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What’s wrong with the British Army

From being the envy of the world, the British armed forces are in danger of becoming merely average: a cut-price, camouflaged UNICEF…

My sources tell me that this is an accurate account of what’s going on in the British Army at the moment. Or more precisely, how the New Labour government has been undermining one of the most respected and professional British institutions:

The British military and New Labour are politically and philosophically polar opposites. The government has made these differences even more acute by spending much of the last few years forcing soldiers to adopt a work ethic more in line with commerce than with combat. Who Dares Wins has been replaced by Health and Safety. The government believes that it has a duty to look after soldiers by protecting their ‘rights’, but this approach to soldiering seriously undermines the ability of the men and women of the armed forces to get on with a difficult and dangerous job.


The government’s obsession with political correctness has been applied to the military with such relish that at times it seems almost insane. I have lost count of the number of forms I have had to fill in giving details of my ethnic origin. These forms used to be anonymous, but the last one I had to complete carried my name, rank and service number. Perhaps this was a reaction to an earlier (anonymous) form, which had revealed that in our all-male unit there was a huge number of Bangladeshi single mothers!


Health-and-safety inspectors are blamed for recommending that chlorine be introduced into the underwater tunnel, in case some poor Commando picks up a bit of dysentery or a sore throat as a result of wading through dirty water. The steep ravines worn into the slopes that recruits had to run up and down at various points on the seven-mile course were also contrary to all sorts of well-meaning legislation. The recommendation was for proper steps and handrails to be installed — just like the ones you find in the mountains of Afghanistan or the wadis of Iraq.

The armed forces in the UK are currently so over-streched that their management amounts to a permanent crisis-management. The professionalism and high quality of the British army currently rests on the dedication of its officers. Let’s face it, they are not there for the money and they don’t get to shoot much these days either. The British military doesn’t lobby, speak out, point out the ignorance of the current government of military matters (which has no limits as this is the first government where nobody has a direct military experience) or do anything that would undermine its strong ethos as a ‘civilian’ army. Her Majesty the Queen, a civilian, is head of the Navy, Army and Air Force of Britain.

Perhaps they should.

12 comments to What’s wrong with the British Army

  • Can we adopt them? They’d be a damned fine addition to our forces.

  • Even worse are the equipment failures that threaten the military preparedness of the Armed forces. How can this be squared with our latest compliment, “second most powerful nation”. I don’t think so.

    Blair had better watch out. He won’t be able to spin a protracted war where Brit squaddies die due to shit equipment and political miscalculation.

  • It’s the ‘Health & Safety” stuff that’s frightening. American’s can afford that sort of nonsense I’m afraid the small British military cannot. It’s possible to continue to be effective when budgets force soldiers to say ‘bang’ during training as long as the traditions of the institution remain in place. When they monkey with the institution itself there is going to be lasting problems.

  • stopgo

    No armed force whose charter is predicated on supporting and promoting democracy can afford this sort of crap. Though the US military far outweighs its British cousin in size, US docrtrine is formulated around using its size to prosecute the mission. The sort of PC hoops that our forces are required to jump through on a regular basis detracts from training, training and more training. At the very serious cost of degradation in mission readiness.

    I can’t begin to remember the days wasted in “Equal Opportunity” (read: affirmative action) briefings, sexual harrassment breifings, classes on the proper use and deployment of every piece of equipment from my M-16 (training much appreciated) to the use of a shovel to dig a slit trench to crap in (I need to be trained on how/where to crap?). While assigned to a “strategic” position, the sum total of days spent training on actual combat oriented tasks, such as land navigation, use of a gas mask, radio protocol, etc. was exactly *one*. One day. Each year. And in that same assignment, which lasted three years, I spent just one day at the rifle range qualifying on the use of my M-16. This for an Airborne troop whose time had been spent largely attached to US Special Forces units. But at least once a week I was sitting through some JAG officer’s brief on racial equality, sex equality, safe driving on Britain’s roads, safe sex, how to contact the American Red Cross in the case of a family emergency, or some other concept wholly unrelated to combat. At least some of these briefings focussed on something useful, such as Geneva Convention rules, the Law of Armed Conflict, country studies or Rules of Engagement.

    It gets more bizzare. In the state of Colorado, the former senator Pat Schroder (Democrap) blasted through legislation under the auspices of environmental protection. All military vehicles on Ft. Carson, upon being parked, were required to have double-chocks placed under the tires and drip trays under the oilpan. Failure to adhere could draw a fine on the order of $25,000 per violation. Try pressing those laws on the civilian population. Following the completion of a state-of-the-art multi-arms training range (at the cost of some tens of millions of dollars), the range was closed indefinitely to “protect” some animal (a squirrel, if IRC) who had apprently made its home only on the area occupied by that range.

    Personnel forms are rife with references to race and sex. In the US forces, the easiest way to make rank is to be a female member of an ethnic minority. No NCO in his right mind would allow any sort of communication between himself and a female subordinate take place alone in an office with a closed door. Naval vessels with female crew have a distinction in the apparent rampant fertility of their crew as evidenced by the percentage of female sailors pulled off each cruise after falling pregnant (roughly 60% at last reckoning). Combat units in Bosnia/Kosovo had to conduct “fuck patrols” to deter soldiers from engaging in sex while deployed in the field. These, the fruits of sexual harassment paranoia and gender integration.

    Every single one of these things detracts from the fundamental reason for a military force: to fight wars and defend against aggression. Taken individually, some are quite innocuous, but as a whole they sap resources, manpower and undermine the military idea of Esprit de Corps. No military force should be regarded as an experiment in social engineering. Leave that for the universities.


  • Philip is correct that if there is a large number of bodybags coming home because of this crap then it will be a huge political earthquake.

    That said, my guess is they will just fire a few generals and try to shift the blame elsewhere. NuLabour think they are masters of reality itself.

  • Anonymous Yank Reservist

    With regard to stopgo’s comments, using the military as a social laboratory is not confined to tranzi progressives. Witness the ban on selling “explicit” material at US military exchanges…a ban which allows the sale of Playboy, but not Playgirl! Try enforcing that one on the civilian population.

    The US military has simmilar problems to the British, but it has certain areas where PC bs will be given lip service and ignored. The Marine Corps, for instance, and the various Special Operatons forces.

    With regard to anonymous forms, the US Navy Reserves had a web form a while back, supposedly anonymous, which was supposed to allow people to explain why they would or wouldn’t reenlist.

    You had to give your Social Security number to be able to turn in the form. (And the space allowed for comments, as opposed to the pages where you rated thigns from 1-5, was less than three sentences.)

    A good part of the problem in the US is careerism. Even the people who are enthusiastically pushing this crap believe it is undermining combat effectiveness, but they want to get promoted. And they have to get promtoed, because they will get thrown out if they get passed over for promotion enough times.

    The result of this has been an officer class that, at the top levels, is largely composed of backstabbers, political intriguers and spineless brown-nosers.

    I’d suggest readers here take a stroll over to Soldiers For the Truth. They have their off days, but they’re mainly on point.

  • Addison Markly

    Interesting that Western forces now have their own PC zampolits, isn’t it? Maybe we hired the ones fired when the Soviets lost power.

    During the hoof & mouth outbreak, the “disposal areas” couldn’t kill the (usually uninfected) cows fast enough, so they brought in the British Army to help with the culling. A PR major told the television, “It’s obviously a very difficult task, but the army is here to help out.” And I’m thinking, killing *cows* is difficult for the British Army? COWS? You guys once took over half the world at gunpoint. Not you can’t kill unarmed, immobile, and utterly stupid slabs of steak???

    Oh how the mighty have fallen…

  • Addison Markly

    Interesting that Western forces now have their own PC zampolits, isn’t it? Maybe we hired the ones fired when the Soviets lost power.

    During the hoof & mouth outbreak, the “disposal areas” couldn’t kill the (usually uninfected) cows fast enough, so they brought in the British Army to help with the culling. A PR major told the television, “It’s obviously a very difficult task, but the army is here to help out.” And I’m thinking, killing *cows* is difficult for the British Army? COWS? You guys once took over half the world at gunpoint. Not you can’t kill unarmed, immobile, and utterly stupid slabs of steak???

    Oh how the mighty have fallen…

  • Alastair Sherringham

    I read the Spectator article with interest, especially with the
    climate as it is.

    I have already heard about the serious deficiencies exposed in our
    armed forces, especially when deployed overseas; exercises or not. In
    times of increased tension in the world there are more important
    things than ‘affirmative action’ and such bureacracy. The military
    have to have the resources to do their job – they are only ever used
    in the most dire circumstances so their effectiveness is of paramount
    importance. Life or death.

    None of this negates the necessity of decent ‘health and safety’ rules
    ofcourse. War is hardly a ‘safe’ environment, but the idea is to keep
    our soldiers alive in time for it.

    Something that troubled me as much as the article however, was
    Adrianna’s paragraph at the end. Not only does she seem to suggest
    that the military get more involved in politics but the graphic used
    below (*) “Regime change begins at home” (tank over parliament on
    union jack) unsettles me as well. Be careful of what you wish for. The
    army is not a democracy.

    (*) I do not know if she chose or knew of the graphic however.

  • america should change there president and imediately stop the wear.may be this wear create thirld world wear.

  • colin

    the british army is a disgrace it doesnt care about anyone but seniors and officers!the welfare service is crap it doesnt do anything to help for full screws and below just seniors and officers, equals between all my f***ing arse.i should no im in the hell hole!!
    but the welfare service isnt all thats pothetic about the army by far protection is crap for 32 sqn we have nothing to stop us loosin our heads from high wires lade out by terrorists because it all comes down to the same excuss ‘money’!!in simply terms the army is no good career path!!!stay away

  • TommyU

    I recently left the beleagured army back in Jul 03 and to date have had a hellish time in my transition to civvy life, but although you are treated like 2nd rate scum in the army, I wouldn’t leave it if I were you. Yes the Politicians who dictate the army doctrine (yes politicians!) wouldn’t know the arses from their elbows when it comes to modern warfare. My advice – Dont listen to those bumped up Officers who quoted earlier, they are all of the same mould and support the fascist swines they so wrongly admire (and slander) – just grin and bear it. Civvy street is is far worse – Believe me!