Saturday, 11 June 2011


I write today with very particular pride and on one of the very, very few occasions in the rank that Her Majesty the Queen saw fit to permit me to retain by way of a courtesy title, for life. This is indeed special to me, for it is only senior officers who are normally given this honour,and I am indebted to my then Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Ian Todd, for exercising his right to make the recommendation without my knowledge after I had relinquished my final command and resigned my Commission after 21 years incredibly enjoyable service.

I remember to this day, the arrival of the embossed letter signed by the Secretary of State for Defence and having to actually go and sit down at the long breakfast table to gather my thoughts before driving straight over to Mum and Dad.

It has therefore formed that umbilical chord to this day with all of our Armed Forces, regardless of rank, and to feel such pride and emotion for all the men and women currently serving in the Afghanistan War. On land, sea and air, our servicemen and women are exemplary in their duties and undaunted by the savagery of the fighting; fighting that has seen 77 men and women killed in action since the Trooping the Colour 2010 and a total of 371 since the war started.

I urge all readers to take a brief look at the incredible spectacle that this annual parade denotes, as each year one of the Regimental Colours is paraded before our Sovereign. For me it is doubly special this year, for it is the Colour of the Scots Guards. Yes, I might be English, but I am also British, and it is this curious phenomenon that few can understand beyond these shores, that as an Island People, putting aside the usual family squabbles, we are able to stand as one when the Colours of the Four Nations are paraded.

In watching the Parade through BBC iplayer, let us remember too that off the parade square, these men and women, of all ranks, are in active service. The horses are replaced with the Warrior Tanks; the scarlet red dress uniforms are replaced with full combat battle armour; the officers dismount and take up their commands in the field. Some have not returned.

On parade today were men who had been severely wounded in the last year, but having made full recovery, one for example having been shot in both legs, march once again to the Colours and before their Sovereign.

This is why I attach so much importance to the page on my website - War in Afghanistan. Whether it is realised or not, we are a Nation at war. There is a determined enemy that would have all the values that we hold dear, wiped from the board.

To our teachers around the world I would say this. Take your subject seriously and educate young people as to national and world history. It is disconcerting on the day of the Queen's Birthday and this vitally important parade, that I found myself talking with young people and peers who have bought into conspiracy theories and who seem hell bent on seeing the United States of America as 'the great satan'. When outlining some very basic points - points that to be frank I take for granted - the reaction was thus: why have we not been told these things?

To young people particularly I counsel and urge you to read widely; be investigative; do your research. Learn to advocate. Above all, be mindful of the sacrifices that our troops are making for the sake of freedom, and not just our troops, but the troops of all the allied nations who are assisting us in this war. Those killed in action come from all the nations, but by agreed convention, each nation reports only its own fatalities and casualties.

Ian Bradley Marshall

Kenneth T Webb
Flight Lieutenant RAF VR(T) Rtd

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Human Nature

We people really do get our lines crossed at times. We hurt each other because we put commitments before people, or fail to understand the importance of the work being done that puts commitment before relationships.

For 30 years I have chaired family squabbles on a daily basis, often three or more, as I watch families tearing each other apart over the reading of the Will or the imposition of Intestacy; acted as the go-between for siblings sitting either side of me just feet away from each other; grown men and women who have somehow allowed a lifetime of resentment to build up and then threaten to destroy everything.

Given the extreme exceptions that we see on the media reports, the vast majority of us should always remember to honour, love and respect our parents. Already they have lived a lifetime before we've even started; and it is they who have put us on the starting block. They have made sacrifices that all too often we learn of only after they also have departed.

Many a time I have received the question from children who are suddenly bereft - "I never knew that Mum or Dad had done this. They never said. I never realised they'd suffered this trauma."

Come on! Look beyond our own immediate world view and look back over the years and decades. Discover who we are by looking up our history; not by genealogy, though that certainly is to be commended, but by asking questions direct. Has it ever occurred that Grandma at 85, looking at the beautiful photograph of herself at 25 in fact feels absolutely no different inwardly to the day that photographer attended the house or, if it could be afforded, she attended the studio?

Let us think beyond our own immediate world. Let us think beyond ourselves and be thankful that we breathe the air and live the life and freedom that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents have done so at a cost that most of us will never have to pay.

Let our grandchildren know these things. It is never too late to teach them or to gently remind them.

Ian Bradley Marshall
10 June 2011

Friday, 3 June 2011

An Open Letter to President Medvedev of The Russian Federation

110 Waterloo Warehouse
L3 0BQ

2 June 2011

President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev
The Greater Russian Peoples
Via His Excellency
The Ambassador
Embassy of the Russian Federation
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens,
W8 4QP

Dear Mr President,

I write to introduce myself and to draw most urgent attention to the plight of my people in your Country, and which has been reported in the media during the past week.

A petition has been raised and signed by many and sent to you by one of the UK’s important social institutions, “All Out”.

In light of the subject I am taking the unprecedented step of writing to you personally, Sir.

I remember watching live the BBC News 24 coverage of your investiture and inauguration as President of Russia in 2008. I watched it in full because here was history in the making, and something that even in 1991 when I stood talking with East German and Russian guards at the Berlin Brandenburg Gate ‘checkpoint charlie’, I could not have comprehended.

I remember our journey across East Germany in the British Military Train; our own armed guards patrolling the carriages and the East German guards standing to, fully armed, at every siding and junction whenever the train stopped, to ensure that none of us alighted the train.

I recalled the sacrifices of your people in one of the most horrendous wars in history and the brute savagery of Nazism on the Greater Russian Peoples.

But your people prevailed. Somehow you withstood the dreaded Einsatsgruppen; and whilst military victory became the stalemate of the Cold War, nevertheless, justice and commonsense prevailed. The cause of the people became paramount and the voice of the people was heard and in time revolutionised Russia and thus eventually led to your own appointment as this Great Nation’s head of state.

A few days ago I was reading afresh President Nelson Mandela’s speeches; one in particular registered and is his address from the dock of the South African Supreme Court in Pretoria on 20 April 1964 as the First Accused.

He quotes the then South African Prime Minister Mr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd during an earlier debate on the Bantu Education Bill 1953, about which Mr Verwoerd had declared:

When I have control of Native education I will reform it so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realise that equality with Europeans is not for them. . . . People who believe in equality are not desirable teachers for Natives. When my Department controls Native education it will know for what class of higher education a Native is fitted, and whether he will have a chance in life to use his knowledge.

I confess, Sir, that that pulled me up short! It was difficult to comprehend the mindset. But I recall also being taught about the War of 1939-1945 by my parents. Mum and Dad both lost brothers over Germany. But it was Mum’s comment one day that really stayed with me. “We suffered but nothing like the Russian People. They went through hell, and you must never forget that!”

For me it made your victory even more important.

Every nation, every people, every community on earth gets it wrong occasionally. But we also have the ability to stop injustice, and none more so than now Mr President.

My people have as much right to breathe the air and drink the water of life, to give to the greater good of our nation states and for the benefit of humankind, as the next man or woman.

I cannot accept that the Greater Russian People are acting as one as did the Nazis. That just doesn’t add up Sir.

I am a lawyer, and served as a police officer and in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. And I learned that when bigots (and believe me, the UK has its fair share of bigots) start trouble, it is the duty of the nation state from central government down to the local police station, to step in and protect those who are being victimised and bullied. It is the duty of every police officer to protect all people and to bring the bigots to justice where they have committed criminal offences.

There are some who argue that to even ‘think’ a hate crime, should be a criminal offence. That is a dangerous precedent for obvious reasons. A crime is a crime, regardless.

But I ask you to use your executive powers to give guidance and leadership to those communities who might still be a long way back in entering our 21st Century.

May I ask that you step forth, Sir, and protect my people in the same measured way that you stepped forth as you walked with determination and confidence through the Palace to your inauguration and to one of the most important global roles and international offices of state that anyone can ever hold.

I have the greatest admiration for the Russian People. I recall the amazing conversations with the Russian Guards at the Brandenburg Gate in 1991 and the pride I felt in actually meeting your people in the embassy gardens later that day in East Berlin.

Let us all move forward and be determined to bring freedom to all, and the sword of justice to those who seek to impose upon a section of its people the same twisted logic that President Nelson Mandela identified on the basis of race, and which we now see repeated in the current situation – one’s sexuality.

I have the honour to be,
Mr President,
Your obedient servant

Ian Bradley Marshall

Cc: His Excellency, the British Ambassador, Moscow