt. RM & Lt.RMV- Queen’s Regt. 6/7(V) HSF Officer.