Wakefield veteran signs open letter against Brexit on 75th anniversary of D-Day landings

A total of 122 veterans have written an open letter warning of the impact that Brexit could have on peace in Europe.
A total of 122 veterans have written an open letter warning of the impact that Brexit could have on peace in Europe.

A total of 122 veterans have written an open letter warning of the impact that Brexit could have on peace in Europe and calling for a fresh referendum.

Their initiative comes as world leaders, members of the Royal Family and the armed forces gathered to mark the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.

More than 150,000 soldiers from the UK, US, Canada and France landed on the beaches of Normandy on 6th June 1944, in what was the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history.

By the end of the day thousands had been killed or injured in a bid to secure a foothold along the coast of Nazi occupied France and begin the task of liberating Europe.

Signatories of today’s letter include those who have served in the army, navy and air force, during WW2 through to modern day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They include Brigadier Stephen Goodall who saw action in Burma during WW2, as well as the co-founders of Veterans for Europe; Stuart Thomson, (RAF), Duncaan Hodgkins (Army) and Steve Gavin Navy).

Those from Yorkshire who have signed the letter, include John Hillcoat from Wakefield, former RAF Squadron Leader, Steve Dean from Richmond, as well as former RAF Chef Technician Steve Lyons, Leading nurse Mark Nuttall, Roy Venables and Michael Chaloner form Bedale.

In the letter, the veterans say:

“As former members of the armed forces and veterans of more recent conflicts, we have served alongside soldiers from other European nations, supporting each other while under fire or facing danger.

“We have learnt that war stinks, that peace is the natural goal for civilisation, and that Europeans are our brothers in arms. But that peace and friendship is now threatened by Brexit.

And they write: “NATO does not keep the peace in Europe – it keeps peace FOR Europe. It is the EU that keeps peace IN Europe, because when you trade, you do not fight.”

Stuart Thomson, from Worcestershire, was a corporal in the RAF, served in Gulf War 1, twice in the Former Yugoslavia campaign, and is a co-founder of Veterans for Europe.

He said: “On D-Day, seventy-five years ago, our brave forbears went over the Channel to help our friends who had been under oppression for almost 5 years.

We went there to help the French, Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians, Danes, and even Germans who were oppressed by the Nazis. Thirteen nations, including British, Irish, French and Dutch, also Belgians, Poles and Czechs - from all branches of the services - were part of that liberation coalition. As Europeans, we were stronger together then and should be stronger together now. We also remember the sacrifice of Commonwealth and US forces at this important time.

During my own service, I’ve been on Operations with Dutch and French, been on exercise with Germans, Italians, Danes and Czechs and they are all great soldiers. Brexit has already shown us up to be unreliable allies, and it’s revealed an ugly, dark side of our society. Would Dutch or French soldiers trust us now? What has happened since 2016 is very disturbing, and it’s clear that the military aspects of Brexit weren’t thought about properly.

“Politicians trying to force us out of the EU without going back to the people are cowards, not leaders. They have no mandate and no right to behave this way. Those of us who fought for democracy are demanding a democratic People’s Vote to hold them to account.”