A runaway Birmingham soldier condemned as a “Nazi” broke his silence to insist he would give himself up within days
BNP member Anthony Phipps, aged 21 and from Stechford, went on the run after being accused of having a tattoo in honour of the Third Reich and of making Sieg Heil-style salutes in internet pictures. Despite criticism of his political views, Phipps insisted: “I’m not a racist or a Nazi.”
Speaking as he laid low in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Iraq veteran added: “I do follow the BNP, that I don’t deny. But I didn’t join it to be racist. I can’t go back to the Army because I feel threatened.”
Phipps, a member of 3 Mercian Regiment (Staffs), said he fled his barracks in Fallingbostel, Germany, last weekend after a Sunday newspaper revealed pictures of his “Nazi tattoo”, which was originally posted on social networking website Facebook. He was also being hunted by Military Police officers and the Ministry of Defence urged him to give himself up. Phipps said he would hand himself over to the authorities within days. But he claimed the coverage he had received had made it “impossible” to return to his military duties.
“They’ve put me at risk and my family,” he said.
Phipps’s sister Andrea, a 24-year-old mum-of-two, said the picture of him appearing to make Nazi salutes was taken out of context.
She said: “He’s far from a Nazi. The photo was taken at his grandma’s funeral. They were pointing to a picture of his grandma. So what if he is a member of the BNP? He has every right to express his views. He’s a soldier fighting for his country and people are stabbing him in the back. It’s not fair.”
But Hall Green Labour MP Steve McCabe said: “Membership of the BNP is inconsistent with the values of the British Armed Forces. Army personnel are supposed to uphold the values of the Crown and the BNP’s views conflict with those.”
An MoD spokesman said Army personnel were allowed to join political parties as long as their membership did not “conflict with core values and standards”. The spokesman added: “Members of the Armed Forces are entitled to their beliefs provided their practice does not conflict with the Services’ core values and standards. Soldiers who are AWOL are urged to contact their units and to make arrangements to return to military service of their own accord.
“Advice is available from the Services Confidential Support Line – 0800 731 4880. Safeguards have been put in place to ensure those arrested are treated in a sensitive manner. There are many reasons why service personnel go absent and all absentees are afforded Army welfare and duty of care provisions upon return.”