Air Commodore Alastair Mackie, CBE, DFC and Bar, RAF pilot and CND campaigner: an appreciation

June 26, 2018

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In the 1980s Alistair Mackie signed the Just Defence Charter and, after reaffirming support by email on 15/01/2009, agreed to be placed on the C3000 mailing list. The editor now regrets that his e-messages were not saved, most being a few appreciative words whenever CND’s work was mentioned.

Appointed acting pilot officer in 1941, he was staying at The Royal Empire Society, now the Royal Commonwealth Society, near St James’s Palace. Unable to sleep, he made his way to the roof, saw the capital ablaze from an air raid and vowed to hit back.

In June 1944, during the Normandy landings, Mackie dropped soldiers and supplies from his Dakota aircraft, avoiding intense anti-aircraft fire. Other incidents of bravery and initiative are described in the Telegraph obituary (paywall, see text in link to Bruce Kent’s post).

In the 1950s, when Alastair Mackie was commanding a Royal Air Force squadron of nuclear-armed Vulcan bombers, the Times obituary reports, he realised that the degree of target accuracy in the radar assisted Vulcan was irrelevant – with nuclear weapons the area of destruction would be vast.

After moving to a senior role at the Ministry of Defence and seeing political machinations at close quarters, Mackie became a staunch critic of the government’s nuclear policy and vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). He felt that nuclear weapons were incompatible with his Christian faith and resigned from RAF at the age of 45, (see Bruce Kent’s CND post which includes the Telegraph obituary).

Mackie remained convinced that Britain’s nuclear strategy was ineffective, immoral and wasteful. In a 2009 letter to The Times he called Trident a “stick-on hairy chest virility symbol”.

His first book was Some of the People all the Time (Book Guild Publishing in 2006) and this post ends with a reflection in the memoirs of his service with the RAF, Flying Scot: An Airman’s Story.(2012):

“Man’s inhumanity to man has given place to man’s suicidal inhumanity to the planet . . . My shame at having been part of it as a Vulcan pilot is mitigated only by decades of membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Alistair Mackie: born on August 3, 1922, died on May 19, 2018

 

 

 

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On the steps of the MoD, Bruce Kent presents ‘peace prizes’ to activists from MEDACT, ICAN, WILPF and many others

December 12, 2017

This account was prompted by a tweet by Roslyn Cook (campaigning in support of the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty and a global nuclear weapon free zone) and an article in Beat (the “go to” multi-platform radio station for entertaining & informing young adults in the South East)

On the 10th December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, for its “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

On Saturday, the day before the award in Oslo, Bruce Kent hosted an ‘award ceremony’ at the MoD in celebration of the Nobel Peace Prize – which honours the tireless efforts of thousands of people across the world who brought about the nuclear ban.

His ‘peace prize’ was presented to activists from @Medact @ICAN_UK @WILPF and many others on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London. Read a fuller account on an allied website.

Beat reported extracts from Bruce Kent’s address

Bruce, the vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), thinks that Britain is “uniquely placed” to become the first nuclear power to “come off the fence”. During a period of heightened nuclear tensions arising from North Korea’s military tests, said no one wins in nuclear war: “It is a very dangerous time because a man like Trump really is not sufficiently informed to know what he is dealing with. He is still living in a kind of cowboy world, where the one with the bigger gun somehow wins. Well nobody wins with a nuclear war – there is no winning. We have had precarious times before, like the Cuban crisis, but this is quite a dangerous one – granted his volatile method of talking and thinking.”

He said the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent would be a ‘gross waste of money’:

“They always talk about it as if it was just the building of the things. But if you add the building and the running of them it is something like £300 billion which could be spent on housing or hospitals, or social services, or overseas aid – that money does not get challenged.”

We note that in November 2012 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its projections for year-on-year spending up to 2016/17 (above).

Mr Kent said the UK does not have an independent nuclear weapon

The country depends entirely on the Americans to supply the missiles: “If America or Trump said no more missiles for Britain, in six months we would no longer have a nuclear arsenal. We would have the warheads, but we wouldn’t have anywhere to put them. We are well placed to be the first nuclear power to come off the fence.”

Asked if he thinks North Korea is a particular threat, Mr Kent said: “I think North Korea has nuclear weapons because of the world it lives in. It is looking out at the American fleet, it is looking at nuclear weapons pointed at it and it thinks to itself, just like Mrs May probably, that it is safer to have nuclear than not to have them. I think it is more dangerous for everybody. The answer to the North Korea problem is to get rid of American nuclear weapons from that area and de-target North Korea – not to encourage them to copy us. If nuclear weapons provide security there is no common sense in saying that other countries should not have them.”

MEDACT, ICAN and WILPF staged a ceremony which included the presentation of a handmade Nobel Peace Prize coin and speeches. They also called on the Government to sign up to the newly approved UN treaty that bans nuclear weapons, and staged a “die in”, where the 25 activists lay sprawled on the steps of the Ministry of Defence in London (above) to highlight the human cost of nuclear war.

 

 

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BRITAIN’S NUCLEAR BOMB: Bruce Kent draws attention to the BBC’s jingoistic account of this costly ‘achievement’: at least menacing health – at worst fatal to innocent millions

May 14, 2017

 

BRITAIN’S NUCLEAR BOMB: The Inside Story 3rd May, BBC Four

In 1957, Britain exploded its first megaton hydrogen bomb – codenamed Operation Grapple X. It was the culmination of an extraordinary scientific project, which against almost insuperable odds turned Britain into a nuclear superpower. This is the inside story of how Britain got ‘the bomb’.

The BBC has been granted unprecedented access to the top-secret nuclear research facility at Aldermaston. The programme features interviews with veterans and scientists who took part in the atomic bomb programme, some speaking for the first time, and newly released footage of the British atomic bomb tests.

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On 4th May, Bruce Kent, Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament wrote to the Radio Times (see 13-19th issue, p158):

The Inside Story? Actually only an inside story.

Too much was left out, especially morality and law, to make it anything more

No mention of Joseph Rotblat, the one scientist who refused to continue work on the bomb once he knew how it was to be used.

The bombs caused the Japanese surrender? No: As General Eisenhower said later ‘It was not necessary to hit them with that awful thing’

 

It is actually possible that US determination to use the bombs delayed the surrender.  Prior to August 1945 the Japanese leadership were asking, via the Soviets, only for immunity for the Emperor.

Unconditional surrender was the Allied response. So the war continued.

But General MacArthur gave just that immunity once the bombs had been dropped.

As things now are we British have an ‘independent’ nuclear weapon which we can’t use unless the US lends us the missiles.

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