Monday, 13 July 2009


As an ex-infantryman, I have been un-impressed with this Labour Government's blatant incompetence and hypocrisy concerning its Armed Forces in recent years and failed to get excited about the Government inspired Armed Forces Day last month, whilst British lives continue to be lost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan due to penny-pinching policies.
Casualties are the hazard that those at the 'sharp-end' accept and we should not become too emotional as the media uses the corteges from Lyneham to bring home the stark reality of the price being paid by servicemen closing with the enemy. What the media ignores however are the non-fatal casualties ( 3 severely wounded per one death is a conservative figure).
The present generation has forgotten the IRA successful double IED booby trap ambush at Warrenpoint that killed 18 soldiers including Lt Col david Blair and a Saracen APC on an Armagh country lane rendered to bits of scrap metal , killing 4 RGJ soldiers, when a large culvert bomb was detonated under it. The Brigade Commander of 3 Inf Bde was able to stop all military vehicle movement in South Armagh and then in his whole country-wide TAOR because he had helicopter resources. If I remember, his thinking was that giving the IRA a local tactical success and the resultant publicity, by killing his soldiers so easily through IEDs was just unacceptable.
Whilst readers listen to the posturing of Brown, Milliband or The Defence Secretary try and remember that this Government went ahead in 2003 with the biggest cut to Infantry Battalions the Army has seen in the past 40 years whilst committing the Armed Forces to Iraq and already having comitted them to Afghanistan. You will be amazed to discover as I was that last month, our Labour Government is seriously thinking about cutting another 3 Infantry Battalions and cutting back on drones, intelligence gathering equipment etc to save another £1.5 billion pounds.
Listening to Brigadier Ed Butler tonight, he argues quite correctly that we need boots on the deck occupying and holding ground. A former colleague of mine, Charles Heyman (ex Jayne's Editor and Editor of The british Armed Forces Guide) has described the present idea to cut Infantry Battalions as " stark raving mad" and "sheer lunacy".
The past few years in Helmand have seen operation after operation into areas followed by withdrawal (lack of resources to hold the ground prised from the Taliban). With the US now involved and with Afghan Government Forces coming on stream in trained numbers , hopefully this will be a thing of the past. I will not even get into details about why only now 20 Chinook helicopters are available in Afghanistan when we as a country are meant to have 80?
I leave you with an extract from a letter I received from a friend in HQ Helmand Task Force, Lashkar Gah in December 2007.
" There is hope in Afghanistan. We have the support of the majority of the population for now. There is a great deal of investment, this is countered inevitably by the corruption at all levels of Afghan life. The force levels are improving but are woefully inadequate, as you point out, for the successful prosecution of what we understand as counter insurgency. At the moment the Taliban remain technologically immature but this will change ......"
Force levels are still woefully inadequate; the Taliban is learning fast and whilst Brown et al posture and dissimulate whilst cutting Defence spending, those corteges through Wooton Bassett from RAF Lyneham will become longer and more frequent.


Anonymous said...

The same point (Parsimony, Incompetence, Cockup, Coverup)is the theme of my post here re the Deal Barracks bomb attack 1989.


In 1994 I tried to get a case into the European Court of Human Rights. I argued that Sudden Death investigation (Inquests) are part of our Article 2 commitment to protect life.

IE That rights to life can only exist when there is concurrent certainty of proper sudden death investigation.

Inquests are not subject of rights to fair trial (Article 6) which means that domestic inquests are not appealable in Europe.

I tried again in 2001 and drew up the Final Prayer of John Allen (Late Chair East Westcliff Residents Assn) to act as assurance to him at the hospice and to act as a summary of remedies I would seek in European Court of Human Rights.

I again got an inadmissibility decision but subsequently nearly all the remedies I wrote into the Final Prayer have been fulfilled or partially fulfilled.

As I understand it there was a High Court ruling in an inquest (Legal aid funding) appeal. As I understand it the Judge ruled that inquests are a necessary part of our Article 2 commitments to protect life.

We now see HM Coroners publicly examine the matter of whether life was adequately protected. THis has often put Govt under scrutiny about the quality and quantity of the equipment supplied to our forces.

If we had that culture in 1989 I would have nailed Kent Police right then for failing to act on our breach of security warnings given before the bombing of Deal Barracks.

And the tory govt and their MOD civil servant Mrs (Jack) Straw would have been asked about barracks security savings.

And in 1995 I would have nailed Kent Police for failing to act on Stage 3 OIRA sabotage warnings re the death of a child patient at Guys during failure of the hospital Petbow backup generator system (Guys was on the warning list submitted for me by Roger Evans MP)

I find it encouraging that nowadays from the inquest to the media coverage and to the public questions every life matters.

Anonymous said...

Indeed; Bertie,

Inadequate, corrupt and powerless - and that's this government.

Only Infantry soldiers and those that have served on the front line in any conflict would understand where you are coming from.

Unfortunately the MOD cannot frankly cut it these days and neither can the house!!!