News that Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace has summonsed the Army Board for a “dressing down” hit the media this week. 

Clearly his patience has worn thin over the army’s recent performance across the board and the concomitant negative press coverage as one thing after another goes wrong, and yet nobody ever takes responsibility or the blame. His exasperation has clearly boiled over, and not before time in my opinion.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines

The author, Stuart Crawford, was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. 


Let’s take a look at some of the things that are likely to feature in the Secretary of State’s collective bollocking. First and foremost in terms of seriousness are the allegations surrounding the death of Kenyan mother Agnes Wanjiru some ten years ago when she was apparently in the company of British soldiers. As the Kenyan police have now re-opened a criminal case on the matter it is effectively sub judice and I will say no more on the details. Suffice to say, however, that Chief of the General Staff Sir Mark Carleton-Smith has said he is “appalled” by allegations that British soldiers may have been involved in her death.

Violence against women also features in the Atherton Report, the result of a Parliamentary inquiry which revealed that nearly two-thirds of women in the armed forces have experienced bullying, sexual harassment, and bullying during the course of their careers and that the British military is “failing to protect” female recruits. Sixty-two per cent of the 4,106 veterans and serving personnel who provided testimony had either witnessed or received “unacceptable behaviour”. Tellingly, the response from the MoD is still awaited.

Then consider the recent tragedy at RMA Sandhurst, where officer cadet Olivia Perk hanged herself in February 2019 because, apparently, she thought she was going to be discharged from the course on account of an alleged affair, or affairs, with two NCO instructors at the Academy. It now transpires that up to seven members of the Directing Staff there may be referred to the Services’ Prosecuting Authority for failing to carry out their duties in respect to her welfare. Aside from the niceties of senior NCO instructors having relationships with their officer cadet charges, she was by all accounts a known suicide risk. How could this possibly have been allowed to happen?

Let’s move on to equipment procurement. Words almost fail me when we look at the Ajax debacle, a litany of poor decisions by under-qualified individuals safe in the knowledge that when the sacred cows come home to roost (sic) they’ll be long gone. The recently published House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report, Improving the performance of major defence equipment contracts, makes for grim reading. According to the report, the MoD has spent nearly £4 billion of its Ajax budget by March 2021—including payments to GDUK of £3.1 billion—out of budgeted whole-life costs of £5.5 billion. It has so far received 14 vehicles, two per cent of its contractual fleet requirement.

Add to this the disastrous cancellation of the Warrior IFV upgrade programme and the pathetic decision to upgrade only 148 of the Challenger 2 fleet to Challenger 3 status and only an eternal optimist would dare assert that everything in the land equipment procurement garden is rosy. And yet they did, in front of the Select Defence Committee only a few months ago. The sight of senior officers bobbing and weaving to avoid blame and/or responsibility was not inspiring to behold. 

I was going to go in hard on our current involvement in Mali, and in particular the triumphalism that seemed, to me at least, to accompany the elimination of a couple of blokes in flip-flops on a motorbike by the overwhelming firepower of one of our mounted patrols. Announcing this on Twitter with the preface “How was your weekend?” was crass and insensitive and completely misread the mood of that medium. But I suspect this was a genuine and now regretted mistake. I’m pretty sure our boys and girls are doing a fine job out there and lack of media training shouldn’t be allowed to take the gloss off a dangerous and worthwhile mission. Enough said.

But what can we say about the fiddling of allowances by senior officers, eh? Two of them – one Major General and one Lieutenant Colonel – have been sent to the pokey over the past year for fraudulently claiming Continuation of Education Allowance (CEA) (formerly Boarding School Allowance or BSA) when they should have known better. Another Brigadier is under investigation for the same offence, which he denies. These cases, I suspect, are only the tip of the iceberg, and it has been generally known that these allowances have been abused for years. 

Why has this been allowed to happen? The answer, I’m afraid, is that those who should be chasing the current miscreants were probably guilty of doing exactly the same in their time. This has now transcended self-regulation and investigation. Arguably the Serious Fraud Office needs to be called in to investigate the depth and extent of the scandal which goes back many, many years. It will be squeaky bum time across much of Wiltshire and Dorset as historical cases begin to be investigated too. I have no sympathy. Fraud is fraud is fraud. If the cap fits, wear it. You know who you are.

All of this stuff indicates, to me at least, that the British army has rather lost its moral compass, or a chunk of it anyway if that’s possible. There will be many reasons and causes why this might have happened, but in the end the buck stops with the leadership. Senior individuals at the top of the chain of command set the tone, and if they’re found wanting – which they clearly have been – then we can’t really expect their charges to behave to a higher moral code. 

Serious questions have to be asked. Who was in charge when that girl was murdered in Kenya and where are they now? What were the officers and NCOs doing at the time? Were any parameters set for R&R or was it just a free-for-all, do-as-you-please, anarchic carnival of hedonistic indulgence? What “Values and Standards” environment at RMA Sandhurst allowed the directing staff to think it was acceptable to take advantage of a presumably vulnerable female officer cadet? Why has no senior officer shown the self-dignity and integrity to should at least part of the blame for the Ajax and other equipment fiascos? And why did brigadiers and colonels think it was OK to fiddle their allowances? 

Look at who was in charge at the time of these various fiascos and make up your own mind. There appears to be little doubt that, to paraphrase the English bard, “something is rotten in the state of the British army” and it needs immediate, firm, and decisive action to root it out. Let’s hope the Secretary of State starts that action when he meets with service chiefs next week.

Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, defence and security consultant and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in print, broadcast and online media.
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john
john
22 days ago

Nothing but complete disbandment and realignment of our forces can fix this. Those now in charge are guilty and should go.

jbpeckham
jbpeckham
22 days ago
Reply to  john

I’ve no idea what you mean by complete disbandment of our forces. There’s no way you can practically mean dismissing every one of the 200000 service personnel and building from scratch?

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago
Reply to  jbpeckham

if the services do not up their game the alalgamation of all the services will be put on the board again.the japanes model, the u.s marines could be a model to be closely looked at the canadian merger is now ironed out and a leaner, cheaper force has taken the place of the bickering constant squabbling between services has been ended.

Paul.P
Paul.P
15 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

UKMC? As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs…..

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

I don’t believe that the MoD or the politicos has ever considered fully amalgamating the three services. The Canadian experience of so doing was very poor and there has been a significant reversal of that policy in recent years.

Why would some troubles in the British Army lead to an integration decision?

There has been integration of parts of the training organisation and policy arms – that is as far as anyone wants to take integration.

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  jbpeckham

there are thousands of nepalese that go for a few hundred places in the british army if theres a dshortfall why not offer the navy?naming a sip h.m.s gurkha would bring plenty o

Airborne
Airborne
22 days ago
Reply to  john

Totally wrong, disbandment of an Army?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
22 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Guardianista stuff that.
Ridiculous.

OldSchool
OldSchool
21 days ago

Well put DM.
But we can get a laugh from such chaff at least.

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago

is it april already?!!!

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

wouldn’t happen in belgium relax

john
john
21 days ago
Reply to  john

Not the rank and file, anyone over one star in rank in all three services. Change the boys club, daddy was a general I will be one too. Retire a one-star get a two-star pension, start there.

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago
Reply to  john

too much deadwood will clog up progress for as long as it exists more admiral, generals air marshals e.t.c are the likes of wallace too scared to upset the M.O.D gravytrain?

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago
Reply to  john

the most culpale bunch are the Admiralty whose silence on navy issues baffles me

Paul.P
Paul.P
15 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

As my grandmother used to say, if you can’t say anything nice its better to say nothing at all 😉

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

ditto are we related?

Paul.P
Paul.P
12 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

It’s the sisterhood 😂
Seriously I suspect knowing when to say nothing, nod wisely and compromise has a lot to do with why RN is in better shape than the army.

Stc
Stc
22 days ago

Not in a position to disagree, but a factor maybe the way the army has been treated in terms of funding etc, I do not offer that as an excuse. But it’s human when under valued, which compared to the navy they are, to think what the hell I will get out of it what I can !

Ian M
Ian M
22 days ago

Stuart, let’s talk about your procrastination and fence sitting? No, really, a bold statement that would sit well with any serving or past soldier who believed in the British Army, it’s values and raison d’etre.

Mac
Mac
22 days ago

Starts at the top, the very top. If you listen to all the ‘management speak’ nonsense gobbledegook they now come up with every time they make a speech, you’d never think the Army is there to close with and kill the enemy, but simply an organisation more interested in ticking all the boxes to satisfy the latest social justice agenda by the online woke mob. In the event of a major war, between states, The Professional Army is there to ‘hold the line’ until a conscripted force can be whipped into shape. I doubt they could even do that right… Read more »

Nathan
Nathan
22 days ago
Reply to  Mac

I do tend to agree – going woke seems to be about managing perceptions and being seen with the right people, saying the right things and crucifying those who don’t. It looks like an external morality for display only rather than a personal conviction that drives decision making and grounds a person’s integrity. That being said – those in senior leadership positions should be re-numerated accordingly. They could walk into nearly any firm of management consultants and be paid well into six figures. There should of course be a sense of national service but this ethic shouldn’t be used to… Read more »

Swiss John
Swiss John
22 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

Rubbish. If they could walk into these mythical jobs, they would. They get a package well in excess of what the city provides for far lower deliverables, and as recently shown, accountability. A captain is on a package that just reaches 6 figures, so the rest above are coining it – They are some of the highest paid civil servants about. Of those 1*s and above who do leave and go to civvy street, for many their inability to work without a supporting team that does the heavy lifting for them is very evident and they sink or move off… Read more »

Something Different
Something Different
16 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

Perhaps the army needs to be more woke, then these sorts of alleged cases may be less likely to happen. As for that ‘lads’ culture that has existed for decades now, at least the younger generations are taught more about respect and tolerance even if that doesn’t always translate into real world behaviour.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
21 days ago
Reply to  Mac

Mac, It’s a long time since anyone discussed raising a conscript army – you must be talking about a World War. For a major Limited War, the army can deploy but in fairly small number – one or two BCTs at most and with out-of-date kit, especially AFVs and artillery. Many (especially Americans, but some Brits too) think that the British Army ‘lost’ in Afghanistan and Iraq – they would be even more likely to lose the next major regional war, some years later and with weaker force numbers and even older kit – and questionable leadership in some cases.… Read more »

Neil holdforth
Neil holdforth
21 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

I think the idea of Britain losing in Iraq and Afghanistan is more political than a failure of British military. Eg. Tony Blair not putting enough troops or equipment in, no political will to stand up to Iran in basra and cutting airforce and army size while fighting 2 wars

Jon
Jon
21 days ago
Reply to  Neil holdforth

Saddam won? I must have been asleep for that one.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Saddam lost so we won the very short war against him and his army – but we didn’t keep the peace in the years that followed. Multiple militias popped out of the woodwork and wreaked mayhem.

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

any invasion must have an exit route set out what would have happened in 1982 if the argies had been a more formidable opponent and dragged the issue on for years

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

national service, get those hoodies off the streets

Something Different
Something Different
16 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

The military is a profession not a social work scheme

Paul.P
Paul.P
15 days ago

Y’think? Only since 1963. For generations Military Service, taking the king’s shilling was the only job around for many. In the last century it was the workshop where the self esteem and respect for your fellow man was forged which drove social changes which followed both WW.

Last edited 15 days ago by Paul.P
Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

We only had conscription 1916-1920, 1939-1963. We don’t need it and couldn’t afford it now. It would dilute the quality of our armed forces.

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

there’d be nowhere to put them.

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

incoming asylum seekers or any other illegal should be required to serve this nation if they are to have any chance of staying

Paul.P
Paul.P
12 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

To be honest given the hope of a life for them and their family we have given them I think they would be happy to; and having striven against the odds to get here they have the staying power to make good recruits.

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

one oof the scandinavian nations has brought back national service should we do the same and get the ‘hoodies’ off the streets?

DJ
DJ
9 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

The best way to do national service is through the reserve forces. They are part time & you can still hold a regular job. But it still gives you the basics. How many people do you know that have never fired a firearm? The idea that wars will only now be fought by professionals is seriously flawed. How long do you think a major war between peers will fight a ‘modern’ war? Best estimate is 30-90 days, according to the very few who have seriously looked at it. After that, it’s likely that I have shot down all your missiles… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
22 days ago

Very much to the point and bang on. What happened to leading from the front and by example. I do believe it is a sign of the times however, if we look at the police force and the flack they are getting now (quite rightly) Accountability is what is needed, you should be accountable for any and all decisions made from the prime minister down to the lowest grunt any one working in a public office. Some of these people are pulling in 200k/year and still insist on cooking the books, when most of us are struggling to pay our… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago

No-one in the army is on £200k/year. A Lt Col is on £86k (on appt) and a (4*) General is on £123k – but the salary is not the issue. Much blame is being put on the most senior of officers, yet close supervision of junior ranks is exercised by warrant officers and senior NCOs and there is no criticism of them here. Having said that officers in units with problems should also shoulder some blame. The army described by Stuart is in many ways unlike the army I was in from 1975-2009, in terms of so many cases of… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Graham Moore
Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
22 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Hello Graham, I do believe that the head of the armed forces is on 200K+ a year and with rank comes responsibility, But I do agree that a discipline normally falls on the shoulders of the NCO’s but who controls the NCO’s. I do believe that the Navy have a good expression ” the ship is only as good as the captain” All that said unfortunately the armed forces of today reflect the current issues in society, with wide spread corruption, little regard for others, and dare I say a rather unhealthy drug culture. But you are right it will… Read more »

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago

theres so many to lead from the front if they had to, they’d be tripping over each other

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
20 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

You are right Andy, too many Chiefs and not enough Indians

andy reeves
andy reeves
12 days ago

been like it for years everyone knows it but nobody had the backbone to do anything about it.

Anthony Merrill
Anthony Merrill
22 days ago

I entirely agree with the comments regarding the procurement of equipment. It is no wonder defence procurement project more often than not come in late and over budget. The priority seems to be to sustain the profitability of major defence suppliers rather than delivering capability on time and on or below budget. It seems every system delivered has to be highly bespoke or subject to incessant changes during the build process which leads to colossal build costs, late delivery and huge lifecycle costs. The procurement process should be entirely focused on delivering capability quickly and efficiently. In many cases the… Read more »

john keenan
john keenan
22 days ago

Thought provoking article Stuart, makes one wonder what was happening when us “Oldies” served. The moral compass has definitely been lowered since I served although we did have one or two questionable decisions but, overall the officers I served with did have that higher “Moral Compass” and a great degree of integrity. It really is dissapointing to read some of this stuff.

I wont hold my breath waiting to see any change in the system. Thank you

andy
andy
22 days ago

too many chiefs not enough Indians and a lot of passing the buck around, it started before I left, and one of the big reasons came after options for change, Due to the Berlin wall coming down. if you did not make a certain grade or promotion in your skill set you got a brown envelope telling you to pea off your no longer wanted.

Anthony Merrill
Anthony Merrill
22 days ago

I always thought that part of leadership training within the armed forces was the willingness to take responsibility and be account able for your command whatever the circumstances or it was when I served.

Tim
Tim
22 days ago

I’m always sceptical of claims like “so and so many women have suffered bad treatment” unless there is a conviction how can it be taken serious if I asked a group of children do your brothers and sister pick on you 100% would say yes , yes I’m sure it goes on but I bet the men in the military get a far harder time than the women

AlexS
AlexS
22 days ago
Reply to  Tim

How common is hazing in British Army?

Steve
Steve
22 days ago

I suspect the summons involved drinkeepoos.

Realistically things wont’ change until we get a government that cares about anything other than PR stunts and leaked stories, i.e. never. The MOD needs to be kept accountable for its failures, but no defence minister is going to want that, as accountability would flow up to them.

It is in both parties interest to blame the previous incumbents, without specifying who, and then do nothing, knowing that they won’t be held responsible until out of office, when their replacements will blame them, but never by name

Last edited 22 days ago by Steve
JohnL
JohnL
22 days ago

I suspect the rot starts above the top, with some of the politicians in charge, many of whom may have gone to the same schools. The Army is notable for the excess of public school alumni in the senior ranks, compared to the RN and RAF.

John Hartley
John Hartley
22 days ago

I just hope nothing goes wrong with the Challenger 3 upgrade.

John Clark
John Clark
22 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

I’m sure it will John, it’s all quite simple, the military request a certain capability replacement, possibly nodding a preference in the direction of something that already exists and it would like. This then goes through the ‘Government filter’, (all common sense being ejected at this point) who pass it on to the DTI, who ensure that what the military want is discarded and set about ensuring the wheel is re-invented at maximum cost to the tax payer and grindingly slowly. This mess is then assembled into a project. Various project managers then rotate in and out every 18 months,… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

John, you are right to be sceptical but I don’t recognise the process you describe as regards an upgrade/remanufacture.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The first 2 things to go wrong are that: we are only upgrading 148 (of the 408 CR2s once delivered) and
that FOC will not be achieved until 2030 (by which time they will need an upgrade!)

peter Wait
peter Wait
14 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

The numbers are 227 m forty were scrapped in recent years. Think they are hoping to deliver in seven years !

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
22 days ago

I’ve constantly beaten the drum for UK design and manufacture of land warfare assets, principally for sovereign security. We had a well deserved name for it not that long ago. But I think we’re getting to the point where the UK Mod/Land Forces have so consistently lost the plot, to the detriment of both our critical vehicle mass and long suffering taxpayers, that we must consider utilizing products designed & future-proofed by our more land-focussed allies. Built under licence ideally, of course. There’s plenty of other military assets we’re good at (OK, surface / sub-surface principally; a natural forte), but… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
22 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

We seem to have had less of a problem when we had 5 experienced AFV manufacturers who did much of the core work in-house, such as building the hull(!). BAE Systems plc bought every company up over the years and established a monopoly- may not have been the worse thing but healthy competition was eliminated. At least BAE had deep AFV experience and appropriate facilities. How to create that competition? – wait for a US Company to set up a British off-shoot (ie a brand new company) in a fork lift truck factory in Wales, employ staff who have never… Read more »

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
21 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Yes, believe that Ch2 was originally an in house export variant? Even whilst penning the above, I had hoped that, as a last resort, maybe British lessons with regard to quality had been learnt applicable to the Welsh facilities by now i.e. pinning hope on the reports that most early issues resulted from the Spanish end. Not in fact so, Graham? Yet, apart from failures over tolerances (in this day & age?!), we do I understand have an issue summed up as ‘designing for today not tomorrow and therefore ending up supplying yesterday to the front line’. That was my… Read more »

peter Wait
peter Wait
16 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Seems ISO 9001 is more about ticking boxes that paperwork and admin rather than checking parts are being made to drawings example being nylon webbing non stretchy strap being sent as replacement for a rubber stretchy strap on large military vehicle for ten years or plastic knob that requires the spring steel insert removed and the m6 hole being drilled to m8 before being glued on for about five plus years!

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
15 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

Purely in the interests of accuracy on my Ch2 origin comment. seems more a marrying of Challenger chassis to best aspects of Vickers in house Mk7 MBT turret. Principal being addressed over erstwhile UK expertise pretty much the same, though.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

In my service days, CH was always the abbreviation for Chieftain, CR for Challenger. CR2 was not conveived of as an export tank – it was VDS’ bid for the project to replace the half-fleet of Chieftains that remained after intro of CR1. The other bidders offered Leo2 and M1 Abrams with Leclerc as a late additional bidder. VDS later offered CR2E as an export model, and I believe only Oman bought this version. Ajax – my information, all of it open source, puts most of the blame on the GD factory in Spain producing the hulls as regards the… Read more »

andy a
andy a
14 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Why dont we upgrade our platforms as the US do along its life to keep them current? money money money money.
There is no will in the UK to say to the public defence needs to be say 3% with no smoke and mirror rubbish

Graham
Graham
2 minutes ago
Reply to  andy a

We always used to. Look at how many Marks of Chieftain there were.

peter Wait
peter Wait
16 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Seems General dynamics have a history of cost overruns and a former vice president from 1985 was a fugitive in Greece and officials filed false claims for millions of dollars to US Navy. Does not seem the type of company to do business with?

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  peter Wait

That was a long time ago, but I take your point. BAE is not squeaky clean either. GDLUK was certainly the wrong company to contract with – a brand new company with little or no expertise at designing and making AFVs, no AFV-orientated premises, too much key work subbed out etc etc. Parent company GD US seems not to be interested in the problems of their UK ‘child’.

Steve R
Steve R
17 days ago
Reply to  Gavin Gordon

Should just buy 250-300 Leopard IIs instead of upgrading to Chally 3 and be done with it. Hopefully built in UK under licence but if not, shrug our shoulders and buy off the shelf.

peter Wait
peter Wait
16 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

Korean K2 is now the most advanced tank, Leopard 2 would be out of date by the time they were built.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

Bad idea. Would cost far more than upgrading 148 CR2s and you would have to retrain and re-tool all army operators and maintainers, throw away all CR2 STTE, trainers, simulators, spares etc – and buy Leo2 versions.
Plus many doubt whether the Leo2 armour protection is up to our standards – many have been destroyed in combat, often by mere militia groups.

andy a
andy a
14 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

Not politically doable to say to the public we cant build a tank.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
14 days ago
Reply to  andy a

Supposing that we’re all public nowadays, I could be easily sold on a eurotank, ’cause I like my money used efficiently, as it is comparatively by the RN.
Most are happy with the outcome of the Boxer decision, the MoD having successfully negotiated us out of it at the start, mind.

Airborne
Airborne
22 days ago

A little to much generalisation and presumption from Mr Crawford on this one. Pretty much correct (and few could find it hard to argue against) his assessment of the procurement issues. But, the Army is a segment of society, a slice of the UK pie. Yes there is a vetting process, yes there is a training period and with that comes assessment of our people’s standards and the emphasising of morality. But there will always be people who fall through the gap. Either initially or due to various reasons over an extended period of time. The silly comment about the… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
22 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

As usual, quality post.
A bit of common sense and broader perspective goes a long way and things are never as bad, or as good, as things seem.

Airborne
Airborne
22 days ago

Thanks mate, a narrative can be skewed to suit the readers perspective and to be the good old echo chamber scenario. But tell you what, did being in the police, they are currently getting hammered in the media, almost hounded and judge/jury/executed in the public media, for any perceived wrongdoing. My eldest is plod and she says this has just added yet another nail on the morale coffin! Again the vast majority of plod do their best in some of the toughest, and public, circumstances and yet again the small minority of toss pots discolour the water for the rest!… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
22 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Did should read “sod” oops 😬

russ
russ
21 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

I was “job” for 30 years and served with many ex military colleagues who were excellent cops. I know its easy to look back with rose tinted glasses but honestly, I wouldn’t join the police now. The requirement for a degree was the last straw for me (even though I’ve got one!). It certainly does not a good copper make. It sounds like the Army in particular has gone the same way and I think its an awful shame. I was brought up to respect our armed forces but like the police, the army in particular seems to be run… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  russ

Of course hardly anyone in the army needs a degree to join – that is not your point is it Russ? Many in the army view it as a job for part of one’s working life rather than a vocation – that’s sad but inevitable. Many personal integrity standards have slipped in society and this is reflected in the army. Officers fiddling allowances, females being assaulted, shaky morale, ageing and inadequate kit, unmodernised Quarters, boring tasks (car park orderly/swab carrier for the NHS etc), mediocre pay for many….. So many problems in the army – where to start, how to… Read more »

geoff
geoff
21 days ago

Hi Daniele-The British Army is in Big Trouble!!
They have all been very naughty boys!!!
ps…(and Girls, and Girls)says he hastily)😅

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
21 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Morning geoff. It’s frosty here.

geoff
geoff
21 days ago

Morning Daniele. Hope you are well. 25 degrees and overcast here. Our weather is always all over the place in Summer. We have had 40 degree Christmas lunch(!) but it can snow in the mountains(10 000 ft) any month of the year.
Cheers my friend

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
22 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Very well said. If I can say, my father served in the British and British Indian Army (Gurkhas) 1935-1945 and as I younger lad I had a very strong sense of his sense of service to King, country and others, honour, decency, leadership, consideration of others, which lasted all through his life. It was the best of British. I’m sure you know what I mean by that. I sure hope (Great) Britain doesn’t ever lose that in its society.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
22 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

How delightfully un PC.
The woke, self loathing anti British find fault with anything that moves brigade would have a fit.
I’m a lot younger than you, but agree entirely and feel the same, it’s like it’s out of fashion to feel that way.
I fear much of society has long lost it.
My wife walked out of a course for training to be a union member as the guy leading it was foaming at the mouth and would only call his nation Britain. Not GREAT Britain.
The usual suspects supporting the usual 5th columnists from you know where.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
22 days ago

Thanks for your reply. I enjoy all these posts on the UKDJ. I still think that there’s lots of good stuff happening in GB. The British people are great. Just need the leaders need to stand up.

Airborne
Airborne
22 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

Thanks Quentin, many of us think the same and make our best effort to aspire to the same! Regards.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
22 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

BTW i’m a young 58 and I’m still imprinted by the strong sense of service to (then) King and country. It might be considered old school and a bit jingoistic now but it was always broadly accepting of others too. Huge lashings of British humour mixed in with it all. I think we could “weaponise” “British humour..and take on the world, what do you reckon again ? 😂

Aethelstanthecurious
Aethelstanthecurious
21 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

I was a public servant all my career and agree about “previous” values. Whilst not uniformed I prided myself on those values only to see them ignored because they were neither novel or trendy, thankfully I retired. But to see politicians falsely claim to be public servants and what I thought to be the last bastion, the armed forces fail in this way, makes be sad and angry.
I hope Ben Wallace stays long enough to make a real difference, beyond the spin and before his corrupt colleagues sideline him because ultimately it strikes them too.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
21 days ago

You have a hell of a long short name here…which if I read it slowly I can pronounce. Good on you. There’s still good men and women around. Manybquietly going about their daily business in the background, others seen more clearly in “crisis moments”. Police, Medics, Armed Services, volunteers, even your neighbours. Managing the COVID outbreak, bush fires, floods, refugees, issues we’ve had here in Australia. They all come out to help their neighbours and others and we see the real goodness of humanity in action. It’s very moving and inspiring.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
22 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

And just to add… the British sense of humour… It’s the best…dont ever lose that! As a very “Aussiefied” Pom I’m glad the 🇦🇺 still has the 🇬🇧 in the top corner that reminds me of my and our origins and values.
Have a good Friday and weekend all from a ☕ shop here in Sydney.

geoff
geoff
21 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

Hi Quentin. My parents and myself in my teens knew many men who had served in the Indian Army and moved to the African colonies after independence in 1947. They were always VERY strict about differentiating between the Indian Army officered mainly by British career soldiers and the British Army IN India!

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
21 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Hi Geoff, Dad passed away a long time ago so I can’t remember too much as I was in my early teens. But I think back then, for a time, that the Gurkhas had just British officers. But I remember him having quite a reverence for his soldiers including his time in the British Army. Including a time when his men saved his life coming out of the jungles in Burma. I still can’t imagine how hellish that might of been for anyone. The one thing that still touches me to this day was Dad and others recollecting being left… Read more »

geoff
geoff
21 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

You must be very proud of your Dad Quentin.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
21 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Thanks Geoff, yes I was, and of many others like him who served our country and fought for a freer world. Like many others he lost a lot of mates during war. I just feel that they are a different breed who’ve been through a war and their values are very forged by it. For me the simple fact of him surviving all that has meant I now exist and for others as do all the baby boomer generation. I guess the words for it are more “grateful” and “thankful”. I think we can easily dishonour what many others have… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P
21 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

” the Army is a segment of society, a slice of the UK pie”
Spot on. The good news is that if the issues can be addressed in the army we might be able to extend them to wider society.

Airborne
Airborne
21 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

It would be a challenge for sure mate but worth the effort.

Rob
Rob
22 days ago

I don’t agree with all of the above BUT the army really does need to: Sort out it’s procurement (obviously). Improve the culture. What ever happened to ‘serve to lead.’ The writing was on the wall with Deepcut Barracks. We need to massively improve the education for promotion delivered by the AGC ETS branch so that all officers & NCOs understand they have a duty of care as well as leadership. I know people will say that is ‘woke’ and that an Army needs a ‘warrior culture’ but you can have a warrior culture as well as respect. The best… Read more »

Roger Fisher
Roger Fisher
22 days ago

I am keen to assess that the past decades has seen outstanding work, deployment, bravery and stunning action against the odds. My years in the Army saw the beginning of the degradation repeated today. Whilst technology on paper means less resource, in reality it directly affects those who do the job, in impossible situations. Consistency and loyalty to the plan, never wavering always properly resourced Armed Forces are a constant that should never shift. Whilst there are concerns, Ministers in a democracy need to learn the cause and effect of their actions. Our Armed Forces need to be maintained, supported… Read more »

PeterS
PeterS
22 days ago

The article joins together several separate areas of concern that aren’t necessarily linked. Procurement- there is no doubt this is a mess. Key equipment that should have been upgraded, tanks, artillery.ifvs, haven’t been. But whose responsibility is this? With huge overspends on naval programmes, army funding has been inadequate. Where sensible looking decisions have been made to acquire new or enhance existing equipment(Ajax, Warrior) industry has failed to deliver. Disciplinary matters – there have been some troubling incidents from Deepcut on. But we should also not forget the number of fictitious claims of mistreatment in Iraq brought by shyster lawyers.… Read more »

Ian
Ian
21 days ago

None of this is good, but I fear it is nothing compared to the (still totally unaddressed) issues with the Met Police. Perhaps a little off-topic, but it does illustrate that these problems are part of a general rot across many publicly funded institutions.

RobW
RobW
21 days ago
Reply to  Ian

As Airborne mentioned above, it is a matter of everyone getting tarred with the same brush. There are many good people in society and some bad, the Met, army, and every other institution are mirrors of that. It is just they have a light shone on them unlike society at large. There are no doubt rotten apples in all institutions but the majority are good people. That isn’t an excuse for bad behavior, which needs addressing, but it should be put in context.

DFJ123
DFJ123
21 days ago

The problem that I see is that there have to be two key priorities for the Army for the next 10-20 years. Much is made of the issues around China/NK but it would be a mistake to ‘pivot’ to Asia. The problem is that if a war happens there, American forces will be moved away from Europe, and Europe will be left exposed to Russian aggression. The absolute key capability of British forces must be to deter Putin from the high North and Baltics should America be absent. I just don’t see the capability in the British Army to fight… Read more »

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
21 days ago

I read this article and the posts with interest and seemly with the same sense of frustration as many. My direct experience of working with the armed forces was entirely in procurement and research and was a good one. There are many many great and capable people in the armed forces, but there are bad apples in every barrel. We all know and understand that. From my observations of the procurement process it comes down to the wrong people making the decisions and then not being around to take responsibility. The solution is easy to see, but it would take… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P
21 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Good post. The problem can be simply put. Liberal democracy doesn’t work because it ends up tolerating and indeed placing on a pedestal the value… ‘me, me, me’.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
21 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Ytss, great post CR. A good read and from the others too. There’s still some very good decent everyday people as the back bone, bone and marrow in the UK, here in Australia too. And the same for others countries too. I get a strong sense that as a people we’ll pull together when we need to and absolutely have too.

Trin
Trin
21 days ago

Broadly agree. Of course it could be that we are going through a difficult transition toward sensible attitudes to women. Or on the other hand, that society is adapting to women’s equality by some male groups assuming that sexual relations for both sexes are a legitimate form of recreation. 1. Ref. 2/3 women experiencing “bullying, sexual harassment and bullying”: this needs to be unpacked into meaningful terms within specific contexts (see low conviction rates in civilian world); the logical outcome will be a return to chaperones and ultimately women-only units. 2. On “triumphalism”: killing 2 insurgents on motorbike narrative is… Read more »

Phil
Phil
21 days ago

The problem is the people at the top of the Army don’t appear to know what it’s for and that trickles down like a p*ss tube. The Navy & The RAF appear to know what they’re doing and what they need to do it, maybe not perfectly, but still. Look at the Royal Marines, they have a strategy and they’re sticking with it and buying the kit (again never enough for the keyboard warriors). The Army doesn’t appear to have a bl**dy clue, Strike Brigade was a total f*ck up, as is the idea we can drive to the Suwalki… Read more »

The Snowman
The Snowman
21 days ago
Reply to  Phil

Agreed. I don’t think it’s our role to deploy armour to the Baltic’s. Takes too long. That job rests with our German, Czech and Polish friends.

The Snowman
The Snowman
21 days ago
Reply to  The Snowman

Flipping autocorrect. Baltics. Why does everything have an apostrophe added these days?!

David Barry
David Barry
20 days ago
Reply to  The Snowman

Remind me what armour the Czechs and Slovaks have?

I think Britmil have bitten off more than they can chew, but, we now need to focus on the defence of Norway and the Baltics.

Beefed up winter warfare training with forces equipped for those environs; does that mean tanks? In the Baltic terrain,not sure, does it mean lightweight, high mobility, anti-armour, shorad and long eange effective counter battery fires, yes.

Add a fantasy fleet of P8s and T26 and we are onto a winner.

Ps, guess what Czech and Slovak forces do really well?

Crabfat
Crabfat
20 days ago
Reply to  Phil

Morning Phil – just seen this report on the RM trouncing US troops in recent exercise. Lots of criticism from the US establishment.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-the-papers-59186634

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
20 days ago
Reply to  Phil

I’d suggest 1 x Divisional Command for UK Defence, one Divisional Command for Expeditionary Warfare, One Airmobile Brigade, 2 x Light Role Brigades, 2 x Heavy Role Brigades”

That is what we already have.

Translated into Regional Command, 3 (UK) Division, 16 AA Bde, the 2 LBCT and 2 HBCT planned after the latest DCP.

Spot on about the enablers from the CS&CSS arms and the “Cap Badge Mafia”

To be fair with the army reserve, most of them already are from those formations. Look at the RAMC and RLC as examples.

TOM POWER
TOM POWER
21 days ago

Totally agree that we’ve lost the moral component. Recent instances of assault, bullying, sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct in my unit are widely accepted. There is no functioning way to maintain values and standards never mind professional competence.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  TOM POWER

You sound as if you are still serving? Very worrying. What can be done?

David Steeper
21 days ago

We weren’t defeated in Basra by the IRGC and saved from disaster by the ‘charge of the knights’ We were defeated by a ‘stab in the back’ from the politicians. We weren’t saved from disaster in Helmand by the USMC it was another ‘stab in the back’ from the politicians. The fact the Army hasn’t introduced a new AFV in over 25 years is not because the Army is run by incompetents it’s because of penny pinching by ? Politicians. Am I being sarcastic ? Yes. Am I grossly insulting the Army ? No. Outside the UK nothing I’ve said… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

I served in Helmand, a province the size of Wales. Politicians initially signed off the sending of just one battle group. Then reluctantly upped the numbers to a Brigade (+). Still, way too small. The Provincial Governor naiively thought there would be at least 5000 infantry on the ground 24/7 and was unimpressed that this was not possible, given the CS/CSS tail and the need to give the Infantry some ‘off-duty’ time. We really needed a division out there.

David Steeper
17 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Yep but the Army could not deploy a division to Helmand. It didn’t have the force structure to deploy a division. The Army knew that but went ahead anyway because after Basra they needed an ‘easy’ win ! In the end with the USMC we did have a division there.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
13 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

I am sure you are right that the army could not muster an infantry division, even if the politicos had signed off on that, particularly as we were still enmeshed in Iraq at strength. You suggest that the army went in anyway to Helmand for some sort of face-saving result post-Basra (which was actually still active) – that’s not how it works. The army does not decide which operations to commit to or in what strength to deploy – those are political decisions. I was involved in working with USMC in Bastion and receiving the US surge in 2008/9. Thank… Read more »

Bill
Bill
21 days ago

John, a ridiculous, over the top comment but the army in particular needs a reset at the top and a commons defence select committee to run and monitor its procurement expenditure. The MOD cannot be trusted to bring home on budget any project out there. Remotely. The billions frittered away would have easily paid for a warrior upgrade covering the whole fleet, all CR2’s to CR3 standard and 250 half decent armoured recce vehicles if these were still needed with a warrior revamp.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Armoured recce vehicles are very different to Warrior IFVs – you need both. I agree that many (but by no means all – I delivered my project alright!) defence procurement projects are poorly delivered – and all these years after the Levene review and other more recent reviews.

Marked
Marked
20 days ago

The army should be renamed as the home guard for all the use it is.

About the only thing they haven’t managed to render completely ineffective is their ability to put on a smart parade.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Marked

I think that 2PARA did a brilliant job at Kabul airport, and our troops seem to be doing well in Mali.

andy reeves
andy reeves
20 days ago

this is exacly why politicians should not interfere with things they know nothing about wallace is a poor minister

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

Wallace is grossly over-promoted and says some odd things (he distinctly once suggested that all tanks would be scrapped, before changing his mind), but did manage to secure additional funding for Defence although paradoxically it has coincided with reduced manpower and equipment counts – how the heck is that possible?

Paul Jenkins
Paul Jenkins
20 days ago

Interesting article about behaviour in Kenya; met a retired Wing Comd in the Gym around 2008 time, he wrote to CGS about the loutish behaviour of soldiers on RnR in Kenya while he was holidaying. Needless to say he was disgusted by both the behaviour shown, with SNCOs present and the response from the CoC.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Paul Jenkins

Any more details? Perhaps the lads were just letting off steam.

Paul
Paul
14 days ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

think it was a touch of that but they were really drunk and exceptionally rude to everyone, C2 wasnt in place. This story is from a Senior Officer who flew some ‘interesting’ aircraft on behalf of HMG.Think what bothered him was the CoC in MOD’s response.
I fully understand the letting off steam bit although I have been through the door at 9am next morning occasionally to account for ‘events’ in my younger days.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
13 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Drunk and rude and disrespectful of authority? – typical squaddies on a night out. The RAF senior officers are a little too precious – we always said the RAF are ‘civvies in uniform’.
Fair point that the CoC should have shown a bit more ‘concern’ to appease the said senior Crab.

Gary Powell
Gary Powell
18 days ago

Well as a formerRoyal Marine all I can say is thank the Lord that we have an extremely professional and efficient Corps. The latest exercises have shown the effectiveness of the Royal Marines literal force.

Graham Lee
Graham Lee
18 days ago

The British Army has been in serious trouble for years, procurement disaster after procurement disaster. The rank and file perform well, but the senior leadership is an utter disgrace. We need another Prince Albert style modernization, this time to do away with the old school tie class based criteria for promotion to the senior ranks.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Graham Lee

The procurement disasters for Land equipment are not entirely due to senior army officer incompetence, much as it is an easily cast opinion. Politicians, civil servants, the Treasury and Defence industry and bureaucratic and slow procurement policy – must take their share of blame too.

Promotion is based on merit as evidenced on annual confidential reports – you are not promoted because you went to a smart school.

BB85
BB85
14 days ago
Reply to  Graham Lee

If very worrying though that things have gotten this bad. When you look at the Ukraine situation Russia basically feels it can do what it wants because Europe doesn’t have the capability to fight a peer threat who is prepared for war. Even if we have a technology edge what good is that if we can only field a few hundred IFV’s. If Russia roles 3,000 MBTs into Ukraine in winter with gas prices through the roof Europe was do nothing.

JJ Smallpiece
JJ Smallpiece
18 days ago

A bit rich a politician lecturing on acceptable behaviour considering what we have seen in Parliament over the past week from the ministers own party.

Mark Forsyth
Mark Forsyth
16 days ago

Discipline: And in today’s “Sun”, more headlines to add to the Army’s troubles. Was it like this in my day (1977 to 2001), well seriously I don’t know. Maybe it always been an issue, but now with Facebook, Twitter, Iphones etc it is harder to keep a lid on it. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/16672735/sergeant-major-suspended-claims-punched/?rec_article=true Procurement: It has been going down hill ever since they set up Abbeywood. As they say of the REME, spread it around and it does a wonderful job, just like manure, put it all together and it stinks, just like a muck-heap. ABW has got to big and cumbersome… Read more »

Last edited 16 days ago by Mark Forsyth
Graham Moore
Graham Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark Forsyth

Mark, I recall ‘Land’ R&D happening at Chertsey (I was there doing robotics and UGV in 1990/91) and Malvern, Fort Halstead and Christchurch. Andover (HQ QMG, then DLO) was for army then tri-service support and logistics. Don’t know much about Wittering.

But I don’t recall those places being involved in equipment procurement – thought that happened in London in various buildings before Abbey Wood was built.

Pacman 27
Pacman 27
14 days ago

Even if we look at boxer, why on earth are we buying the most expensive non combat vehicles when our need is for fighting vehicles. I do want support functions to be protected, but at the moment there is a far greater need for these 587 boxers to be armed to the teeth. At the end of the day we can get by with the support vehicles we have or purchase interim vehicles in the sub £1m per unit range. Once again just bad planning. We need to really commit to boxer and order 3k units – possibly more although… Read more »

andy reeves
andy reeves
13 days ago

perhaps this should have been done well before now in the case of the royal navy many questions should be laid at the door of the admiralty which as a feifedom by itself has long considered itself untouchable many of us on this site and others of a similar ilk have long blamed governments, treasuries, but the departments of each of the forces are just as blameful

STEVIE
STEVIE
11 days ago

We have a MOD THAT CAN,T RUN IT NOW let alone have all three services as one some of the blame must be towards defence secretary this mess of equip for our army years behind over budget lack of forward thinking joke with the amount of tanks, we are under funded we can have the best equipped army but you still need boots on the ground we are robbing peter to pay paul while other countries are increasing we are left behind in some cases is the army RAF PAYING THE PRICE FOR THE COST OF NEW SHIPS

Graham
Graham
8 days ago
Reply to  STEVIE

I don’t think the RAF is suffering from procurement problems of the same scale as the Army. They are getting a lot of new kit, which all seems to work. The RN and RAF platform Procurement programmes are hugely expensive. There is less cash left for Army programmes parti jlarly if the former go over budget. But the waste in the Land equipment programmes over the years has been eye watering, billions spent and not one AFV fielded in 20 years.

Robert L Hill
Robert L Hill
1 day ago

Look at the failure of US Generals – billions spent with a relatively simple mission train, equip, and sustain the Afghan National Army and Air Force. There was a clear failure. Nearly a billion dollars spent on the C-27A/G222 – but, no plan for parts, $300 million spent on unarmed cargo trucks that the Afghans repeated said were not needed, the MD530 helicopter, buying Russia helicopters and airplanes with no plan for sustainment or parts . . . . Yet no US General has been held accountable for clear failure. . .