To Whitehall where the service personnel organisation UK Veterans One Voice was marching to Downing Street to hand a letter into the Prime Minister’s residence at No 10.
They formed up in Whitehall Gardens. There was a very large contingent of Gurkhas and Gurkha familys present. The Gurkhas have been loyal to the Crown and fought in the British Army for 200 years but they do not have parity in their pensions and service entitlement. Of other regiments present I recognised the maroon berets of the Parachute Regiment, the green of the Royal Marines, black of the Royal Tank regiment, badges of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers.
They marched out led by a piper.
and into Whitehall.
past the Ministry of Defence and the statues of Field Marshalls Montgomery, Allenbrooke and Slim (who would not have approved of the current government’s attitude to men and women who have served their country).
To arrive by the Cenotaph where wreaths and flowers were laid
and a minute’s silence held after a bugler had played the Last Post. Then the piper played Amazing Grace and a lament.
As well as the unequal situation of the Gurkhas the other main concerns of UK veterans One Voice are the lack of support given to men when they leave the army, especially compared with the respect given to veterans in other countries. Too high a proportion of rough sleepers on England’s streets are former servicemen. Their service is often considered a hindrance on the job market rather than an asset to employers. Mental illness and PTS is a particular problem, as is Gulf War Syndrome. What the letter to the Prime Minister described as “a surge in litigation claims and vendettas against former members of the Armed Forces” is another cause for concern. Certain firms of solicitors, with what I believe to be a political agenda, are receiving public money in legal aid to pursue Civil actions against soldiers, in one case 45 years after the event, who at the time were carrying out their duty to engage with the enemy. The matter of Marine A was also close to the hearts of some.
The delegation to attend at the front door of No 10 Downing Street lined up and presented their credentials. They were admitted into Downing Street and through security checks and escorted to the doorstep of No 10.
While they did so the piper continued to play at the gate
And then they returned for speeches in the assembly area outside the Ministry of Defence building.
It was very heartening to see the support from members of the public and the drivers of passing vehicles, especially bus drivers who hooted in approval. There are some Members of Parliament who have served, but recent governments have not been made up of men who appreciate the Armed Forces; no matter what they might say their actions do not support the fine words.
Photographs E Weatherwax London Good Friday 2016.