13. Nov, 2014

Britain’s Future Heroes

Last year, on Sunday the 10th of November, I had the privilege of marching with my cousin at the Remembrance Day March in Mold, North Wales. For us two aging ex-servicemen, one Australian and one Briton, it was a moving occasion. I learnt to march as a Royal Artillery army cadet in North Wales. Unbeknown to me, as I marched across various barrack squares in North Wales as a schoolboy cadet, my cousin had just signed up as a very young soldier in the Welsh Fusiliers. Not then knowing my cousin, our paths would have crossed somewhere in one of those cold, red-bricked barracks.  

   

With these thoughts in mind as we approached Remembrance Day this year I was horrified at a news story out of Britain.

 

On the late afternoon of Saturday the 1st of November a 15-year-old Army Cadet, selling Remembrance Day poppies outside the Manchester Art Gallery, was attacked and burned by a man wielding a makeshift blowtorch.

 

The cadet was standing at a bus stop in Manchester city centre wearing his camouflaged uniform. His attacker, described by police as being black or Asian, some 5ft 8 inches tall, wearing a dark hooded top and staggering consistent with being under the influence of alcohol. After the attack he walked off from the bus stop without saying a word.

 

The Greater Manchester Police, in describing incident said the man, carrying an aerosol can and a lighter approached the cadet at the bus stop, sprayed him with lit fumes causing minor burns to his face, his right forearm and singeing his hair. Detective Inspector Liam Boden said: “This is an absolutely appalling attack on a young man who was raising money to help remember all those who gave their lives”.  

 

Police appealed for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.

 

Aside from being horrified at the incident I was disappointed by a little self-censorship on behalf of the BBC. I subscribe to the BBC world e.news, BBC breaking e.news and BBC world e.headlines. But where did I hear of this? Through breaking news by an American e.news service The Conservative Tribune to which I also subscribe.  Being a pedant I checked up on the story. I looked at the BBC headlines to no avail. I found that the story had been covered by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and other print media. I finally tracked the BBC story way down in its Manchester regional section. In these sad days of localised terrorism and Jihad at home the BBC certainly ensured the story didn’t receive the international coverage it deserved.

 

My point is that although we cannot, nor should we, naturally assume it was a deliberate religiously inspired act of political violence, it was at the very least, a depraved attack on a young boy wearing the Queen’s uniform. It is a story about societal dysfunction worthy of broader attention. The local print media saw fit to exercise their moral outrage. Why not the BBC? Why did I hear it first through an American news outlet?

 

Being politically correct and ever so delicate it would appear that the BBC, unlike their print media cousins, feared to inflame [no pun intended] passions by telling the news.   

 

The good news however is that the cadet, one Callum Watkins, far from being intimidated, laid a wreath on Remembrance Sunday in his full cadet uniform. He has vowed to carry on selling poppies for the Royal British Legion - and said he wants to train as an army paramedic. At only 15 he has already done his nation proud.

 

Another good news story from the UK is that of a group of schoolchildren, soldiers and religious leaders, in an unparalleled show of solidarity, visited France over the weekend to commemorate the sacrifices of a multi-cultural First World War Brigade.

 

Members of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment looking for ways to commemorate the Centenary of the outbreak of the war, looked back at their antecedent battles and chose to commemorate the Jullundar Brigade - then part of the Indian Army - made up of the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, the 47th Sikhs, and the 59th Scinde Rifles, and a battle which took place on the 28th of October 1914.

 

On that day Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and Christian soldiers launched an attack to recapture Neuve Chapelle, near Lille, from the Germans.

 

To commemorate the centenary 80 Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Soldiers, 100 Year Six school children, 30 Army cadets and religious leaders from Lancashire and Manchester, held a service of remembrance for the fallen at the Indian Army Memorial in Neuve Chapelle.

 

Colonel Chris Owen, regimental secretary of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said: “There were Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians in The Jullundur Brigade - a microcosm of the area where we recruit now. This has resonance for our community and an educational resonance for the children.”

 

He added: “This is all about strengthening ties between us and the community and celebrating our shared history and knowledge. The multi-cultural element of the war is often overlooked, but we have to remember that it was an empire then and we have a Commonwealth now. There were many Indian troops on the Western Front, it was a real multicultural effort.” [Press Release MoD 7 Nov 2014 Gov UK]

 

It was a profoundly positive step by the British government and the community. War is perhaps the greatest of all levellers. To jointly commemorate the sacrifices made by all, in name of the greater good, is a sound example of how to cement the community. Today’s exemplars are young Cadet Watkins and the school children that visited Neuve Chapelle.

 

These are the Britons of tomorrow. These are the Britons that ISIS, apathy or any ideology of evil will never defeat.

 

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