IN April 1965, several hundred Scottish soldiers were working on a road in Yemen when they were attacked by rebels involved in the country’s bloody civil war. Two of the Scots soldiers were killed and several others were wounded and the men who were there that day have never forgotten it.
So why, considering what these now elderly men experienced more than 50 years ago, have they been denied the service medal which was awarded to other British soldiers who served in Yemen? Staff Sgt John Donaldson, who witnessed the attack and is now 76 years old, says he and his comrades did everything that was asked of them in extremely dangerous conditions and believes that they are entitled to the medal.
The problem appears to be the military rules that applied at the time which state that to qualify, the men must have spent a full 30 days in the theatre of war. As the reservists who were in Yemen in 1965 were there for only 15 days, they have been told that they are not entitled to the campaign medal. The official response to Mr Donaldson says that as “members of the squadron were only deployed for the period of your annual training for 15 days, you are ineligible for the medal and therefore cannot qualify for the award”.
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However, there is a precedent for flexibility in the campaign medals that were finally awarded to the veterans who took part in the Arctic Convoys during the Second World War. Those brave veterans, who endured appalling conditions to get vital supplies to Russia, were presented with the medals in 2013, but only after a long campaign by a group of the survivors. They won in the end and deservedly so.
The same flexibility and understanding should now be shown to the veterans of the Yemen incident. Yes, they did not technically qualify according to the letter of the rulebook, but the bullets fired at them were just as real as those fired at soldiers who served in Yemen for longer.
Many of those who were there that day in April 1965 are now very elderly and some have died. The decision not to award them the campaign medal should be reversed before it is too late.