Kesgrave: Defiant war veteran takes on Ministry of Defence for trying to clampdown on his online forum

KESGRAVE: A decorated war veteran today told of his anger after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) kicked up a fuss over an online forum he set up to reunite his brothers in arms.

“It is for ex-colleagues to reminisce,” said 72-year-old John Cooper, of Kesgrave, who created RAF Forum in 2004. “I wanted other people to share their stories and to be able to look up people from their old RAF stations around the world.”

The site currently has a membership of more than 5,000, and to date there have been 170,000 postings by both retired and active servicemen and women keen to trace those they served with in years gone by.

However, it has proved so popular that it overshadows official forums set up by the Royal Air Force – and now the MoD is trying to force Mr Cooper to change the name or shut the forum completely.

Mr Cooper, who was based at RAF Wattisham during his 12-year service, received a message from the RAF stating: “Unfortunately you are breaking Intellectual Property Rights by using the RAF badge.

“You are also pertaining to be the Royal Air Force forum, which you are not.”

The message from the organisation’s marketing team called for him to remove any RAF insignia from his site until he had applied for a special licence and run a disclaimer on the front page.

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The warning has left Mr Cooper angry. “They have singled me out because my website is the first one that comes up when you put RAF forum into an internet search engine.

“They have picked the wrong guy,” added a defiant Mr Cooper, who worked his way up to the rank of junior technician and saw active service during the Malayan emergency.

Since founding the forum Mr Cooper has hosted annual reunions with 40 to 50 former colleagues and he claims that closing the site would limit their chance of tracking down further vets.

He said: “It just wouldn’t have been possible [to get everyone together] without the internet. This has allowed me to reconnect with my past.”

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