Para bites back

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by OldRedCap, Nov 15, 2004.

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  1. I've started this as a fresh thread as it might stray away from the topic that started this.
    General Jackson replies to the Bruce Anderson article here He seems to retain the attitude of quick response and fluency. Mind you - I knew him as Adjt 1 PARA and always said he would do well!
  2. OldRedCap, I think that link will require registration, people can either do that or you can post it verbatim. It's well worth a read IMO, thank you.
  3. Hackle wrote
    Registration (free) is a piece of pish and well worth it to get regular Anderson articles.
  4. In other words, "I cannot be arrsed to cut and paste even though everyone that wants to look at it will get spam following registration."

    Just cut and paste it, stop being jack.
  5. gallowglass to the rescue....

    The silence of the generals

    by Bruce Anderson (The Spectator 13 November 2004)

    It sometimes seems as if we no longer know how to think about our soldiers, or how to treat them. Last week, three men of the Black Watch fell in battle in Iraq. A sad event certainly, but it was hardly a reason for national mourning. Yet much of the media became hysterical. Some of the men’s relatives, who could hardly be expected to reason clearly in such circumstances, were interviewed as if their grief had turned them into experts on military deployment and the Middle East. At the same time, a brave soldier was being gravely maltreated, and no one seemed to notice.

    Last week, Trooper Kevin Williams of the Royal Tank Regiment stood in the dock at the Old Bailey, accused of murder. On 2 August last year, Trooper Williams was helping to man a checkpoint near Basra. It was a dangerous moment. For some days, there had been a number of ‘contacts’, the Army’s euphemism for exchanges of gunfire. The previous night, the local police station had come under fire.

    According to Trooper Williams, he and a comrade stopped a man pushing a handcart, with the intention of searching it. The man ran off. They chased him; in most other armies, he would have been pursued not by soldiers, but by bullets. The British soldiers fired a warning shot. The man ignored it and ran into a house. The soldiers followed, even though he could have been leading them to an ambush. They caught up with him in the house’s courtyard. He tried to grab Trooper Williams’s comrade’s rifle. Trooper Williams shot him.

    No one in the British Army is suggesting that soldiers should be allowed to fire their weapons recklessly. Trooper Williams’s actions were thoroughly investigated by two commanding officers, who took advice from the Army’s legal services. Although parts of Trooper Williams’s account were disputed by the dead man’s family, the commanding officers decided that the trooper had no case to answer. It seems to me that this is the only possible judgment.

    But the COs’ verdict was not allowed to stand. The Crown Prosecution Service has intervened, to charge the trooper with murder. By all accounts, he is a good soldier. His treatment is a disgrace. What is even more disgraceful is the failure of any senior serving officer to agitate on his behalf.

    Compare and contrast the case of Harry Stanley, the man who was shot dead while carrying a table leg. That case ought to arouse disquiet. The streets of London are not a war zone. Local police stations do not come under fire. Men should not be shot for carrying table legs. Unlike Trooper Williams, the police officers involved in the shooting of Mr Stanley were not in life-threatening peril. Without in any way seeking to victimise the police officers concerned, anyone who cares about law and order in London should want a full investigation and a tightening of procedure. Yet when it was proposed to re-open the inquest on Mr Stanley, a large number of officers licensed to carry firearms virtually threatened to go on strike. Their action was tacitly defended by the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair. The Home Secretary has also weighed in on the policemen’s behalf. The men of the British Army will have noted all this.

    Today, Tommy Atkins is a thinking soldier and a reading one, especially on subject matters that touch his own safety. He is prepared to take risks; he is aware that when he joined the colours, he signed up to unlimited liability. But he does expect fair treatment from those in authority over him. No one could claim that Trooper Kevin Williams is receiving fair treatment.

    Young officers are still taught that their priority must be kit, men and only then self. When coming off exercise, they must first satisfy themselves that all the men’s kit is in perfect condition, so that it could be re-used at a moment’s notice, as it might have to be in a real battle. The officers must then ensure that the men are in good condition; fed and watered, with any blisters or minor ailments attended to. However exhausted the officer may be, it is only then that he can relax.

    That is as it should be. But it will be of no avail if very senior officers’ priorities are seen to be promotion, political correctness and pensions. Some of the old and bold are rallying round Trooper Williams. General Sir Antony Walker, a former colonel commandant of the Tank Regiment, is leading a vigorous campaign on his behalf. When Trooper Williams once asked him dolefully what prison would be like, Tony Walker’s reply was: ‘Don’t even think about going to prison. If you did, I would be in the next cell.’

    But where are the generals who are still in post? There are persistent rumours that gagging mechanisms are being employed throughout the MoD, with serving officers forbidden to say anything which might contradict Geoff Hoon’s line. As no one can ever decide what Geoff Hoon’s line is, that edict creates difficulties. Until recently, the head of the Army’s public relations was always a rising brigadier; over the years, the post has been held by many distinguished soldiers. Recently, it has been downgraded, in a deliberate attempt by politicians to prevent the Army from making its case to the press. But why have the current generals acquiesced in all this? No one I have spoken to believes that Bramall, Bagnall, Inge or Guthrie would have allowed themselves to be gagged.

    No army can function without loyalty. The British Army teaches its officers that they should never take loyalty for granted. It always has to be earned and re-earned. It will only be there if the men trust their officers, so that even if they do not understand the reason for a particular order, they take it for granted that the officer does. They also take it for granted that within the exigencies of military duty, their officers will be 100 per cent committed to their welfare. All this helps to explain why we have the best army in the world.

    That will not change overnight because of Trooper Kevin Williams. But a case like that gnaws away at the bond of loyalty. It sows mistrust among our soldiers. It may even make it harder for them to do their duty. No one wants irresponsibility on the battlefield, but nor do we want soldiers who are afraid that if they protect their comrades they might end up on a murder charge.

    The death of three soldiers in the Black Watch was not a national tragedy. The case of Kevin Williams is a national scandal.
  6. Good man, GG, thank you for posting - very well argued article.
  7. Here, Here - Very Good article
  8. Very good article indeed. Sorry I can't find it, but what was Mike Jackson's response?
  9. Erm, over to you TCH :roll:
  10. Yeah, right TCH. RedCap said the link went to Jackson's response. Having trouble getting it. Will try again.
  11. Jacksons response:

    No way to write an article

    Needless to say, I was intrigued by Bruce Anderson’s assessment (‘No way to run an army’, 21 August) of my performance in former roles and now as Chief of the General Staff, and the — to him — apparent connection between that performance and my physical appearance. To deal with the latter trivial point first: an operation to reduce surplus flesh surrounding my eyes was carried out in the summer of 2003 in order to improve my vision. It was performed by the NHS on the basis of medical requirement; the matter therefore turns on vision rather than vanity.

    Bruce Anderson regrettably incorporates in his polemic several glaring errors of fact. First, he describes me as being ‘in charge of British troops in Kosovo’ in 1999. I was in fact the Nato commander of the multinational force known as KFOR (Kosovo Force), and thereby in command of contingents from more than 20 nations, including the United Kingdom. National command of the British contingent rightly rested elsewhere. Secondly, Bruce Anderson is of the opinion that four infantry battalions total 4,000 men. Would that they did! The accurate figure is some 2,500. Thirdly, it is true that I am reported as making a judgment regarding the role of sentiment in running the British army. To the best of my knowledge, the only public record of this is a letter to the Daily Telegraph by Robert Fox, published on 20 August, in which he correctly quotes me as saying that I cannot let the army ‘run on sentiment alone’ (my emphasis). This is presumably Bruce Anderson’s source — in which case his omission of the qualification ‘alone’ in his article can only be either neglectful or tendentious. Fourthly, his allegation of condescension by the Parachute Regiment is contradictory. It appears to be his opinion that other regiments are ‘lesser’ by definition. For my part, the Parachute Regiment is neither greater nor lesser, but different. For the avoidance of doubt — and had he had the courtesy to have asked me, I would have disabused him of the notion — the only occasions on which I have used the term ‘crap-hat’ were to insist that it should be abandoned.

    Let me now turn to the gravamen of Bruce Anderson’s criticisms. He accuses me of being ‘unwilling to resist’ what he describes as a ‘grave threat to the army’s warfighting capability’. My counter to this charge is that to describe a less than 2 per cent reduction from today’s trained strength of 103,500 to around 102,000 as ‘grave’ is hyperbole. He may, superficially, have a stronger point where the 10 per cent reduction in infantry battalions from 40 to 36 is concerned. But he might care to remind himself — or understand ab initio, as the case may be — of the factors regarding the infantry order of battle. Of the current 40 infantry battalions, six are presently committed full-time to Northern Ireland; there are, therefore, 34 available for non-Northern Ireland tasks. But of those 34, seven or eight at any one time — under the so-called ‘arms plot’ — are moving, re-roling and retraining. The arithmetic is not difficult: for non-Northern Ireland tasks, the army accordingly disposes some 26 to 27 battalions. Given continuing progress in Northern Ireland and the cessation of the arms plot, in the future structure the army will have at its general disposal most, if indeed not all, of the 36 battalions in the future order of battle. I should add that the 2,500 posts saved by the reduction of four battalions will be largely re-allocated to the parts of the army which are more hard-pressed than the infantry: engineers, logisticians and intelligence operators, for example. Does tomorrow’s 36 deployable general-purpose battalions rather than today’s 26 to 27 constitute a ‘grave threat to the army’s warfighting capability’? I think not.

    Bruce Anderson shows, thankfully, some understanding of the way the army goes about its business by applauding the versatility of the infantry soldier — presently largely achieved by moving and re-roling complete battalions via the arms plot every two to six years. But the Army Board — not just Jackson — has concluded that the infantry cannot go on in this fashion. Hard-won experience and expertise, particularly where armoured infantry is concerned, is discarded every few years; career planning is haphazard; brigade integrity is, to put it mildly, sub-optimal; and family stability — which is always a compromise in a mobile profession — is adversely affected. Bruce Anderson is of the view that ‘it is essential that we have infantrymen who can operate as Panzergrenadiers, and vice versa’. Let me assure him that we do have infantrymen who operate as (in English) armoured infantry — who can ‘play football with the locals’, as indeed can any infantry battalion or for that matter any unit of the army; but if he thinks that light infantry can equally well, at the drop of a hat, become armoured infantry, he either has little understanding of infantry soldiering or he is again being tendentious. It takes four to six months of formal training before an armoured infantry battalion is taken on as such in the order of battle; the reality is that such a battalion is not fully on top of this complex role until it has been at it for around two years. We cannot continue with this in-built degradation to our capability.

    But to stop this rather less than optimal merry-go-round of the arms plot means that infantry battalions will become fixed in role, and largely fixed in geography. To achieve in the future one objective Bruce Anderson had got right — the requirement for the infantry soldier to have a broad experience base — it will be essential to move infantry officers and soldiers between battalions with different roles. This can only be sensibly done within a large regiment if cap-badge identity is to be maintained. The British army’s regimental system is categorically not under threat; but future circumstances require a different manifestation of that system, as has happened often enough in the past. I can assure Bruce Anderson that his assertion that ‘the regimental cap badge ... [will be] devalued’ is without foundation. Perhaps I should remind him that today nearly half the infantry are on a large regiment basis; his inference that today’s large regiments are less capable than the single-battalion regiments has no reality either in performance or in manning. And I can assure him that the future infantry regiments will not be ‘anonymous’.

    My last point is perhaps the most important. Bruce Anderson charges me with being unwilling to resist ‘the civil servants’ blandishments or the politicians’ charm’. This is a rather fanciful way of describing the role of the CGS in our British democracy: yes, there is robust debate within Whitehall generally and the MoD particularly as to the size and shape of the armed forces; but ultimately the allocation of public funds to the various functions of state is a political decision. The outcome of this process presents a service chief with a clear choice: achieve the most powerful structure and capability you can from the resources given to you — or go. I am satisfied that the future size and structure of the British army, coupled with future technological advances, will provide the enhanced capability that all serving soldiers seek. The Army Board’s duty is to ensure our army’s capability and ethos up to some two decades ahead, and it is my duty to lead the Board in so doing. That process involves change, inevitably an uncomfortable process but one which if not grasped would indeed lead to a ‘grave threat to the army’s warfighting capability’. It is by moving on that we avoid Bruce Anderson’s grave threat; standing still is likely to realise that threat. Space regrettably precludes me from discussing the balance between ‘boots on the ground’ and new technology — suffice it to say, we must embrace both.

    In conclusion, I thank Bruce Anderson for his unqualified acknowledgement of the British army’s reputation; he may rest assured that my purpose, along with that of the other members of the Army Board, is to maintain, indeed to improve, that reputation — earned as it is only partly by generals but very much more so by the indomitable spirit, commitment and good humour of the British soldier, to whom I pay unqualified tribute.
  12. In fact this doesn't appear to be a response to the article that Gallowglass found, but both good articles in their own way!
  13. LOL this is my nomination for the most shambolic thread. :lol:

    Here is the FULL Spectator article by CGS, in reply to the piece by Bruce Anderson

  14. LOL Kermit you got your edit in before me. :lol: :roll: