Monday, 26 November 2012

Following the rules

There was a story in the Western Mail a few weeks ago about the WW2 veterans who were being prevented from receiving medals from Russia by what seemed to be a rather arcane rule laid down by the UK Government.  It wasn’t until I read this follow-up story in Saturday’s paper that I realised that I had a ‘family interest’ in the matter, as it were.

The veteran who died on Remembrance Sunday was an uncle of mine.  Uncle Don was an officer in the Merchant Navy and spent much of the war on convoys running supplies through the Arctic to Russia.  With his death at the age of 92, it seems that there are now only a dozen convoy veterans left in South Wales – and it’s obviously one of those numbers which changes in only one direction.
Perhaps the Russians should simply decide to pop a few medals in the post to the remaining veterans.  I’m not sure who would be committing the offence if they did.  Would it be the Russians for sending them, or the aging veterans for receiving them?  Either way, the probability of anyone launching a prosecution seems rather slim to me – the publicity would make anyone who took such a decision look a complete idiot.  And I can’t believe that the UK Government would really want to provoke a diplomatic spat with Russia over such a trivial matter either.
What I really don’t understand is the rationale behind the rule.  Usually, I can see some sense or logic behind decisions made by those in authority, even if I disagree with them, but in this case, I just can’t.  It’s not that the UK Government is opposed to foreign governments giving awards to UK citizens; they’ve just decided that it must be within 5 years of the service of the individuals concerned.  Why 5?  Why not 4, or 6, or 10?  Why have a time limit at all, once the principle is recognised?
Trivial it may be to the governments concerned; but it matters to those involved.  I find it hard to believe that the UK Government can be so intransigent over such a wholly arbitrary time limit on a matter of such little import other than to those directly involved.

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