1QLR - When did the rot set in?

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Abner Brown, Sep 8, 2011.

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  1. There has been a lot of focus on establishing exactly what happened in Basra; the sequence of events, individual culpability and command failures etc.
    There has been very little speculation as to why 1QLR had a unit sub culture that allowed these events to happen. A significant number of soldiers readily participated in serious violence towards bound and hooded prisoners; many more were aware that this violence was taking place. Nobody appeared to consider it in any way remarkable or worthy of intervention; holders of the Queen’s Commission failed to put a stop to the evil.

    Much anecdotal evidence emerged during the Inquiry to suggest that that 1QLR was generally a thuggish and violent battalion with a high crime rate; that certainly matches what I know of them. The soldiers who were originally Court Martialed were not afraid to close ranks and blatantly defy the military judicial system. If they felt any shame or remorse at battering an innocent man to death, they hid it well.

    All members of 1QLR went through exactly the same training as the rest of the army, yet some of them casually indulged in behaviour that most soldiers would have instantly recognised as both illegal and repulsive. Too many took part in (or ignored) the brutality for it to be dismissed as the work of ‘a few bad apples’. It seems that a significant number of 1QLR soldiers had a value system that had diverged from the rest of the army (and the society from which they were recruited). I strongly doubt if this abuse would have taken place if a different unit had been performing 1QLR’s role. There was a time when the QLR had quite a good reputation, but they seem to have become the ‘sick man of the infantry’.

    So when and how did the rot set in, and how does a battalion go bad? Were there other units that could have behaved just as appallingly? It seems that there are some important lessons to be learned here.
  2. Does /did 1QLR have similar proportions of senior/juniors as other regiments? Just wondering as on the BBC just - a soldier was asked why he never did anything to stop what he saw and he cited he was just a private soldier and felt intimidated by his seniors.

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    First, middle and last, the finger has to be pointed at the officers, this simply cannot happen if they're doing their job properly. I suspect an Officer's Mess full of creatures who'd forgotten that they were serving to lead.
    • Like Like x 2
  4. The QLR had a very strong and (at times) unhealthy NCO culture. There was a reputed shortage of 2nd lieutenants with platoons being commanded by Colour Sergeants. The junior officers that they had, struggled to impose their authority and some emulated the tough and agressive attitudes of NCOs. I could well believe that private soldiers would be afraid of direct physical retaliation if they spoke out.
  5. I never served with the QLR, but did spend 4 years in the Infantry with 2LI and attached to 2RRF, I can well imagine young Privates being intimidated from speaking out, but if the officers had done their job in Leading and Managing then this would have never of happened, Officers are supposed to be the educated and moral/ethical Leaders of the team (not sitting in the Mess drinking Tea and eating biscuits); but it seems that they have not done their job in this repects. In terms of Junior Officers being intimidated by older NCO's/SNCO's, I have seen this too, whilst in Northern Ireland we had a very wet behind the ears sparkling new Lt, who kept being told to '**** Off' by the Sgts in the Platoon and nothing happened as he was too scared.
  6. 25th March 1970 at a guess?
  7. ...at Dover!
  8. While the officers clearly haven't corporately covered themselves in glory, I would ask what role you think the RSM, CSMs and other NCOs play in the leadership and morality of the unit? If your theory is correct, would you hold that soldiers and NCOs, when not well led, may resort to criminal and amoral behaviour, because the need the leadership of an officer to tell them not to do it? I don't think many people here will agree with that.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. I've lived down messdecks that had a very strong "senior" component. Lots of old and bold hairy arsed matelots, many of whom were Falklands vets who had stayed as ABs instead of going for promotion. All sorts of (mainly drink related) snaggy shit went on. I also noticed the junior members actively trying to emulate them in order to "fit in" (myself included there).
    I can't even begin to imagine what would have happened had I complained about the senior killick who'd shake the mess sprog in the middle of the night to go and grab him a tin from the fridge...

    Peer pressure due to certain imbalances?
  10. chrisg46

    chrisg46 LE Book Reviewer

    The RSM does get a mention in the report somewhere.

    Grumblegrunt made a good comparison earlier - As in the care home abuse from a few months ago, all it takes is one strong vicious character and a few weaker willed individuals for abusive behaviour to become the norm. The leadership of the battalion should have been able to identify this rot and sort it out. However it is far easier to say that in hindsight than to pre-empt.

    I recall from my visit to Iraq that one member of the unit in particular was, in my opinion, determined to get a kill, at any cost. Again in my opinion, if he had not been identified as trouble and sent home, he would have done so, and not cared who it was.

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    Of course the Seniors have an important role to play but ultimately officers carry the rank, are higher up the tree and have an inalienable responsibility to set standards and give a lead. Those lower down the chain might attempt to put things right but they are not as well-placed to do so and they have a right to expect better from those put in command of them.

    As to whether soldiers and NCOs, "when not well led, may resort to criminal and amoral behaviour", people here may disagree all they wish but the harsh reality is that tomorrow's papers are going to be full of proof of just that. It's by no means always the case but if things are slack it's a useful rule of thumb to look hard at the officers first - certainly Napoleon thought so. I can think of soldiers I've worked with who were capable of all sorts of things if not properly gripped and left in no doubt of what was expected of them and of what would happen to them if they fell short - the senior man gives the lead and sets the standard - invariably that person is an officer, that was my point.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Brotherton Lad

    Brotherton Lad LE Reviewer

    I'm not happy with the title of the thread.

    This is not a peculiarly QLR problem (this comes from a Yorkshireman to boot). The incident highlights systemic failings that the report goes into in great detail.

    There were clearly individuals who went wrong, there may even have been a sub-unit culture that went wrong, but it's quite clear from the report that these factors alone were insufficient explanation.
  13. I reckon there was a massive gulf between officers and men in the QLR - more so than in most other regiments. Most of the men were recruited in small Lancashire towns and were poorly educated; with lower than average expectations of what service life should offer.

    Officers hailed from a different world and left the day to day running of their platoons to their Sergeants; there was almost certainly a serious long term failure of leadership. The battalion was insular, parochial and hostile to outsiders and (frequently) to its own. I think an unpleasant unit culture probably developed over several years and was reinforced when the MOD relaxed the rules about recruiting men with criminal or even prison records.
  14. Interesting observation there, does that mean we can lay to rest the oft-quoted belief that the Sgt's mess runs the Army, and the concomitant observation that OBE means "Other Bugger's Effort", is actually false?

    Edit - as an example of that attitude:

    by Arters at http://www.arrse.co.uk/training-wing/168302-what-advice-would-you-give-future-sub-unit-commander.html#post3917632
  15. Grumblegrunt

    Grumblegrunt LE Book Reviewer

    tv and literature probably added to it, knowing what the choices of viewing tend to be. lethal weapon would be a much longer film if they showed the arse reaming officers get from IA to prove their shoots were righteous. war stories and army myths wouldnt have helped but also the first thing you do when catching an enemy used to be sandbag on the head and stick him in a puddle (or did it just happen to me all the time) until it was time for interrogation.

    sere training when you are put through light, noise, sleep depravation, nudity, ridicule and stress positions would also makie it seem a perfectly normal thing to do to others as after all we do it to ourselves so it must be allright.

    regards peer pressure - I was allways pressured to go off and get pissed but my idea of relaxing was to read a book and chill out in a quiet room away from the mongs. the lads used to leave me to it as i would often end up sorting someones kit out but the jncos used to give me shit for it for being different and more intelligent than they were.

    there is still a fine line between discipline and bullying both in perception and application.

    I wonder what the public would make of 'alice in wonderland' back in the 80's
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