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British soldiers are not all heroes, say majority of the public

Members of the Royal Air Force showing weapons to small children

British soldiers are not all heroes, say majority of the public

A poll has revealed that the majority of the public reject the notion that members of the British armed forces should be automatically assumed to be heroes.

Pro-war newspapers and militarist lobby groups have in recent years made a simple equation between “heroes” and British military personnel, sometimes using the word “hero” to refer to any member of the armed forces.

However, less than a third of the public accept this simplistic equation of the two categories, according to a poll published in the Daily Express.

The vehemently pro-military Express attacked the public for not viewing all military personnel as heroes. In its usual over-the-top language, the newspaper described this as “Britain's shame”.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) welcomed the news that the most of the public will not simplistically equate soldiers with heroes, despite the establishment ramping up simplistic pro-military rhetoric in recent years. They expressed concern, however, that the percentage of the public who do view military personnel in this way is as high as 32%.

The word 'hero' is cheapened if it is applied automatically to all members of any organisation, let alone an armed force,” said Symon Hill of the PPU. “Heroism implies morality as well as bravery.”

He added, “Is the Daily Express really saying that the soldiers who carried out the Amritsar massacre were heroes? Or soldiers who mistreated prisoners of war? Or the generals who sent thousands of young men to die and kill other young men on the Western Front? Or the killers of thousands of German civilians?"

In the run-up to Remembrance Day, the Peace Pledge Union distributes thousands of white poppies, which represent remembrance for all victims of war, both civilians and combatants, of all nationalities. They also represent a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism.

The Peace Pledge Union, along with other members of the First World War Peace Forum will hold an Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in Tavistock Square, London, at 1pm on 11 November. Similar ceremonies will be held elsewhere in Britain.