Veteran finally to receive medal more than 50 years after battle
More than 50 years after he was seriously injured in a battle overseas, an old soldier from the Outer Hebrides is to receive a medal marking his bravery.
The MoD has partially given in to a campaign to award Scottish soldiers medals they were told they did not qualify for because of the cruellest of red tape.
Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil had backed the campaign for a squadron of Scots Army Reservists – who were the first Territorial Army unit to see action after World War Two – to finally be recognised for their courage and service.
The veterans of 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA – who included Captain Eoghainn Maclachlainn of South Uist – were on a short mission in what is now Yemen in April 1965 to carry out various tasks on the Dhala Road, at Al Milah.
But just after midnight on April 12 they were attacked in what was formerly South Arabia.
The ensuing battle led to the loss of two lives, including the Squadron’s Sergeant Major John F Lonergan. Five others, including Captain Maclachlainn, were seriously wounded.
Mr MacNeil wrote to the MoD on several occasions regarding General Service Medals for the squadron – but the request was repeatedly refused because the squadron had not served 30 days in a war zone.
A response from the MoD regarding Captain Maclachlainn said he was not eligible for a medal because he was in the country for ‘training’ purposes and not for ‘operational duties’.
But now the MoD has written to Mr MacNeil and confirmed a General Service Medal with Clasp South Arabia will be issued to Captain Maclachlainn.
The work continues to persuade the MoD that all members of the squadron should receive the award.
This week Mr MacNeil received a letter from Earl Howe, Minister of State in the House of Lords, which detailed that instruction had been given to the Medal Office to issue the GSM to Captain Maclachlainn, and the families of the Sergeant George Gibson Earl who died on February 10 2004 and Sergeant Major Lonergan.
Mr MacNeil, who has known Captain Maclachlainn for many years said: “I am very pleased the MoD has finally recognised the service of some members of this squadron. I have been writing to the MoD about this injustice for more than two years. However, all the brave men who served in 300 Parachute Field Squadron deserve recognition.
“The battle which took place at 0015 hours on 12 April 1965, was not part of a training exercise but was active service. The award for Captain Maclachlainn and others is a very welcome step forward in what has been a long running campaign for the veterans.”