The Royal Air Force as seen by John Cooper

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The Civil Service Within The MoD

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What follows is an incomprehensible account of the workings of The Civil Service within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as seen by myself, everything that is written is FACT and I have the documentary evidence to prove it within departments of the MoD. If you think holding on to the end of a phone trying to get through to a Telephone Call Centre listening to music that YOU are paying for is trying your patience then READ ON as this makes for pathetic and embarrassing  reading and to think this is what we pay our taxes for.

The information contained on this page has been provided to me from sources within the Ministry of Defence and Central Government, there are no secrets or confidential marked documents from any organisation or source other than that noted. I have not mentioned anyone by name (excepting Members of Parliament) to avoid any personal embarrassment to any individual, I wish this to be made perfectly clear.  
John Cooper November 1st 2002.

This saga follows on from my home page where I was involved in an aircraft accident in the Maldive Islands in 1960, for forty years I didn't know why this accident happened and wondered where I went to obtain that information.
March 2001 I wrote to RAF Innsworth to obtain my 'Record of Service' asking for information on my involvement in said aircraft accident. In very short time (two weeks) I received a resume of my service career but Surprise! Surprise! no mention of me being at RAF Gan, Maldives on the day of the accident. I write back asking why this is, the answer from Innsworth was that after 6 years of leaving the RAF your main records would have been destroyed, I might add that I was never asked if I wanted a copy of MY records BEFORE they were destroyed! 
An entry does exist on these records that I flew to RAF Gan on 21.05.1959 for a two week detachment, the same records show on 02.03.1960 that I 'emplaned Gan for the UK' followed by a whole series of numbers/letters, but nothing of the crash on March 1st!  I write back and ask if this fact would be recorded on my medical documents, in a fairly fast response time from Innsworth came the reply 'that there was nothing annotated on my medical records involving an aircraft accident' despite myself and others being given a medical examination immediately after our rescue.
MAY 2001  I return a letter to the PMA asking for a copy of my Medical Records, I knew these existed as I had 6 months previously been paid a War Pension, a high ranking civilian secretary within the PMA informed me that I was not entitled to these! This was a red rag to a bull situation, as I knew there was a law entitling me to a copy of these documents. I immediately sent an e.mail to the Office for Data Protection and on the same day received a reply stating by law they (MoD) must provide me with that information within 40 days under a Subject Access Request under The Data Protection Act. I immediately forwarded a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence the Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon MP complaining of lack of information re these records this I  returned to The Ministerial Correspondence Unit in Whitehall*, which in turn was sent on to the same Secretary at the PMA who replied to me that I WAS entitled to these, but he was not aware of the law! No apologies, as a Civil Servant should have done for giving out misleading information (Alleged Maladministration).
* Under a separate request under the DPA 1998 this letter has stamped on it HQ PTC 11Oct 2001 PMA Sec with some handwriting that has yet to be fully interpreted but one sentence appears to read "Worrying that there is other correspondence about the place" Whose writing this is has yet to be established. An earlier internal memo states under STAFF ACTION  "Are we likely to hold the information Mr Cooper seeks. The critical question is why does he want the information. Please advise by 7 May 01" . So why shouldn't I ask for this information and why was this comment made and by whom?
I received most of my medical records under the Data Protection Act 1998 but Surprise! Surprise! the most important ones were missing (regarding a separate alleged clinical negligence issue which caused my deafness) or that there was no entry to the date 1st March 1960, I complained and asked the PMA to check and recheck, no they were missing, no remedy as to what the procedure was to an appeal on how anyone could investigate that these records had gone missing (Alleged Maladministration).
July 2001 (but only just received via DPA 1998) on my letter to the Secretary of the PMA is endorsed a received stamp with annotated "This thing will never go away", I might add that this is one thing they did get right!
From this same department on an unsigned loose minute are some crass statements, undated but approx July 2001;
1>"As stated in the draft reply the facts are established and in the public domain and the question of embarrassment and implicitly a cover-up do not arise"  Mr MoD your very own representative raised the question of 'cover-up' before I did, embarrassment you say NO and I and many others say YES, as for the 'facts' were you there Mr MoD when these facts were written, I was involved in this prang, you weren't and I and others were not called as witnesses, HOGWASH get your house in order SIR!
2>  "It would appear, however, that Mr Cooper does not accept that this is the case, and is seeking to prove that some passengers and crew suffered more serious injuries"  Claptrap Sir, get your facts right! I have only tried to emphasize the point that your very own accident report CLEARLY states CASUALTY, I am NOT attempting to prove anything but this!  
3> "From previous correspondence it would appear that he may have the question of compensation in mind" Utter garbage Sir! I have never mentioned this EXCEPT I have asked those at your Legal Department in St Giles Circus for my pay that your errant pilot lost for me on the night of 01.03.1960. That pay was for 4 weeks worked in lieu of my repatriation to the UK, I had paid tax, national insurance and as I understand the law at that time Graduated Pensions on the Gross Amount. I HAVE NOT SOUGHT AND AM NOT SEEKING ANY OTHER RECOMPENSE.......FACT
4> He appears reluctant to accept that the full Board of Inquiry report was routinely destroyed during the review process" Crap Sir, it is your departments that cannot make their mind up when the BoI was destroyed, so tell me a date, but be careful how you answer this one as I have different assumptions from different departments here!
5> "His statement that he has collected 850 documents through other sources is preposterous (J Cooper comments AHB has made similar statements) An accident of this nature, with no fatalities or serious injuries would simply not have generated that much paperwork"  Rowlocks Sir! Have you or any Civil Servant, RAF Officer, or any other third party visited my home to view these, you bet your sweet bippy you haven't, I have not had the courtesy of a telephone call, my home can be visited to view these documents (in my prescence), there are now in excess of 1000 documents, maps, datum charts, eye witness accounts, loads of experts from the PRO/RAF Hendon Museum/IWM Duxford/Meteorological Office Bracknell/Maritime Coastguard Agency/ Hydrographic Office/Master Mariners/ four of the aircrew involved and 4 passengers involved including myself  plus many other incidental departments too many to name here.
Perhaps I have completed a task more thorough than anyone in your Departments care to imagine FACT, I have had 42 years to think about this, the Internet is a fine device it gives me access to people, newspapers, archives and such like and for the last 18 months you know I have plagued you, so come along Mr MoD come and have a look at the 9 volumes of files in ring binders. If you do  take this opportunity there will be two provisos
   1> That my solicitor will be in attendance
   2> And that a member of the press will be in attendance.
So the ball is firmly in your court PROVE ME WRONG! 

Not being satisfied with the answers coming back from the PMA and Whitehall I wrote to The Prime Minister the Rt Hon Mr Tony Blair MP at No. 10 Downing Street, in return got a standard reply letter that Mr Blair is a very busy person blah! blah! blah! and another letter returned  (eventually) from the PMA at RAF Innsworth stating that there was nothing further to add, HOWEVER recently under the DPA 1998 along comes a response to this letter from again the Ministerial Unit in Whitehall this time with a datestamp 15 Aug 2001 and in the same handwriting as the previous one via Geoff Hoon comes a sensational statement "We need to bang this one on the head speedily!" Now bearing in mind the Martin Sixsmith/Stephen Byers Affair, 'now is a good time to bury bad news' does this not smack of the same cynicism that purports to be our present Governments FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT!
21st August 2001 This is a very odd statement to make, The Secretary of the PMA without me ever mentioning COVER UP in his final paragraph to me states "I can assure you there is no "cover up".................". Why make the statement at all, I find this astonishing! 
Board of Inquiry (BoI) reports: There are various discrepancies between Departments within the MoD as to when these are destroyed, some say they don't know, some say 20 years, some say a few years. The crucial thing is when they are destroyed, this occurs before these records are made available to the public, under the thirty year rule. So Joe Public will never find the detailed reason behind such an incident. Why do such documents need to be hidden from view? If it is a state secret ie an aircraft on a sensitive spying mission or involved in a bombing mission that went wrong that to me is OK, but why hide something where the aircraft "lands" in the sea, that can't be embarrassing or can it? The Under Secretary of State (US of S) for Veterans Affairs Dr Lewis Moonie MP doesn't think so, he informed me via my MP Sir Michael Lord MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons exactly that this year, although I now find that this letter was drafted by someone other than the office of the US of S ! I am also informed by several ex Officer Aircrew, pilots especially so, that they were under the impression these BoI reports existed in perpetually, needless to say I am not going to mention names here! The Inspectorate of Flight Safety (IFS now defunct) had the temerity to reply to an e.mail question from me "How long were Board of Inquiry reports held by IFS"
they came up with a Brahma "It depends who you are" came the short reply!
I have dozens of such statements but probably the best one is a statement made from 'someone within the PMA'  who was writing a draft letter for someone else where he (that narrows it down by 50%!) states "As this was obviously  a very skilled piece of flying to land in the sea at night in a storm with no injuries of note .........."  Land in the sea, I have not read such verbal diarrhoea as this before, where on Earth this person has been for 42 years beggars belief, If the Official Accident Report is to be believed it states "......that the pilot was blinded by a brilliant (Thought all lightning was brilliant, but there you go!) flash of lightning, causing pilot to look into cockpit to recover his vision, the second pilot then called approaching 50' and almost immediately aircraft hit the sea". So who landed the aircraft in the sea, the pilot (blinded by lightning) or the co-pilot or were they so bloody low that the aircraft hit the water without anyone being in control! 
This department moved from Great Scotland Yard, Central London to RAF Bentley Priory in mid 2001, the move involved 29 Pantechnicons full of documents! From a loose minute from within the MoD "This involved moving 2.9 shelf kilometres of classified documents and a similar holding of unclassified material". So the MoD have nothing to hide eh, well 50% of it is deemed to be kept secret, if it involves National Security then obviously that is acceptable, but 1.81 miles of CLASSIFIED material that is big time stuff to keep hidden up over the 30 year rule!  OK an internal error from within AHB corrected the figure of 16 passengers on board the aircraft and readjusted it to 14 passengers and credit to the AHB they did apologise for this error after I brought this to their attention.
The Official Accident Record (AM Form A1180) clearly states the word CASUALTY on this document with MINOR INJURIES SUSTAINED BY ALL PASSENGERS AND CREW (one passenger had a broken nose and one crew member was hospitalised for circa 3 weeks with fuel burns to his legs and at least 2 passengers are on part of a War Pension through injuries sustained). For some unknown reason both the AHB and the PMA dispute the word casualty and have persisted on this subject at some length and saying I am making an issue of this point. I have obviously rattled some ones cage here and am merely pointing out the facts that are recorded and which have been given to me from survivors WHO WERE INVOLVED IN THE ACCIDENT. It has been claimed that I am being pedantic, ("disproportionate degree of weight" so succinctly put by one spokesman!) I am clearly trying to establish the facts, nothing more, nothing less! In fact this same person makes an astonishing statement regarding the AHB 'casualty' definition, whereby "Thus the RAF casualty index held in AHB has no entries relating to the accident because it only records serious injuries , i.e. ones requiring HOSPITALISATION"  That Sir, is exactly MY point as per the above case!   
There has been a great deal of energy expended by the spokesperson on entries that have been inked out or where anomalies have arisen in documentation  on the Form 541 Operations Book held at The Public Records Office. Suffice it to say there are several apparent 'clerical errors' some of which are minor and show that Feb 29th 1960 (leap year) came under the heading of March 1st 1960, ruled lines, number of lines per page did not tally and one item was out of chronological order but one sheet (end Feb 1960 was not marked secret, but the second entry on the page for March 1960  was endorsed SECRET , one in a DIFFERENT type to the other. The spokesperson in his infinite wisdom states " Some compiling officers took the lazy way out and, very much in the spirit of the times, habitually classified everything as SECRET , others varied the classification to conform more exactly with the contents" . There is absolutely no substantive grounds for this statement in this instance it is pure supposition! 
An extract follows from The British Council website associated with a UK Parliamentary website:
Finding Your Way Round Whitehall and Beyond
Appendix E Civil Service Code of Ethics
Item # 5 ........."They should not deceive or knowingly mislead Ministers, Parliament or the Public"
Item # 6 "Civil Servants should endeavour to deal with the affairs of the public sympathetically, efficiently, promptly and without bias or maladministration"
As the Directorship of the Efficiency and Machinery of Government is now probing all of the above, I await there decision as to whether this saga goes to the UK Parliamentary Ombudsman for Alleged Maladministration via my MP Sir Michael Lord, this is the procedure as laid down.
I might remind those dealing with this correspondence that the last letter I received from you was dated  22nd August 2002 well past the normal 20 day working limit (Government guidelines), and I also have to state that the external e.mail address that was promised at the  beginning of August 2002 has not yet materialised. I shall refrain from making any further comment until Friday November 15th 2002 giving those in power longer to dig themselves out of a mineshaft!. This has since been clarified in January 2004, the reason for the delay is that the particular department involved now no longer exists, what a lame excuse from a bunch of TOSSPOTS!
This is another political disaster area to be followed up after two Court of Appeal cases within The Court Service in London has been decided upon. I am afraid that this saga too will not go away. The Pensions Appeal Tribunal hearing was heard on January 10th 2003, the PAT found in my favour and have increased my WP from 30% to 40%, more on this subject later as there is another appeal outstanding on a back dating issue. This back dating issue was heard at a PAT hearing in Chancery Lane, London on June 4th 2003, I didn't attend as I knew what the intended outcome would be! Yep I lost my appeal, the official wording reads "The Tribunal finds that the appeal against the rejection by the Secretary of State for COMMENCING DATE has not been upheld. The Tribunal DISALLOWS  the Appeal"
March 13th 2004
I have now had all my dealings with the Civil Service 'resolved' meaning that the Waffen SS has investigated the Gestapo, the whole thing stinks like the Hutton Report, you appoint the right referee you are sure to get the right results!
However ...............................
22nd May 2004 I receive a letter from the MoD Legal department, completely out of the blue, to say that Board of Inquiry reports are held for a MINIMUM of 50 years, this contravenes letters from Dr Lewis Moonie MP ex Defence Minister, The Air Historical Branch and the Secretary of The Personnel Management Agency RAF Innsworth who all decide these are destroyed 'around about the 20 or 30 year mark'. The MoD legal team SHOULD be the ones in the know I'll bet that some rubbish reply will be forthcoming from someone, these people really must get their act together, they are an embarrassment to themselves! 
.......and a reply from the C&L(F&S)Legal team of the MoD dd 5th July 2004, that in a nutshell 'in years gone by BoI reports were held, up to a review date, of usually 20 years, then often disposed off, today the goalposts have been removed and retained 'locally' for 5 years and then archived for a minimum 50 years'.
You would have thought that the Legal Dept would have explained that in the first instance but then this is the 'spin' put about by a myriad of Civil Servants. I knew the answer but it takes the MoD 7 weeks to find the definitive answer. The mind boggles!  
Copyright John Cooper