What do the Gurkhas, Wounded Service men, Merchant Seamen, Bomber Command and Air-raid Wardens, besides many others not mentioned here, have in common? You know the answer without having to refer to reference books, newspapers, magazine articles and the like. They all had to fight, or have people fight on their behalf, for decent national recognition in the form of reward or monument.
As a nation we go around preaching to the world about justice and fair play, supposedly marked attributes of this country. Yet when it comes to our own people, there is a disgraceful disregard of the fortunes, plights and well-being of those who have given their all in defence or personal aid to the people of this realm. It's all very well, having military tattoos, remembrance day marches or other general flag-waving when what our Government and others in responsible positions, should be doing is making sure that those who have lost limbs, given up valuable time or taken great risks on our behalf, are justly and wholly rewarded. It is a question of honour, integrity, conscience and last but certainly not least the little matter of gratitude.
I am a pacifist by inclination but I recognise that if someone has gone out on a limb because he is persuaded that we as a nation are at risk and puts his life and literally, his limbs on the line then should I not recognise his sacrifice, his endeavour? I am sure most of the readers will agree that I should, but flag waving will not help a wounded man looking for work or too traumatised to hold a job or lead a normal life.
So when I read of a man who has lost his right arm (or his left for that matter), having to go to the Benefits Department or the Jobs Agency, and reply to stupid questions such as “are you right or left handed?” I see red. I am ashamed that I am British. When ex-service men have now to fight the authorities to accept that they have a genuine problem, it makes a mockery of Remembrance Day and all the other related ceremonies. It is a disgrace that there had to be a campaign for a monument to be erected to mark the bravery that Bomber Command exhibited particularly at a time when this country was on its knees. What is even more reprehensible is that those serving in those operations have now passed on before they could enjoy the honour belatedly bestowed on them. What does that say about our conscience, gratitude, obligations?
Similarly those brave souls on the Arctic Conveys, notwithstanding they did get medals (my own Uncle had about 4), had to wait a long time before they were earmarked as special veterans. Merchant Seamen had a struggle to get decent treatment for once they lost their ship, their pay stopped. Even though they may have been involved in heavy bombardment and were sitting ducks if the destroyers and frigates were unable to come to their aid in time.
The list goes on: miners, wardens all had to wait before they were given any meaningful recognition.
“Blow, blow thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man's ingratitude”!Now many get the plaudits and laurels they so richly deserve but the dishonour comes with the wait many of them had to endure before an official pat on the back, practical help and acknowledgement of their bravery.
Medals and flags won't do when your wound is hurting because you are freezing cold and cannot hold a job. When you are blind or deaf. Thank goodness we don't shoot so-called traumatised cowards any more. We don't just let them down, we let ourselves down. “Play up, play up and play the game”, they did.