A ruse that helped to win a soldier the Victoria Cross (VC – the highest Brit award for bravery) during the Second World War was a “war crime” and New Zealand should apologize to the families of the snipers he killed, it was claimed yesterday.
Alfred Clive Hulme, the father of Denny Hulme, the late world motor racing champion, was awarded the VC for bravery in killing 33 German snipers over eight days during the Battle of Crete in 1941.
Lt Col Glyn Harper, a professor at the New Zealand army’s Military Studies Institute, who co-authored the book, In the Face of the Enemy, said that on one occasion Sgt Hulme donned a German paratrooper’s smock, climbed up behind a nest of enemy snipers, and pretended to be part of their group.
“He shot the leader first, and as the other four snipers looked around to see where the shot had come from, Hulme also turned his head as if searching for the shooter,” the book says.
“Then he shot and killed two more.” He shot the other two as they tried to leave.
“Hulme deserved the VC for his outstanding bravery, but he shouldn’t have done what he did in disguising himself.”
Other academics have supported the book’s claims. Peter Wills, the deputy director of the Centre for Peace Studies at Auckland University, said Sgt Hulme’s actions were “unsanctioned murder”.
He told the Sunday Star-Times that the New Zealand government should apologise to the families of the Germans he killed.
Of course snipers can only snipe if they are camouflaged, and using part of the enemy’s uniform is particularly brave, since if captured the sniper may be shot as a spy. For this he deserves a bar to his VC.