Families of Scots troops reveal hell of barrack life

#1
Families of Scots troops reveal hell of barrack life

MURDO MACLEOD
POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (mmacleod@scotlandonsunday.com)

A SHOCKING account of the "disastrous" living conditions endured by families of Scottish soldiers has emerged in an MoD document obtained by this newspaper.

Wives and girlfriends of troops from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders complained to military officials that they felt isolated, were treated like "scum", and repeated requests for help were ignored.

The litany of criticism also included partners being deployed for too long, their pay being regularly "messed up", and a cut in financial assistance for travelling back to Scotland from their barracks in Kent.

Morale in the Argylls is already at rock bottom after 17 members of the unit tested positive for banned drugs, and now face dismissal, while on a post-exercise break in Belize. Early next year, the unit will be sent to Afghanistan's war-torn Helmand province.

Nationally, there is mounting concern - much of it openly expressed by senior commanders - about the welfare of the armed forces and their dependants as a result of overseas commitments and spending cutbacks.

Last week, Defence Secretary Des Browne apologised to the families of the 14 troops who died when an RAF Nimrod crashed in Afghanistan. An official inquiry identified a catalogue of failings, including ageing aircraft components and a lack of modern fire suppressants. One relative accused the military of "incompetence" and "negligence" and said the dead were "betrayed".

The latest criticism emerged from families interviewed by MoD staff at the Argylls' barracks in Canterbury during the summer. They were prepared as part of a briefing for General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff.

Even though Howe barracks are supposed to represent "better" accommodation, comments included:

• "We are not respected or welcomed by the locals here at all. We have been made to feel like scum and have been treated unfairly all because we are in the Army."

• "We want to go back to Scotland!"

• "My husband's pay gets messed up every single month yet still nothing gets sorted out."

• "MHS [Modern Housing Solutions - meant to maintain living quarters] - what a disaster. What has been done to sort this problem out? If anything?"

• "Why do we not get the same amount of [free travel] warrants that we got in Northern Ireland? We are further away from Scotland now and we get fewer. Why?"

• "Deployments are too long. It seems our husbands are away for nine or 10 months not six. Can something be done about this?"

Some accused the army of "spinning" to the media, others said they were worried about the state of equipment their partners were using at the front.

Last night, forces groups and politicians said the findings from Canterbury proved urgent action was needed to help troops and their dependants.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: "This is very worrying but sadly all too typical of the complaints from forces families.

"It shows that equipment is a welfare issue for families because they are concerned whether their loved ones will be safe when they go into battle. Deployments are too long and too frequent and there is too little time between them. That creates pressure on families and leads to experienced members leaving."

He added: "This is both a Scottish and a defence matter and maybe [Defence Secretary and Scottish Secretary] Des Browne should have a chat with himself at Cabinet."

Doug Young, the chairman of the British Armed Forces Federation, said: "Howe Barracks Canterbury is supposed to be one of the better barracks in the UK, so it is worrying that so many of the wives had concerns about their married quarters and family facilities. It is good that these comments are in an official report.Will anything ever get done?"

Jeff Duncan of Re-instate Our Army Regiments, which campaigned against the mergers that combined the historic Scottish regiments into one, said: "It makes for depressing reading. Government ministers provide little or no real support, instead engaging in their own devious public relations spin. It is clear that morale and soldier welfare of our troops are at an all-time low. Gordon Brown must shoulder a sizeable proportion of the blame for starving the Army of proper resources to carry out what he and former PM Blair sent them into - Iraq and Afghanistan."

A spokeswoman for the Army said: "We are working to address many of the concerns raised and that is why we have these meetings. Their point about problems in the way that troops are treated by locals is true and we have been working hard to address that. We are working very hard on the housing issue.

"As regards the length of deployments, it is a challenge when our forces are engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan."

Fight for rights
Soldiers' families have become increasingly critical of the treatment they have received from the MoD in recent months.

The Association of British ex-Service Personnel (Abex) is one group which has been campaigning steadfastly on their behalf.

Among the changes they have been calling for recently is improved mental health provision for soldiers affected by their time in combat zones.

Many families claim they are left to cope alone if a loved one suffers a breakdown while on active service.

Poor living conditions have been a regular complaint for many in the armed services and Abex believes rapid and widespread improvements in living conditions need to be introduced to boost morale.

The group is backing moves by families to have troops sent back to local bases if they are not involved in a conflict which directly impacts on British interests.

Families also believe that dedicated military hospitals should be reintroduced to help treat those injured or disabled while on duty.

Abex is also supporting a programme to retraining for soldiers leaving the army to help them adjust to civilian life.
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1918992007
 
#2
Howe barracks isn't the problem. The problem lies with the age old fact that the blokes are only there long enough to empty their sacks & fill up their flasks before f*cking off on another 6 monther!
 
#3
2 Mercian recently returned to barracks after a two week post deployment leave only to find that all the windows in the barrack block in Hounslow had been taken out. Not much you can do about this on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon! You couldn't make it up!
 
#4
fingers_1661 said:
Howe barracks isn't the problem. The problem lies with the age old fact that the blokes are only there long enough to empty their sacks & fill up their flasks before f*cking off on another 6 monther!
Absolutely, fingers. You will not be surprised to hear that the soundbite about Howe Barracks was only one part of the comments supplied by BAFF (British Armed Forces Federation), but that is how it works.

The full comments led with the fact that the Battalion are off in the New Year on yet another operational tour.
 
#5
Get over it or leave. The MOD will do jack to help you. Welfare of children? why not put them in boarding school. At least Kent is not as cold as scotland and the diet is likely to be better down in the south east.
Soldiers are living up to their challenges the ultimate one is soon to be tested, how to be on op tours in iraq and afghanistan at the same time.
These are the sort of answers you can expect from civ depts in the MOD.
 
#6
The same complaints could be registered by the families of most Bns.

I'm not sure about the extra warrant thing though - unless it becomes a tour add on so that the girls can go home to mum. It is not just Scot's wives who end far from home when the Bn are away.
 
#7
I think some of you are missing the point here with your Engloish tinted glasses.

It maybe a Scottish newspaper and a Scottish Reg that are issuing the complaints - but it is Forces wide. Everyone in the Army knows that the wives etc etc are away from home aswell, and maybe living in a deserted camp in Germany.

Apart from that, the schooling in Scotland is better....!!!
 
#8
I don't know about anyone else but I'm sick of hearing the whinging and whining going on these days. Every man is a volunteer; if you don't like it then leave stop the moaning.

In my mind the press have a lot to answer for; keep telling everyone that everything is sh*t and eventually everyone will believe it regardless of the truth.

I could bang on for hours on this subject but I think I had better end here!
 
#9
Rooper said:
I don't know about anyone else but I'm sick of hearing the whinging and whining going on these days. Every man is a volunteer; if you don't like it then leave stop the moaning.

In my mind the press have a lot to answer for; keep telling everyone that everything is sh*t and eventually everyone will believe it regardless of the truth.

I could bang on for hours on this subject but I think I had better end here!
Yeah right. This is not just another job, the defense of the nation is at stake. It may only take a few months (3-6 probably) to replace a new Tom but it takes a decade or more to replace an experienced soldier.

Right now it may look as though we do not need the armed forces but it probably looked that way in 1938ish.
 
#10
Is this the lead-in to a demand for the Scottish Parliament to pay more to Scottish soldiers in the same way as it plans to pay more to the Scottish Police?

:twisted:

Just asking...

Litotes
 

oldbaldy

LE
Moderator
#11
Litotes said:
Is this the lead-in to a demand for the Scottish Parliament to pay more to Scottish soldiers in the same way as it plans to pay more to the Scottish Police?

:twisted:

Just asking...

Litotes
LOA?
 
#12
oldbaldy said:
Litotes said:
Is this the lead-in to a demand for the Scottish Parliament to pay more to Scottish soldiers in the same way as it plans to pay more to the Scottish Police?

:twisted:

Just asking...

Litotes
LOA?
You might find that if Scotland was ever to deploy tps to UN deployment (can't see them going anywhere else), they might well get a kickback from the UN money normally grabbed by our current Treasury.

I disliked being in Multinational NATO HQs where the Euro nation staff got a % of that and we didn't. I particularly didn't like the GE WO who announced within a couple of months in a 6 monther, he had already got enough to pay for his dream Harley. B@stard.....

Edited to add - are we not a little off post thanks to Litotes although I think I may have helped too.... :wink:
 
#13
Rooper said:
I don't know about anyone else but I'm sick of hearing the whinging and whining going on these days. Every man is a volunteer; if you don't like it then leave stop the moaning.

In my mind the press have a lot to answer for; keep telling everyone that everything is sh*t and eventually everyone will believe it regardless of the truth.

I could bang on for hours on this subject but I think I had better end here!
So what your trying to say is because they volunteer they should shut up and not complain at all? That is the reason why there are so many shortcomings at the moment after years of shutting up. And of course all these 1300 officers who are planning or have left in the last 6 months are so thick they can't see a poor deal when its laid in front of them. And of course the parliamentary reports and the comments by senior serving officers are of course all whinging? Rooper they are leaving at an alarming rate but of course there all to thick to understand a bad deal when they see it.
 
#14
Having worked with the Argylls, they are an awesome bunch of blokes. They are treated like dirt on the bottom of shoe's when it comes to the general population of Canterbury, who also gave the same welcome to 1RIR. Canterbury are scum! They deserve better, there blocks are in clip, but so are the rest of the Army accomodation. Brown needs to cough up or shut up and get lost.
 
#15
Good on em for standing up to be counted.

Whet can't troops be based in their recruiting areas? This would help retention, family support etc etc etc.
 
#16
eveyoz said:
Good on em for standing up to be counted.

Whet can't troops be based in their recruiting areas? This would help retention, family support etc etc etc.
We could even start to recruit Battalions for training and holding purposes, using geographical ties to specific recruitment areas. Perhaps each Regiment can have a depot in its recruitment area, to keep local ties even stronger.

Now, another idea I've had is for this round thing to help move stuff around...
 
#17
What can i say the housing is the same where ever you are, we all complain about this or that not being done.
I'm a pad wife but i sick of wives complaining that they are too far from home, for god sake you all knew what you was marrying into so deal with it!
 
#18
eveyoz said:
Good on em for standing up to be counted.

Whet can't troops be based in their recruiting areas? This would help retention, family support etc etc etc.
Romans found that led to rebellion. Perhaps Mr Bean is worried
 
#19
This has nothing to do with being Scottish, it has everything to do with the current state of support (or lack of) we all receive. These pundits do nothing to get to the root of the problem, if anything they make the situation worse by blurring the issue for their own ends.

Bah humbug.
 

OldSnowy

LE
Moderator
Book Reviewer
#20
For the PWRR it has always been a very nice posting. No surprises - it's in their recruiting area, and there are signs on the A2 as you enter Canterbury saying "Home of the PWRR".

As for Jocks being there - utter madness, let them live closer to home. The MQs are on top of the hill, near the Barracks, but a very good walk down a steep hill to the Town, and of course back up again after.

Mind you, having been in an English Bn posted (briefly) to guard Edinburgh Castle, we weren't exactly made welcome there either :)
 

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