Honour Where It Is Due

Let me give you some background. Aged 15 I left school and, without any qualifications, joined the RAF. For the next 6 years I served mainly in Fighter Command. Since then my view on warfare has become more nuanced. I now wish I could be a pacifist.

I tell you this because of the comments of Ian Galloway, convener of the Church and Society  Committee of the Church of Scotland. Speaking before the Scottish Parliament earlier today he suggested that service personel who killed the enemy should not be honoured for gallantry.

Now let me tell you of Flt/Lt Eric Nicholson. On 16th August 1940 he took off on a sortie during the Battle of Britain. His squadron attacked a swarm of German aircraft. In the melee Nicholson’s Hurricane was set on fire, his cockpit filled with flames. Nevertheless, horrendously burned, the badly wounded pilot continued his attack and shot down a German aircraft. He was awarded the only V.C. of Fighter Command during WW II.

Did he do this motivated by jingoism? Maybe it was sheer hatred of the enemy, or simple blood lust. Or perhaps he was trying to protect his family, friends, neighbours and country from something evil.

Later, in May 1945 the then Wing Commander Nicholson was killed whilst flying over the Bay of Bengal.

I wish I could be a pacifist. However, if were I hope that I would not use my moral position to denigrate the actions of men and women far braver than I.


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