Vet­eran fi­nally to re­ceive medal more than 50 years af­ter bat­tle

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS -

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.