Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Remembering the Berlin Airlift

I have noticed that the UK Government tends to treat its veterans of hot and cold conflicts particularly badly, in truth much of what Kipling wrote about 'Tommy Atkins' still applies...

"O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away"

Another case of in point, although slightly less pressing than that of the Gurkha's (http://www.gurkhajustice.org.uk/) is that of the overlooked, at least in the UK, veterans of the Berlin Airlift. The 60th anniversary of the end of the highly successful Berlin Airlift will be on Tuesday 12th May 2009. Those involved in this honourable endeavour should have been honoured with a medal long ago, to commemorate their service, as have their colleagues in America, France and elsewhere.

The city of West Berlin was effectively a cut off Western outpost surrounded by then Soviet-controlled East Germany. Stalin cut road, rail and barge links to the city the Western Allies had a choice or either allowing West Berlin slip into Soviet control, or to run the risk of supplying it through the air corridors.

During the airlift (which lasted from 24 June 1948 – 11 May 1949) American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South African pilots flew 278,000 flights to Berlin, carrying 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine and other supplies. Outward flights evacuated 15,000 young children and more than 1,000 tuberculosis patients.

Some 39 Britons, 31 Americans and at least five Germans were killed in air accidents, memorials exist in Berlin and at Frankfurt-au-Main. Veterans in other participating countries have been long honoured, yet none of the British pilots received a medal and our history books tend to minimise the contribution made by Britain and British Pilots and ground crew.

This is shameful, and is just another typical example of the shoddy way successive UK Government shave treated our veterans and should be put right as soon as possible.

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