17 JULY 1976, Page 19

Mercenaries S ir: Many people have been holding their horses on

the question of mercenaries in ease, inadvertently, they added to the fury of Mr Agostinho Neto and his communist MPLA regime in Angola against the brave, dedicated and possibly foolish young men Who were daring enough to stand in the way of the advance of Russian communism in Africa. But now that the Russian catspaw has carried out the sentence of death on these legitimate prisoners of war, we need no longer restrain our language.

I fully support Mr Colin Beer when he saYs that money was never the prime consideration of most of these mercenaries When they volunteered to fight the reds, although it may have been a major factor in those few who refused to fight and so betrayed their comrades in the face of the enemy.

On the latter score, those of us who have taken part in retreats know that there are always some who are willing enough to wear uniform and accept the pay and adulation Which goes with it when things are easy but Who at once make excuses and run away When danger threatens and, in so doing, sentence their comrades to death by their own cowardice. It is usually best to eliminate these men quickly on the spot before their Panic spreads. All soldiers, with the possible exception of padres and medical, must always be ready to fight and kill. There are some who consider themselves too precious Who forget that nowadays.

Colonel Callan, as he then was on the field of battle, may have acted foolishly or imPetuously owing to fatigue, inexperience, or frustration when faced with the mutinous attitude of men who were prepared to take the money but not do the job. But he only acted as many other officers have done during retreats over centuries of warfare. 7is courage has never been questioned, and d must have been satisfying to him, as well as to us, to know that the most reliable sources calculate that the Cuban mercenaries lost between 500 and 1,000 casualties in their battles.

As regards money, I have recently visited °'l-rig construction sites in Scotland where the average pay of trained welders, fitters and surveyors (one aged 17i) is £.125 for a sixtY-hour week. £1 25 per week for a trained 13.sh soldier for a 168-hour week with no danger money, no compensation, no family allowance and no social services can hardly de considered a high rate of pay. Having myself (amongst many, ten of s‘'hom later became generals in the British a-rtriY) given up my regular commission to vdlonteer to fight for Finland in 1940 against

the same predatory Russians (we did not get there in time), and also having been part of a British mission to China to help fight the Japanese long before Pearl Harbour, I find the 'holier than thou' attitude of part of the British press and certain fellow-travellers in Westminster abhorrently hypocritical and subversive of the highest ideals of British youth. But, as Mr Beer hints, can you expect anything different from paid communist lackeys who are taught that the march of communism across the world must not be hindered by freedom-loving, free enterprise fighters ? I personally cannot believe that the killing of communists in the field of battle is wrong. In fact, in the present state of the world, it is to be commended.

As for the term 'mercenaries', have we forgotten all those who came to Britain's aid in 1940, including 70,000 Argentinians and 25,000 Chilians? An American Volunteer Group of aviators fought for the Chinese alongside our mission and received 81,000 for each Jap plane they shot down. At the same time many American pilots joined the Canadian Air Force in order to fight our war. Such men and the Angolan volunteers are the molecules on the cutting edge of the knife of change and they are the ones who get hurt when the knife cuts. It is easy for the Fleet Street, Whitehall and Westminster molecules safe in the handle to criticise. But let them get to the cutting edge and see what it is like.

Many men and women can do more for their country by serving outside it than by mouldering safe inside. All praise and power, I say, to the youth of Britain who are brave and enterprising enough to volunteer and fight in wars which help thwart the communists' ambition for world domination. With all their faults of enthusiasm they are better men than those in Britain who strike for more pay or who passively live off the welfare state. One counter-productive effect of the Luanda trial as far as the communists are concerned was the fine bearing and courage these young men showed on Tv while facing their unjust accusers and when betrayed and neglected by their own country and by a pusillanimous government.

Sir Francis Hastings Doyle's 'drunken private of the Buffs' who, left behind in China in the 1850s, refused to kowtow to a representative of the Chinese Emperor and preferred death to dishonour, might now welcome our men in Angola who, with their heads held high, faced unflinchingly the worst that an illegal communist court could do.

Michael Calved 6a Gregory Place, London W8