Letters


The Tory future

Sir: Peter Lilley tries to separate the question of how he would oppose New Labour in Parliament from the question of how `to reunite, rebuild and renew the party' in the country ('I choose freedom', 31 May).

But the Conservative party has been losing members for years, and at the latest count the average age of the remainder was 64. So if this decline is to be reversed and we are to have a party capable of running a strong campaign in every constituency, then it has to recruit a mass of new younger members. But since New Labour has abandoned all the policies which made many people sufficiently angry to join and work for an opposing party, the only future I can see for the Conservative party is to become again a national party concerned above all for the interests and independence of the United Kingdom.

In that case, the first step towards rebuilding the party is to rule out absolutely and unconditionally any abandonment of the national currency. After all, Chancellor Kohl and all the other federalists want the euro precisely because they believe that this is a necessary condition for the erection of a United States of Europe with a single government.

Antony Flew

26 Alexandra Road,

Reading, Berkshire

Our brave men

Sir: Bruce Anderson's article on pardons for first world war soldiers executed for cowardice (Politics, 31 May) makes no distinction between those unjustly convicted and those justly convicted.

The major case for the blanket pardon, which I hope is successful, is that most of those executed were suffering from psychological illnesses generally known as shellshock. This was a known and recognised illness at the time these executions occurred, and these men should have been invalided out of the service. Also, in a very substantial number of cases the courts-martial were not conducted in strict accordance with military law. This is in itself more than sufficient grounds to issue pardons.

Mr Anderson's comments justifying the necessity for this draconian regime are equally wide of the mark. First, the British army was not the only army not to crack under the strain; the German army also did not crack. It was finally defeated in 1918, but that is different from cracking.

It is worth noting here that the German army of the first world war did not execute soldiers for cowardice, whereas the French army - which did crack - was notorious even by the standards of its day for executing its soldiers.

The above utterly destroys his argument that this draconian regime had a military necessity. In the second world war the British army did not ever execute soldiers for cowardice; neither did the American army, with only one exception in France near the end of the war. Yet how will Mr Anderson rate the conduct of the American soldiers on Omaha Beach and when stemming the German offensive in the Ardennes? It is generally agreed that their conduct on these occasions was exemplary.

The assertion that British soldiers did not fight with the same gallantry as their fathers in the first world war is the most disgraceful smear on those who gave their lives so that the likes of Bruce Anderson can write his poisonous articles in complete freedom. Yes, Mr Anderson, units were withdrawn from the front at regular intervals for rest as well as re-manning to make up for casualties. Exactly the same happened in the first world war.

Finally, may I refute the Anderson canard that soldiers need to fear their NCOs more than the enemy. I served for two years in the army and I can assure Mr Anderson that not only did I not fear my NCOs, I never knew anyone who did. Respected and in many cases liked, yes; feared, no.

In essence this article was written with little or only garbled knowledge of the subject and appears to have been wholly unresearched. It has done absolutely nothing for the reputation of your magazine.

G.J. Norman

7 Queens Parade,

Cheltenham,

Gloucestershire

Sir: Bruce Anderson writes, without the quotation marks, `we all know, surely, that the first world war was fought by a British army of lions led by donkeys'. …

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