PROPOSAL for: NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL
(To - The Secretary of State for Defence)
As you are well aware that there has been a considerable clamour from previous National Servicemen for some form of recognition other than the Veterans Badge. Recently I also wrote to you on this subject, as did Lt.Col. W.A.Lyons.BEM.(Retd) Like countless others, I received the standard pro-forma MoD response from Mr Coney, office Defence Services Secretary — Honours1, who has been in post, dealing with medals since 1991. Unfortunately his letter dismisses an appeal for recognition of National Service with the usual practised sophism.
In one of the standard paragraphs he writes; ‘Conversely those who spent their National Service in the UK or with the BAOR under peacetime conditions did so alongside Regular personnel who likewise, did not receive a medal. It would be divisive to offer National Servicemen a medal for being conscripted, when those who volunteered for service would be excluded from receiving any award; even today many people leave the Armed Forces without having received a campaign medal during their service.’ His final sentence in this paragraph states; This does not imply that their contribution to the defence of the country has not been appreciated.' Sadly this is so far removed from reality that it must surely embarrass the writer, as it does the reader!. Mr Coney, with well honed indifference fails to appreciate that several, NS men were in-fact volunteers, e.g. myself for two years prior to call up. just one of many !.
I am cognizant that the Government of Australia, withdrew from the Imperial Honours System in the mid 1970s’. As a result they are wholly responsible for any new medals that they wish to introduce. However I refer you to the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No: S48 of 30 March 2006 which was approved formally by Her Majesty the Queen, namely the Australian Defence Medal. This medal is awarded to all Australians. who have served in their Armed Forces, as regulars. national servicemen or reservists whether at home or abroad. Therefore I commend you to study the award criteria and to follow Australia‘s very fine example.
In 1992 the late Gen. Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, GBE, DSO, MC, MLitt(Oxon) with the Royal British Legion sponsored the National Service Medal. This in my opinion was a grave error of judgement since it has subsequently spawned a plethora of unofficial medals. These medals have been a source of vitriolic debate within the service community, as evidenced in the very robust letter columns of the Soldier Magazine under the heading of Bling. They make for instructional reading and should be studied in the MoD to gauge public opinion and resentment of officialdom.
In other countries, including NATO, EU and the British Commonwealth, the military in the broadest sense, are respected. They are accorded the grateful thanks of their respective nations including national honours and awards to commemorate and mark individual selfless service. An immediate example is France, who under Minister for Defence, Charles Hernu, and on the proposal of Gen.de Boissieu, instituted the Medaille de la Defence Nationale, for Active Servicemen, National Servicemen, reservists and civilians killed or wounded on national duty. Interestingly men of all nationalities who serve in ‘La Legion etrangere’ are entitled to this medal.
It is time for the British Government and MOD to wake up, recognise and honour military service wherever undertaken with a National Defence Medal, not in be confused with the 1939/45 United Kingdom Defence Medal.
The current confrontation over medals is extremely unpleasant and the situation is not improved by the perceived intransigence of the MOD to recognise veterans. who have a genuine sense of grievance. The failure of the MOD to address the problems of medals correctly and with integrity increases the contempt felt by former service personnel for that Department. Many people consider the Veterans Badge to have been an insult and a mere political gesture made for electoral gains.
For its part the MOD must be fed up with the constant flow of irate letter writers and with former servicemen wearing all sorts of unofficial and commemorative medals on parade. However there is a simple remedy, which will solve the honour of all parties. That is to institute a NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL, encompassing criteria of service similar to that required for recipients of the Australian Defence Medal.
A NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL would ensure that ‘Bling’ became a relic of an unhappy past. It would no longer be seen or worn on parade. In reality Bling’ shames our current mean spirited administration, for failure to deal with the grievances, long held by Regulars, National Servicemen and Reservists of all arms.
True recognition of veterans and current serving personnel, is all part of the ever present Military Covenant and I trust that you will treat this letter with the merit that it justly deserves and address the proposal for a NATIONAL DEFENCE MEDAL.
Former Lt RMV.,Colonial Police Officer & Queen’s Regt 6/7(V) HSF Officer
(This letter also appeared in the NSVA Christmas Edition of their journal)