General Dannatt - Our forces cant carry on like this

From the webiste of the Telegraph on 17/11/07

Our forces can't carry on like this, says General Sir Richard Dannatt

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent

Last Updated: 9:29pm GMT 17/11/2007

The head of the Army has warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue", The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, reveals in a top-level report that the present level of operations is "unsustainable", the Army is "under-manned" and increasing numbers of troops are "disillusioned" with service life.

Gen Dannatt states that the "military covenant is clearly out of kilter", and the chain of command needs to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.

"We must strive to give individuals and units ample recuperation time between operations, but I do not underestimate how difficult this will be to achieve whilst under-manned and with less robust establishments than I would like."

The report, a copy of which has been seen by this newspaper, reveals for the first time the general's concerns on virtually every aspect of the Army, from levels of pay to the quality of food in canteens.

Gen Dannatt came to public prominence last year when, within weeks of taking over as head of the Army, he said the Iraq war was causing security problems in Britain.

In the new report, he says that operations on the two fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan are putting soldiers and their families under "great pressure", and that the long-term impact of operations is "damaging" and is "mortgaging the goodwill of our people".

In terms of "overstretch", the report says, "the tank of goodwill now runs on vapour; many experienced staff are talking of leaving".

Last week, Lt Col Stuart Tootal, 42, who commanded the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, resigned from the Army over the "shoddy" treatment of injured troops. In a letter to defence chiefs, he was reported to have criticised levels of pay, a lack of training equipment and the appalling housing - all issues raised in Gen Dannatt's report.

The report lays bare how a lack of funding, resources and manpower are forcing defence chiefs into making decisions once considered unthinkable.

One such move includes sending "medically downgraded" or injured troops and soldiers as young as 17 to guard the Falkland Islands to release fit troops for operations - a move Gen Dannatt says he wholly supports.

The report adds:

• Delays to military inquests are a disgrace

• Military housing estates are unsafe and being overrun by immigrant families

• Poor food quality is creating a "pot-noodle and sandwich" culture among junior soldiers

• Work-life balance is an increasing concern

• Soldiers are "going sick" to get out of the Army

• Leave is often cancelled or constrained because of operational overstretch

• Harmony guidelines - the time between operational tours - are becoming meaningless

• The Army is no longer fun

• Fitness in the Army is tailing off and more soldiers are medically downgraded

The report's findings follow months of interviews with thousands of soldiers and their families from 47 units.

Entitled Chief of the General Staff's Briefing Team Report (2007), the findings are described by Gen Dannatt as a "comprehensive, vivid and accurate" picture of Army life.

He writes that "improvements need to be made in accommodation, pay and medical services" and that the "chain of command must still improve things" if more soldiers are to be recruited.

The general accepts the view that delays in holding military inquests are a "disgrace" and writes: "I share the frustration and know that many families feel let down by the process. The delays are unacceptable and I will continue to press for improvements."

Military housing is an area singled out for criticism. "Estates are becoming less safe and more run down. Some are degenerating - in Germany it is reported that many of the neighbouring areas are occupied by immigrant families with hordes of children.

This is of particular concern for wives when their husband is deployed [on operations]." In Britain, some service families' accommodation areas have "ex-married quarters owned by housing associations, and disruptive civilian families have moved in, causing concerns over vandalism and theft".

The report strongly criticises the "Pay As You Dine" policy of making soldiers pay for what they eat, which many in the Army call a "disaster".

It says: "There are real concerns about the new eating habits of some soldiers due to Pay As You Dine. A "pot noodle and sandwich" culture is being created and soldiers are cooking rations over gas burners in their rooms. There are apocryphal stories of soldiers flaking during PT sessions from a lack of nutrients".

The report adds: "Pay As You Dine was sold as a strap line of new restaurants, better choice and good quality. The reality is very different - for most, the only investment has been a till."

There is a growing problem of troops "going sick" to get out of the Army.

There is a lack of "training areas, range availability, shortages of ammunition, spares and manpower - which is limiting the amount of meaningful training that can be undertaken. There are insufficient serviceable aircraft for parachute training. Apache flying hours are limited by lack of serviceable aircraft".

Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former infantry commander, said: "These problem areas existed 10 years ago. Now we have a crisis and it is a disgrace that senior officers and ministers have allowed this to happen. I am staggered that the head of the Army thinks it acceptable to send kids and those medically unfit for war to guard the Falklands."
Keep 'em comming Sir. You have the respect and backing of all your Troops.


Mercer is right. These problems did exist 10 years ago. Quarters and singly accommodation was just as sh*t then as they are now, but nobody gave a f*ck. What's brought this to a head are the two current operations. Nobody gave a sh*te before and the welfare situation was just as bad then as it is now.

There were many who were unhappy about the fact that they paid for meals which they chose not to eat back then and who were very vocal about how there should be a system such as PAYD. Now they don't like PAYD?

As for the housing estates being surrounded by immigrants with lots of kids, well when they thinned down Bielefeld, they handed back 100s of houses/flats. The Stadt done them up (to a higher standard than the Toms lived in and in some instances still live in) and due to the requirement for immigrant housing rented it out to....immigrants of all people. Funny old thing that. I can't see on what grounds this report has to complain about that issue whilst there are houses standing unoccupied in JHQ and SSO's allow the 'cleaning scams' to go unchecked and let occupied houses remain in disrepair whilst perfectly good ones lie empty. And besides, who the f*ck are we to complain about another country's handling of immigrant housing issues? We can't even control our own borders and the Annington Homes bonanza hardly endeared itself to the young up and coming did it? Have a look around at the Annington Homes in Catterick. There's one pikey f*cker at the bottom of Loos Road who's turned the park into a second hand car dealership and the amount of Tesco's trolleys which lay abandoned along the other Annington estate is f*cking ridiculous. These people live next to Army estates but the council does f*ck all about it. They wouldn't get away with it in Germany.

The Army stopped being fun after 'Options' which was over 10 years ago.

We've allowed NAAFI to dictate for far too long and alternative food outlets where the Toms could get a cheap but decent meal have since disappeared. Who allowed that to happen?
This is good stuff from a top flight General, and a real leader of courage and integrity. I take issue with the pot noodles though. The army has lived on them for years. :)


What about previous Governments? I'm no supporter of these tw*ts, but some of this sh*t has been going since before they were voted in. None of the Generals appeared to give a sh*te back then.


Take away the immediate operational issues and bugger all has changed since 'Options'. The wave of applicants for the redundancy packages was threefold what they expected. People were leaving because of poor housing and crap welfare. Families were p*ssed off for all the same reasons and soldiers were pressurised by wives to get out.

I wonder, had the two current ops never existed, would anyone give a toss about the standard of Army housing? I doubt it.

I'm not against these issues being shoved down the Government's throat, I just find that the opposition will exploit the very issues which they chose to ignore themselves when they were in power.

I do like Mercer's stance though.
True - Options and SDR have both produced a tick-box mentality that is coming home to haunt. Until the public gives a feck, situation will stagger from one headline to another. I wonder if CGS feels more empowered to speak out now, due to the confirmation on forums such as this?


I hope he does, but he should not forget that he was also in a command position then and perhaps he may wish to consider that beyond the current ops, very little has changed for the soldier since.
Biscuits_AB said:
What about previous Governments? I'm no supporter of these tw*ts, but some of this sh*t has been going since before they were voted in. None of the Generals appeared to give a sh*te back then.
I was waiting for the cynical stuff to start.

Perhaps Gen Dannatt is just prepping us all for his book?


the_guru said:
Biscuits_AB said:
What about previous Governments? I'm no supporter of these tw*ts, but some of this sh*t has been going since before they were voted in. None of the Generals appeared to give a sh*te back then.
I was waiting for the cynical stuff to start.

Perhaps Gen Dannatt is just prepping us all for his book?
Cynicism? No. Statement of fact mate.


Biscuits_AB said:
Take away the immediate operational issues and ...
Your point being? The immediate operational issues are the most significant factor in the current problem. We all know that defence has been underfunded for fcuking decades: the fact that this government have committed the armed forces to two sustained operations and have consciously declined to fund them is the critical issue. It begs the question every time a member of the armed forces is killed or injured: Gordon Brown, was that because you won't stump up the cash?


Sorry, are you trying to make out that I'm some supporter of this Government? Of course the two operations are significant. Who said otherwise? 'My point' as you ask, being that the issues outlined such as housing, singlies food and accommodation and welfare were largely ignored before the current conflicts. It was pretty simple mate. Nobody gave a toss about them then, all of a sudden they are of paramount importance. If we were not at war, and losing soldiers to civvy street at the rate they are leaving, would there be the same level of concern?
I'll tell you something for nothing Biscuits. RAF personnel would love to have someone like General Dannat swinging the bat for them. Think about General Dannat's predecessor and start asking why it is that these issues were never aired before. You should be thankful the man is in charge. He isn't taking the easy line, he is going out all guns blazing. Maybe you could find it within yourself to show a little support?


F*ck me there goes another bandwagon. Listen mate, it's not the man I'm questioning, it's the fact that quite a few of the issues raised have existed for decades. I'm glad he's raised them but some of them aren't new issues by any means. I appreciate what he's trying to achieve and I wish him every success. But my question is/was, why were some of the issues which were just as morale sapping then as they are now, allowed to go largely ignored before the current ops. Where were the Generals then?

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