Soldier Magazine - "Beards Letter"

#1
Just read the first letter in the talkback section of Mar edition of Soldier magazine which was submitted by a member of our glorious Corps and I have one thing to say:

"Quality" :)

Letter of the week for me, shame there aren't more people prepared to stand up and say it how it is!
 
#3
Just read the first letter in the talkback section of Mar edition of Soldier magazine which was submitted by a member of our glorious Corps and I have one thing to say:

"Quality" :)

Letter of the week for me, shame there aren't more people prepared to stand up and say it how it is!
Ah I see you are applying the Alternate Corp Motto! "I'm Alright Jack" put a fcuking link up, mutter, mutter. wheres the kettle.
 
#4
It is fairly short so posted in full below:

Chindits comparison is comical

WHILE on Exercise Bright Star in Egypt in 1997, Maj Gen Tim Evans – then a major – put on a fantastic comparison of life in the desert for a 1940s’ Infantry section and a contemporary unit.
Putting aside the continual German hail of mortars, the striking fact was that the men of yesteryear were expected to cook, drink and shave with a single canteen of water a day.
Latterly, I have eaten pizza at Camp Bastion and been on numerous smooth shaved shuras outside the wire. In both cases I did not see any hardships equal to those suffered by Monty’s men. I did, however, see plenty of poor turnout.
If the anonymous SNCO from February’s issue, “Focus on beards causes irritation”, thinks life on Op Herrick is in any way similar to life on Op Longcloth – carried out by the Chindits – he is poorly informed and it is a shameless comparison.
I support the view of the nameless female officer, “Cut back on the beard growing” (December), who I hope was as forthright face-to-face with the soldiers in question as she was when writing anonymously to Soldier.
In addition, I wonder what century the “Right Reverend” WO1 Owens (Talkback, February) is from; being so conclusive of a female’s or anyone else’s role within the modern deployed force.
I offer both WO1 Owens and the nameless SNCO a big hanky straight from the men of the conscript 8th and 14th Armies to stop them crying into their historically- and operationally-questionable facial hair.
Those in charge at all levels should re-evaluate hardship, austerity and be honest about the cultural credibility of a beard. The fashion for going unshaven and looking scruffy out of context is quite simply weak leadership
 
#5
I think that if you've just come back from a fairly long patrol and you are unshaven in some godforsaken patrol base then fine, but if your mincing round bastion eating icecream and complaining about the air conditioning then beards and sidies should be crushed with an iron fist.

In fact im about to get more ironing boards sent into theatre.
And starch.
 
#7
I think the writer is still serving. He recounts a description he heard in 1997 by Maj Gen Tim Evans of life as an 1940's infantryman in the desert to make the point that in conditions of greater austerity they still managed to have a shave unlike some people who posted vitriolic replies to a letter complaining about the prolifertaion of facial hair in less arduous conditions and tried to compare service in Camp Bastion to that endured by the Chindits:

Chindits Special Force Burma 1943-1944
 
#8
I support the view of the nameless female officer, “Cut back on the beard growing” (December), who I hope was as forthright face-to-face with the soldiers in question as she was when writing anonymously to Soldier.
At last - something human rights and equal opportunities can't legislate for.

I'm still waiting for the first female Pioneer Sgt in an infantry bn to complain about being made to wear a false beard...

Oh yes, FWIW - the only beards I saw during Op Corporate were those worn by the navy. The SSM at 5 Bde Sig Sqn insisted that all ranks shaved when they had the opportunity. Most other units did as well. You would frequently see a few days stubble underneath the cam cream during particularly inclement weather but as soon as people had a chance to wash and clean up they shaved.

The local water might have been unfit to drink but is was OK to wash in IIRC. Even the Argies shaved FFS - although the mexican bandit moustache seemed very popular.

Rodney2q
 
#9
Has anyone else noticed that it's mainly women who are pogomophobic? Maggie T was famously so, perhaps it's, as R2Q suggests, a bit of penis envy. I can't grow one so you can't. Mind you, in Maggie's case I'm sure she could have grown one if she set her mind to it.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
Latterly, I have eaten pizza at Camp Bastion and been on numerous smooth shaved shuras outside the wire. In both cases I did not see any hardships equal to those suffered by Monty’s men. I did, however, see plenty of poor turnout.
If the anonymous SNCO from February’s issue, “Focus on beards causes irritation”, thinks life on Op Herrick is in any way similar to life on Op Longcloth – carried out by the Chindits – he is poorly informed and it is a shameless comparison.
Where the good Major's argument falls down is in his/her assumption that their experience of serving in Afghanistan is equally typical for those that did not shave every day whilst in theatre. He/she is a Major in the R.Signals who was based at Bastion. Having served as an Infantryman in Patrol Bases where we were rationed to 5 litres of water a day on, I concur that we had a far better deal than the Chindits could have hoped for. I would also point out that for those of us in the PBs and more remote FOBs, shaving was a sometimes thing dependent on the availability of water and eating Pizzas just wasn't an option. The fact that neither the Major, nor the "female officer" can understand why their attitudes grate so much, is in itself telling.
 
#12
Well my twopeneth is that I see beards in Afghan as a cultural thing. The local's think men have beards and boys don't and we know what they like to do with their boys! If a big hairy face adds credibility then so be it.
On my OPTAG the Afghan they brought in to provide some cultural background said that beard or not, Afghans still regarded us as foreigners. The growing of a beard added no credibility whatsoever.

In Bastion on H9 they rapidly enforced a shaving policy (stand fast RN with permission to grow a full set) and, later, wearing of headgear.

Edited to add - FOBs and PBs are, of course, a completely different matter.
 
#13
It is fairly short so posted in full below:

Chindits comparison is comical

WHILE on Exercise Bright Star in Egypt in 1997, Maj Gen Tim Evans – then a major – put on a fantastic comparison of life in the desert for a 1940s’ Infantry section and a contemporary unit.
Putting aside the continual German hail of mortars, the striking fact was that the men of yesteryear were expected to cook, drink and shave with a single canteen of water a day.

Latterly, I have eaten pizza at Camp Bastion and been on numerous smooth shaved shuras outside the wire. In both cases I did not see any hardships equal to those suffered by Monty’s men. I did, however, see plenty of poor turnout.
If the anonymous SNCO from February’s issue, “Focus on beards causes irritation”, thinks life on Op Herrick is in any way similar to life on Op Longcloth – carried out by the Chindits – he is poorly informed and it is a shameless comparison.
I support the view of the nameless female officer, “Cut back on the beard growing” (December), who I hope was as forthright face-to-face with the soldiers in question as she was when writing anonymously to Soldier.
In addition, I wonder what century the “Right Reverend” WO1 Owens (Talkback, February) is from; being so conclusive of a female’s or anyone else’s role within the modern deployed force.
I offer both WO1 Owens and the nameless SNCO a big hanky straight from the men of the conscript 8th and 14th Armies to stop them crying into their historically- and operationally-questionable facial hair.
Those in charge at all levels should re-evaluate hardship, austerity and be honest about the cultural credibility of a beard. The fashion for going unshaven and looking scruffy out of context is quite simply weak leadership
My bold. Out of interest how big was a WW2 canteen of water? I dont know but I doubt it was much more than 2 pints. Has human biology changed over the last 70yrs? If not (which I suspect it hasnt) I would have thought that 2 pints would have been fatally insufficient regardless of what job you are doing. So is this a case of the facts being lost in the mists of time? If so (which I suspect it is) it is an invalid comparison.

Secondly, saying that you are living in Bastion and that you had no problem being clean shaven is like saying that you are sitting in a pub and there is no problem getting a beer!

People just need to be realistic about this, if you live on Bastion there is no need to swan around with the 'fob look'. If you have been on the ground for a length of time then the '24hrs grace' period to sort your appearance out is plenty.

BTW, has anyone asked the yocals what significance they attach to beards on UK soldiers?
 
#14
Well my twopeneth is that I see beards in Afghan as a cultural thing. The local's think men have beards and boys don't and we know what they like to do with their boys! If a big hairy face adds credibility then so be it.
Although the fact that few ANA officers or soldiers - except slightly nuttily strong muslims - sport beards is telling in itself.

Also, I take your point RP, but suspect that Major & "female officer" weren't expressing their annoyance at guys in remote FOBs not shaving - their allusion to Pizzas isn't an indication of their naievity but their target audience.

A lot of ARRSErs are too quick to take offence on the scruffiness issue...

Charlie
 
#15
In reply to RP578 "Where the good Major's argument falls down is in his/her assumption that their experience of serving in Afghanistan is equally typical for those that did not shave every day whilst in theatre."


I'm not sure I agree with you there. The 'good Major' simply points out that in Bastion he enjoyed relative comfort and attended shuras outside the wire clean-shaven. He seems to be talking about other people in Bastion who feel the need to be scruffy and unshaven in the same context, not making assumptions about service anywhere else (PBs/FOBS etc). His last sentence is a giveaway "The fashion for going unshaven and looking scruffy out of context is quite simply weak leadership".

The averagely intelligent readers amongst us will see the implicit meaning that there are therefore contextually appropriate times to be unshaven.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#16
Although the fact that few ANA officers or soldiers - except slightly nuttily strong muslims - sport beards is telling in itself.

Also, I take your point RP, but suspect that Major & "female officer" weren't expressing their annoyance at guys in remote FOBs not shaving - their allusion to Pizzas isn't an indication of their naievity but their target audience.

A lot of ARRSErs are too quick to take offence on the scruffiness issue...

Charlie
Charlie, who else could it have been aimed at? It's not as if the support troops at Bastion would get the chance to grow a beard surely. Just like back in Garrison, their NCOs would take them to task as soon as they turn up for morning parade/beginning of their shift. I do agree that the cultural significance of wearing a beard is minimal to naff-all.
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
His last sentence is a giveaway "The fashion for going unshaven and looking scruffy out of context is quite simply weak leadership".

The averagely intelligent readers amongst us will see the implicit meaning that there are therefore contextually appropriate times to be unshaven.
And the above 'averagely intelligent' reader would note that the absence of a comma after the word scruffy implies that the qualifier applies to scruffiness alone and not to going unshaven.

More to the point, and as per my reply to CC above, in what circumstance could a soldier based at Bastion turn up for work unshaven? I only passed through that base to arrive and leave theatre, but during my brief stays, I never once saw any soldier cutting about unshaven. Even those of us transiting through and fresh from a PB managed to get squared away at least with a shave, if not a haircut, with in the first few hours.

Further, the letter was in direct reply, and indeed rebuttal, to two SNCOs who had detailed the situations when shaving was not possible, which included being stuck in forward areas with a limited water supply. His dismissal of their arguments would imply that he does not agree that such exemptions are valid. My own experience leads me to disagree with him.
 
#18
Just a point. The logistics chain for WW2 and Afghanistan are poles apart.
Getting water resup to the front in Africa would of been a lot more straight forward (easier?) than in Afghan, not to mention to scale of the loggy effort in comparison to today's shoestring SH/CLP dependency.
It's no wonder they could afford to be clean shaven in the old days.

And on a personnal note. When i deployed on the ground it was with a toothbrush paste and SMALL electric shaver so as not to use valuble water which had to be humped along with the tacsat,HPW and HF set i was carrying.
 
#19
The points made above about the cultural effect of the beard are spot on. Most Afghans think that all soldiers are foreign and, more to the point, all from America. If you can't speak their language it is irrelevant where you come from.

The beard, to an Afghan, is a sign of maturity - it is a matter of comedy between Afghan males if a teenager/young man cannot grow a beard. But it is not the end of the world and some choose not to. Growing a beard to attend a shura will not cut one a better deal or negotiate a smoother ride. There are people that may feel it necessary to sport a beard to look as Afghan as possible - 'nuff said.

So in Holiday Camp Bastion there really is no reason to catwalk a beard; in FOBs or PBs there may be for water-rationing reasons.

How do I know all of this?

Because I discussed at length with some Afghans once in their own language.

I didn't sport a beard.

G
 

ugly

LE
Moderator
#20
The water bottle was a 2 pinter, however the 14th army carried chaggles which were used first. Obviously if you are going into battle with rifle, grenades, bandoliers of ball and a couple of bren mags then you may sweat less than 2011 trooper with his body armour but thirst is thirst and I suspect that whilst properly acclimatised troops could survive on 2 pints every 24 hours no one would want to and the section brews were made from water carried in flimsies in the section/pln transport.
Maybe the General should read quartered safe out here?
I certainly recall on ops not shaving or making brews and living of very little in an OP as there was no way to cook being too close to the target. You do learn to live with it but on return to the nearest SF base a shave was always in order! Mind you a lot colder and wetter there!
 
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