Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Thugs attack Birmingham army cadets

An army cadet instructor in Birmingham claims his young charges are being targeted by stone-throwing thugs who are angry at the uniform they wear.

Sgt Billy Mazella of the Army Cadet Force, based in Washwood Heath, claimed they were having to put up with systematic abuse by gangs of local youths, who seemed to target the cadets because of events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The incidents of stone-throwing, vandalism and verbal abuse have escalated during recent months following the removal of a CCTV camera near their hut in Washwood Heath Road.

They mirror events in Peterborough where personnel from RAF Wittering have been ordered not to wear their uniform in public following months of verbal attacks, believed to be linked to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sgt Mazella, aged 20, who became a cadet eight years ago, said potential recruits were being put off because the thugs targeted open day events attended by the would-be 'squaddies' and their parents.

He said: "The cadets and myself regularly get bricks, stones and even fireworks thrown at us as missiles.

"Our vehicles have been damaged and also our parade grounds at times.

"For around six months there was a camera on a lamppost outside the detachment facing towards a block of flats which are always the source of the trouble. But, since the camera has been removed the trouble has progressed and is now really bad."

The instructor, one of three with the Washwood Heath detachment, said the offenders appeared to be Asian who are aged as young as ten.

"We feel we are being harassed and attacked because we wear British Army uniform.

"Often the youths throw oral abuse at us and nearly all the time they refer to the army and that we are killing their brothers and their families overseas.

"We phone the local police almost every time this happens, yet nothing is done about it. We had one Asian cadet but they got to him and he left."

Sgt Mazella said they recruited youngsters aged 12-18 so they could get good extra skills and qualifications and help them to stay out of trouble. They parade every Sunday and Wednesday.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said they were investigating an incident on February 10 following reports of stones being thrown at the Army Cadet hut and cars.

Beret-tip - nbc in the comments