STUART REED: ‘They suggested that I volunteer to be parachuted in!’

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AN invitation from Colonel Mike Peters TD to lunch at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Piccadilly, London, was too good to refuse.

No stranger to Portsmouth, Mike often sailed his boat out of local marinas.

He’s the executive vice-president of the Pen and Sword Club which meets sporadically in posh places like the Rifles Club or the RAF Club.

Its members are mainly ex-military, reservist or Ministry of Defence public relations officers.

Meeting these guys was my chance to catch up with modern developments.

Our guest speaker was the deputy foreign editor of a national newspaper who’d covered wars around the globe.

He speculated about what would happen with Trump in the White House. If Putin and Trump became real friends where would that leave NATO? Would a European army ever work?

All this stuff was well above my head.

The subsequent question and answer session was more down-to-earth.

During the Falklands, the Gulf or UN peacekeeping operations, journalists were embedded in British Royal N avy warships, with army units or at RAF stations.

This offered them protection and they were briefed about operations by trained public relations officers who escorted them.

Today it’s different. In Ukraine, Syria and Iraq reporters have to take their chances in dangerous situations.

If their vehicles break down, if they come under artillery fire or if they’re captured, their chances of survival are slim. They need hired, armed escorts. It’s all too risky and expensive.

Far fewer correspondents and camera crews are being sent out to hostile places.

Now social media is also turning war reporting into a free-for- all.

Facebook, Twitter and blogs can carry all sorts of unchecked information and half-truths which can be repeated as if they are facts.

As the meeting ended Mike Peters recalled when, 34 years ago during the Falklands hostilities, he ran the army press desk while I ran the navy press desk in the MOD press office in Whitehall.

We were pretty cross that we were not sent with the task force.

He was a major in a TA infantry regiment and, even though I was a civilian, I’d been trained in military fitness and field craft by the Parachute Regiment.

He said that when the media action was getting hairy in the Falklands and the minders needed reinforcements, someone in the MoD suggested he and I volunteer to be parachuted in. This was the first time I’d ever heard such a hair-brained scheme.

I’d never actually done a parachute jump before. Back in the day both of us would have volunteered to go.

Today, with the wisdom of old age, I’m less certain.

Stuart Reed is a musician and former MOD press officer from Fareham.

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