Airey Neave DSO OBE MC

Discussion in 'Gunners' started by django_strikes, May 29, 2013.

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  1. This morning I finished reading the account (autobiographical) of Airey Neave's war time service, particularly his escape from Colditz and "Home Run" to the UK - They Have Their Exits.

    I had never heard of Neave before my time at ICSC(L) and didn't hear of him on the course, rather as a local sports field was named after him. I did a bit of Google/Wiki searching and was astonished that such a distinguished Gunner had passed under my radar - yes, he was assassinated when I was 2 years old, but I would have thought to have heard of him, at least.

    DSO, OBE, MC, Lawyer, Politician, requested to assist at the Nuremburg Trials, MI9...quite a list of achievements.

    The more I read and in accounts of him, perhaps that I had not heard of him was not unusual. I can recommend the book and intend on reading his other works, of his time with MI9, aiding other escapees and assisting the resistance and to also read his autobiography.

    I was disgusted that a man who fought for the freedom of others, in wartime service and after in politics and law, someone who had secured his own, by no small measure, was killed by cowards. As I finished the book, I was raging that such an injustice could happen. Also saddened that one who seems to have been so influential is not around now - who knows how British politics and events may have played out.
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  2. He wasn't the only one by a long way.

    One can never tell, chaos theory and so forth, but I doubt his having lived would have affected things that much.
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  3. A different breed of politician to those we have foisted upon us now. Being given a post in daddy's boardroom does not, in my opinion, bring you into contact with the real world yet they stand on the shoulders of men like Airey Neave. I haven't read his auto-biog however it's certainly on my to-do list.
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  4. B_B - I agree (I think what you meant) - not the only one to have not reached full potential.

    As I didn't know of him in his time, have little feel for that era (politics of the day had little effect on my formative years - or did they?) etc. it's hard to be sure.

    However, what may have happened if he had continued through Security Service reform (that's possibly a red herring from wiki, hopefully his autobiography has more) and/or in his political career.

    And yes, a different breed of politician, who wouldn't have still been serving now, but how much impact could/would he have had?
  5. There's a whole generation of all political persuasions and public roles that you should read about

    Lord Peter Carrington got an MC for his actions in securing the Nijmegen bridge in the attempted relief of Arnhem. Lord Denis Healey was a beach master at Anzio. Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie was awarded the MC for pulling an unconscious man from a disabled tank whilst under fire in March 1945
  6. Impossible to say, but I don't imagine that the impact would have been that great. Ideologies aren't important in politics anymore.
  7. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    Neave also wrote a book on his experiences at the Nuremberg trials - a very good read. (It's titled 'Nuremberg'). He served the indictment to the defendants personally and recorded his emotions as he went into each cell. It appears to be out of print at present, but Amazon have some second hand copies.

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  8. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    I wonder if their wartime experiences gave then a far better perspective on what's important and what's not than the present crop of politicians. After being (for example) beach master at Anzio, I would imagine even the fiercest argument in the House of Commons seemed minor by comparison.

    And they certainly came from a generation of MP's where personal integrity in general was higher than the current shower.

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  9. I suspect that, had Airey Neave survived to old age, he would have become something of a figure of benevolent ridicule. His politics and robust views were forged during the war, thus the Liberal Left would have made great sport of his views during the late 80s/early 90s.

    I further suspect that, given his undoubted intelligence, he would have defended his position cleverly and robustly, thus further incurring the wrath of the newer breed of Socialist, which was then emerging.

    Being somewhat older, I well remember the day of his tragic death: it greatly affected The Blessed Margaret-some say that it was an event from which she never fully recovered.
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  10. I met him as a school boy in 1973 when he was the MP for Wantage, and he kindly signed my paperback copy of Saturday at MI9. He was not a warm and fuzzy chap, but what a terrible end to a long and distinguished career.
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  11. The post war generation of MPs were possibly the last to have done something other than politics and stood for parliament because they believed in something. The party they joined reflected their beliefs; modern politicos gravitate to the party that seems most likely to get them into a safe seat.

    I read 'Saturday at MI9' years ago but hadn't noted he was a gunner.

    Of Denis Healey, Simon Hoggart wrote in Punch something along the lines of;

    'He was a beach master at Anzio, the beach master's job seemed to involve catching enemy shells and throwing them back.'

    I always picture him as James Robertson-Justicein 'The longest day'.
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  12. I'm also sure that his tank was one of the first across the Bridge at Nijmegen just when it was supposed to get blown.

    His tank was also done as a painting by Terrence Cuneo (sorry for the divert)
  13. I consider this book on the Nuremberg trials to be amongst the top handful of any book I have ever read. Of any subject, any period anywhere. Firstly it was written by someone who was there, thus it is not filtered through any second hand source, and can only suffer from memory fade, and not be distorted by another writers hand. Secondly the guy can certainly write with style.... but mostly, it carries its narrative with a "long look" a philosophical analysis of all human conduct upon this earth.

    The men in the dock were accused of the very worst crimes that history has to offer... Neaves human side deals with the charges arrayed against each man, and how that man dealt with his ultimate fate.There was certainly a variety.. the accused differed immensely in IQ, courage, willingness to admit culpability, and, the political game each tried (or didn't) to curry favour with their captors.

    If you have no interest in military history, but just in philosophy or psychology, or zen buddism for that matter, then this book should be a must have on your bookshelf.
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  14. Visited Colditz a couple of years ago and re-traced to route of Neave's escape - A superb effort of skill and daring by Neave and his Dutch co-escapee, Tony Luteyn

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  15. Just bought a copy of "Nuremberg" for 1p from Amazon - P & P was 350 times more expensive! Looking forward to reading it.