Silence is golden – on the frontline

Sometimes it's not good to talk. Thoughts?

Postcards from the trenches are as dead as the conscripts who wrote them. British troops take their mobiles to the frontline now - and each is allowed 20 minutes a week over a secure line. But while the technology has revolutionised servicemen's lives, it has thrown up new problems. According to reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, telephonic proximity to loved ones can affect a soldier's morale. Homesickness is more easily engendered - as is a dip in spirits - when partners ring to complain that they feel abandoned and isolated.

This is not entirely the women's fault. If both sides frequently talk on mobiles - even when not separated - they are put under extra stress when this becomes impossible. "Sometimes soldiers go out of contact", says one army wife. "You miss a call, you can't return it and you jump to all sorts of dreadful conclusions". Also, hiding feelings can be difficult - especially for children. One mother decided to stop her son speaking to his serving father, so upsetting was the experience to both. Another army wife claims to have found the solution in text messages: "I could let him know when I needed him to contact me. And when there was trouble, he could let me know he was okay and that he wouldn't be calling, as comms were down."

You get the feeling that the MOD would prefer it if the troops could only text. A spokesman already describes the free and secure call allocation as "generous". But since soldiers are "entitled and allowed" to take their mobiles with them, he continues, "We do advise them not to use their phones and certainly not to buy local SIM cards."

Sometimes, he implies, it's not so good to talk...
"Postcards from the trenches are as dead as the conscripts who wrote them"

I can feel a letter to the editor coming about bad taste.

As for 20 minutes a week as generous!!

I need a brew

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