Officers failed us, say troops.....

Telegraph today......

Officers failed us in Iraq, say soldiers

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 29/02/2004)

Thousands of British soldiers have complained that they were failed by their senior officers during the war in Iraq, the Telegraph has learnt. The unprecedented criticisms are contained in a confidential document which will be presented to Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the Army, next month.

Using highly critical language, the report states that troops who fought in Iraq believe that the kit crisis that affected thousands of British servicemen was caused by a lack of planning by senior officers.

The report will also disclose that many soldiers believe that too much "Government spin" supporting the need for war was passed down the chain of command in the build up to the conflict.

The document was compiled by a select group of officers and senior non-commissioned officers called the "Chief of the General Staff's Briefing Team". It followed weeks of face-to-face conversations with soldiers who served in the Iraq war. The report will be presented to the executive committee of the Army Board, which is chaired by Gen Jackson, on March 11.

The report, entitled the CGS's Briefing Team Winter Session, states that many soldiers were "frustrated that they were not properly equipped when they crossed the line of departure [the military term for the frontline]". It adds that the failure to get the right equipment to soldiers led to "significant morale and leadership issues".

The most notorious example of the planning failures involved the death of Sgt Steve Roberts, who died after he was ordered to hand over his body armour to an infantry soldier.

Before he died, the tank commander committed his innermost thoughts and concerns to a tape diary. In one entry, he said: "We have not got things we have been told we are going to get and it's disheartening because we know we are going to go to war without the correct equipment."

Last week, a soldier who fought in the Iraq war risked certain court martial when he told Channel Four that he was sent into battle with just five bullets.

The unnamed soldier, who said he came under fire several times in southern Iraq, told Channel Four News: "We had five rounds each to defend ourselves. I actually crossed the border with five rounds."

Shortages of clothing, boots, weapons, chemical warfare equipment and ammunition have also been claimed.

Last year, a report by the National Audit Office criticised the Ministry of Defence when it stated that kit shortages could have had disastrous consequences for the 46,000 troops stationed in the Gulf. The briefing team was established in March 2000 with the task of keeping senior Army officers in touch with ordinary soldiers. The team goes on "tour" four times a year and speaks to soldiers on an off-the-record basis.

One senior officer told the Telegraph: "The report identifies a perception, at a junior level, that there has been a breach of trust between soldiers and officers. The war in Iraq was a military success but that was because, for the most part, the Iraqis didn't put up a fight.

"If they had, we would have had serious problems because of the kit shortages. That fact hasn't been lost on the troops - they aren't stupid."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We don't comment on leaked documents."

:? We shall see.... 8O
I'm only surprised it has taken this long to the surface. If you look back over the threads on this site and through media records there are legions of stories about this.

So far Buffhoons strident denials seemed to have worked. (Though for the life of me I can't think why anyone, [much less a sceptical national media], should treat anything that incompetent tw@t says with less than the utmost scepticism!) But it is good to see this start to come to the surface. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the war (I do believe we did the right thing, if perhaps using the wrong justifications), it is absolutely not right to leave a deployment of the nature of Telic so late that the logisticians are not in place before the logistics themselves arrive!

As has been said so many times before, we were very, very lucky. I cannot believe that the way Telic was conducted was the right way to do business. Nor do I believe we will be so lucky next time. Those responsible, in uniform and out, at whatever level, should be held to account, no matter who they are. Wouldn't be ironic if having so overused and underfunded the Armed Forces, it was that and not failure to deliver on the domestic front that bought down this government!

Many troops were killed or wounded the moment they stepped out of the front lines into No Man's Land. Many men walked slowly towards the German lines, laden down with supplies, expecting little or no opposition. They made for incredulously easy targets for the German machine-gunners.

Despite heavy losses during the first day – 58,000 British troops alone – Haig persisted with the offensive in the following days. Advances were made, but these were limited and often ultimately repulsed. Rawlinson’s forces secured the first line of German trenches on 11 July. On that day German troops were transferred from Verdun to contribute to the German defence, doubling the number of men available for the defence.

These first tanks, which totalled 50, were sourced from the Machine Gun Corps, 'C and 'D' Companies, and reached the Somme in September. Mechanical and other failures reduced the original number of participating tanks from 50 to 24. Whilst they achieved a large measure of shocked surprise when sprung upon the German opposition, these early tanks proved unwieldy and highly unreliable.

However the advance artillery bombardment failed to destroy either the German front line barbed wire or the heavily built concrete bunkers the Germans had carefully and robustly constructed. Much of the munitions used by the British proved to be ‘duds’ – badly constructed and ineffective. Many charges did not go off; even today farmers of the Western Front unearth many tons of unexploded ‘iron harvest’ each year.

Ring any bells along the way? [Extracts from: - The Battle of the Somme, 1916]

I'm not too sure that the WWI analogy is exact. A lot of what has been said about the conduct of the war does not really stand up when analysed dispassionately - don't forget that a lot of what we now criticise was brand new at the time, the British Army ceaselessly tried new weapons and tactics and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. However, I defy the critics to stand in the boots of the commanders at the time and do any different. And don't forget that most of the seemingly pointless battles were undertaken to stop the Germans from rolling up the French who suffered dreadfully as well.

The failings during GW2 on the other hand were inexcusable as we didn't do anything new.

At the Somme for instance we'd pasted the trenches opposite with the biggest barrage in history. It could be heard in Hyde Park. How confident would you have been that it would have flattened the opposition ? There was no other bombardment with which to compare it, no-one had ever made as many shells as quickly before, no-one had ever seen fortifications like the ones encountered before.

And as for the tanks, what else was Haig supposed to do ? He had no idea that these things would work and only a few of them so he used them and was pleased with the results. If he hadn't no doubt we'd criticise him for failing to use them when he could have.

And if you look at the time that it took to get information back from the front lines, casualty returns back from the clearing hospitals, Haig called things off fairly promptly on the basis of the information available to him at the time.
There certainly was a massive shift in warfare in WWI. John Keegan has a memorable quote, to paraphrase "in 1914 a soldier went to war dressed as a gamekeeper, in 1918 he was dressed as an industrial worker". There were massive changes across the military, possibly exemplified by the improvements made by the Royal Artillery (ranging guns and maintaining calibration charts before use) which have been quoted as a major war winning factor - an example of learning lessons.

Some lessons were over learned somewhat. An independent bombing wing was set up and Iraq was bombed post-war. Some people got very excited and reckoned that air power was the only power to be reckoned with and the "bomber would always get through". This led to everything else being ignored, including defence against said bombers! It was only because of Churchill banging away (with a few helpful leaks from the spooks) and a few others (Dowding of the RAF, the industrialist Beaverbrook and the scientist Watson-Watt) that the air defence system was pulled out of the bag just in time.

We may be in the dangerous position of over learning lessons from Telic as it looks like the seniors and politicians are putting too much faith in "effects based warfare" and "network enabled capability" at the expense of boots on the ground and armour. After all, the Apache took a bit of a pasting in Iraq. We may have to un-learn some lessons in future.
[quote="Up_In_ArmsMy unit drove approx 500km per week throughout the TELIC tour and our sum total of comms was 1 mobile phone that worked now and again. We asked and asked every week but were told that we couldn't have anything else. What would have happened in a contact is unthinkable.

Of course in the meantime units were getting flights to themselves to bring the regimental silverware and putting orders in to the CIVSEC for cut class crystal whiskey glasses.

do you think anyone really cares? no I don't[/quote]

Hmm. What unit you with then, Up In Arms? The Mobile Library? 500kms doesn't sound much and the queues for the mobile must have been pergatory! :wink: Does your unit have an Equipment Table by any chance? Or was that all sold off to buy new books? As for the comments regarding flights for Regimental Silver and bids for crystal glasses, methinks someone be pulling yur pud mate! Feed the gulls! :lol:

On a more serious note, it is a shame that you clearly give such laughable and scurrilous rumour any creedance and, the fact that you do with the exposure that you have had on this site means such urban tales are likely to be lapped up by the media and the great unwashed. Nice one...and a great help to us all!
Getting civ sec to pay for anything necessary was a major task never mind any luxuries like crystal. Up in Arms might have some valuable comments but such suggestions as this mean that they will not be taken seriously. And Yes I was there and was involved with getting CivSec to sign things off.
How did we get on to CIVSEC?

AFAIK boots, body armour and the like were not thier domain.

There were difficulties at all levels on OP Telic 1 & 2. How about applauding the MOD`s inititiave of just enough just in time, who was it that brought that system in I wonder?.

GW2 a budget too far.
Ok the flights and the whiskey glasses didn't happen, but they were asked for, as I was told personally by those involved. Anyway, I was trying to make a point that whilst units go without basics such as radios or body armour, some people are actually more worried about fine dining.......

On a more serious note, it is a shame that you clearly give such laughable and scurrilous rumour any creedance and, the fact that you do with the exposure that you have had on this site means such urban tales are likely to be lapped up by the media and the great unwashed. Nice one...and a great help to us all!
just for the record - I don't post anything I haven't witnessed or been told directly by a person responsible/involved. They would be laughable if they weren't so true.
Parhaps another example of that behaviour noted in the more senior officers and WOs where a complete lack of knowledge about the subject does not impede in the slightest the ability to talk definitively about it.

This behaviour trait seems to be a prerequisite for those going places. And then we wonder why the Chief of the General Staff's Briefing Team allegedly (as the report was leaked) speaks of a lack of confidence on the part of junior soldiers in their management. Or maybe that's all an urban myth as well ?
Very interesting debate which is ARRSE at it's best.

In my own experience there are 3 building blocks for all Army personnel to work better & trust their bosses

One: Career. Do not promise what you cannot deliver and be realistic with their ceilings (good post in §§§ is yours, promotion is %%%% if you ...)

Two: Quarters/Accn. Home is where the heart is. Work on the SSO (before arrival whenever possible), time taken avoiding later strife is well spent.

Three. Finance. Pay, claims etc are a major morale problem, if the RAO & his staff aren't performing he (& the CO) need to know, they may need your pressure to bring additional staff support.

I've found that if I get these 3 right I have fewer problems but, to quote Manuel,..."I no natsing" ....and I WAS born in Barcelona
I'm not sure if it can all be blamed on a logistical failure. Are there any Loggies out there who can confirm that there were warehouses full of boots and body armour just waiting to be dispatched to our brave troops?

I personally think it is just another load of flannel used to cover up the fact that years of cost cutting has finally come to light in the most embarrassing manner.

Wars should not be fought by bean counters. Especially faceless civilians who have no concept of the problems that their cost cutting causes. I bet if they knew that they had to go to the front line, money and equipment would come flooding in.
Whilst I am not a loggie, I can confirm that there was absolutely stacks of kit sat in Kuwait, much of which was in short supply pre war, waiting to be sent to units in Iraq. Much of it was clearly marked as high priority etc.

This is not gossip, I saw it with my own eyes. I had to go down to Camp Fox, the Brit log base in Kuwait, post war to hand some kit in and draw some other stuff. While I was down there I saw boxes of kit everywhere just waiting to be delivered. Desert combats, desert boots, tropical sleeping bags, to name but a few items. It was enough to make you weep. My unit had guys in 95 kit during the war as they couldn't get hold of deserts!

I spoke to a couple of loggies and they all spoke of being overwhelmed. They had too much coming in, too few men to handle it. Bottom line. If you want to do 'just enough, just in time' (as I believe the concept is called), then you have to make sure that your loggies are there ON TIME!!! (It's probably smart to have loads of them about too!) Not arriving with the kit!!

That is what happens when politicians ignore subject matter experts. It makes my stomach turn every time I hear the government boast that they deployed us in half the time of Gulf 1.

Ask Sgt Roberts' wife how proud she is of that fact.
O ot S,

I must firstly apologise for not responding sooner - I completely forgot about this thread, it's senility creeping up on me.

Yes quite agree it is somewhat difficult to analyse in isolation however, it was more by way of the "lessons learned" perspective. Hindsight we all know, is a marvellous thing and I 'm not suggesting for a second that anyone based on the information available at the time, could or would have done any better. I can not however, think of a single action in our recent history, were we have had to raise arms against an aggressor that we have taken heed of lessons learn from previous conflicts.

The over all impression is one and I am speaking in the broadest of terms, of continually playing catch-up. Whatever the constraints be they budgetary, lack of supply or just plain inadequate equipment, we do not appear to have learned from the past. We also use the same lame excuses as to the reasons why - yet, we also give the politicians time and space to continue the argument and attempt to place the blame anywhere but where the blame lies.

I use the Falklands as an example - we were still dealing with Trench Foot how many years after the most predominant war the world as seen. Why? Because allegedly, there was the age-old "procurement oversight" wrong boots for the right reason in the wrong place.

I am very aware that I am digressing slightly from the main topic of this thread - Officers failed us ….. but I shall get there in the end. The fact that lessons appear not to have been learnt, the fact that there are budgetary constraints from the policy makers and if we lump supply and the inadequate equipment together, we can start to point the finger.

Hypothetically, what would happen if an Officer / OC / CO / and so on, refused to move into theatre until their soldiers had the right equipment, in sufficient quantities and were sufficiently trained to do the job? Yes I know, the mind boggles but think this one through, we are starting to get into the meat of the reason(s) why.

I personally feel that the whole aspect of these rights and wrongs could be resolved as a requiremens issue. Yet again what single piece of MoD equipment (and one does not have to look past the horizon for this one), has been brought into service adhering to it's original requirement? Did they even have a coherent requirement in the first place, or did it just evolve? We only have ourselves to blame here -

Who staffs the generic Requirements within the MoD - the military.

Who staffs within the military - Joint Service Officers.


Short and sweet I know but you get the general idea?

Anyway, back to original post....

anyone care to bet that the flack arising from the content of the Briefing team report will be greater than the s**t that hits the poor sod who leaked one of the Prince's "confidential" briefs in the first place ????

"General Jackson will see you now....."
Ivor Corker - you are wrong in one respect.

Who puts forward the REQUIREMENT - the military

Who pays? the Treasury

So who works out whether we actually GET the requirement and if so how much - civil servants answering to priorities set by politicians.

The TELIC problem stemmed from a loggie system that had been torn apart by government 'special advisers' and other dweebs who thought that you could run the Services like Kwikfit and save a few bob.

And I'm not a loggie (thank God!)

I'm sorry, I'm not too sure I follow your rational here.

I'm putting my head above the parapet here and claiming that in my view the problem is not only generic but one we have only ourselves to blame.

Agreed we in our attempt to "become" smarter, need to develop or lose whatever credibility we have. To reiterate or perhaps clarify what I have said,

It is a primary function of DEC to establish the requirement. This in-turn will flow to the RM, which as an element of the acquisition process and part of the agreed URD. Once again in broad terms, the Through Life Management Plan (TLMP), provides the required disciplines for ensuring the relevant cycle is adhered to. During the assessment phase, in output terms, the production of the SRD for defining what the "system" must do to meet the user needs as stated in the URD, is established.

The final processes still require policing and once again they fall to the RM's. At every stage of the TLMP the involvement of the RM is and as it should be - Military. (Who better to know what is required and by whom).

My point: If we as the Military are present at the initiation, sustainment and In-service phases and we fail to police the requirement then we are to blame.

In reality, we all know that the PC teams are alive and living in an establishment near you.

One problem with the current procurement setup that I think gets overlooked is the dearth of requirements engineering skills in the DPA. I have lost count of the number of incoherent, non-provable and unrealistic requirement sets I've seen come out of Abbey Wood.

It is unreasonable to expect a military officer (or an ex-military civil servant) to possess these skills but they never seem to train them properly. As far as the civil servants are concerned, if the DPA had any competent systems engineers with a requirements bias they'd soon lose them to industry who pay more.

In my experience BAE (and other companies) get away with an awful lot because the DPA cannot write proper requirements. After a few years the original DPA staff who understood what was going on are posted away and when everyone reexamines the contractual requirements when problems crop up there are enough holes in it to drive a bus through. These are then traded off against non-performance on the contract.

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