More than 50 years after he was seriously injured in a battle overseas while on a Territorial Army mission, Captain Eoghann Maclachlainn of South Uist will finally receive a General Service Medal with Clasp South Arabia from the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus B MacNeil received confirmation this week that medals for service will be awarded to members of the 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers, 131 Parachute Engineer Regiment TA who were injured or killed in a battle in Yemen (formerly South Arabia) in 1965 – despite previous refusals by the MoD.
The TA Squadron were the first to see action after WW2 when they were attacked by enemy fire during a training exercise. The ensuing battle led to the loss of two lives including the Squadron’s Sergeant Major John Lonergan and five others including Captain Maclachlainn, were wounded.
This week Mr MacNeil received a letter from Earl Howe, Minister of State in the House of Lords, which detailed that instruction had been given to the Medal Office to issue the Medal to Captain Maclachlainn, and the families of the Sergeant George Gibson Earl who died on 10 February 2004 and Sergeant Lonergan.
The MoD have previously stated that members of the squadron were not eligible for a General Service Medal because they were in South Arabia on training and not operational duties.
Mr MacNeil, who has known Captain Maclachlainn for many years said: “I am very pleased that the MoD has finally recognised the service of some members of this squadron and has confirmed that Medals will be given.
“I have been writing to the MoD about this injustice for more than 2 years.
“However all the brave men who served in 300 Parachute Field Squadron deserve recognition for their service.
“The battle which took place at 0015 hours on 12 April 1965, was not part of a training exercise but was active service.
“The award for Captain Maclachlainn and others is a very welcome step forward in what has been a long running campaign for the veterans.”
Staff Sgt John Donaldson, who served with the squadron and has been campaigning for five years for the MoD to award the General Service Medals said:
“I am delighted that the casualties of 300 Parachute Field Squadron Royal Engineers will now receive the medallic recognition they deserve.
“Special Army Orders of 25 July 1966, opened the door for the casualties of 300 Para Fld Sqn RE and others to receive the General Service Medal 1962 with Clasp South Arabia so why has it taken 52 years for them to receive the award.”
He said the Squadron were working in an operational area and followed orders as such in relation to this despite the MoD’s insistence that they were not on operational duties.
He added: “I am sure that had I not had the support from Angus MacNeil MP the casualties of 300 Para Fld Sqn RE would never have received the award. Mr MacNeil has agreed to carry on the fight for the rest of the squadron to receive the medallic recognition they deserve.”