Friday, January 18, 2002
Overstretch? Never.

The House of Lords had a debate yesterday on Army overstretch. An astounding speech by the Earl of Onslow, which is worth reading the whole debate. I particularly cringed at this story:

I start with Exercise Saif Sareea, which was the expedition to Muscat and Oman. We sent a half-armoured brigade there of 68 tanks, a half battery of guns and a battalion of motorised infantry. The object of the exercise was to get all those people half way round the world, land them in the desert and let them play soldiers for a while. They arrived, beautifully organised. The staff worked well and the supply worked well with one or two minor faults. But then none of the tanks worked. None worked because they did not have proper sand filters. If the staff had not known about that, I suppose that that would have been acceptable. But an appreciation of the situation was given to Whitehall which stated that, unless the tanks were desertified, they would not work in the desert. Someone--it may have been at political or army level, I know not--decided that too much money had been spent. Therefore, they crossed their fingers and hoped that the tanks would work. They did not. Seventeen tanks were sent back before the exercise started. That left 51. Fifty-one tanks of the Royal Dragoon Guards went out on a night exercise. Three arrived back in working order.

A bit more comical was this story, which many of you will have heard:

But at least the Army could have considered what happened to Lord Raglan in the Crimea when the right boots went out in one ship and the left boots in another. One ship was wrecked in a storm off the southern peninsular of the Crimea. The poor, wretched soldiers went, "Left, 'splock', left, 'splock'" because all their right boots had been sunk.

Read the debate and prepare to be shocked by the poor state of the Armed Forces.

Together with Bernard Jenkin's article in the Telegraph, it looks like the Tories are going to town on this. Defence is obviously a matter close to IDS's heart, so it's probably his brain child.


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