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A letter to The Friend (February 2013)

The British Army

Our local Meeting has received a curious letter from Army Engagement Team, inviting us to a presentation on the Army, claiming that the Her Majesty's Army is “your army” and implying that the talk can “give you a better understanding of what we do”.

Many of us have some understanding of what the Army has done and hope that it will improve on its former policy of shipping Quaker C.O.s to France to be shot as deserters and, more recently, torturing civilian prisoners in Iraq. It could do better in de-programming its soldiers, when they leave the service. It should avoid attempting to recruit school students, especially primary children!

Few of us will consider it to be valuable to attend the presentation on 19/02. It was said by a Friend who attended a similar event to be “it was a talk with pictures about how great the army was. It was very stage-managed and hard to ask tricky questions, but the buffet was good, and the wine was OK”.This seems to be part of a 4-year £40M project to implement “The Military Covenant” locally, with local authorities and civil society doing most of costly giving.

It would certainly be a benefit to open a dialogue with H.M. Forces and the War Office, if an open dialogue is possible. In the meantime, I expect that our response will be a polite refusal. We should, of course bear in mind Penington's 1661 view of the social role of “The Sword” in QFP 24.21.

In Friendship

Vernon White Come to Good Meeting, Cornwall


The above letter was written in reaction to a letter received, which was initially assumed to be a hoax.

<From>
The Army Engagement Group
The Cottages, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst,
Camber1ey, Surrey GU15 4PQ

Telephone 01276412880 Military 94261 2880
Facsimile 01476417001 Facsimile 94261 2174
<To>
Ms M Bird
Clerk
Religious Society of Friends
Come-to-Good Meeting House
Feock TRURO
Cornwall TR360S
 
7th January 2013

Dear Ms Bird

This letter comes with an invitation to an evening reception at Truro & Penwith College, Truro with Brigadier P D P Hankinson MBE MA, who commands the Army in your region. You may be wondering why you have been invited? Our aim is to promote greater awareness and understanding of the Army, and to do this we invite as wide an audience as we can.

You may wondering why you have been invited? Our aim is to promote greater awareness and understanding of the Army, and to do this we invite as wide an audience as we can. You may be an influential figure within your local community: you might be a key opinion former or a local employer. But whatever your background the British Army is your Army, so our aim is to give you a better understanding of what we do. One thing to stress is that we particularly welcome attendance from those who have little or no previous knowledge of their Army.

The main part of the evening will be a presentation on "Your Army" given by the Army Engagement Team who represent the head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall. After a short reception you will hear the presentation, and then have an opportunity to ask questions in an open forum. The evening will conclude with light refreshments and a chance to meet members of the Regular and Territorial Army, many of whom will be from your region.

This is an invitation-only event, but we would be delighted for you to bring along colleagues, friends or family if you wish, or to send a representative if you cannot attend. If you can attend please return the enclosed reply card in the stamped and addressed envelope provided. If you would like more information before the event please call my team or alternatively visit our website at www.army.mod.uk/engagement.

Yours sincerely

<Illegible signature>

Colonel S J R Browne OBE Commander Army Engagement Team


A reply to that letter was sent on 08 February 2013, as follows.

Dear Simon Browne,

Talk on the British Army on Tuesday 19 February at Truro College

Thank you for inviting Miranda Bird, the Clerk of Come to Good Quaker Meeting.

She is unable to attend the event and has asked me to deal with the correspondence.

Our governance procedures do not normally permit the appointment of representatives to events such as yours, other than by an assembled Area Meeting, the next being on the 9th of March. I hope to attend the talk but can not represent our local Quaker Meeting, Cornwall Area Meeting or Britain Yearly Meeting without being formally appointed.

I hope that this is acceptable.

If it is possible, I would like to ask a question of Piers Hankinson, concerning H.M. Government's proposal to commemorate the First World War, starting 2014 for four years, during which co-operation between civil and military authorities will be very important (see http://www.1914.org/centenary/http://www.1914.org/centenary/ ).

In response to your RSVP card, if I am able to come on 19 February, I will do so without guests; I have no special needs and will not sample your refreshments. I have no Job title.

In Friendship,

Vernon White
Member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)