Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Why I respect, admire and support our servicemen

The context for this piece is that in the Chronicle letters two weeks ago a writer, Tony Culver, said we should be ashamed of our British military history and he said our armed forces did not deserve our respect. He has since repeated that claim in a new letter this week - and this was the response I made in my column, printed on November 12.

Whenever I talk to local community groups it is usually only a matter of time before the Bath Chronicle’s famous (or should I say infamous)? letters pages are discussed.

I know that our pages are avidly read by people and the contents are widely discussed and debated.

This is because, by and large, we have an exceptional letters section which allows our readers to pontificate on all manner of hot topics which really gets their debating juices flowing.

I am just like everyone else in that a number of the letters that appear are ones I fully agree with and others are totally against my own personal view. And that is fine, because they are your letters pages – not mine.

However, occasionally, just occasionally, one letter gnaws away at me so I cannot ignore it. And that is what has happened this week with the second letter we print by Tony Culver who has attacked our armed forces and their long history.

It is his view, one he passionately believes, and he has every right to be heard (and printed). But so do we who fundamentally disagree.

I could talk at some length about many of the issues Mr Culver raises about war, peace and our armed forces generally but I just want to focus on one core subject, one which I think challenges everyone who believes in ‘peace at all cost’.

And that is the Second World War.

You could make a fairly powerful argument against nearly every war that has been fought but the Second World War was different – very, very different. When you are growing you play games with goodies and ‘baddies’, and this was a war when those terms genuinely (and uniquely?) apply.

Yes, there are many innocent German people who lost their lives in that conflict, but there is no denying that the Nazi regime that led them to war was pure evil. And pure evil can not – and must not – be ignored.

Mr Culver’s plea of peace is absolutely commendable – but it only works if both sides sign up. As we know Britain did everything it could to appease Hitler – and all he did was to sneer at our weakness.

Had we ignored his growing militarism to keep our own ‘purity of peace’ we would have seen Europe enslaved, Britain completely overrun (the Nazis would hardly have respected our ‘neutrality’) and we would probably have seen the total and utter destruction of the Jewish race on our continent.

I visited Auschwitz last year and saw for myself the appalling effect of Hitler’s insane beliefs and anyone that can possibly think he would have been stopped in his evil plans to create an Aryan master race by ‘peaceful methods’ is almost dangerously naive. Hitler had to be stopped – and the only way, sadly, he was going to be stopped was at the end of a gun.

In his latest letter, Mr Culver also said that the freedom we have now isn’t worth the price of the millions who died for it. He is wrong. Freedom, like democracy, is something that we in the west take for granted – ask the millions in the world who don’t have it how much they were prepared to sacrifice to gain it and you may not see such a flip attitude to freedom. And that has been earned mainly by our brilliant, committed and dedicated armed forces for whom we all owe our pride, respect and loyalty.

I will, as editor, continue to print Mr Culver’s words and those of people who support him but as an individual I feel nothing but incredible pride for the people who lost their lives in British uniforms so that I, and Mr Culver, can have the right to debate these issues.So, yes I will remember them all.

And with genuine pride.

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