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32Bravo
11-26-2008, 08:15 AM
In promoting his book/TV series Special Forces Heroes, Lord Ashcroft argues that although he admires the spontaneous acts of valour that happen on the battlefield thus earning those performing them the highest awards. These acts do not compare with the premeditated acts of valour which are performed by members Special Forces units.

Personally, I think that that is nonsense. I would also argue that although Special Forces are involved in potentially very dangerous operations, those acts of courage which arise from them are usually just as spontaneous as those of other soldiers.

Any thoughts?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/11/19/nosplit/bvtvSAS19.xml

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=m0hhG4_wO1U

TheBeam
11-27-2008, 02:12 AM
I have to give props to all the SF guys and say, 1) they engage in actions that rarely offer the opportunity to recieve proper credit and 2) Combat is combat...awards should be given for similar acts.

The way I read the quote you have there is accurate though: Knowing that you are going into a potentially very dangerous situation beforehand and STILL going...that's courage. I agree with him.

32Bravo
11-27-2008, 03:07 AM
In the British Army, all 'Teeth-arm' soldiers can expect to find themselves in harms way. A not oft mentioned statistic is that, since 1945, 1969 is the only year in which no British soldiers were K.I.A. As we take more and more casualties in the near East, recruiting figures have risen.

There is an official figure, but I forget what it is, for the marginal chances of survival in order to win the V.C. It is of no accident that the V.C. is inscribed with the words 'For Valour'

The nature of SF work attracts the adventurer and risk taker. The nature of selection for the SF role is to find the right man. They are trained to the extreme and have confidence that their training and their team will cary them through. I see daring, but I do not see premeditated courage as implied by Ashcroft.

In my opinion it is silly to say that a V.C. won by an SF soldier has more moral value than that won by others. One only has to look at the number of VC's won by unarmed medics.

Rising Sun*
11-27-2008, 06:54 AM
Good topic.

Too much attention is devoted in the press and popular culture to rare spectacular acts of courage rather than to less spectacular acts which demonstrate a different and often more prolonged form of courage.


In my opinion it is silly to say that a V.C. won by an SF soldier has more moral value than that won by others. One only has to look at the number of VC's won by unarmed medics.

I agree.

One could even argue that SF VC's are lesser because SF are so select; highly trained; better equipped; better supported; generally are not employed as assault or other infantry but in roles which avoid the full-on chaotic conflict of normal infantry; and have a survival advantage over other troops for those and other reasons.

But that is a meaningless quibble and insulting to SF VC winners, as is Lord Ashcroft's claim that SF VC's are superior a meaningless quibble and insulting to the vast bulk of VC winners who weren't SF.

A VC is a VC. The circumstances of a navy VC versus an air force VC versus an army VC are necessarily quite different, as are the circumstances of VC's awarded to various arms and services in an army. Regardless, they're bloody hard to win and all highly deserved.

Everyone with any knowledge of military and war reality knows that for every valour award there were numerous acts which should have got one, but for various external and internal personal, technical and political reasons they weren't awarded.


[Teddy Sheahan's] ship, H.M.A.S. "Armidale", a Royal Australian Navy Corvette, survived two days bombing by the Japanese Air Force, but on the third day, 1st December 1942, she became the victim of a Japanese aerial torpedo and sank in the Arafura Sea, about ninety miles off the Timorese Coast.

When the second torpedo struck, the ship began to sink and listed to Port. Captain Richards, recognising the critical situation, gave the order to "abandon ship".

The Japanese Air Force gunners continued their strafing and more of the crew were killed or wounded as they took to the water. Teddy Sheean was one of the wounded. He went to the Port side of the ship as if to go overboard, but instead, turned and dragged himself to the abaft Oerlikon Gun, which had been his action station. No doubt, he’d seen his mates in the water, being strafed by the enemy aircraft and wanted his revenge - he wouldn’t be kicked while he was down.

Teddy strapped himself to the gun and immediately opened fire on the aircraft which were continuing the onslaught. At this time, the ship was going down by the head and with heroic determination, he continued his attack, until the "Armidale", taking a second torpedo slipped quietly under the water, taking the gallant gunner with her.

As the Arafura Sea closed over the stern, the gun was still firing. Teddy Sheean had given his life for his country and his mates in true Australian tradition.

During the short action, which lasted possibly three minutes, Sheean shot down one bomber observers credit him with damaging two others. For his incredible and unselfish action, he was posthumously "Mentioned In Despatches"! The action had passed almost unnoticed. In later years, an endeavour was made to have this award replaced with a "Victoria Cross granted posthumously, but to no avail.

Those of us who survived, well remember Teddy’s action, for, who knows, we too may have perished at the hands of the Japanese gunners except for his bravery. http://www.gunplot.net/sheeanarmidale/Sheean.html

Here's a few examples from memory of courage which didn't get VC's or, in two cases, any decoration but which in my view display courage in the circumstances which, while lacking the spontaneity of an armed battlefield act with the blood up, were perhaps nearer to Lord Ashcroft's apparent belief that there is a colder form of courage which merits greater recognition that spontaneous battlefield acts.

1. Australian officer about to be executed by Japanese. He turned to the Australian troops assembled to witness his execution and said in a clear voice 'Mark these bastards for future reference.' Then he knelt and was beheaded.

2. Australian soldier severely but not fatally wounded several times by Japanese firing squad after several botched attempts to execute him in front of assembled Australian troops yells "Can't any of you bastards shoot straight?'.

3.
Perhaps the best example of the spirit of the Diggers during the withdrawal came from a group separated from the main body of the defenders after Isurava. About 50 men, three officers and 47 other ranks, found themselves behind enemy lines during the confusion of the withdrawal. Under the command of Captain Sydney Hamilton ‘Ben’ Buckler, they began a six week odyssey to skirt around the Japanese and regain their own lines.

The party was slowed down by a group of wounded – four stretcher cases, three walking wounded and the remarkable Corporal John Metson.

“He’d been shot in both ankles but he refused to let his mates carry him. He knew how much energy was needed to carry stretchers through the thick jungle, a task made even more onerous because Buckler’s party had to avoid the Track and travel through the jungle for fear of running into the enemy. So John Metson wrapped a torn blanket around his knees and hands and he crawled. For three weeks he cheerfully crawled through the jungle, ignoring the growing pain in his shattered ankles and the damage to his hands, knees and legs as he kept up with his mates in the cloying mud and torrential rain. He was a constant inspiration to the others in the party as they lived off the land and avoided Japanese patrols before reaching a friendly village called Sangai on September 20 1942.” ( from The Spirit of The Digger)

Buckler was forced to leave John Metson and the other wounded at the village to give the main group a chance of making it to safety. Buckler ordered his party to ‘present arms’ in salute to the wounded before reluctantly leading the rest back to the Australian lines down a parallel track to the Kokoda Track and, finally, by raft down the Kemp-Walsh River.

Unfortunately, when a rescue party returned to Sangai village for the wounded, they found they’d been betrayed and massacred. John Metson won him the British Empire Medal – and a place in the annals of the Digger. http://www.kokodatrackfoundation.org/track.html

While I've cited Australian examples because that is my main area of knowledge, every nation has its own examples of military, and under oppressive regimes such as Germany and Japan, civilian courage.

Some of the acts of greatest courage were, in my view, of sorts such as those by officers, medical and otherwise, who stood up for their men and copped various brutal punishments from the Japanese on the Burma Railway and elsewhere. Like soldiers on the battlefield they had a choice about whether or not to act but, unlike soldiers in an assault who came from and had a reasonable prospect of returning to their own lines, they knew they were in the hands of a brutal enemy who would treat them harshly, to the point of killing them, if they defied their enemy.

Rising Sun*
11-27-2008, 07:11 AM
One only has to look at the number of VC's won by unarmed medics.

On that point, a medic volunteered to stay with Metson (last quote in my last post) and the others too ill to carry on, in the knowledge that they risked discovery by the Japanese. The Japanese discovered them and slaughtered them all.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=oWx1oq8RPcQC&pg=PA219&lpg=PA219&dq=Corporal+Tom+Fletcher+metson+kokoda&source=web&ots=l6n63cvTzr&sig=zJDlWH_QFm4e-v5DLhYEhZ2NWTM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA219,M1

Nickdfresh
11-27-2008, 11:45 AM
In promoting his book/TV series Special Forces Heroes, Lord Ashcroft argues that although he admires the spontaneous acts of valour that happen on the battlefield thus earning those performing them the highest awards. These acts do not compare with the premeditated acts of valour which are performed by members Special Forces units.

Personally, I think that that is nonsense. I would also argue that although Special Forces are involved in potentially very dangerous operations, those acts of courage which arise from them are usually just as spontaneous as those of other soldiers.

Any thoughts?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/11/19/nosplit/bvtvSAS19.xml

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=m0hhG4_wO1U

I agree that his statement is complete nonsense. While I respect the premeditated acts of courage that various special forces troops must perform in order to survive behind enemy lines and while being heavily outnumbered, they also receive far more support. Typical special ops units: have highly specialized armament, specific planning and ultra rehearsed execution, and a coherent lack of the dogma regarding issues such as the chain of command or standard operating procedure. They also have a certain luxury of operating with only other highly trained, motivated, and proven team members...

Many such "line" soldiers can only dream of this!

32Bravo
11-28-2008, 02:57 AM
As I type, it's a dank morning in leafy-Surrey, which somewhat reflected my mood as I commuted in to my place of work.

However, after reading both RS's and Nick's comments, it warms me insides to see that I'm not alone in my thoughts on this topic.

Ashcroft states in the newspaper article, that I read, that he has been interested in courage since being a young boy and that he has a very large collection of VC's and other Britiash, gallantry awards. That, as he has no military service, makes him a wannabe in my book. Much of what he is saying is to sell his book, and as with most political types, there's a bit of an ego thing going on their.

premeditated courage must include all of those chaps that had to go Over-the-top with the knowledge that their chances of survival were extremely slim. Yes, they may have been misinformed, if not misled, on the first day of the Somme, but not after that?

Rising Sun*
11-28-2008, 05:08 AM
One only has to look at the number of VC's won by unarmed medics.

Or the number of VC's and bars won by medics out of the three ever awarded.

Two to medical officers in the RAMC, one to a New Zealand infantry officer. http://www.stephen-stratford.co.uk/two_vcs.htm

Given the relative sizes of medical and infantry corps and the rather greater opportunities for winning valour medals in infantry units, it's an impressive record for the medics.

It also suggests that Lord Ashcroft is talking through his arsehole in suggesting that SF have some special claim on valour.

Rising Sun*
11-28-2008, 05:14 AM
premeditated courage must include all of those chaps that had to go Over-the-top with the knowledge that their chances of survival were extremely slim. Yes, they may have been misinformed, if not misled, on the first day of the Somme, but not after that?

Good point.

I expect it would be very rare, possibly to the point of never happening, for SF to be sent as a premeditated act into anyting equivalent to a WWI 'over the top' situation as generally they are used where concealment and stealth are required, and often for reconnaissance or other purposes where they try to avoid contact with the enemy.

Millions of ordinary soldiers in WWI displayed much more 'premeditated courage' than did most later SF forces in the sense Lord Ashcroft seems to be using it.

Given a choice on survival chances between launching myself out of a trench into enemy co-ordinated MG fire lanes and plotted-to-the-inch artillery ground between the lines in WWI and slipping behind enemy lines in SF in WWII or later, it's a no-brainer.

But, in the end, comparisons are meaningless. There are different types of courage and courageous acts in different types of circumstances. So far as earning a VC goes, it is pointless and insulting to those who won them, or didn't, to assert that one type is superior to another, because the criteria for awarding a VC is the same for all.

32Bravo
11-28-2008, 06:25 AM
But, in the end, comparisons are meaningless. There are different types of courage and courageous acts in different types of circumstances. So far as earning a VC goes, it is pointless and insulting to those who won them, or didn't, to assert that one type is superior to another, because the criteria for awarding a VC is the same for all.

Absolutely!