We should get behind brave men's campaign
By The News
April 20, 2009

Veterans are still battling for recognition more than 60 years after their bravery. Haven't we been here before?
The crew of destroyer HMS Concord believe they deserve the Yangtze Clasp to add to their general service medals after helping crippled frigate HMS Amethyst escape from the Chinese Communists back in 1949. But the Ministry of Defence doesn't agree.

Russian convoy veterans also had to fight long and hard to finally get an Arctic Star emblem awarded in 2005. Then we got behind the campaign, led by veteran Commander Eddie Grenfell from Havant, and eventually got the MoD to change its mind.

We believe the case of the dwindling band of men who served in Concord is just as compelling. Yet once again the MoD seems unwilling to recognise their actions and right an historical wrong.

Sailors on other ships who helped Amethyst flee the Chinese civil war were recognised with the Yangtze Clasp, named after the river that 60 years ago was the setting for fierce gun battles with the Chinese army.

Yet Concord veterans have been ignored - all because MoD mandarins maintain that they did not face the same level of risk as sailors on board other ships Amethyst, Black Swan, Consort and London.

Veterans even allege they have documents showing that back in 1949 the MoD ordered a cover-up of the destroyer's involvement, meaning they were never even considered for a medal. In actual fact they sailed towards guns in a river where dozens of their comrades had died.

Today officialdom seems to be displaying the same sort of infuriating intransigence we came across during the Arctic Star campaign.

A spokesman says: 'Actual risk and rigour must be present to qualify for a medal; potential risk would not be enough.'

It's very easy for somebody behind a desk to come out with something like this. But the men who were there know what danger they faced. The fact they were never actually fired on doesn't diminish their bravery.

We believe they deserve the Yangtze Clasp every bit as much as fellow veterans who already proudly wear one on their blazers. These men must not be sidelined from history any longer.

Reprinted with the permission of The News
© 2009 The News and www.portsmouth.co.uk all rights reserved


Page published Apr. 29, 2009