Ben Griffin and Jim Radford of VFP UK at the No Glory gathering in Parliament Square on the centenary of the start of the First World War.
‘Every point made by Ben Griffin was spot on. His telling of how the British Legion is determined we should only remember Commonwealth servicemen who died, & NOT those we killed: Of the stony face of the British Legion woman when he suggested that German ex-servicemen should join in our commemorations.
On Boxing Day 1943, a callow youth of 18 aboard the destroyer HMS Matchless, I played my VERY small part in killing 1,867 of the bravest men in the world, the crew of the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst. On New Year’s Day 1944, the 14 ships of the Royal Navy Home Fleet who had taken part in the one-sided battle steamed into Scapa Flow to a Hero’s welcome. Full of the Jingoism of the time, I felt proud to have played my part in what I had been gullible enough to believe was ‘The Fight for Freedom’.
With the coming of understanding of the true causes of war, every day that now passes I grieve for those 1,867 men, just as much as I grieve for my own young shipmates who had died around me just 6 months before. On Boxing Day 2010, BBC World Radio broadcast on their ‘WITNESS’ Programme an interview with me about the Arctic Convoys & the sinking of the Scharnhorst.
It was touching that it brought an email response from South Africa, from the daughter of Admiral Bey, in command of the German force on that day, he being one of those who died. She had been a little girl at the time, & told how, on the morning of that fateful day, her father had said on the telephone “Wish me luck”.
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