Thursday, 3 February 2011

When will they ever learn?

Despite a lifetime in the media this was one story I was never going to tell-I thought. Now it seems appropriate.
Today young Martin Bell, a West Yorkshire soldier has been repatriated to the UK after being killed in Afghanistan. He disobeyed a direct order not to help a comrade who had been fatally injured by an explosive device and in doing so lost his own life.
He was two years older than a young soldier who on September 25th 1944, as a proud Yorkshire sergeant, carefully led his men through a minefield in Venlo, Holland. Part of the Allies thrust forward to defeat Hitler during The Second World War.
In those days there were not the sophisticated devices of today to help detect these lethal weapons of war, still used today, 77 years later.
You prodded carefully with your foot or your bayonet and prayed. Or you prayed first and then carefully prodded with your foot or your bayonet.
A Welsh sergeant sensed danger and ordered the men to stop. The Yorkshire sergeant went a few steps further, hoping to get the troops through this potential field of death. The Welsh sergeant went in front of him and trod on a land mine. He died instantly. The Yorkshire sergeant was partially shielded from the blast and lost his lower left leg and was peppered with shrapnel. He had married in the March of the same year and the next time his wife saw him he was critically wounded and lying in a Worcester hospital.
The parallels between that incident and the one which claimed the life of Martin Bell have haunted me since Martin died. Martin once walked the hills and streets of Haworth as a police community support officer. In his life as a soldier he made a selfless gesture which cost his life. The same could so easily have happened to the Yorkshire soldier of 77 years ago, who lived on until he was just 77.
His son now walks the streets and hills of Haworth with memories of how he could so easily have never been here but for a soldier's bravery.
Thanks Dad, and rest in peace Martin.

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