Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A medal for 1974?

I was watching a documentary waiting for a taxi to take me for the airport this morning. It was called “Victoria Cross Heroes”. The documentary honored the recipients of the Commonwealth’s highest military award. The historian argued that by 1919 the award became as much a indication of popular sympathy than just an award for bravery.

What was touching is how many awards were given in defeat and in saving fellow soldiers. One of three men that won the award twice was a medical officer who in the Battle of the Somme (where 60,000 British soldiers were casualties) he crawled through no mans land to save as many men he could. Another is for a man who kept his position against the entire German army in Belgium to enable his unit to escape. A third was given for a man who jumped on a crate of grenades that were about to explode in a trench, killing him self but saving over 100 lives.

I wonder if it is time to give some awards in Cyprus for the 1974 war. Sure it was a war where brother killed brother, were atrocities were committed by all sides. But we should celebrate the acts of humanity in that war – instances of soldiers saving persons of other communities, or of officers walking into certain death to save soldiers who were scarcely more than boys. The shame was the coup and the atrocities (institutionalized by the Turkish army) and the fact that those who committed such acts were not brought to justice, and a first step of reconciliation is to highlight those who acted for the good of humanity at heart.