Monday, 27 June 2011
Disrespectful Or Not?
The homecoming of our fallen will be moved from RAF Lyneham to RAF Brize Norton in September.
During the years of repatriation taking place in Lyneham, the corteges had to pass through the main street of Royal Wootton Bassett en route to the destination of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The silent tribute the people of Royal Wootton Bassett started became a focus for family, friends and those who wished to pay their respect to the dead.
Unfortunately in more recent times it also became a media circus when interviewers ran around clutching microphones and asking stupid questions of those in attendance. Sometimes it was difficult to listen to the falseness of reporters as they pressurise the public into making statements.
Now our dead are to be returning to RAF Brize Norton, an airport I used to know well and I doubt if it has changed much in the intervening years. The plan is that the corteges leaves by one of the back gates of the airport and is routed down side roads to join the A420 to Oxford. Some are up in arms not only because of the back gate plan but why the route doesn't go through the nearby small town of Carterton.
Andrew Robathan's remarks did rile me:
I am not sure taking coffins in hearses past schools, past families, past married quarters is necessarily the thing that everybody would wish to see . . . the focus must be on the families of the dead service personnel. They are the people who care most. That is where our focus is.’
Of course the focus must be on the families, but his excuses about coffins in hearses going past schools is political speak for: 'the real reason is we want to keep the sight of the dead away from the population as much as we can. We don't want the people reminded how many dead military return from the wars we've created'.
In a poll organised by the Oxford Times half the local people didn't want the corteges diverted through Carterton. Repatriations usually take place on Thursdays and Thursday is Carterton's market day. The families shan't be concerned by this lack of interest as their grief will be far too profound to take notice, but some could be distressed by the fact that their loved one departs their last service base through a back gate instead of a more dignified departure through the main gate.
The MoD say the back gate is nearer the currently-being-built repatriation centre and to reach the front gate the cortege would have to cross the runway. Such action would interfere with base operations. Erm? Surely if repatriations are to be, once again, part of the base's operations the movement of a few vehicles across the runway would cause minimal disruption.
Having looked at some military forums a large majority of commenters would prefer the corteges to leave by the front gate as a mark of respect. Only one serving airman said he didn't like the idea of meeting a cortege when he was arriving at the front gate for further duty in the deserts of far off lands.
If people wish to pay their respects to the fallen they are usually able to attend the funeral. If anyone wishes to pay their respect there is no reason they can't do it outside the airport base at any point of the route. Many will I'm sure.
A few suggested other forum members contacted the local MP about the use of the back entrance. He's sure to have quite a bit to say in response but will he take any action? I think not.
Aye, it's the UK's chief salesman who is MP for the area.
Update: This morning I've been reliably informed that the last year no British service personnel were killed on active service was 1968. Political leaders have been perfectly content to have the body bags return without any public acknowledgement. None made any effort to ensure a proper and dignified ceremony was offered. That was voluntarily undertaken by the joint armed services.
It's only since the generously spirited people of Royal Wootton Bassett decided to pay their respects that the public have become more aware.