Paratrooper uses Sharpe theme to lambast Government over soldier prosecutions | UK | News

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The Blues

Vic in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Image: –)

The chorus of the song, declares: “Twenty shillings we’ve been paid, We need them all for legal aid. If you shoot an enemy, They’ll lock you up for life, you see.” The chorus warns youngsters not to join up or else they will risk being prosecuted one day. It declares: “There’s all to lose and nowt to gain, So don’t you dare join up again, For we did something wrong they say, While over the hills and far away.”

The song which is centuries old was used in Sharpe as a recruiting song for British soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars.

But Vic, who served in Northern Ireland,  turns it into an attack on the Government for what he sees as its betrayal of the men it sent to Northern Ireland to keep the peace.

His version, with a video showing troops in action in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan, uses lyrics which he found on the Internet.

It has already had 30,000 views on YouTube.

He said: “What the Government is doing is appalling.”

Six British veterans, most of them now pensioners, face prosecution over killings dating back to 1972.

Hundreds more face reinvestigation because every shooting involving the military and the RUC is to face a new inquiry by the Northern Ireland authorities.

The Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service this week upheld a decision not to prosecute 15 soldiers reported in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972 in which 13 unarmed civilians were killed and 15 injured.

But the soldiers face the prospect of fresh legal challenges that could last years.

In contrast, under Tony Blair’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement  about 500 terrorists including IRA men were released from jail early and up to 300 suspected terrorists got letters of comfort guaranteeing they would not face prosecution.

Last year Boris Johnson made a manifesto pledge to end “vexatious” prosecutions of veterans.

But the legislation currently going through Parliament does not cover Northern Ireland.

Vic Thorn

Vic Thorn has produced and sung his own version of Over the Hills and Far Away (Image: Vic Thorn )

Separate legislation is required – and that will have to satisfy all parties in Northern Ireland including Sinn Fein which during The Troubles was the mouthpiece for the IRA.

Vic who served in Northern Ireland with the Paras, the Royal Military Police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, said: “If the Government can release terrorists and send out letters of comfort to hundreds of suspected terrorists, it can do the same for the soldiers.

“The Good Friday Agreement should have had a complete amnesty for all sides not just the terrorists but the Labour Government at the time blocked it.

“It was the Government which ordered the generals who ordered the troops yet at the end of the day it is guys at the bottom who are getting the stick, not the politicians or the generals.

“Mistakes are made in the heat of the moment. Imagine a young soldier coming under fire. He may not have slept for days and all of a sudden he has to make a life or death decision.

“If he gets it wrong, it could be his death or the death of an innocent person.

“But it has always been this way.   When Tommy Atkins is needed we’re lauded and when we’re not we’re discarded.

“For centuries Tommy Atkins has gone to battle. Some come back, some don’t. Those that do may be injured physically or mentally yet we just discard them.”

Vic, 69, from Gosport in Hampshire, said he found the lyrics on the internet and has not been able to trace the author.

But he produced and sang this hard-hitting version backed by the photographs of battle scenes.

The song’s lyrics include the lines: “When our patrol came under attack,

The mistake we made was shooting back, Because if we had died that way

We would not be in court today.”

Vic served in Northern Ireland

Vic served in Northern Ireland (Image: Vic Thorn)

Other verses add: “We fired to save our comrades’ lives, For our parents, sons and wives, But the Government said don’t be so proud, Shooting the enemy is not allowed…

“So if you’re on patrol today,

Make sure your lawyer’s not far away, Only he can prove you’re not a liar, When you say you had to open fire.”

One of the British veterans facing trial next year, Dennis Hutchings, 78, from Cornwall, said: “This song says everything about serving in the British Army, the permanent threat of ending up in court and the lack of Government support.

“They’ve been talking this week about this bill to prevent prosecutions of British soldiers overseas but it doesn’t affect Northern Ireland.

“Everybody talks about Iraq and Afghanistan but more British servicemen were killed in Northern Ireland than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

“The song’s message is don’t join up.  I totally agree. What’s the point of joining up when you know you’ll have no support from the Government?

“It’s also appropriate that this was the song from Sharpe.  Governments have been doing this for centuries.”

Mr Hutchings denies attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm with intent over the 1974 shooting of John Pat Cunningham, 27, in County Tyrone.

Mr Cunningham, who had learning difficulties, was shot in the back after running away from an Army patrol.

Mr Hutchings has twice been investigated and cleared over the shooting but is still facing a trial by judge only at Belfast Crown Court next February.

The trial is going ahead despite Mr Hutchings being seriously ill and having to undergo kidney dialysis twice a week.

The MoD says that it is funding Mr Hutchings’s defence.

An MoD spokesman said: “We will continue to offer welfare and pastoral support to any veteran affected.” 

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: “We will deliver on our commitments to NI veterans by bringing forward legislation to address the legacy of the troubles which focuses on reconciliation, delivers for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations that has failed victims and veterans alike. We will do this as quickly as possible.”

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