The decorated SAS veteran Andy McNab has condemned the British National Party after it tried to associate itself with his heroism by auctioning two signed copies of his books to raise money for Help for Heroes, a charity that helps wounded soldiers.
“I was sick to the stomach,” stated McNab, whose works include Bravo Two Zero, when he was told about the BNP stunt. “I served with men of all colours and from many nationalities. They were all equal to me. That’s what the army teaches you. Nick Griffin thinks differently…I’ve asked for my books back. Because I don’t want anything to help the BNP promote their poisonous politics of segregation and hatred.”
This is not the BNP’s only attempt recently to link itself to armed forces charities. The Huddersfield branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) recently accepted money raised by a BNP supporter, seemingly in contravention of its own strictly non-political stance.
The RBL had originally refused to accept the money from Rachel Firth, who spent 24 hours in a cardboard box to highlight the plight of ex-service personnel forced to sleep rough after leaving the Armed Forces. Firth said she would divide the money equally between the RBL and the BNP.
The rejection angered Robert Walker, a BNP member who organises the Poppy Appeal for the charity in Golcar. He tried to pile on the pressure by stating that he had already agreed to accept the money and that the Golcar branch was happy with this.
The laudably robust stance of the RBL soon softened, however, and within days of the row hitting the pages of the Huddersfield Examiner the RBL had agreed to accept the cash on the grounds that the donation was not made on a political basis and that Firth “is an individual raising funds for her favoured causes and wants to split those funds between the causes. We have no problem with this.”
The BNP has also targeted FEBA – a military term meaning “Forward Edge of Battle Area” – a financially hard-up veterans’ charity based in Lanarkshire.
FEBA, which does not receive government funding and relies on donations, was approached by BNP activists in Glasgow, who offered to raise £50,000 to help keep a drop-in centre open. Tommy Moffat, FEBA’s founder and a former Queen’s Own Highlander, said he rejected the offer but told the press that he may now have no alternative but to accept the money if the charity is to continue operating, after a number of grants allegedly promised by the Ministry of Defence failed to materialise. The MOD denied his claim, saying it had only offered FEBA a team of experts to help the charity obtain grants.
Gary Raikes, the BNP’s Scotland organiser, met Moffat at the charity’s Glasgow drop-in centre and immediately posted photographs of the two men shaking hands on the BNP website to boast about how the BNP was coming to the aid of veterans. Moffat conceded he had already accepted £3,000 to help with the rent as well as a delivery of radiators from the Scottish BNP activist Walter Hamilton, though he denied he knew Hamilton was a BNP activist at the time.
“It was only later that he told us he worked for the BNP,” Moffat said, “What were we supposed to do? We had nothing. We were sitting with no heating and it was freezing.” The story on the BNP website appeared to imply that it was Moffat who contacted the BNP for assistance, however.
Trying to recruit serving soldiers and ex-servicemen has played a growing part in BNP strategy in recent years, signalled by the heavy promotion in 2007 and early 2008 of its front group the Association of British Ex-Service Personnel (ABEX), now defunct again. Of greater importance has been its use of the predicament of ex-servicemen for political purposes that has seen the party target areas such as Catterick for its propaganda drives. More recently BNP activists in Wales have tried to gain mileage out of the plight of vulnerable veterans by campaigning under the name “Soldiers Off Our Streets”.
Griffin’s public attitude to Britain’s armed forces has changed since a few years ago. During the 1990s an article appeared in The Rune, an antisemitic magazine Griffin edited, praising the Waffen-SS as “no worse” than any other army. The Waffen-SS were of course condemned as part of a “criminal organisation” at the Nuremberg Trials. Griffin, however, believed the Waffen-SS was praiseworthy for its “courage and sacrifices”.
Hope not hate