How much longer can the Army fight?

#1
Mentions Ashtead.

How much longer can the Army fight?

By Allan Mallinson [the author and military historian]

We shall be in Afghanistan for as long as we were in Northern Ireland, said Brigadier John Lorimer, the Army commander in Helmand province, last week. He meant that, given the tactical progress and the difficulties of reconstruction, the Army must brace itself for a long haul (if the Government has the will to see it through). But the Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, says the Army is at full stretch. Can it take the long haul, therefore?

Consider morale, the maintenance of which is one of the fundamental principles of war. In 1946, reflecting on five years' fighting, Montgomery defined high morale as the quality that makes men endure and show courage in times of fatigue and danger, the most important single factor in war. High morale has four essential conditions, he argued: leadership, discipline, comradeship and self-respect.

The leaders must also believe in a cause, without which they will not sustain their inner strength, the inspiration to those they lead. A private soldier needs to know the cause is esteemed at home; his self-respect, the determination to maintain personal standards of behaviour, is otherwise diminished.
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There are obvious worries here regarding a long war in Afghanistan. Although its legitimacy is not as questionable as in Iraq, it is still a war of choice, and its relevance to a strategy of defeating Islamist terrorism is not universally recognised. In part this is because the strategy (if there is one) has not been well articulated. Ministers therefore have a crucial role to play in maintaining the troops' morale.

The trouble is that ministers frequently seem not to understand what morale really is. They visit Basra and Helmand, come away full of admiration for what the troops are doing, and insist that morale is high. But soldiers do not give things away to outsiders, and officers will not readily voice concerns about morale, since it calls their leadership into question.

So ministers frequently confuse toughness for high morale. It is not the same. But whether or not high morale is illusory, it is dangerous for ministers to assume that their stewardship so far will be adequate for the long haul.

How is high morale maintained? Honest leadership, from the very top, is essential; the MoD has not scored highly of late. Discipline must be robust and appropriate; the recent court martial debacles must not be repeated. Comradeship needs fostering; with the recent cuts and wholesale upheavals in the regimental system, the infantry in particular needs careful nurturing. And Servicemen (the whole nation, indeed) need to understand the strategy of the long haul before they can believe in it.

Another factor is success. Iraq is not yet a complete failure in the soldier's eyes, but it has dented confidence in the MoD. Tactical successes in Helmand, therefore, will be valuable in themselves, although without a sound strategy the effect will not endure.

The other factor is what Montgomery called "the thousand matters embraced by the term 'welfare' ". Hardship and privation are the school of the good soldier, but attending to his welfare is vital in maintaining his self-respect and strengthening his confidence in his superiors. Poor accommodation and unattractive conditions of service have been highlighted in these pages, but one area risks becoming a national scandal, dangerously corrosive to long-term morale: the treatment of casualties.

All our military hospitals have been closed. Last year, General Dannatt was outraged at some of what he found at the Centre for Defence Medicine, a wing of Selly Oak Hospital. The clinical treatment, said to be excellent, was not founded on a proper military nursing regime.

Things have improved, but there is a palpable sense in the wider service community that not having the nationwide network of small but capable hospitals, run by and for people in uniform, is hindering long-term treatment and rehabilitation, and further eroding the soldier's self-respect. It goes particularly hard, too, with the TA, on whom the Army is having to rely increasingly on operations.

Besides the question of sheer decency in how the nation treats its wounded soldiers, in time these shortcomings will have their effect on those facing active service - and, indeed, on recruiting. It is always said that the best recruiter is a satisfied soldier: what is the recruiting potential of a dissatisfied wounded soldier?

Almost as bad are the recent manifestations of public indifference to the soldier's plight. The nimbyism in Ashtead, where the residents opposed the purchase of a house by a Service charity so that relatives could stay overnight while visiting Headley Court, the Services' rehabilitation centre, is sickening.

Montgomery would have wanted them paraded, like the German civilians of Belsen, to see the cost of war. Soon, it will not be necessary, however, for we shall all begin seeing limbless young men on the streets. The "cas-evac" flights from Iraq and Afghanistan are all too frequent. [...]
Full article - Daily Telegraph
 
#2
"The private soldier needs to know that the cause is esteemed at home."

A phrase from the article, which, sadly I very much fear will not be fulfilled.

The 'adventure' into Iraq, the result of an individual's amazing vanity and propensity for posing, is not popular in Great Britain. Soldiers know this and it is certain to affect adversely their morale - let alone their decisions regarding retention.

I am not certain about the public's perception of our involvement in Afghanistan. I rarely hear it mentioned and possibly this will lead to a similar conclusion by 'the private soldier' and undermine his, or her, morale.

Correct me please, but throughout our history, have we ever been led into war by a government with no experience of warfare or even military service. Let us not forget that Mrs. Thatcher was surrounded by gallant men, thus compensating for her lack of personal military experience. I refer to Military Cross holders - Whitelaw, Carrington, Pym and to others including her husband.

I suspect that the benighted idiot Blair watched too many war films in his youth.
 
#3
lsquared said:
Let us not forget that Mrs. Thatcher was surrounded by gallant men, thus compensating for her lack of personal military experience. I refer to Military Cross holders - Whitelaw, Carrington, Pym and to others including her husband.

I suspect that the benighted idiot Blair watched too many war films in his youth.
Not forgetting the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie (RIP):
Wiki entry - "He earned a commission in the Scots Guards during World War II, serving as a tank commander and earning the Military Cross for two feats of bravery in March 1945: he rescued one of his men from a crippled tank under heavy enemy fire, and the next day he took his own tank into an exceptionally exposed position in order to knock out three anti-tank guns. In May 1945 he was among the first British troops to enter Bergen-Belsen.

After the surrender of Nazi Germany, he served with the occupying forces in Cologne and then with the boundary commission dealing with the future status of the Free Territory of Trieste."
 

mysteron

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Very well written (as one would expect from Allan Mallinson), very pro-forces (also very nice) but I fear seeking a state of mind that this nation has lost and will never regain.

It has me thinking whether we are going about 'selling' the Armed Forces the right way. I think that this would also apply to the Police Force and Fire Services - both of whom I have friends and they de-cry the loss of respect from the public.

I appreciate that the majority out there just don't care in the selfish 'me' society of today - but is it incumbent upon us to provide that leadership to make them proud? (Before the comedians get out there and start suggestting comedy drill on the Old College parade square - I mean finding a way). Let us put aside the hired 'spin' lackeys - lets talk about real leadership be it from Pte level (let's look at our serving VC and MC winners here) to CDS. Britons have historically been an inherently violent nation - we like few things better than to fight for a cause that is just, create empires (and lose them! oops!!) and bet on the underdog (if they play fair).

This is last paragraph is admittedly a bit utopian - but striving for it is realistic and those of this nation who are followers (the majority) may get swept up by this and unite to support. The competition - NHS, state welfare and education. Are we going to have a big fight to get attention and win people over, but we are the underdog!!!!
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#5
lsquared said:
"Correct me please, but throughout our history, have we ever been led into war by a government with no experience of warfare or even military service. Let us not forget that Mrs. Thatcher was surrounded by gallant men, thus compensating for her lack of personal military experience. I refer to Military Cross holders - Whitelaw, Carrington, Pym and to others including her husband.

I suspect that the benighted idiot Blair watched too many war films in his youth.
I noticed this a while back so I checked

Blairs Cabinet 2001 - 2005

Tony Blair Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, and Minister for the Civil Service:
John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister
Gordon Brown Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury
Lord Irvine of Lairg Lord Chancellor
Robin Cook Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Williams of Mostyn Leader of the House of Lords
Andrew Smith Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Jack Straw Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
David Blunkett Secretary of State for the Home Department
Margaret Beckett Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Stephen Byers Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Alan Milburn Secretary of State for Health
Geoff Hoon Secretary of State for Defence
Alistair Darling Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Thatchers Cabinet 1981 - 83
Margaret Thatcher: Prime Minister
William Whitelaw: Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the Home Department :Army, Major Scots Guards MC WW2
Francis Pym: Lord President of the Council:Army, MC and Bar WW2
Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone: Lord Chancellor :Army, Major wounded Western Desert 1941
Humphrey Atkins: Lord Privy Seal: Royal Navy, 1940 -1948
Sir Geoffrey Howe: Chancellor of the Exchequer: Army, Platoon Commander East Africa
Leon Brittan: Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Lord Carrington: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs :Army,Major Grenadier Guards MC
Peter Walker: Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
John Nott: Secretary of State for Defence : Army Commissioned 2nd Gurkha Rifles 1952 - 56
Keith Joseph: Secretary of State for Education and Science :Army, Royal Artillary WW2 M I D wounded Italy
Norman Tebbit: Secretary of State for Employment :RAF Pilot
Nigel Lawson: Secretary of State for Energy: Royal Navy officer National Service
Michael Heseltine: Secretary of State for the Environment :Army 2nd lieutenant Welsh Guards 1959

Whilst I appreciate that it was a different era national service and WW2 etc I know who I would rather have in a war cabinet
Also alot of people seem to think that he soldier is to blame that one day the whole army just got together and said since Boz and Kosivo are quiet how about we go and invade somewhere
All this their arn't fighting in my name b0llocks needs to stop
 
#7
lsquared said:
"The private soldier needs to know that the cause is esteemed at home."

A phrase from the article, which, sadly I very much fear will not be fulfilled.

The 'adventure' into Iraq, the result of an individual's amazing vanity and propensity for posing, is not popular in Great Britain. Soldiers know this and it is certain to affect adversely their morale - let alone their decisions regarding retention.

I am not certain about the public's perception of our involvement in Afghanistan. I rarely hear it mentioned and possibly this will lead to a similar conclusion by 'the private soldier' and undermine his, or her, morale.

Correct me please, but throughout our history, have we ever been led into war by a government with no experience of warfare or even military service. Let us not forget that Mrs. Thatcher was surrounded by gallant men, thus compensating for her lack of personal military experience. I refer to Military Cross holders - Whitelaw, Carrington, Pym and to others including her husband.

I suspect that the benighted idiot Blair watched too many war films in his youth.
All three You quoted resigned from the government or were sacked. Carrington for screwing up on the Falklands, Pym for not agreeing with Das Fuhrerin and poor old Willie Whitelaw who was forced to take on so many jobs it did for Him - didn't Ridley say that the Conservative government started to sink after He resigned?
 
#8
Sven said:
All three You quoted resigned from the government or were sacked. Carrington for screwing up on the Falklands, Pym for not agreeing with Das Fuhrerin and poor old Willie Whitelaw who was forced to take on so many jobs it did for Him - didn't Ridley say that the Conservative government started to sink after He resigned?
Even so, they are still more admirable than the current shower of politically-elevated cretins, time-servers, and jobsworths who comprise the present administration.
 
#9
gallowglass said:
Sven said:
All three You quoted resigned from the government or were sacked. Carrington for screwing up on the Falklands, Pym for not agreeing with Das Fuhrerin and poor old Willie Whitelaw who was forced to take on so many jobs it did for Him - didn't Ridley say that the Conservative government started to sink after He resigned?
Even so, they are still more admirable than the current shower of politically-elevated cretins, time-servers, and jobsworths who comprise the present administration.
I would not disagree, but they are not at all representative of Thatchers governments
 
#10
Sven said:
gallowglass said:
Sven said:
All three You quoted resigned from the government or were sacked. Carrington for screwing up on the Falklands, Pym for not agreeing with Das Fuhrerin and poor old Willie Whitelaw who was forced to take on so many jobs it did for Him - didn't Ridley say that the Conservative government started to sink after He resigned?
Even so, they are still more admirable than the current shower of politically-elevated cretins, time-servers, and jobsworths who comprise the present administration.
But not at all representative of Thatchers governments
Not to the extent that this lot are, no.
 
#11
I have an unhappy nagging feeling that when the dam of reserve breaks, we'll see veterans on the Green throwing their decorations at Parliament, furious at the sheer hubris that saw this mendacious Government send the Forces to war and then refuse to support them.
 

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