Drone operators have now been included in the award of a medal for their service. It is a changing landscape of military combat and the operators of the RAF Reaper crews, based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, US will receive the Op Shader medal.
The announcement comes as Mr Gavin Williamson MP attends a meeting of defence ministers in Munich from nations within the Global Coalition against Daesh. Daesh is currently struggling to hold its last pocket of territory in eastern Syria, as the UK and its coalition partners continue to support the Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground.
The official announcement can be found here.
Whilst it cannot be denied that these operators play an essential part in any conflict and the 21st century weaponry that has been developed enables these pilots to operate them hundreds of miles away in safety, the award of a medal for their services has angered many in the Veteran community who have fought for years for recognition, to be denied due to lack of Rigour or Risk.
On the 29th August 2013 at the second meeting of the Advisory Military Sub-Committee, various claims for a medal were discussed the including The British Nuclear Test Veterans (BNTVA). This was the last time the committee met and despite assurances from Gavin Williamson MP, The Rt Hon Earl Howe (Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Minister of State for Defence) and Tobias Ellwood MP, the committee is still not in operation 7 months after meeting with representatives of the BNTVA.
At the meeting, the award of a medal to the Nuclear Veterans was discussed, with the following outcome:
This committee agreed that that the Nuclear Veterans were not given a proper account of the risks they were running and have a genuine grievance. They also agreed that it was not the best way to recognise the risk. But they state that the rigour aspect was not present.
Now that the ongoing claims for compensation have ceased, there is no excuse for the medal review not to be undertaken.
Being sent to an island thousands of miles away from home, for periods of between 9 and 14 months, creating an infrastructure to allow testing in extremely hot conditions, whilst being sprayed twice daily for DDT, then after the infrastructure was completed, watching a Nuclear explosion, feeling the blast and the radioactive rain which followed is not rigorous enough.
But sitting in a air conditioned room, thousands of miles away in complete safety, flying remote drones is?
Many Veterans have complained about this award of a medal to these operators, not because the operators do not deserve it, they are performing an essential service, but how can these people be awarded a medal and Veterans who served be denied.
The full minutes of the second meeting an be found here
What is the Her Majesty the Queen's involvement?
Last year Her Majesty The Queen approved the extension of the eligibility criteria for the medal to new groups of personnel. The Queen does not issue medals or propose different types of medals to be given to Veterans or service personnel, she will approve a recommendation, but does not recommend.
This is understandable, as she needs to remain impartial, even if her husband Prince Phillip did visit Christmas Island during the tests and saw for himself the conditions that the servicemen were working in.
Who are the People sitting on the Committee?
Sir John Holmes has been widely criticised for his handling of the Medal claims by a number of Organisations across the country. As you can see, the officials deciding on the award of the medals at the previous committee were very high ranking and the person who would be the best suited to argue the case for historic medals Professor Sir Hew Strachan was not present at the meeting.
The official report of Sir John Holmes investigation can be found here.
- Sir Jon Thompson is no longer in his post as Permanent Secretary to the MoD.
- Vice Admiral Robert George Cooling CB is a former Royal Navy officer who served as Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff.
- Major-General Nicholas Jeremy Cottam CB OBE was a senior British Army officer who went on to be Military Secretary and thereafter Registrar of St Paul's Cathedral. Retired in 2015.
- Air Vice-Marshall Tony Stables was the Chairman of COBSEO and founded the Forces in Mind Trust.
- Sir John Holmes GCVO KBE CMG is a British former diplomat who is the current Chair of the Electoral Commission.
- Professor Sir Hew Strachan is currently Professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, and a council member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen's Bodyguard for Scotland.Since May 2014, he has been Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale. Before moving to St Andrews, Strachan was the Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford.
The Official GOV.UK website has a page entitled "Sir John Holmes independent medal review 2014 update", unfortunately this page has been withdrawn:
So why did Professor Strachan not attend such an important meeting on historical medals? His knowledge and input would have proved invaluable for the meeting.
But what happened at the first meeting?
This was the second meeting of the AMSC, but the minutes from that meeting have not been published and are not available. A complaint was made to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in July 2018 and the ICO investigated the complaint and ruled that the MoD must publish the minutes of that meeting.
The full report on the investigation can be found here.
Instead of publishing the minutes, the MoD have taken the matter to a tribunal hearing for an appeal.
Again the MoD choose to fight in the High Court, rather than be transparent and open, as Tobias Ellwood MP has quoted on many responses to our Veterans.
Whilst the tribunal is ongoing, we will not know what is contained in the minutes of that meeting, with the AB and ES public documents under a security review and withdrawn from public view, it seems on first glance that the MoD seem to be worried about the amount of information that is available to the public and the damage it could cause them.
Should the Veterans be happy about this award?
This new medal is a shift in recognition for the MoD, they can no longer rely on the original criteria for medals, the goalposts have moved. With the building campaign of support from MP's across the country, the pressure being applied by the BNTVA and their members, it is time for the government to recognise these brave servicemen before it is too late.
I am not a Veteran, but after researching this award and the AMSC, I would welcome this new medal as it sets a precedence which can now be quoted when arguing the case for recognition.
The Cabinet Office have yet to announce who is going to sit on the AMSC board, and I am sure that no matter who is appointed as Chair, there will be people who complain, but the evidence to award a medal is mounting. The BNTVA have published numerous articles, the results of the Massey Study provided by the New Zealand Nuclear Veterans Association are undeniable. The campaign by Susie Boniface of The Daily Mirror, the excellent articles from Fissionline cannot be ignored.
The Nuclear Families Research by Dr Becky Martin and the DNA study being undertaken by Brunel University and the NCCF are still to be published, but these will add to the evidence that these servicemen have been affected by their test participation and their families will continue to suffer.
For any board member who has been appointed and reads this blog, visit damned.mirror.co.uk, it contains all of the evidence you need.
For the Nuclear Veterans who are angry by this award, see it as a positive, the MoD have now removed the criteria which they denied you last request, with no tribunals ongoing at the moment for compensation, they can no longer deny you this recognition. Continue to write to your MP's, support the board by renewing your membership and raise awareness across your local community and within the other Charitable Organisations that you belong to.