A disgraceful attempt to conceal the realities of war

In the past few years, something quite unique has developed in the town of Wootton Basset in Wiltshire. Time was that those who had died fighting for Queen and country were not given much thought. As appalling as this may sound, this suited everyone just fine for many years.

It suited politicians as it meant they did not have to answer difficult questions about just why they were sent into battle in the first place. It suited the people as we did not have to confront the realities and tough questions that the subject of death brings forward as they witnessed scenes such as the one pictured here. Death has always been an uneasy subject for many people in this country, and will probably continue to be for a long time yet.

Over the past four years, military repatriations have taken place in the town of Wootton Bassett. Exactly why this started is not entirely clear to me, but no less than 345 bodies of service personnel have gone through the town during that time. It was becoming almost something of a ritual to see yet more dead bodies being brought back from war zones. Which is why, your Reaper suspects, that this will no longer be happening. At 8pm this evening, the townsfolk will see their Union flag lowered and blessed. Once that is done, it will be taken to RAF Brize Norton, where repatriations will now take place instead.

It is clamed that the new tradition started at Wootton Bassett will continue in the town of Carterton, which is near to RAF Brize Norton. Regrettably, the residents of the town will be able to partake in a repatriation as early as next week, when the body of a Royal Marine serving with 42 Commando will be brought home from Afghanistan. He died only yesterday, having been killed by a roadside bomb whilst on foot patrol. His name has not been released at the time of writing. One can only hope that the residents of Carterton will turn out in their droves in order to ensure this tradition continues.

Whilst these are sad occasions, I feel that it is important they are held in public, with an audience and with the cameras and lenses of the world’s media focusing on the scenes of grief and of rememberance that are always brought to the fore at these moments. It is not simply so that people will ask questions afterwards about whether any conflict is truly worth fighting – it is also in order to pay a mark of respect for young men and women who are far braver than most of us ever will be and who ultimately died doing what they loved. Despite my deep misgivings about our being in the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq, I have enormous respect for those people who have been sent out there.

However, there must surely be a concern that people will start to lose interest now. The more that I think about this move, the more I end up coming back to the same conclusion. Why exactly is the move taking place now? Why not two years ago? Why not five years from now instead? One can’t help but think that this is an entirely deliberate move, can they not? The town of Wootton Bassett will soon be known as Royal Wootton Bassett from the autumn, but I can’t help but feel that the town is being robbed of something very important.

I cannot help but come to the conclusion that this is a deliberate stitch-up by an establishment which knows that it is doing the wrong thing but cannot bring itself to admit this. It is right and proper that any military action, and all casualties that come from it, are scrutinised in a democracy. Yet one often feels that politicians would prefer if we didn’t. They would prefer that the bodies of those who were being brought back were kept hidden away, out of the public’s eye, so that the public did not get the opportunity to see a true indication of the human cost of wars, often started because of a politician’s actions.

The reality is that in war, people die. Yet it is a reality that politicians would prefer not to face. This is not simply because they could start facing awkward questions – it is also because that deep down, they know just as well as everyone else that they should never have been sent there in the first place. In the meantime, whilst politicians continue to pretend that everything is fine and that it is right for us to be involved in foreign conflicts, innocent men and women who are doing what they love continue to perish, and the politicians responsible for this are determined to make sure we know less and less about what they claim to be doing in our name.

Truly, this is an utterly shameful state of affairs.

10 comments for “A disgraceful attempt to conceal the realities of war

  1. August 31, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    All eyes on Carterton then.

  2. Paul
    August 31, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    The news said that there was a controversial political decision to send the hearses around the town, thus avoiding going through its centre.

    So, yes, they’re trying to cover it up.

    • September 1, 2011 at 5:40 am

      Is anyone surprised? Cover-ups seem to be the sole business of governments everywhere.

  3. DC
    August 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    The move is taking place at this time because RAF Lyneham is due to close shortly and their operations are moving to Brize Norton. There has been a special facility built at the base for repatriations to allow friends and relatives to attend.

    I’m serving and am a big fan of Wooton Bassett but I don’t see malicious reasons for the move. How it works out at Brize Norton remains to be seen. The drive from Brize Norton to Oxford offers a number of good locations if the public wish to join in.

    • August 31, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      But that’s the thing. This won’t be held in public anymore. There is a place that the public will be able to go, but it’s a big white building. Certainly not the same kind of environment as a town centre would have – and by some coincidence, there would also be room for far fewer media people wanting to cover the event.

      This stinks.

  4. David A. Evans
    August 31, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    This was a new “tradition” & they want it stopped! NOW if not sooner!
    Many of these deaths have been avoidable too. See “Ministry of Defeat”.

  5. Robert Edwards
    September 1, 2011 at 8:42 am

    This matter has been boiling my wee-wee for some time; It had been ‘pre-announced’ some time ago. The good people of Wootton Basset simply and spontaneously came together to mourn the passing of so many fine young people. It was not a protest, and yet the epically incompetent MoD (or rather, their Zanu-Labour masters) took it to be one. Hence the spiteful response.

    As an army brat, I am not unfamiliar with this behaviour and I can only have the greatest respect for the simple dignity with which the folks comported themselves.

    An example to us all…

  6. cuffleyburgers
    September 1, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I suspect that a large number of people will turn out at Brize Norton – people are hacked off at the usual callous indifference and cynicism of the tory government, (nearly up to Labour standards) and will turn out to spite them.

    And then what started as a mark of respect will turn into a protest.

  7. Peter MacFarlane
    September 1, 2011 at 10:27 am

    @Paul: Yes, it’s true, they plan that the hearses will be smuggled out of the back gate of the airbase and taken via the by-pass, not through the town, so the awkward and embarassing (to politicians) spectacle will no longer take place. Maybe they’ll even go as far as doing it in the middle of the night, but I haven’t heard that.

  8. September 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

    The problem is the council, not the government. RAF Lyneham is closing. The hiding comes due to the local council wanting the hearses to leave by a SIDE GATE to not interrupt normal working of the base. But
    HERE is the web page of the new memorial garden/repatriations site that the council is doing. You can add you email to be informed of any new repatriations.

    Please note that this is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to David Cameron’s constituency so I am sure he could help the council change its mind if a procession of hearses is wanted to enable those willing to pay their respects as we have seen so often (unfortunately) at Wooton Basset.

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