Big Rise in desertion

Big rise in deserters 'fuelled by Iraq war'

Richard Norton-Taylor and Audrey Gillan
Wednesday April 13, 2005
The Guardian

The number of soldiers to desert the army or go absent without leave has more than doubled over the past year, the Ministry of Defence has revealed. There are now more than 500 soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown.

The rise coincided with the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Independent sources said yesterday that the war was clearly a factor. However, the rising trend over four years suggests that other issues also played a part. The number of soldiers still illegally absent last year totalled 530, compared with 205 in 2003, 150 in 2002, and 100 in 2001.

The figures show that soldiers went Awol more than 3,000 times last year, with only a third of that figure accounting for returns to base within 21 days. The largest number of soldiers going Awol came from the infantry, followed by the Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Artillery, according to the MoD.

The figures were released to Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, a garrison town. Though he first asked for the information in January, the MoD did not respond until it was too late for him to pursue the matter.

The response to his original question came more than two months later in a letter from the armed forces minister, Adam Ingram. "The mere fact they took so long to answer the question is significant," Mr Russell said yesterday.

He asked for the information after being told by a source that a growing number of soldiers disapproved of the government's stand on Iraq.

He still has not seen Mr Ingram's letter, which was addressed to the Commons on the last full working day of parliament and gives no explanation for the rise. The MoD said yesterday that it was unable to comment.

Gilbert Blades, a lawyer representing Awol soldiers, said Iraq was "probably the biggest factor". But he said a growing number of young soldiers were also not prepared to "suffer the indignities and discipline" of army life.

Justin Houston-Roberts, who also represents soldiers, said: "There's been a very noticeable increase of not only soldiers but airmen as well asking our advice on being absent without leave," he said.

"Some are subjected to horrific bullying and run away to save themselves ... There are huge amounts of reasons but the conflict in Iraq is significant."

He added: "When the conflict started we had a very noticeable increase in requests to assist soldiers who wanted to leave the services or had done so without permission.

"I think Iraq has had an impact. It's not necessarily people who don't want to fight but people who have found themselves in situations upon their return that they can't necessarily cope with."

Mark McGhee, another solicitor, said: "Certainly from my experience of dealing with soldiers returning from Iraq, I would be very concerned about the fact that there's been a doubling up of the numbers going Awol."
All sorts of incoherent thinking in here - including the tacit admission that the war is merely 'significant' and not the sole cause!

It seems that 3,000 toms have done a runner in the last reporting year - that equates to less than 3% of UKTAP - or about 6 Inf Bns! Not good.

Click here for full story from Guardian Unlimited

Jeremy Vines' program today discusses this topic and an amnesty for deserters. It's the first topic and the following topic is the decrimination to stupid people (re thread on "Don't join the Army, they're bullies).

Just wondering if that includes those who are "sick on leave" - eg, malingering......
There is a huge difference between AWOL and desertion. Just because there were 3000 cases of AWOL doesnt mean that they deserted. According to the stats the majority of those AWOL returned to duty.
The difference is that AWOL is classed as doing a runner with the intent of coming back one day. Desertion can only be brought if it can be clearly proven that there was no intent to return which is very hard to do. Hence why long term absentees just go down for AWOL.
tomahawk6 said:
There is a huge difference between AWOL and desertion. Just because there were 3000 cases of AWOL doesnt mean that they deserted. According to the stats the majority of those AWOL returned to duty.
Exactly, tomy. I don't know anything about the figures, but the distinction is the same on this side of the pond.

Thanks also to Calypso for politely gripping the other thread. Does happen, especially now the site is so busy.
Sometimes you get peaks and troughs. For example, I'm sure the Infantry Battalions in Cyprus will have high AWOL levels right now because of the horrid OPTEMPO. Those guys get deployed to Iraq a couple of times in one year and when they get back home to Cyprus they have to stag on 24/7 to guard that ****ing place. Of course AWOL rates are going to skyrocket in places like that, and of course it's the Army/MOD's fault for overworking them.
Has it to do with the war? Of course! Is it because they're against the war, as the article insinuates? Bollocks! A small minority excluded, of course.

The four main reasons why soldiers go AWOL remain, IMHO: Problems with family/girlfriend, homesickness, financial worries, and being a ****ing waster.
Relationship problems in particular are exacerbated by high OPTEMPO, so of course an increasing number of soldiers will go AWOL.

Tomahawk is absolutely right, and citing the number of AWOL soldiers is quite worthless for an informed debate unless they provide data from returned soldiers providing the reasons why they went AWOL.

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