Willie takes sailors' award battle to MPs
By Scott McAngus
March 12, 2009

A tireless campaigner has taken his fight to see the brave sailors of a ship's company honoured to the House of Commons. Retired sailor Willie Leitch, 74, from Deans, has campaigned for years for colleagues from HMS Concord who carried out a daring rescue mission on the Yangtze River during the Chinese Civil War to receive the Yangtze 1949 Clasp.

The MoD has previously denied his calls to have the crew of the Concord honoured after it saved HMS Amethyst from the river when it came under fire from both sides during the conflict.

Three other ships which tried to help Amethyst were given the clasp.

The Government say Concord is not eligible for the honour as it did not come under fire like the other ships, and has previously denied it even entered the Yangtze waters at all.

The infamous incident has always been a source of controversy in regards to Concord's role in the rescue.

But Mr Leitch wants what he believes is the truth rectified in the year of the incident's 60th anniversary.

He has approached Livingston MP Jim Devine who has raised the issue in Defence Questions at Westminster.

The MP stated: "As my right honorable Friend the Minister is aware, my constituent Willie Leitch lobbies me almost daily about the Yangtze incident.

"I have written to my right honorable Friend to raise the issue with him, but will he put the Government's position on the record so that I can reassure my constituent, Mr Leitch?"

Minister of State for the Armed Forces, MP Bob Ainsworth replied: "I have replied to my hon. Friend in the past and I am more than happy to meet him if he wants more detail about the issue."

Mr Devine wants to set up a meeting between Mr Ainsworth and Mr Leitch to enable the campaigner to put his points across to the minister.

Mr Leitch said: "I have no intention whatsoever of meeting Mr Ainsworth because he is a foreigner to the truth.

"I sent Mr Devine a petition five months ago which I would like him to present to Parliament and hope that he does this very soon because this is now a matter for Parliament. and not just a minister within the MoD.

"There is no doubt whatsoever Concord entered the river and pulled the beleaguered Amethyst out.

"It is an absolute disgrace that this country's Government has denied these sailors the honour they deserve."

-Scott McAngus

Reprinted with the permission of Scott McAngus
and the West Lothian Herald & Post
© 2009 West Lothian Herald & Post all rights reserved


Page published Mar. 21, 2009