Martin Hannan: Heroes deserve medals respect

David Cameron with troops in Afghanistan at the weekend
David Cameron with troops in Afghanistan at the weekend
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Every so often in this journalistic life you come across a scandalous situation that a great many people know about but nobody seems to want to print.

I am talking about the fact that men and women who served this country during the Second World War and later conflicts do not automatically get their service or campaign medals.

It absolutely astonishes me that with a coalition government that falls over itself to talk up our brave soldiers, sailors and flyers, medals are not automatically despatched to veterans, even of current conflicts. Politicians and veterans alike know about this failure of honour, but no-one seems to want to speak out.

In what appears to me to be a classic example of government parsimony, any former serviceman or servicewoman who qualifies for war or campaign medals has to apply for them in writing.

That applies even to the badge that everyone who was ever in the services can proudly wear – the HM Forces Veterans Badge, instituted in 2004.

The onus is on the veteran or his or her family to apply. This is despite the fact that the army, Royal Navy and RAF all know exactly who served where and for how long. The records are meticulously preserved, and it is very, very rare for a veteran’s record to go missing.

The Ministry of Defence has a hard-working medal office which deals with hundreds of requests every week, but that’s not the point. Everyone who qualified for a medal should get it automatically, yet even soldiers who have served in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan must apply for their own campaign medals.

Now you may point out quite rightly that most veterans who saw active service in the Second World War have passed away, and how would the medal office track down people or their descendants who may have moved home many times since 1945? Well, first of all let’s compute how many people we are talking about – it’s in the tens of thousands, rather than millions.

And every single one of those veterans is a pensioner – all it would take would be for some clever IT person to link the computers at the MoD and Department of Work and Pensions and veterans would soon be found.

Saturday was Armed Forces Day when Prime Minister David Cameron popped up in Afghanistan to announce a national memorial to those service personnel who have died in the conflict. He said: “I think Armed Forces Day is an opportunity for the whole nation to say a very big thank you, but also to say how proud we are of our armed forces and everything they do for us.”

I am sure that the Prime Minister means well with his memorial plan, but when you realise that this United Kingdom will not spend the money to give veterans their due recognition, then you would be entitled to conclude that he is being nothing more or less than an unctuous hypocrite.

Or maybe the PM just doesn’t realise that even now, the heroes of Afghan service, never mind the Second World War, have to apply for their due reward.

In the meantime, if you know a war veteran, ask them if they got their medals, and if not, check out the MoD and Veterans UK websites.

ROAD TO NOWHERE

A quick note to all motorist readers – avoid the Old Town as the Cowgate roadworks are making life well nigh impossible for everyone around them.

By George, is he just a copycat?

Mentioning Governmental hypocrisy, last week’s announcements by Chancellor George Osborne about spending money on major infrastructure projects and providing funds to allow English councils to freeze council tax levels proved yet again that the coalition looks to the Scottish Government for a lead.

Capital spending to boost jobs? Check. Freeze council tax? Check. Minimum pricing for alcohol? Check (though it will fail). Cut business taxes to attract companies? Check. Referendum on the country’s future in an unpopular union? Check.

This SNP member sees the unionist lackeys in the press resorting to more and more personal attacks on Salmond. No wonder, as even these blinkered fools know their Tory paymasters are copycats.

The fare way to calculate bonus

The recent brouhaha over the large sums paid to the top men at Lothian Buses got me thinking about how their bonuses are calculated, and perhaps I can make a suggestion in that regard.

The thought struck me as I looked in vain for a no.37 which the electronic sign said was due – it didn’t turn up for another ten minutes – that the bosses’ performance is assuredly not measured by the punctuality of their buses.

Every minute a bus is late should be a penny off their bonuses. They would end up owing us money.

Tunnel vision is really lacking

Queensferry Crossing? Well, that’s what the local people wanted and their wishes should be paramount.

My problem with the new bridge is that it’s not a tunnel. Building a tunnel would have been quicker, cheaper and more efficient, because high winds will never close a tunnel.

There’s also the question of whether the crossing is really necessary. Is it true some scientists have found a cure for cable corrosion?