The great Apia Hurricane
Volume 55, Number 4, April 2017
Got to stop somewhere FOLLOWING last month’s new item on George “Johnny” Johnson, DFM, and the on-line petition started by Carol Vorderman and the Sun newspaper to award the Dambuster a knighthood (“News and Views”, March 2017, page 6) our attention was drawn to another medal-related petition, in this case one to make the Long Service and Good Conduct medal available to officers who retired before July 2014, as currently only those serving on or after July 29, 2014 (the day the bill giving officers the LS&GC was presented to Parliament) are eligible for the award. The petition, which can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/187598 exhorts Parliament to debate the idea that all eligible officers, even those who retired before July 2014, should get that particular gong. You can see the logic behind the argument—what if you put in years of dedicated service and retired on July 1, 2014? You’d get nothing to wear at the next Remembrance Sunday Parade whereas the man who was just a few weeks your junior would get a lovely shiny new medal—especially galling if you were home service throughout your career and had no campaign medals to wear. The trouble is, once you start back-dating medals where do you stop? There’s no actual date given on the petition so I’m not sure what the person who posted it is thinking—maybe make this new LS&GC available to all those who retired this century perhaps? Well fine, that would encompass those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan but what about those who served in the First Gulf? Don’t the officers who saw service in Kuwait deserve recognition beyond the campaign medals? OK, so you include them too, but then surely you have to include Falklands veterans as well don’t you? If you do that, then what about those who fought in Aden? Cyprus? Malaya? Kenya? Suez? Korea? How can you tell any one of those proud old boys that they can’t have one of the new LS&GCs even though their years of service would have met the criteria today? So fine, you include everyone who retired post 1946—but why choose that date? How fair is that? I’m sure there’s a centenarian somewhere who fought in World War II and would be eligible for the new medal if he hadn’t retired straight after the war because of the injury he sustained on D-Day and can you imagine the headlines if he was excluded? So then maybe you only allow it to go to living recipients, make it akin to the NGS and MGS of 1848? Well that’s fine but back then there wasn’t 24 hour news or social media to jump on the inevitable case of the poor soul who applies for the medal but then dies before the medal is sent out. In this case should his family get the medal or not? Well, I’m certainly not going to be the one to say no! To solve this perhaps the criteria could be “any officer alive on July 29, 2014 with eligible service”. On the surface this seems fine, until the tabloids dig out the story of Lt-Col John Smith (or whoever) who had been captured at the fall of Singapore, was brutalised by his Japanese captors in the Chinghai railway labour camps but who overcame his fear of the Far East to serve in Borneo and Malaysia and who then went on to work with the poor of those countries and help with young army cadets there in his remaining years but who had died on July 28 . . . Faced with this or similar stories the public outcry would be immediate, and loud, and the only way to avoid such adverse publicity would be to award the new medal posthumously. There, sorted, stand easy, as you were, just give it to any officer alive or dead who meets/met the criteria (we’ll come back to looking at all the poor other ranks who only served 17 years and who didn’t get their LS&GC when they were alive but who might be eligible now, because, you know, progress and all that). Except now the flood gates are opened and we are faced with the potential of hundreds of thousands of new medals awarded to officers who served in regiments long since disbanded in countries long ago vanished in conflicts long ago forgotten—and that’s without the sheer logistical nightmare of checking the eligibility of the person who’s applying. Without somebody, somewhere, doing stringent checks you could end up with duplicate issues, triplicate issues or worse. I exaggerate of course, the chances of there being an application for a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for Colonel John Rouse Merriott Chard (who, after 17 and a half years’ service would be eligible under today’s rules) are zero, but the principle is there. If you don’t have some kind of cut-off date then, potentially, the whole thing could become an utter disaster and thus a date of some kind, a line in the sand as it were has to be there, even if that does annoy some people. You simply can’t please all of the people all of the time and to try inevitably ends badly. Of course there is another way—and that is just to leave the whole things well enough alone in the first place. Ever since the 1993 review there has been constant tinkering with the honours and awards system and, inevitably, it ends up upsetting somebody—maybe now would be a good time to just leave it all alone for a while? Just saying . . .
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