It’s been a claim levelled at the Labour government for years, and a claim that they have always denied, but successive coroners can’t be wrong can they? The government is failing British troops.
We’re not talking about fighting the Nazi’s war machine here, just a bunch of rebels and terrorists hiding in rural Afghanistan. Yet are we really to believe that they are better armed and better equipped than the British Army? Of course not, they aren’t that well equipped, it it just that the British Army is woefully under equipped.
It is bad enough that we put such a low price on the risks that our servicemen take, without making them do their job lacking the basic equipment required to do it. Of course during the Cold War governments could get away with paying a poor wage, after all few were likely to see action, other than Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Gulf War, but for the majority of the army, there was little risk the majority of the time. Since the break up of Yugoslavia there has been one dangerous peacekeeping mission after another, and it is an extremely treacherous time to be a British soldier, as is evident from the falling enlistments. A typical soldier earns just £13,000 a year to put his life on the line. A policeman earns about £23,000 a year and a fireman about £27,000.
Hardly fair is it? Particularly when you think that soldiers have a far tougher job than the other two anyway, let alone the extra risk that they take. What incentive is there other than doing it for Queen and Country? It must have been quite insulting for the soldiers to hear about police officers once again protesting over pay. Of course soldiers can’t strike either, moreover they don’t even have a union, they aren’t allowed to have one and so have no one to whinge on their behalf.
Capt James Philippson, 29, of St Albans, Herts, was the first British soldier to be killed in Helmand province. He and his colleagues were sent to fight the Taliban without night vision goggles and without adequate machine guns or grenade launchers.
It goes without saying that night sight goggles are invaluable during night time engagements.
The difference, quite literally is night and day. What did the commanders who sent them out there, sharing three pairs between 20 men, expect them to do? Take it in turns to shoot? Hope that the Taliban would wait whilst they swap over?
Still, British troops managed without night vision goggles in WWII, and even in the Falklands, so they were surely trained to fight without them and as far as I know, the Taliban that they engaged didn’t have any. That does not, however, excuse the lack of other equipment. Capt Philippson’s company were also without adequate machine guns, despite requesting them and grenade launchers.
A separate inquest in Trowbridge, Wilts, heard how L/Sgt Casey, 27, from Aldershot, Hants, and L/Cpl Redpath, 22, of Romford, Essex, died when their Snatch Armoured Land Rover was hit north of the Rumaylah oilfields last August. The inquest heard that the platoon commander had asked for the more heavily protected Mastiff vehicles to be used that day but they were all being used elsewhere.
It is a standard part of army life that there isn’t always enough of the best equipment to go around, this is nothing new and it has always been this way. However we are hearing about these inadequacies more and more frequently, and they are leading to more and more deaths. Most worrying is that often these deaths aren’t caused by a lack of the best or most expensive equipment, but by a lack of basic equipment. This shows a systemic failure of the MoD to provide it, and the fault lies squarely at the feet of Gordon Brown.