Help for Heroes (H4H) is a British charity launched on 1 October 2007 to help provide better facilities for British servicemen and women wounded since 11 September 2001. It was founded by Bryn and Emma Parry who now both have the OBE. The charity has really caught the public’s imagination and nearly every event I attend these days gives a donation to Help For Heroes. I have always had a problem with this charity, first and foremost because of the name. A hero is a person, who is admired for courage or noble qualities.Undoubtedly many members of the armed forces do have these qualities but at least they have a choice to join the military or not and they actively choose to give their minds away to the gung-ho politicians back in Westminster. Our heroes also manage to kill many innocent people, but we can’t mention that of course.
My other gripe is the fact that to criticise Help for Heroes is tantamount to treachery. We all have to get behind ‘our boys’ and this charity it seems to me is a front for pure propaganda to persuade the public to support wars which we perpetrate and which in no way can be seen as defending our country. Help for Heroes is a political movement dressed up as a charity.Last year, the journalist Angus Stickler led a report which was broadcast on BBC2’s Newsnight programme, which investigated charity and state provison of the care of wounded military personnel.Soldiers have criticised the charity for not being there when they need it. The claim is that Help for Heroes were ‘getting cosy’ with the MoD and was paying for things the government want, rather than what soldiers need.The charity had agreed to spend £153 million on constructing and running five regional MOD Personnel Recovery Centres, primarily for serving military personnel, which discharged servicemen can only use on a case-by-case basis.A subsequent investigation by the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit into the original Newsnight report upheld the charity’s complaint about the programme though Angus Stickler responded thus: “I stand by the story 100 per cent. It was well sourced, based on sound evidence and thoroughly tested. It was a brave decision for those wounded soldiers and their families to take part in the report, and they had an absolute right to be heard. These are people of great courage and integrity. We had a duty to properly report their views.“It is my belief that the process of the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit investigation failed to fully and properly reflect the evidence put before it..”
There are numerous military charities and before the launch of H4H in 2007, the Royal British Legion (RBL) was perhaps the most famous.The RBL on their website are at pains to point out the difference between the two charities:”Help for Heroes are a fund raising organisation which concentrates on raising funds for building projects.The Royal British Legion is the first port of call for help for the entire Armed Forces family.” But Help for Heroes has overshadowed the efforts of the RBL; the marketing has been phenomenal and the charity has raised £141 million to date. Among the corporate trustees of Help for Heroes are Steve Harman, vice president of the oil conglomerate Shell, and Tony Schofield, a partner in the Consulting division of Deloitte, the world’s second largest privately owned professional services firm.The charity has attracted the support of much of the media, most notably the Murdoch newpapers The Sun and the Sunday Times.The rapid promotion of the charity, through a series of high-profile sporting and popular music events as well as supermarket product placement, has been consciously used to counter widespread anti-war sentiment. Though of course it helps many, I can’t but see H4H as simply a business and government mouthpiece.