WAR MEDALS: RE the letter from R Moore (HAS, Feb 3) about medals for aircrew who served during the Second World War.

Those who attacked German cities were awarded a France and Germany Star which caused a lot of arguments and the occasional fight because, if they were asked: "Where in France and Germany did you fight?", the answer was: "I have never been to either".

The next question was: "Well why are you wearing the France and Germany Star?"

I sat in the rear turret of a Lancaster Bomber attacking Berlin, the most heavily defended city in the world at that time, and realised that all German cities were also defended by soldiers manning the flak guns, searchlights and radar.

This defensive system required almost one million men, so if it was not for Bomber Command's nightly raids on the German Fatherland, those one million men would have been available when the German army was stopped just a few miles from taking Moscow. One wonders if the invasion of Europe on D-Day would have succeeded with those extra troops defending the shores.

E Reynolds, Wheatley Hill.


YOU don't need to be a student of Middle East politics to see the so-called crisis about Iran's nuclear ambitions is an absolute red herring to divert our minds from Iraq and Afghanistan.

American and British Middle East policy is totally bankrupt.

With the election victory of Hamas it is obvious the real crisis in the Middle East is the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The following countries have nuclear weapons: America, the UK, France, Russia, India, China, Pakistan and Israel.

Only one country has ever used nuclear weapons against civilians, the US, and they are on record as stating if their oil supplies were cut off they would use them again.

I am mindful of the debt we owe the Americans - indeed I would go as far as to say we would never have gained a foothold in Europe without their help.

Some historians say that if Hitler had concentrated all his huge military power in Europe rather than invade Russia, the outcome of the war may have been different.

However, it is becoming clear that the world will be a safer place when the discredited Bush and Blair are out of power.

Hugh Pender, Darlington.


I WAS a little perplexed by this article (Echo, Jan 28) as it stated that the first pints of the revamped Black Sheep beers, Black Sheep and Emmerdale, were pulled at the Crown Inn in Manfield, on the night of January 27.

This is clearly not the case. The first pint of the revamped Black Sheep may well have been pulled at the Crown Inn, but the first pint of the revamped Emmerdale was not.

This was served up to customers at the Quaker House Bar in Mechanics Yard, Darlington, by landlord Steve Metcalfe, a full 24 hours earlier on Thursday night.

Paul Kane, Darlington.


NEW evidence has shown that the Government's planned ID card will expose citizens to even greater risk of having their personal data stolen and could fuel a massive increase in identity fraud.

The security of the Dutch biometric passport, which uses the same RFID (radio frequency identification) technology intended for UK cards, was cracked using data 'skimmed' from a distance of around ten metres.

This means that identity fraud could be made much worse by ID cards, not better. Numbering and indexing every person in the country on a huge central register, then making us use cards able to broadcast not only this number but our personal data, including our biometrics, will be an absolute bonanza for identity thieves and fraudsters.

Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft's national technology officer, is reported as having said: "We should not be building systems that allow hackers to mine information so easily. Inappropriate technology design could provide new hi-tech ways of perpetrating massive identity fraud on a scale beyond anything we have seen before."

The Government's plan to create a database of the size and complexity of the National Identity Register is misguided, the technology is untested and with many people having access to the data there is little chance of security. The freedom of individuals to control their own identity will be irrevocably lost if this Bill is enacted.

I and fellow campaigners across the region urge North-East MPs to take notice of the safeguards introduced in the House of Lords and support them when the ID Cards Bill comes back to the Commons.

Robin Ashby, NEsaysNo2ID, Newcastle.


IT seems that British law only applies to certain individuals in this country and not to all citizens.

Nick Griffin, of the BNP, was arrested and charged for making certain gestures against Muslims, while a group of Islamics were allowed to walk in London recently, holding placards saying that non followers of the Islamic faith should be beheaded. Forgive me if I am wrong here, but if I were to walk around London holding such a placard stating the same thing about Muslims, I would get arrested before the ink was dry and locked up in the nearest police cell.

Christopher Wardell, Darlington.


FEBRUARY 14 is recognised across the country as Valentine's Day.

Many people may not be aware that it is also Congenital Heart Disease Day and, to mark the occasion, young people will be baking heart-shaped cookies for children with half a heart throughout February.

This year sees the celebration of Little Hearts Matters tenth anniversary. To mark this special year we are delighted to be supported by TV Chef Lesley Waters and Tesco, who will be selling heart-shaped cookies in their stores during February.

Up to 600 children are diagnosed with only half a functioning heart each year. These children need major surgery within days of their birth. Thanks to innovative surgery, more and more children are living into adulthood but, even after three operations, their hearts will never be normal. Many will face a heart transplant in their teens.

At Little Hearts Matter we offer a listening ear and easy to understand information on all aspects of treatment and lifestyle. We also create new opportunities for children who spend their lives been told they can't do the same as their friends.

For more information visit www.lhm.org.uk.

Suzie Hutchinson,

Director, Little Hearts Matter.


THERE recently came news that the first breeding eagle owl to live in Britain for hundreds of years has died after being shot (Echo, Jan 27).

Her mate is reported to be distraught over her death. When such animals are killed, the culprit is invariably associated with pheasant, partridge or grouse shooting.

Any predator interfering with the production of birds for "sport shooting" - by taking eggs, chicks or adult birds - runs the risk of extermination.

That the "offending" bird or mammal is a protected species has little impact on the ruthless types intent on maximising the profits from their blood sport.

The prevailing mindset can be gauged from a recent edition of a leading shooting magazine in which appeared a feature listing the "30 Most Wanted Pests" in Britain - animals who interfered with shooting or sport fishing.

As reported in The Times newspaper, the list included golden eagles, badgers, heron, pet cats and red kites. With regard to the latter - the subject of an extensive reintroduction programme - the magazine instructed readers on where the birds could be spotted.

Even more nauseating is the claim the shooting industry makes to being committed to biodiversity.

Andrew Tyler, Director, Animal Aid, Tonbridge, Kent.


I USUALLY find Barry Nelson's features informative, but his health feature about avian flu (Echo, Feb 3) is irresponsible scaremongering.

He writes: "Experts are predicting that the North-East can expect to be engulfed by the most serious outbreak of flu since the late 1960s any day now."

This sentence surely makes any rational reader concerned. One has to read on to see that: "It might not be this year, it might not be next year, but specialists who study flu viruses say a potentially devastating 'pandemic' flu outbreak is long overdue and can be expected at any time".

The use of the phrase "any day now" is unnecessary exaggeration and will produce worry, if not panic. And Mr Nelson's turn of phrase does not accurately convey the present situation, as avian flu has not yet been reported in western Europe.

If and when the pandemic arrives in Britain, we will need calmness and responsible reporting to help keep things in perspective, not exaggeration for the sake of a good story.

Erin Cox, Durham.


IN the mid-1980s many architects admitted that the idea of tower block housing and offices was a dreadful mistake for people, the environment and maintenance.

Since then a more user friendly type of housing/office has gained favour so why is Middlesborough turning the clock back with that lump of concrete scheduled to deface the skyline (Echo, Feb 1).

At 375 feet, the building would be the tallest in the North-East.

A keen developer would look to London, Bristol, Newcastle or Glasgow for river frontage buildings as a lead to low-rise desirable viewing. Let's go forward, not 40 years back to blight Teesside again with a Lego block.

R Harbron, Norton.


THERE was a sad little story on one of the TV news channels about that great American tribe, the Hunting, Shooting and Fishing people.

It would appear that down on a ranch in Texas, which is the home state of that great American warrior, George Bush, they have started to breed endangered big game animals for trophy shooting for a price.

What a sad people these Americans are. You can image them driving up in their great 4x4s with a guide to show them where the animals they have paid vast sums of money to shoot are; animals that have been bred in captivity and therefore their sense of survival has been dulled and they don't run away by instinct.

It must be like going to work at the slaughterhouse, except you get to keep the head to put on the living room wall.

One of the reasons given for the shooting programme is that it helps to save endangered species. The crack over a beer must be good to listen to, like: "I managed to get within ten feet before I got my shot".

Peter Dolan, Newton Aycliffe.


ROBERT Merrick writes about the death of the historic county of Durham (Echo, Feb 3).

This began nearly 40 years ago with the loss of Stockton and Billingham, resumed in 1974 with Hartlepool and South Tyneside and was continued in 1996 when Darlington became a unitary authority. The historic county of Durham stretches from Tyne to Tees and always will - the pathetic rump that calls itself County Durham is merely an administrative district.

The county fathers should have realised in 1968 that, once you remove parts of a body, eventually the whole organism will die and if the present county disappears that will merely be the logical end of a long drawn out process.

Peter Elliott, Eaglescliffe.


IT REALLY is quite disgraceful for Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson to condone the behaviour of the enraged fan who confronted Steve McClaren (Echo, Feb 6).

Yet another example of 'authority' folding under pressure from the angry mob. Would Mr Gibson be as willing to "understand that kind of passion" if an angry mob turned up outside his home and began hurling bricks through his windows? I very much doubt it.

I contacted the club a couple of weeks ago to complain about the foul and disgusting language of a fan/lunatic who had quite simply lost all control of himself and who was, unfortunately, just behind me.

In reply, I was told that the club takes very firm action against such fans and that stewards will deal immediately with such incidents.

A steward had, indeed, been close enough to have seen and heard everything but had wandered off without a word, so it seems that he, too, was only following his chairman's 'understanding' example.

D Brearley, Middlesbrough


CHANGES to The Northern Echo are inevitable and reluctance to change is also inevitable, but I am in favour of this change.

I have taken the Echo to work for the past 30 years and, when having break times, it has very often been an annoyance, not only to myself but to others, at the same table.

My belief is that those who are reluctant to the new trial size are probably not of the present working population, but are retired/semi retired and are able to enjoy the Echo in the spacious comforts of their own home (a right they have earned). So, for me, the new size is very welcome.

In response to the valid point of one of your readers that they are used to locating a regular piece on a specific page or section, may I suggest colour coded page corners for ads, letters, regional news etc, sectionalising the paper and helping your readers.

Just a small point: being a Yorkshireman, I would like to see a little more coverage of North Yorkshire other than the one allocated page at present, but then again I suppose everybody does as well for their region.

I shall continue to buy the Echo whatever happens as you can only make a judgement based on the feedback of your readers.

D Kemp Richmond.


MYSELF and the majority of ordinary citizens believe political correctness is gradually suffocating nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

They are little, but important freedoms we once so enjoyed and took for granted. The following examples are but a few:

Hundreds of spy cameras and speed cameras, the most in Europe, checks of every kind, fanatics trying to ban and control even our leisure activities, freedom of speech we were once proud of, gradually being eroded.

George Orwell, who wrote in 1940 about 1984 onwards, couldn't envisage the misery of the Big Brother police state that our society is becoming today.

E Jones, Newton Aycliffe.


IT is funny how council tax officials can remember our addresses to send the poll tax forms to fill in yet John Prescott slipped through the net for four years - or had he not previously received a form?

I wonder how many more such parasites we have in our communities? I am sure the list of them would be very interesting to read. These people are receiving all the public services available yet do not contribute towards them.

We would like to know if Mr Prescott has received this form yet to explain his circumstances if any.

While he is living a life of luxury the poor nearly have to beg for a pittance. I am afraid we are still living in Victorian times as far as the poor are concerned. If we get a £2 rise twice as much is taken off.

Why do councils put tax up when they know very well most of the working population cannot afford it? And we are also fed up of hearing about the authorities being short of money.

It must be very nice to have three homes, two Jags and all the privileges that go with it yet the working people are being made redundant at the stroke of a pen and the rich do not care what happens to them.

What a selfish world.

HM Peart, West Auckland.