Sunday, 30 August 2015

Henri Cartier-Bresson in Brussels

Having earned my living as a photographer some time ago, I retain an interest in the medium, albeit somewhat limited. I am not really one for the avant garde, (as I am often reminded) and as with other art forms I much prefer classical imagery.

And so it was a great pleasure to visit the Cartier-Bresson expo at the Jewish Museum in Brussels yesterday.

Over 130 images made in various parts of the world, and over a period of some decades. Not only are these images special in themselves, but they touch heavily on my interest in social documentary.

The exhibition runs for another week.

Rue des Minimes 21
1000 Brussels

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Statistics on Cause of Death of Falkland Islands Veterans
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) publishes an annual report into the causes of deaths of veterans of the Falkland Islands War of 1982.

These statistics were first published in May 2013 in response to a high volume of external interest in the cause of death amongst the veterans. In particular there was considerable interest in those that have committed suicide, with various sources quoting that over 200 Falklands veterans had taken their own lives. As a consequence the MOD was repeatedly accused of hiding the true cost of the conflict and of not recognising the difficulties faced by the veterans community.

The figure of 200 has been disputed - MoD officially puts the figure at 95, itself a highly disturbing statistic - but to put these numbers into context, 255 British military personnel lost their lives during the fighting, along with 649 Argentines, and three Falkland Island civilians.

As shocking as the figures may seem, to this number can be added those whose who have subsequently died prematurely through alcohol or drug abuse. Countless others are living with acute mental health issues. Levels of homelessness are also very high among ex-servicemen in the UK; former Army personnel are more affected than veterans of the other services, partly due to the fact that many of their skills have no relevance in the civilian workplace, partly due to high incidences of trauma. In 1983, the British press reported that up to 9,000 former service personnel were homeless, accounting for some 10% of rough sleepers across the UK.

Argentine veterans have experienced similar issues, with Reuters reporting in 2004 that over 300 suicides had been recorded. Argentina does not have the support system that British veterans have, and many wounded veterans are reduced to begging in the streets.

Whilst MoD admits that there are still deaths occurring each year, it is now seeking to report every five years, instead of annually. This, it is stated, is in order to free up resources for other areas of work, particularly the Armed Forces Covenant.

Many veterans, however, have memories of the MoD cover-ups following the first Gulf War of 1991. Soldiers reported symptoms that were widely referred to at the time as ‘Gulf War Syndrome’.

The children of veterans were being born with severe deformities, and in many cases were still-born. Despite evidence to the contrary, MoD refused to lay the blame on the use of Depleted Uranium (DPU) munitions, widely used in anti-tank weapons. It was only after the release of leaked documents from the chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down that MoD was forced to admit that it had been investigating the effects of DPU on veterans for some time.

The treatment of the British Nuclear Test Veterans was also appalling: only when most were dead did the government choose to acknowledge their plight.

The youngest Falklands veteran is 49, the oldest is 77.

UK Veterans Agency…
Combat Stress
Soldiers Off The Street