http://timesonline.typepad.com/mick_smith/2006/03/one_piece_of_go.html#more One Piece of Good News Amongst the Bad Newspapers are often criticised for not carrying much in the way of good news. So just for a change here is a bit of better news about one of the worst stories I have ever had to write. In a previous post, I mentioned the awful plight of Chandler Biddis who was left severely handicapped. It happened as a result of attempts by officers to bully a member of the Parachute Regiment into signing away his contractual rights in a process known as manning control. Chandler, who is six years old, suffered from meningitis and septicemia as a baby and is now suffering from cerebral palsy, cannot walk, is partially blind, and cannot talk properly. Read his mum Debbie describing here how the whole sorry mess came about. So whereâs the good news, I hear you ask. Well although those responsible for the bullying evaded any punishment, the good news is that the Parachute Regiment appears to be doing everything it can to try to make up for what happened. Chandler has become something of a hero among both serving and former members of Britainâs airborne forces and as you can see from this account of some of the things he has to go through, he has the same hard-nosed attitude often attributed to the British paratrooper. So itâs fitting that Chandler is to be making a sponsored descent using the 60-foot Exit Descent training system at RAF Brize Norton, where Britainâs soldiers are given basic parachute training. The Exit Descent is used to test trainee paratroopersâ nerves but given his attitude to the day-to-day difficulties he faces, Chandler will have no problem. The sponsored descent takes place on Thursday 30 March at No 1 Parachute Training School RAF Brize Norton. He will be raising money for a special bed for severely disabled children at the John Radcliffe Hospital and a charity for ex-airborne soldiers who find themselves on the street. Once Chandler has completed the descent, he will be awarded the coveted British Military Parachute Wings and Certificate. Manning Control was by no means the only abuse of the loyalty and service of British soldiers and former soldiers that I have reported on over the years. I had my first introduction to the attitude of some within the MoD very early on in my time as a defence correspondent. There was a scandal in Australia over new research showing how Australian soldiers were used to test the effects of radiation from nuclear tests. I was asked to get a response from the MoD press office, which has a list of approved responses to various questions they are likely to be asked by the media. The approved response to the new evidence of the use of Australian soldiers as guinea pigs was: âWe were not using the Australian soldiers as guinea pigs. We were not testing the effect of the nuclear blast on them, we were testing its effect on their uniforms.â I promise you, that's absolutely genuine. Unbelievable but genuine. I often think there is no end to the way in which the MoD is prepared to mistreat servicemen and women. Even after more than five years dealing with them, some cases still stick in the craw and it is thoroughly depressing to note that in virtually every case the failure to right obvious wrongs was down to money. Former artillery major John Perry spent many years trying to persuade the Army Personnel Centre at Glasgow that former soldiers invalided out of the army should not pay tax on their pensions. The scandal had been going on for more than 50 years, in some cases even further, right back to the end of the First World War. Eventually after I highlighted the issue, Tony Blair apologised to the veterans, all of whom had to claim it back rather than receive it as of right. It was too late for some of course. Even now, the civil servants squabble over whether former soldiers should get back the money the Prime Minister has admitted they should never have paid in the first place. Four years after that apology, 88-year-old former Chindit Richard Perkins from Lastingham in North Yorkshire, is having to sue the MoD and the Treasury for the Â£86,000 he is still owed. John Perry received what he was owed years ago but still does what he can to help other veterans and their widows. Given Blairâs apology, I expected to see Perry named in the subsequent Queenâs Birthday Honours list. He wasnât of course, although two of the officials who had persistently resisted his claims were. Such is the way of our so-called honours system. Amother disgraceful case was that of John Orford, a former Grenadier Guard, who was discharged after hurting his neck during a training incident. The injury left him incapable of holding his head straight, which was scarcely compatible with being a good guardsman. But instead of giving him a medical discharge, the Army threw him out, claiming that he was âswinging the leadâ, deliberately exaggerating his injury in order to get out of duties. While on leave ahead of his discharge, Orford went to see his GP who diagnosed spasmodic torticollis, a condition that means â yes youâve guessed it â the victim can't keep his head still. It was confirmed by a specialist who spent years trying to help Orford to get the army to admit that they should have given him a medical discharge. Orfordâs former platoon commander told me the allegations against Orford were nonsense. He was one of the best soldiers in his platoon. He would never skive off duty. Lewis Moonie, then Veterans Minister, investigated the case and told his officials Orford had been wrongly treated and should be paid as if he had been given a medical discharge. Orford never got paid, and shortly afterwards Moonie lost his job. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I really am not. But I still believe to this day that the âNo Ministerâ civil servants had Moonie forced out. Yes. I know. Thereâs not much good news there at all is there? But then it isnât the mediaâs job to tell you when public servants are doing their job properly. After all thatâs the minimum you expect of them when you hand over your taxes. The media's role is to tell you when people are not doing their job properly, something that sadly happens all too often with the MoD. Recently, there has been a lot of controversy over tests carried out on soldiers at the MoD's Porton Down laboratory on Salisbury Plain. It has been claimed that soldiers were paid to undergo tests to find a cure for the common cold. Or at least that's what they were told. In fact, the Porton Down scientists were callously and disgracefully testing the effects of chemical and biological weapons on their victims. The whole process went on from 1953 right up to 1989. At least one serviceman, possibly more, died as a result. The MoD dismisses this allegation. They admit the tests took place but say soldiers were never told they were helping to find a cure for the common cold. They were told they were being tested with chemical and biological agents and happily volunteered - as you would! Salisbury Plain is of course cluttered with army barracks and like thousands of other squaddies, I was stationed there in the early 1970s. I can still remember the regular calls on daily orders for volunteers to help Porton Down find a cure for a common cold. I canât be alone in that memory. It all seemed a bit of a doddle at the time. You had the day off work and were paid extra into the bargain. Fortunately for me, the old sweats in my unit put me right. But hey, perhaps the old sweats were wrong. Perhaps they werenât using soldiers as guinea pigs at all. Perhaps they were just testing the effect of chemical and biological weapons on their victim's uniforms. Finally, I would just like to dedicate this posting to Tom Reah, a Harrogate solicitor who worked extraordinarily hard, not just for Chandler Biddis and his parents but for others mistreated by the army or the MoD. Tom died last year, sadly far too young. He is very sorely missed by all who knew him. So if Chandler's case touched you at all, next time you take a glass of something, and whether you knew him or not, drink a toast to Tom Reah - one of the best.