THE campaign for a medal for anyone who served in the Armed Forces was dealt a blow after the government minister responsible questioned the value of striking a new medal – despite the decision being under review.
It is estimated that four million people would be eligible for a National Defence Medal to recognise and honour military service wherever undertaken from 1945 onwards. This would include men who did National Service.
In a debate in the House of Commons, veterans minister Andrew Robathan said the cost could spiral to more than £300m.
He added: ‘I question the value of a medal that is essentially given to anyone who has served in the armed forces. Medals should be earned not expected, and I would certainly be surprised if they were demanded.’
Campaigners point to Australia and New Zealand as examples of countries where all servicemen are recognised with a standard medal.
Tony Morland, the co-chairman of the UK National Defence Medal campaign, said: ‘The NDM is symbolic in this government showing it means what it says in addressing the broken military covenant.
‘We fail to understand why we are being denied such recognition when Her Majesty the Queen has awarded a defence medal to Australian and New Zealand regular and reserve forces together with their veterans.’
Campaigners have said the medal could be paid for by veterans – like the National Service Medal.
But Mr Robathan argued that would devalue the award. He said the awards system is currently under review by the Ministry of Defence.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage raised the question of other campaigns also deserving a medal.
Referring to Second World War Arctic Convoy veterans, she said: ‘There have been conflicts and incidents for which incredibly brave members of our armed forces have not received a medal.’
Commander Eddie Grenfell, the 91-year-old leader of the Arctic Medal Campaign, who lives in Portsea, said: ‘A National Defence Medal would not be good enough for us. I’m not against the idea but it would be disgraceful if this was used as an excuse to not award us a medal now after all these years.
‘I would not accept it. If they can fork out £300m for this then they must also have one for us to end 65 years of injustice.’