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Play down repatriations - MoD paper

The armed forces should play down repatriation ceremonies to make war more palatable, a Ministry of Defence discussion document suggests.

The idea to "reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies" was suggested by the MoD's development, concepts and doctrine centre (DCDC) think-tank, as a potential way to try to handle "casualty averse" public opinion.

The eight-page November 2012 document was obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the four years up to 2001, c rowds of mourners lined the streets to pay their respects when the bodies of 345 servicemen who had been killed in action were brought back to RAF Lyneham and driven through Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. Since then, bodies have been repatriated via RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, with hearses driven through nearby Carterton.

Deborah Allbutt, whose husband Stephen was killed in a friendly fire incident in Iraq in 2003, told The Guardian that the suggestions relating to the repatriation ceremonies would be "brushing the deaths under the carpet".

She said: "They are fighting and giving their lives. Why should they be hidden away? It would be absolutely disgraceful."

The paper argues the military may have come to wrongly believe that the public, and as a result the government, has become more "risk averse" after the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

"However, this assertion is based on recent, post-2000 experience and we are in danger of learning false lessons concerning the public's attitude to military operations," it states.

"Historically, once the public are convinced that they have a stake in the conflict they are prepared to endorse military risks and will accept casualties as the necessary consequence of the use of military force."

The MoD said the paper aims to be thought-provoking and is not policy.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is entirely right that we publicly honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and there are no plans to change the way in which repatriation ceremonies are conducted.

"A key purpose of the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre is to produce research which tests and challenges established doctrine and its papers are designed to stimulate internal debate, not outline government policy or positions. To represent this paper as policy or a potential shift of policy is misleading."


From Belfast Telegraph