Is this the worst job in the British Army?

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Barry_Trotter, Jan 30, 2005.

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  1. Is this the worst job in the British Army?
    By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
    (Filed: 30/01/2005)

    Guard duty at Buckingham Palace is regarded as one of the worst jobs in the British Army, according to military documents obtained by The Telegraph.

    Troops who protect the royal palaces and the Tower of London are forced to live in "atrocious" accommodation and undertake a variety of tasks that senior officers describe as "constituting real and unique pain" and "onerous, debilitating, repetitive and an unattractive recruiting draw".

    Guarding the royal family is 'onerous and repetitive'
    The disclosure shows that the popular view that the life of a soldier in the Household Division – which is composed of the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Welsh and Irish Guards as well as the mounted troops of the Life Guards – is one of the most glamorous in the Army is a myth.

    The news will also deeply embarrass the Ministry of Defence because the observations come from the Household Division's most senior officer, who has a close professional relationship with the Queen.

    The Telegraph obtained a copy of a letter dated 26 November 2004 from Maj Gen Sebastian Roberts, the Major General of the Household Division and the General Officer Commanding London District, to Brig Jamie Balfour, the Director of Infantry in the British Army.

    Entitled Future Infantry Structure, The Future Foot Guards, Maj Gen Roberts's letter states that although Military Task 2.5, the Army's terminology for guarding the royal palaces, is an "honour and a privilege", it is also "very onerous and repetitive".

    He adds: "It must be recognised that MT 2.5 is a debilitating routine task. The challenge within MT 2.5 role for recruiting, retention and maintaining operational capability is enormous. The task constitutes real and unique pain."

    Maj Gen Roberts goes on to write that the number of soldiers seeking to leave the Army prematurely from the Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, which is at present undertaking some public royal guard duties, has risen 50 per cent since they began, because of the "realities and demands" of such work.

    The comments form part of a document used by Maj Gen Roberts to argue the case for retaining the present structure of the Guards Division in the face of government defence cuts.

    Under the reorganisation of the Infantry, the Army's most senior officers considered amalgamating all five Foot Guards regiments into one "super" regiment.

    Maj Gen Roberts believed that it would be disastrous for the future of the Guards and spelt out his concerns in a letter.

    His arguments appear to have had the desired effect because the Guards Division successfully escaped the cuts. Further evidence of the quality of life of soldiers undertaking public duties was revealed in another letter written by Maj Gen Roberts to Gen Kevin O'Donoghue, the Honorary Colonel of the Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.

    In a letter dated 19 October 2004, Maj Gen Roberts wrote: "I inspected your 1st battalion formally on Friday 15 October at Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow, in Greatcoat Order… Everything I saw confirmed the excellence they have demonstrated in all they have done in London District.

    "They have risen to the challenges of Military Task 2.5 (Public Duties and State Ceremonial) and atrocious accommodation magnificently."

    More than 2,000 troops from the Household Division and the regular Infantry are employed on public duties at any time. The Irish Guards and the Royal Gloucesters are at present committed to public and ceremonial duties in London, supplemented with additional troops from other Guards battalions.

    The troops are housed in barracks in central London, Hounslow and Windsor and are responsible for guarding Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, the Tower of London, Horse Guards Parade, and Windsor Castle.

    The troops also take part in state events such as the Queen's Birthday Parade, the Trooping of the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament.

    Although the public's perception of the Household Division is that it is one of the most glamorous jobs in the Army, the reality for soldiers is that it is fundamentally boring.

    Soldiers spend several hours each day cleaning and pressing their uniforms and polishing their boots in preparation for one of the many kit inspections that they are likely to face before taking up their positions outside one of the royal palaces.

    Any soldier whose turn-out is less than immaculate is likely to face a variety of punishments, such as extra guard duty. Soldiers spend between two and three years carrying out public duties.

    One senior officer whose regiment is due to carry out such tasks in the next two years admitted last week that he was "absolutely dreading the prospect".

    The officer said that his troops would be accommodated in Victorian barracks that have the reputation for being the worst in the British Army.

    He added: "Public duties are mind-numbingly boring for soldiers. The fun aspect of the job evaporates after the first week. It's not what soldiers join the Army to do. It requires a very high level of personal discipline but that's about it. It requires no intelligence, zeal, athleticism or initiative. "

    A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said yesterday: "We don't comment on private correspondence between senior officers."

    :?: :?: I can understand the reporter highlighting the substandard accommodation and granted the majority of "Public Duties" are mind numingly boring but most employment within the forces does have periods of time that are not "Fun" and are boring. :(

    Personnaly I think that doing back to back tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia :evil: :evil: is having a more direct impact on recruitment and retention than ceremonial duties.

    Regardless of employment, if a serviceman turn up to work looking like a bag of S**t then he should be given extra duties. What I think this reporter fails to appreciate is that our collegues at Buckingham Palace are constantly in the public eye and virtually every British citizen and tourist would instantly recognise the uniform. I think there would be more outrage if a soldier changed gaurd incorrectly dressed and unshaven.
  2. Six weeks of public duties was, by and large, interesting. However, I can imagine than anything longer than that would be crippling dull.

    I have a certain amount of sympathy for the young Gdsmn who find themselves trapped in that post for two years, particulalry if he finds tha he hates it.

    Ques: In this day and age of cuts etc doe we need to allocate soldiers to this task and does this task actually impact on the Army's recruiting (or does it just help out the Household Div's recruiting)? In other words, is the tax payer getting value for money or could he find it elsewhere?
  3. MS_Rep

    MS_Rep RIP

    Also the fact that the RGBW are getting carved up under FIS may have a bearing.... :(
  4. 50% of what? Does anybody know the actual figure?
  5. a similar discussion was taken in the Infantry forum some time back re Guards not facing cuts.
  6. What was the general consensus?
  7. 1SG arrived in London from NI, manning level decreased.....
    1IG arrived in London from Munster, terminations left, right and centre...
    I guess Stringfellows isnt that much of a draw anymore, hmmmmm! :p
  8. That's not just a reflection of living in London - moving back to most places in UK mainland seems to have a similar efffect. RAAT tasks, firemen strikes, NI tours, cost of living, poor accom, less in the bank, etc etc - it all takes its toll on retention.

    Does a move to London have a greater or lesser effect than anywhere else?
  9. Best to go there and do a search, there is quite a lot.

    Generally, the Guards aren't special, and if it's only "ceremonial" they are retained for, this could be accomplished by a special Troop for the purpose, or TA, or specially hired and trained students, etc etc.

    Best go read it all
  10. Ok - thanks for the steer.
  11. ViroBono

    ViroBono LE Moderator

    I hate to say it, but the Frogs may have the right idea on Public Duties. The Garde Republicaine is responsible for mounting guard outside public buildings, VIP escorts and other public duties. The GR consists of 2 infantry regiments (1 of which includes the motorcysle squadron, and 1 cavalry regiment. They are part of the Gendarmerie, so are para-military, but controlled by the defence ministry. Their band is army attached.

    They have some secondary duties, such as the motorcyclists providing transport of organs for transplant, and some police type duties in support of the Gendarmerie. In other words, they do the job of or public duties battallions and the Met's DPG.

    Is this the way ahead? Relieving the Met of its duties around the Palaces and so on would undoubtedly please Prince Charles at least.
  12. did buck hse public duties straight out of basic sigs training in the mid 70's. OK & interesting for a few weeks but must be a right pain for 2 years!
  13. Did Buck House, Windsor Castle and Tower of London...

    Wasnt that bad to be honest.

    they were great during the summer but a ball ache during the winter, Ended up in the corps of drums so did EVERY bloody mount. Actually watched changing of the guard for the first time ever the other day... would rather have been in it...
  14. Line regiments generally regarded being selected for Public Duties as a great honour (mine did), we enjoyed the experience though two or three years of it must be as painfully boring as the General claimed.

    "A Guardsman's life is terribly hard" Said Alice.
  15. Busterdog - have you ever noticed that things nobody wants to do are made an "honour"? And nasty, gopping local food is a "delicacy"?