• This is a stand-to for an incoming competition, one of our most expensive yet.
    Later this week we're going to be offering the opportunity to Win £270 Rab Neutrino Pro military down jacket
    Visit the thread at that link above and Watch it to be notified as soon as the competition goes live

Soldiers must be persuaded their sacrifices are worthwhile

oldbaldy

LE
Moderator
#1
Almost every week, in a remote corner of the main British military base at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, a small group of soldiers gathers to pay their last respects to one of their fallen comrades.

A simple wooden coffin, draped with the Union flag, is placed on a trestle table as the pastor says a few simple prayers. One of the more popular intonations is taken from St Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuit founder. "To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and to ask for no reward."
advertisement

The coffin is then gently lifted on to a Hercules aircraft for the long repatriation flight home, to be followed by a private family funeral in the fallen hero's home town or village.

More than 250 British military personnel have lost their lives since combat operations began in Iraq and Afghanistan six years ago, but the fatalities tell only part of the story.

For every soldier killed or injured in action, scores more return home traumatised by the horrific scenes they have witnessed while fighting to protect their homeland from attack by Islamic militants.

As Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, poignantly observed when I interviewed him this week: "The young people on operations have seen things and had experiences that no one else of any age, let alone their age, who has not been through some form of conflict has experienced.

"It is inevitable when people come back from intense conflict that they have a sense that people don't really understand what they have been through."

It is this lack of understanding that has put the covenant between the Armed Forces and the nation they serve under increased strain. Recent opinion polls show that the vast majority of the public are immensely proud of our troops, even if they do not necessarily support the wars they are fighting.

Recent improvements in their equipment and battlefield medical care have helped to raise morale, but the response from an uncomprehending public, who have no conception of the horrors they have witnessed in combat, still makes it difficult to come to terms with life back home, once the adrenalin rush of killing Taliban and Iraqi insurgents is over.

Sir Jock speaks from experience. His father served in the Second World War. "To his dying day he remained enormously proud of his association with the regiment: he went to all the reunions," he recalled. "But equally to his dying day, he never said a word to us about what he actually did in the war."

It is this profound understanding of the effects intense combat can have on the determined young men and women fighting to protect us from the diabolical designs of Islamic terror groups that drives Sir Jock to concentrate much of his professional energy towards improving the lot of service personnel, whether by raising accommodation standards or making sure they get sufficient rest between deployments.

The other major concern is that the sacrifices made by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan do not go to waste.

Sir Jock, 57, a former RAF fighter pilot, is quietly upbeat about the progress being made in southern Iraq, where the British military has been administering four southern provinces since Saddam Hussein's overthrow in 2003. Three provinces have been returned to Iraqi control and Basra, the fourth and largest, is due to be handed over next month.

The fledgling security forces have proved adept since the last British battle group withdrew from the city centre in September. There are signs that Shia groups are more prepared to engage in the political process rather than using violence as their default position, despite Iran's continuing efforts to cause trouble.

Sir Jock believes the Iraqis are tiring of Iranian meddling: "The people of Basra have very strong nationalistic tendencies. They want to be their own people, and they do not want to be beholden to anyone else - including the Iranians."

Military commanders have every reason to hope the political and security situation stabilises, as that would allow a significant draw-down in the British force from around 5,000 troops to 2,500 next spring. This would provide the Army, which has suffered severe overstretch in recent years, with the extra manpower to allow returning soldiers a proper rest after the rigours of combat.

For that to happen, though, it was crucial that the Iraqis made progress on resolving their differences at a national level, and to capitalise on the benefits brought by the success of the US military's surge, and the six-month ceasefire by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army.

"The government of Iraq has a great opportunity," said Sir Jock. "But it has to be seized, and my judgment at the moment is that the seizing has not yet begun."

Sir Jock also said he was disappointed that other Nato member states were not prepared to commit troops that would ease the demands on front-line troops from Britain, Canada, Holland and Denmark.

And he reiterated his opinion that the conflict in Afghanistan could not be won by military action alone, and that there needed to be "a political and developmental framework" that would enable ordinary Afghans to take advantage of the hard-won military gains in the south. "We need to make sure these sacrifices have been worthwhile," he said.

With so much going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the turf wars in Whitehall to ensure the defence budget is fully funded, it is clear that Sir Jock has little appetite for opening up a new military front against Iran, even if his political masters desired.

"I don't think it would be sensible to rule anything out at this stage, but not ruling things out is not the same as ruling them in. We do not carry out military action for the sake of carrying out military action."

Sir Jock, for one, wants no one to be any doubt that war, whether in Iraq or Iran, should be the last resort, not the first.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/11/16/do1602.xml
 
#2
Almost every week, in a remote corner of the main British military base at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, a small group of soldiers gathers to pay their last respects to one of their fallen comrades.
Yeah, try 2500 soldiers, not so small.

It's quite depressing in Bastion, seeing the chinooks flying over our heads at the Engineer yard and on to the medial HLS. At least 2 a day, as many as 5 as I can remember. I remember LCpl Violini saying the same thing, a few days later, it was him that was being flown in, and we attened his 'ramp service' a few days after that. Not expecting the unexpected was my lesson that week.
 
Z

Zarathustra

Guest
#3
I think most soldiers know that the sacrifices we make are worth while. You know why your there when you've cleared an area of Taliban and the families come back to the village. the elders are talking and having a joke with you and are not afraid to talk to you for fear of revenge attacks from the Taliban.

It's the fact that when you return, most people don't care/ know. Some units had parades exercising the freedom of various cities, some like ours got back and had some banners put up around Aldershot by the council.

But, why should the average person on the street care when i service man/woman is killed on Operations? It doesn't affect them at all, it has no impact on their life, and the news usually gets relegated to page 8 behind such important news items such as Jordans new tits and the latest person to get kicked of Spaz Factor.

Of course you have the people who give you dirty looks for wearing uniform in public or give you snide remarks, but thats for a different thread.
 
#4
It is disgusting that no one cares when we're figting in to major conflicts and British soldiers and being killed. And loads injured every week.
 
Z

Zarathustra

Guest
#6
Fallschirmjager said:
crow_bag said:
I think most soldiers know that the sacrifices we make are worth while.
Give your head a wobble.
Fair enough, but i would say getting injured/killed for your mates is worth while.

But then again i also think, that helping the people of Afghanistan is worht while. Although thats either the pain killers, or, i've being paying to much attention to the OC
 
#7
crow_bag said:
Fair enough, but i would say getting injured/killed for your mates is worth while.
Getting killed is not a worthwhile past time. If we die fighting alongside our muckers then so be it. Shit happens. I'd not class it as worthwhile though. Getting killed is quite shit i'd imagine!

If you could ask any of the millions of soldiers that have died whether they would rather be dead in the knowledge that they just may have saved the life of one of their mates or would they rather be alive and take the chance that their mates wouldn't have died anyway i'd bet a tenner 99% would go for option B.
 
#8
crow_bag said:
I think most soldiers know that the sacrifices we make are worth while. You know why your there when you've cleared an area of Taliban and the families come back to the village. the elders are talking and having a joke with you and are not afraid to talk to you for fear of revenge attacks from the Taliban.

It's the fact that when you return, most people don't care/ know. Some units had parades exercising the freedom of various cities, some like ours got back and had some banners put up around Aldershot by the council.

But, why should the average person on the street care when i service man/woman is killed on Operations? It doesn't affect them at all, it has no impact on their life, and the news usually gets relegated to page 8 behind such important news items such as Jordans new tits and the latest person to get kicked of Spaz Factor.

Of course you have the people who give you dirty looks for wearing uniform in public or give you snide remarks, but thats for a different thread.
This has almost always been the case. As long as we have a small professional service population most of the country is unafected by military casualties.

Why do you think it took WWI to get a whole lot of war memorials?

There is a good reason why the world wars hit the public conscience and that is because almost everyone was affected by the losses. Also the whole poulation went through blackouts, shortages etc. There was a feeling of "we are all in it together". That was one hell of a big difference to other wars Britain has fought.

Having said all that I think most of the public do care. Or at least a very large minority do. It seemed to me that far more people wore poppies this year and atended remembrance services. That is entirely subjective though and I may be misstaken.
 
#9
I think many of the public don't care one way or the other. Not that i'm saying that's a bad thing. If a policeman is killed in the line of duty then to be honest it doesn't affect me, i don't dwell on it and i see it as an unfortunate incident which comes with the job. To be perfectly honest this goes the same with soldiers unless i personally know them.
 

Similar threads

Top