Friday, 29 November 2013

An illusion shattered

I was brought up believing that our armed forces were exemplary in their conduct of anti-terrorist campaigns in the 1940s and 1950s. This is not the fault of my parents, but of the impression created by the press and the BBC. The first chink in the post-war governments' PR armour came with the revelations by Barbara Castle and others of the atrocities committed at Hola camp in Kenya, which made front-page news in the Daily Mirror. Still, these seemed to be an isolated case and we had the shining example of our hearts-and-minds strategy in Malaya, as opposed to the vicious communist forces.

Now comes confirmation that not only were our forces brutal, but that there was a standing policy of destroying all papers relating to our colonial past as the UK retreated from Empire. The papers which helped the Hola victims gain compensation were the ones that "got away", saved one assumes by the last governor of Kenya,, more enlightened than his colonial masters.

We probably still have a better record in counter-insurgency than most, but the difference is less marked than it used to appear.

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