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Rotary president: Bring our troops home

PUBLISHED: 15:53 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 09:43 12 August 2010

POIGNANT: Rotary president Alan Clarke salutes the fallen and then calls for our troops to be brought home.

POIGNANT: Rotary president Alan Clarke salutes the fallen and then calls for our troops to be brought home.

A WAR veteran and president of a Royal British Legion branch has called for our troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Alan Clarke, 75, from Orpington, who served in the Royal Navy for 10 years and saw action during the Suez crisis, said the Afghanist

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A WAR veteran and president of a Royal British Legion branch has called for our troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Alan Clarke, 75, from Orpington, who served in the Royal Navy for 10 years and saw action during the Suez crisis, said the Afghanistan mission does not have a clearly defined purpose.

The president of the Orpington branch of the Royal British Legion was part of the hundreds who turned up to mark Remembrance Sunday at the War Memorial in Orpington High Street.

The former leading telegraphist said: "Whether we should stay in Afghanistan is not an easy question to answer. In my 75 years of life I have seen many conflicts, all of which seemed to me to have a clearly defined purpose.

"This current situation in Afghanistan does not seem so clearly defined to me.

"All I can say is that I had an 18-year-old son involved in the Falklands war and if he had been killed or maimed I would have felt, other than personal grief, that there was a justification.

"I would not like to be a parent of a serviceman or woman serving in Afghanistan in this current situation. I personally would like to see our troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.

"In the main I think they are well enough equipped, but the lack of sufficient helicopters is a serious issue, particularly as most of our casualties are being caused to troops on foot patrols, but then - only the troops out there can answer that question."

The congregation last Sunday, which included veterans, air cadets, Scouts and Brownies, went to a special service at Service in All Saints Church in Bark Hart Road.

A service was also conducted at the grave of Ivy Millichamp, who was the last civilian to be killed in World War II, when a V2 rocket landed in Kynaston Road, Orpington.

The congregation then went onto the Commonwealth War graves cemetery, home to many graves of Canadian, British, New Zealand and Australian troops killed in World War I.

Attendees included Orpington MP John Horam, Lt Colonel Denis Janelle of the Canadian High Commission, councillors and personnel from the police and the London Fire Brigade.

Mr Clarke, a former Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, said: "I believe that the service of Remembrance is essential to the character of the British people, who have lost so many brave men and women not only in two world wars, but in conflicts throughout the world since 1945.

"Since that time there has only been one year in which no British service person has been killed somewhere in the world.

"We should not only honour the sacrifice made, but also the many hundreds of thousands who are maimed for life, both mentally and physically and the grief caused to families which lasts for forever.

"Collecting during the period of Remembrancetide is a humbling experience. The dreadful news that comes from Afghanistan almost daily is on everybody's mind and was most evident this year, and people seemed to me to be especially generous."

Last year the poppy appeal in Orpington raised nearly £30,000 and this year's collection appears to be at least matching that.

Mr Clarke added: "This makes me very proud of the people of Orpington and also very humble.

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