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1991 - Mr Major’s Speech at RAF Bruggen in Germany

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at RAF Bruggen in Germany, made on Monday 11th February 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

I have got one piece of extremely good news for you and that is that I am going to be extremely brief and the reason I am going to be extremely brief is it is beginning to snow very heavily out there and I am told if I do not take off pretty soon, I will not take off at all! The thought of missing Questions in the House of Commons tomorrow is more than I could bear so I really think I had better be fairly brief because I suspect it would not only be embarrassing to me, it might be rather embarrassing to you if I was not able to take off at the end of this particular visit!

Can I just say collectively what I have been able to say privately over the last few minutes and that is to express my thanks to all of you for everything you have done in the period since the beginning of August. I know that you have been involved in your different ways with your different skills right from the beginning of August; I know it has meant twelve-hour shifts; I know it meant that Christmas was a bit truncated this year with just Christmas Day; and I know the very deep personal commitment that many of you have had to ensuring the success of what goes on in the Gulf and the fact that many of you have been out there for a while and have now returned.

I just want to say to you really two or three things very briefly:

Firstly, it is not possible to express in words that will convey it accurately quite how much what has happened here is appreciated both by the air crews and the army who are actually out in the Gulf and also by the broad mass of people back at home in the United Kingdom who watch with the most immense pride the sheer scale of the logistical operation to ensure that we have all the servicemen properly equipped and properly able to do their job out in the Gulf. It has been a fantastic operation and I think many people back at home who perhaps do not always in other days have a full appreciation of the role of the armed forces, whether it be the RAF, the Navy or the Army, are beginning to see in a new light precisely the professionalism and the skill that is actually available to ensure that the work that is necessary to be done in the Gulf can be done.

I need not, I think, elaborate at any length to you about why your colleagues are there but I believe quite passionately that it is right that they are there; that they are for an entirely just cause and that if we had not taken this problem head-on now at this time, that we would have had on our hands a far greater problem to solve within the next two or three years. One only has to see at close quarters the sheer scale and size of the Iraqi military machine to realise that that machine could not have been there for defensive purposes and that at some stage in the future we would have had to ask you and your colleagues to do a far bigger job even than the big job that you are in the process of dealing with so successfully at the present time.

I cannot tell you how long this conflict will continue - I cannot tell you because I do not know - but I do know that it has gone supremely well so far; it has been handled with the most immense professionalism both by the servicemen who are out there engaged in the conflict and all the logistical back-up that you and many others have provided to enable them to carry on with that fighting.

The other thing of which I am absolutely certain is this. Although there may be some doubt about when this conflict will end - and I cannot tell you that - there is not a shred of doubt about how it will end. There is no way that the Iraqis can win this conflict. Whatever particular circumstances there may be that will bring it to an end are uncertain - that, too, is not something we can be sure about at present - but the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein will have lost this conflict at the end of it and they will have lost it not just because of the enormous bravery that we have seen, particularly in those early days with the immensely brave sorties by the Tornados on airfields often against very heavy fire, but they will have lost it comprehensively because in every aspect of the profession of warfare they will have been beaten by the Allied Forces.

I can only say in conclusion that I hope that happy day comes sooner rather than later and once it has been done, I assure you that we will be bringing your colleagues from the Gulf home just as speedily as we possibly can and I know you and their families will give them a very warm welcome; and I can assure you than when they and you come back to the United Kingdom as well, there will be a very warm welcome for you too.

So thank you very much indeed for all you have done; thank you for making me so welcome today; and thank you for the work that I know you will continue to do between today and that happy day when the conflict is finally concluded. Thank you all very much indeed! [Applause].


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

You spoke to Christine Ankerson. Can I ask you what that was like and what you said?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was a private discussion with Mrs. Ankerson and I do not wish to comment.

QUESTION:

Right! Can we return then to your meeting with Herr Kohl earlier? You come away clearly delighted - can you explain to us why?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was an extremely good meeting. There are a vast range of things to discuss with Herr Kohl, a vast series of areas where there is a common British and German interest; a great deal is happening in Europe and a great deal is happening elsewhere. We had the opportunity of running down a whole range of matters and we found a very satisfactory community of thought on a large number of them.

QUESTION:

Included in that, of course, was monetary union in Europe.

PRIME MINISTER:

That was one of a large number of things we discussed; we found great unity on a number of others. There is not complete unity over monetary union in Europe but there are certainly some common objectives: we both want low inflation in Europe - there are matters of that sort. we are just beginning to discuss monetary union in the IGCs and there is a great deal further to go and as we both said in the press conference we had afterwards, of course there are some differences but the IGCs, I hope, will be areas where we can sort them out.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, how did you find the morale of the families when you spoke to the wives and children here?

PRIME MINISTER:

I thought it was both remarkable and admirable. It is difficult for someone who is not a member of the family of one of our servicemen in the Gulf to quite understand the concerns that they must have at the present time. We can imagine what it is like but we cannot actually know what it is like for we do not have that particular burden to bear at present but I must say they were absolutely remarkable, very impressive indeed.

QUESTION:

When you were at Munster, I am sure that were many people who were very concerned about when the land war would start in the Gulf. Were you able to give them any indication, the wives of those army personnel who are out in the Gulf?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I was not able to give them an indication of when the land war will start - that is not something that I can do and it is not something that is fully known yet.

I think it is now becoming probable rather than possible that there will be a land conflict but precisely when that will be is as yet uncertain.

QUESTION:

Did you feel that they needed reassurance, the wives that you met today?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think everyone in those circumstances would like to know that other people are concerned about them and care about them and to hear the immense admiration that is being expressed everywhere in the United Kingdom for the way our servicemen are performing in the Gulf but I must say I found the wives very resolute indeed.

QUESTION:

One other question on the talks with Chancellor Kohl. I understand that Chancellor Kohl said that there was a new era in Anglo-German relations that was opening. Do you also share that view?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there is a very good relationship between the United Kingdom and Germany. I am delighted that that is the case and Herr Kohl and I will remain in close contact. We hope to build on that and we are sure it will continue.