River Wissey Lovell Fuller

January Editorial

January 2004

The Editor bemoans the ever shrinking armed forces

Happy New Year to you All,

At the beginning of December, I attended the first annual luncheon of the recently reformed Number 1 Radio School of the RAF; a seat of education I attended in the 1950's. The guests at the luncheon spanned well in excess of half a century with the most senior having attended the school in 1937 and the most recent being currently under instruction. Inevitably, the conversations were comparative. The more senior members noted that in 1945 the strength of the RAF exceeded 250,000 whereas current strengths barely exceeded 50,000! Then to our horror, came the news that current Defence Reviews suggest a further reduction in the strength of the RAF to 30,000. Compare this, if you will, to the strength of Tesco!

In the latest Defence review we have also learned that the UK will in future be unable to engage in any major war without the assistance of the USA or NATO where the USA is the leading partner. Perhaps of even more importance, it has now been confirmed that our brave troops were sent to Iraq, ill prepared, ill equipped and inadequately supported and not a single word of apology from our political masters. Perhaps the likes of us are now considered expendable? Isn't this a dramatic change of heart from the time in the 1970's when our illustrious Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and many other leading members of New labour were prominent and card carrying members of CND?

During post prandial discussions at the 1 radio School lunch I raised the topic voiced in recent media coverage, and included in the December issue of the Pump, that increasing numbers of British Schools were visiting Flanders to enable the children to gain a better understanding of the events of the First and Second World War. A senior member of the RAF present suggested that he had long thought that it would be most beneficial if the members of our current Government were placed on a coach and taken to the war cemeteries in Europe on a similar tour. He felt that each should be given a clipboard and instructed that, at each cemetery they visited, they were to identify the age of the youngest casualty, the age of the eldest and the number of graves for un-named soldiers.

He thought it might be a salutatory lesson for our current crop of post war politicians to be made aware of the fact that in one European cemetery alone there are graves for no less than 70,000 unknown warriors. I don't know about you, but I would guess this challenge is most unlikely to be accepted! Why confuse governmental rhetoric with facts?

To change the subject, I'm sure that like me you have been watching the Soham murder trial with morbid fascination. Obviously we do not have access to all the facts but, on the surface, it does seem an unlikely conclusion that two healthy 10 year olds could die accidentally in the space of a few moments in the same house. My plain speaking octogenarian puts it succinctly; the trial could have been concluded in a week but the lawyers are making a fortune out of prolonging the process!

Having got those two items off my chest, it simply remains for me to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2004. To those who contribute to the success of the Pump, thank you. To those who wonder what all the fuss is about please, dig into your memories and share your experiences with your neighbours. You will be surprised how enriching this experience can be. Also, if you have photographic archives of the community, please share them with us; it will benefit everyone.

Ray Thompson

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