Times article - God help our poor bloody soldiers

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by hansvonhealing, Dec 10, 2006.

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  1. Welcome words...
    The Sunday Times
    December 10, 2006

    God help our poor bloody soldiers
    Minette Marrin

    In China under Mao Tse-tung the families of condemned men were forced to pay for the bullet that would kill their father or their son. I was reminded of that exquisite little cruelty by the government’s confession last Monday that the bereaved families of troops killed in Iraq have been forced to pay hundreds of pounds to get access to the official records of their children’s deaths.
    These documents are freely available to the army and to the coroner, but shocked and grieving families had to find the money. Apparently these large sums were to cover the cost of photocopying done by the coroner’s officials; one man had to pay £600. It is not enough, clearly, to sacrifice one’s husband or child: one has to pay to learn about their deaths. Harriet Harman said she was “surprised”.

    It would be nice to think that this was an unusual error — a bureaucratic blip — and that the armed forces and their families are normally treated with the respect and gratitude they deserve. Not so. In fact the way that servicemen and women are treated is almost an object lesson in how to mismanage and demoralise what was once one of the greatest military forces in the world. This has been obvious for a long time but we seem to have reached some sort of tipping point.

    The newly retired General Sir Mike Jackson emerged from years of discretion to say on Wednesday in his Dimbleby lecture that our armed forces are underpaid, under-equipped and poorly housed; they are shabbily treated and absurdly overstretched, attempting impossible tasks with inadequate means. We do not offer enough of our treasure for their blood.

    Many people think he should have said this while he was still in charge of the army; the internet is awash with comments from angry soldiers. “Shame he didn’t remember this stuff before he started drawing his pension,” said one. “Too late to go grubbing about for credibility — now we’re four infantry battalions down . . . and have lost the regimental system for the infantry . . . you hypocritical old wino,” said another.

    One could argue that despite his duty of discretion he should in extreme circumstances have spoken out, as has Sir Richard Dannatt, his brave successor. For these are extreme circumstances. Even though this country is involved in two difficult wars, there seems to be a cultural agreement in Whitehall that our troops can be fobbed off with second or third best. According to John Keegan, the military historian, there is an anti-military clique in the Treasury.

    Gordon Brown must answer for this; it was the chancellor who personally took part in cutting the army’s infantry battalions at a time when infantry was urgently needed to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But generally, too, there seems to be a remarkable lack of understanding or sympathy for the armed forces.

    If the government had deliberately set out to demoralise them and undermine recruitment it could hardly have done a better job. Only a couple of weeks ago the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had to admit that it had supplied British soldiers in Afghanistan with duff ammo. Shortly after our charming prime minister had been out to schmooze the troops fighting the Taliban, it emerged that they had been sent cheap and defective machinegun bullets made in Pakistan or the Czech Republic instead of the usual more expensive stuff. These cheap bullets kept jamming their machineguns during heavy fighting. British soldiers had to scrounge rounds from the Canadians and Americans. It was only when the Paras kicked up a fuss that anything was done.

    Then there was the body armour scandal of 2003. The government sent troops into Iraq without enough enhanced body armour, having ignored requests from the army for two months. Sergeant Steven Roberts was killed by bullets on the fifth day of the invasion; he had selflessly given his own body armour to a colleague because there was not enough for everyone in his regiment. With body armour he would have survived. It has taken three years for the MoD to accept liability. Such prevarication only adds insult to bereavement.

    The same goes for the delay in holding inquests into army deaths. There is, incredibly, a backlog going back to 2003, meaning that families have to wait years for an account of what happened.

    One hardly knows where to begin with the substandard treatment offered to the armed forces. Dannatt has been bold enough to speak about this. So many military hospitals have been closed (largely under the Conservatives) that servicemen and women have to go into civilian wards and take their chances. One wounded paratrooper in uniform was screamed at by a Muslim visiting a patient. “You have been killing my Muslim brothers in Afghanistan,” he shrieked at a man who should have been enjoying a hero’s welcome. Another wounded soldier was told to remove his uniform for fear of “offending” anyone.

    Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff, has reported claims that wounded soldiers face long delays on general National Health Service waiting lists and poor aftercare. This lack of respect is astonishing. If anyone has been brave enough to risk death and injury in the service of our country, the least we could do is to provide top-quality specialised hospital care in dedicated military hospitals or wards, as the Americans do. We don’t.

    As for what servicemen and women are paid, it is pitiful: £1,000 a month is hardly an incentive to risk your life in Iraq. And it is pointless perhaps to compare the derisory £2,400 bonuses offered to combat troops with the £41m paid to MoD civil servants over the past four years. As for what service families live in, it can in many cases only be called slum housing — “frankly shaming” as Jackson said. Our government — and our society — cannot seriously be bothered with our armed forces.

    This is not just wrong. It is decadent. For if we lack the will to defend ourselves, or rather to defend those who are there to defend us and to fight for us, then we are simply rolling over to display the soft underbelly of decadence to the world’s predators and scavengers. Those who think that our armed forces don’t matter will soon discover that other people’s do.

  2. Thank you Minette - what a great article.

    However, it will be read and largely ignored by the apathetic bl00dy mass in Whitehall over breakfast, minds full of strategems and plots to secure their next unearned pay rise.

    They won't give a sh!t about us until terrorism visits their front door, threatening their families. And even then they'll find something else to whine about.

    But by then I won't care about this country. I'm emigrating to a country where they look after their soldiers, give them excellent housing, and their healthcare needs are more then adequately provided for. Kit's not too bad either. By the way Britain - thanks for the millions of pounds my military education has cost you - shame you aren't going to get the full-life benefit of it.

    I will look on the continued implosion of this wretched selfish country with its disgraceful politicians (of all colours) with much pleasure.
  3. You've takent the words right out of my mouth......... And said them better than I could.

    My grandmother, who passed away this summer (RIP), was an old war bride, who married a canadian soldier after surviving the blitz, and moved to Canada. Not long after I had joined the British Army (a move she was immensely proud of BTW), I asked her ' Do you ever miss England?'.

    Her reply says it all:
    'No, not in the least, it's just not the same country anymore'.

    Sorry if this was off topic.
  4. Thanks for producing this article. As a 'blinkered fool' I will not knowingly do anything that could enhance the Murdoch profit line.
    The part I thought most interesting highlighted the blight in the government that has been evident for most of the past nine years or so, namely - two leaders. At least two men looking in different directions and both at the 'controls'.
    One, a misguided feather-weight attempting to be a 'player' on the world stage, whilst simultaneously destroying the fabric of his nation.
    The other a surly anchorite permitting spending only on matters that he personally approves of and being apparently out of the prime minister's control.
    It is not only Defence that suffers.
    The NHS has serious problems that are firstly denied by Hewitt, surely the Labour equivalent of Virginia Bottomley, and secondly 'solved' by throwing more billions at them.
    It will not only be 'poor bloody soldiers' but poor bloody everyone when Brown takes over officially.
    As I've said before, North Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe are looking quite inviting!
  5. Thanks for that HVH.... I'm a bit confused though... I'm not used to reading the truth in the papers.
  6. You describe the destruction of the fabric of this country Lsquared - I thought I should remind You of how things were under the previous administration, where the fabric of buildings (hospitals and schools) were ignored by the government, where waiting lists for most operations could be measured in years and AandE had people hanging around on trolleys for days.

    Now let us examine the wonderful world of the military under the previous government under which I served for half its misadministration. Where in training I was shown a sectioned barrel of an SMG that had seven rounds jammed into it because of defective ammunition. Where movements of ground vehicles had to be sanctioned by the Quartermaster himself because the army had run out of money for everything but ticking over, and where troops were going into a combat areas with flack jackets that were 20 years old. A government that brought out a vehicle that wasn't fit for purpose (wheels were cheaper than tracks) refused armour on the grounds that it was too expensive and instead brought in a upgraded version of the existing tank - where the pack STILL failed too often. And I'm not even going to mention the SA80

    Gosh, isn't this familiar.

    And now lets talk about the conflict that this previous government faught, the Falklands. Troops going into an antartic theatre with temperate clothing, the whole of the army having plastic socks and cardboard boots that gave the army trench foot. Where the helicopters sent with the task force were on the edge of obsolesence, missiles so old they were in danger of failing - and all the while had the the latest helicopter with up to date missiles ready to go at four hours notice. Lets get on to operations - Goose Green. Sending a body of men on a humongous tab and then fighting a major battle at the end of it - UNSUPPORTED by artillery, aricraft or ships guns. Arguabley so that Thatcher could boast a quick victory. That the boys did it says more about the tenacity and courage of the airbrone than the wisdom of government.

    Collapse of CofC - I give You Inge. Lack of some equipment - I show You Just in Time. Loss of Infantry Regiments - Options for change. Loss of County regiments - it has always been so, from the Angllian Regiment to the Light Infantry (or You could even check out the Cardwell reforms of two centuries ago)
  7. chrisg46

    chrisg46 LE Book Reviewer

    Wellington called the british infantry, the scum of the earth. i suggest, we change that to politicians...
  8. What exactly is your point Sven?
    I have read your post a lot.
    I think its that the Army and NHS are always treated poorly no matter which government is in charge.

    Personally I thought it was an excellent article condemning both the government of the day and the previous one for all manner of mistakes.
  9. Often half quoted, and without the context in which it was quoted - I suggest that if You want to quote Nosey then You read Elizabeth Longdens 'Wellington, Years of the Sword'
  10. You are Tony Blair, aren't you?

  11. Are these things I quote not true??? Did I dream the years of stoppages on the ranges, driving through Belfast with protection that would have caused me more damage than if I hadn't been wearing it, stagging on at Bikini Alpha with five rounds in my mag. So I didn't watch our armour being limited to three miles travelling per month for seven months.

    You are David Cameron aren't You


    Or perhaps Rupert Murdoch
  12. Hang on - I might be on to something here...

    Lets look at the pattern: Whole Fleet Management, Public-Private Partnerships, commercialisation of Housing maintainance (MODern Housing Problems), contractorisation of Operational support (Iraq)....

    Can you see it yet? Lets privatise the Forces!! Sure, the RAF could be taken over by Virgin, the Navy already has half a commercial fleet (RFAs etc). So, bets on who is taking over the Army? Even better, if you split it into component parts, it'll be easier to sell... R Signals to EADS, RLC to Eddie Stobart, RE to Balfour Beatty etc. Only problem would be the RAMC, as previously mentioned the Gov'y have already given up all the military hospitals and the (privatised) NHS Trusts wouldn't touch it with a 10' barge pole.

    So, who wants what bit, and how much will you pay? ;)

  13. You forget DERA to .......

    Oh, its already happened.

    I quite agree, there are some things that shouldn't be privatised or ever have been privatised - armed services provision or utilities
  14. Sven, I think the main point is that this administration have had enough years to sort out the mess, which they have failed to do. In fact, I would suggest that they have made things so much worse
  15. Sven,

    You have no idea who I am or what I do - or what has and continues to motivate me - or not.

    Noise down.