November 10, 2009

War heroes' fury over nazi insult

Furious veterans have accused a British Army surplus store of "insulting" the dead by stocking Nazi memorabilia – just yards from the Hull war memorial

Combat Clothing Company, in Paragon Street, city centre, is selling various items of replica memorabilia just 200 metres from the memorial, where hundreds turned out for the annual Remembrance Sunday parade. The memorabilia includes:
  • Flags displaying the Swastika
  • Swastika armbands, as worn by Waffen-SS soldiers
  • Replica Iron Cross medals, complete with a Swastika in the centre
Second World War veteran Perris Coupland, chairman of both the Hull branch of the Royal British Legion and Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, said he is outraged.

The 84-year-old said: "This is an insult to the 700 Hull people who lost their lives in the 83 air raids. The Nazis machine-gunned the centre of this city centre. It is disgusting and insulting to exhibit these items almost within sight of the war memorial, which is dedicated to the memory of those who died fighting these people."

Bill Feller, president of the Hull branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association, said: "It is disgusting. "Stores should be banned from selling this stuff."

Mr Feller, who took part in last weekend's parade at the Paragon Square war memorial, doctored his birth certificate and joined the Army aged 16. He fought in Algiers aged 17.

The 84-year-old added: "The Nazis were known for their cruelty. We had nothing against the ordinary German soldier – they were just like us. But the Nazis were in another league altogether."

Several different designs of Nazi flags hang on a hook next to modern, desert-coloured British Army uniforms in the store. Lapel badges, also featuring the Swastika, are displayed in the same glass cabinet as replica wartime medals issued to British soldiers.

Pat Arksey, organiser of Hull's Poppy Appeal, said: "This store should have more sensitivity, especially at this time of the year when we are remembering those from Hull who died at the hands of the Nazis."

It comes just weeks after four former generals complained about "extremists" who hijack British Army symbols. The four put their names to a letter stating the forces' reputation is being tarnished by right-wing groups. The British National Party (BNP) has been using military symbols, including a picture of a Spitfire alongside the words 'Battle for Britain', in the party's recent European election campaign.

Mike May, owner of Combat Clothing Company, defended his decision to sell the items. He told the Mail: "We have always sold these items. No-one has ever complained. If they were illegal we would obviously not be selling them. It's part of history. Should be stop reenactments at Fort Paull? There are a lot of re-enactors who buy our flags. They can't afford genuine German flags, which cost hundreds of pounds each. Some people might object to us selling British Army camouflage gear, but we stock that."

However, Jeff Baker, manager of Military Wear House, in Hessle Road, west Hull, said: "We do not sell Nazi items. It would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives fighting for this country."

Criminal Robert Cockerline was criticised after appearing before Hull Crown Court last week wearing an enamel badge, which featured the words "Heil Hitler" around a Swastika. Cockerline, 42, who has a record for harassment and criminal damage, appeared for breaching court orders but was allowed to walk free. He is on probation as an alternative to prison.

This is Hull and East Riding


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