Horses, Tanks and a Tale of Two and a Half Fuckwits

Well, what a week.

As we all thought and with the inevitability of night following day the MoD will be facing yet more budget cuts.

Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, fired a warning shot across the Governments bow by pointing out that core competencies would be at risk if more shrinkage was visited upon the Army.  George Osborne had been as plain as possible previously, stating the MoD would not be immune from further budget reductions. This was equally in response to Phil Hammond arguing that the MoD should in fact, be immune.

Against this backdrop was the unseemly spectacle of politicians playing their leaderships games.

Most recently, David Cameron sought to calm things down by assuring the armed forces that there would be no cuts in personnel numbers.

It might fool some but most will see it as a completely disingenuous and empty gesture because whilst there might be no further cuts in numbers there are impending changes to the engagement model and a host of other things that will be just as damaging to both morale and capability. The equipment budget is supposedly going to rise by a percent but support costs, welfare, housing, training and other personnel related budgets remain on the table.

There is more to an effective armed forces than how much you spend on equipment equipment and simple personnel numbers.

Don’t be fooled by the possibility of Captain Efficiency Savings getting on parade again either.

If the armed forces are to suffer another budget cut then fair enough, but what I find displays a contemptuous ‘snivelling wretch’ kind of cowardice is trying to diffuse the reaction by making empty promises and vacuous assurances that won’t fool anyone.

This is what counts, honesty and integrity.

If a cut is needed, then just be open with those in the services and say we have to do less with less.

To cap it all Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury thought he was being clever but just made himself look a prize tool.

Speaking about how more savings could be found in the MoD he scoffed that surely more savings could be found if the Army has more horses thank tanks.

It is very difficult to say anything about this beyond, what a complete twat, but the reason the Army has more horses than tanks is because SDSR 2010, yes, the one which was created by his government, cut armoured vehicles by 40% yet protected the ceremonials.

Although I do think we should be thinking hard about ceremonials and where the cost of resourcing sits the simple fact is the horse and guardsman’s busby is a recognisable symbol of ‘Britishness’ that draws a large number of tourists and an equally large amount of money into the Treasury, his department.

Today of course was Trooping the Colour, see all them horses, see all them crowds, think of the money.

Personally, I think we have more MP’s than backbones in the House of Commons, perhaps we should look there for ‘efficiency savings’

Contemptible and Facile Fuckwit of the Week Number 1, Danny Alexander

speech danny alexander 3

I used to think Phil Hammond was one of the best SoS Defence we had seen for some time, the calm and professional manner in which he handled the wreckage of his predecessor, the various MoD reforms and the professional manner in which the aftermath of the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby was handled all pointed to him being a safe pair of hands.

But this week, whilst in Afghanistan, he made a comment about Afghanistan being the British Vietnam that was unbelievably stupid.

Vietnam, a conflict that has enormous resonance and resulted in the US Army being ‘lost’ for a decade, precipitating a collapse in morale, veterans being marginalised and neglected, a handful of war crimes and an ignominious withdrawal.

Whilst I see what he was getting at, a reluctance for a while in enthusiasm for intervening for the long haul, to start talking like this, whilst in theatre, before we have withdrawn and against a backdrop of the budget discussions seems stupid beyond belief.

A rare misstep from Mr Hammond

Not a fuckwit, but surely a fuckwitted thing to say

120718-D-NI589-183

 

Rounding out the trio this week is our very own Prime Minister. Whilst Syria and the wider Middle East carry on with their hundreds of years old religious wars he thinks providing sophisticated weapons, paid for by British taxpayers, will help us to do, what exactly.

Surely the irony of arming Al Qaida and disarming the British Armed Forces cannot have escaped him. This is one of the most inexplicable foreign policy decisions for many years. Arguing that we must do more to stop the bloodshed, by providing yet more weapons to one side in a religious civil war seems simply mad. We will have precisely zero control of them once in country and have enough less control over what happens next.

We seem to be jumping up and down on the sidelines like some excited puppy yet without the means to do anything meaningful because of decades of brown ale defence budgets and champagne foreign intervention tastes.

If the Arab world wishes to indulge in their ignorance fuelled and unenlightened religious conflict with little Russia seeking to jostle for position and Iran doing the same why should we care?

Yes I understand all the arguments about containment, the influence of Iran, nuclear standoff in the Gulf, Mediterranean gas, Qatari gas, red lines and the other arguments in favour of increasing intervention but I keep coming back to the simple question of…

Where is the strategic benefit to the UK?

It’s just not there and its not like we are flush with cash at the moment is it.

Every pound spent aiding the ‘good rebels’ not those heart eating ‘bad rebels’ is a pound not spent on the British armed forces, energy security, policing, transport, health and education.

I give you Fuckwit Number 3, David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron visits British Troops in Afghanistan

 

In all of this, unapologetically sweary rant, the impression I get of these trio is they are a bunch of cowards.

They want to hide behind the flag, enjoy in the reflected popularity of the Armed Forces but when it comes right down to it, they just don’t have the backbone to be honest with them and the nation.

I like most people I am sure, accept that if the defence budget must be cut (you might argue yes or no) then it is what it is, just explain that is the case, be forthright, accept that we must do less with less, actually do so and have the backbone to explain to everyone that this is the case, then implement reductions in an equitable manner.

But it is the height of contemptible weasel worded cowardice to cut cut cut whilst telling anyone who will listen that we can carry on as before.

There is nothing wrong with strategic shrinkage, getting less involved militarily in world affairs and having a smaller armed forces because we no longer have the money to do so.

But politicians, please, let’s just have some basic honesty about it

 

 

 

 

 

104 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
June 15, 2013 5:53 pm

My response to Danny’s idiocy was; “get bent!”, but each to their own. :)

“George Osborne had been as plain as possible previously, stating the MoD would not be immune from further budget reductions.”

Well he kinda has too, on the principles of both:
The start chamber notion
Stopping the lib-dem’s going beserk

What actually emerges from the next CSR for Defence remains to be seen.

I am hopeful…

IXION
June 15, 2013 5:53 pm

TD
Once again TD nail whacked on head.

Whatever your views on british defence policy, be it Carrier Junkie WASAWPYK or scrap the lot and arm ourselves with sarcasm. We need a policy, a view, a construct, THEN WE NEED TO RESCOURCE it properly.

Wishful thinking, rose tinted specticles, tradition bound practices and structures. All cost cash.

As for politicians being spineless fuckwits….. where have you been for the last 60 years? Of course they are.

mike
mike
June 15, 2013 6:14 pm

Amen TD,

I think we delude ourselves a bit too much, clawing at what we think we can still do… its probably time for a bitter ‘get real’ pill, but I second IXION’s comment there, trying to cater all what we were able to do with half-resourced ‘fitted for but not with’ equipment, units, measures, training, manpower, logistics, contingencies… then again, if the next review tries to do that, it’ll still be unpopular and we’ll still cry for blood.

I wonder how they feel saying what they do at times, for the Sec of Defence I guess it was more a slip of the tongue/bad example…, but surely they all know what they’re saying is tosh – rhubarb – and to stand there in-front of troops and say such guff… I guess it takes a certain amount/type of gall.

x
x
June 15, 2013 6:15 pm

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 15, 2013 6:23 pm

Hard to argue with on this one…although obviously I’d like to, just for old times sake!

GNB

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson
June 15, 2013 6:37 pm

As an ex pat living in northern France, i know my view will be a bit squiff, but i’ll throw my tuppenyworth in anyway. Is a lot of this just posing for the Yanks, to hope they repivot a bit our direction? America is rightly disturbed by the defence cuts in Britain. Often laughed at by average Joe in the States, their defence policy has always heavily relied on the strength & flexibility of British forces, worldwide. Know there’s a lot more interoperability now between European military, but as we’ve seen all too often, with local politics & public opinion European nations defence & foreign policies can change at the drop of a hat. Having followed French military closely, since moved here, i think despite budget cuts, it’s obvious they are far more capable of carrying out independent actions militarily, than Britain is normally. Why do successive govts cut the forces off at the knees, when it’s a more & more unstable world? Up the rebels & to hell with Burgundy! (Shakespeare, honest).

Observer
Observer
June 15, 2013 6:44 pm

@x

Damn, that was nostalgic. :)

Both the Muppets AND “Dust in the Wind”. Those really were the days.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 15, 2013 6:47 pm

I know the ceremonial brings in the tourists etc, but can we really afford 400 bandsmen in the Household Division alone? (someone please tell me they aren’t full time bandsmen??), and enough horses to put 200 out on parade at once?
Surely some of this ceremonial could be a reserve activity? You get less pay, but get to play with horses and don’t get deployed out of London except in real emergency.

If it really is all about the tourists then surely Boris should be paying for it?

x
x
June 15, 2013 7:05 pm

Chris M asked “I know the ceremonial brings in the tourists etc, but can we really afford 400 bandsmen in the Household Division alone? (someone please tell me they aren’t full time bandsmen??), and enough horses to put 200 out on parade at once?”

In a word, yes. It isn’t about tourists. It is about sustaining a national identity. In the grand scheme of things 400 bandsman and 200 horses are nothing. The NHS employs 1.7 million. Before you start unravelling the state ask yourself why the EU is so keen on having their flag flown everywhere and shown on all the media of the organisations to who they give our money? The armed services have a role beyond dealing out death and destruction to the enemies of HM the Queen. Or would you prefer us to have an elected president? Would you be happier with a President Blair or Branson or Lord help us Anthony Robinson? There comes a point you need to ask yourself as somebody interested in British defence, as I assume you are as somebody who comments here, what are we defending?

Topman
Topman
June 15, 2013 7:22 pm

@x

‘ It is about sustaining a national identity.’

Very much so, but do enough people agree with it, that’s the question? Do they make the link between ceremonial units and national identity?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
June 15, 2013 7:30 pm

“It is about sustaining a national identity. In the grand scheme of things 400 bandsman and 200 horses are nothing. The NHS employs 1.7 million. Before you start unravelling the state ask yourself why the EU is so keen on having their flag flown everywhere and shown on all the media of the organisations to who they give our money?”

Lol, and there I was thinking that all this self-image was guff, and that it was all a cold calculation of interests! ;)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 15, 2013 8:34 pm

Two kinds of people…the ones whose tear ducts tingle when watching movies like “Dambusters” or “Longest Day”…or events like the Trooping of the Colour; and the ones who consider both the films and the events to be neo-imperialist fantasies that ought to be banned or binned as soon as possible. The second sort are massively over-represented in the metropolitan elite – and holding such views is mandatory within the BBC.

However, despite those views Auntie still shows the movies and televises the events…and I assume that is because they know their paymasters (that is, us) remain mostly in the first category…on that basis alone I’m guessing the horses are not at risk of ending up in Findus lasagne as yet.

As to Danny Alexander, he might if @RT ever crosses his path…

x
x
June 15, 2013 9:05 pm

@ GNB

Actually I would say there is a third group (the largest) who are mostly blind to their culture, especially the “deeper parts”, until there are attempts to dismantle it or it is politically inconvenient. For example you can be Protestant in outlook and thinking and not ever attend a church service. A young lecturer told me that religion had no influence on her life. I told her that was rubbish. If it wasn’t for the Reformation she wouldn’t be here she would be at home looking after her children. When she came back at me about life for women in modern Catholic Europe I said that was bunk too as all it meant was Protestant thinking had taken hold or replaced certain Catholic ideas in many minds never mind modern political ideas (which also have Protestant roots).

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 15, 2013 10:17 pm

Whoaah. There aren’t 400 Bandsmen in the Household Division. About 90. Still, it’s a number, but not as big as 400.

I have to say, and this causes me some mild jointery and maturity on top of my passionate immaturity of supporting my old service of the Army…

Where the bloody hell are the Andrew on the QBP? The Army does it’s stuff on Horse Guards (even these days letting the sodding Gunners in on the act), and various Kevins fly by, but where the hell are the bloody Andrew? Honestly, she’s their boss too, so they could at least turn up to say Happy Birthday Ma’am.

I’m not necessarily advocating something big and grey floating downstream on the Thames. How about a company of matelots or Royal, if on their best behaviour and drilled to within an inch of their lives, also marching past?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 15, 2013 10:30 pm

I am going to stick up for the house hold cavalry! In a very junior appointment years ago I was an officer of the watch on a Frigate who had the Household Cavalry mounted division as their affiliated Regiment. They were extremely good hosts and I managed to deplete their wine cellars on various visits to Hyde Park barracks, but they are also part of an expanded Battalion and rotate through the combat role as well.
Though was pissed of that the Xo designated me to be duty for the cocktail party outboard of HMS BELFAST as surely the liaison Officer was best suited to take charge of the ceremonial involving mounted and dismounted household cavalry, their band, Ships sentries and a guard, Felt like I had almost earned all that vintage Burgundy that night. :)

@RT

Other than a pair of Lynx Helicopters that do air shows the RN does not have a dedicated ceremonial asset I am afraid.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 15, 2013 10:39 pm

GNB,

honestly, you would not want him in the food chain. Landfill only. (And don’t forget that he’s a ginger, so possibly needing special measures for treatment in a toxic landfill at that)

There’s an enduring rumour, but it seems to be unbacked by facts, that bouef Stroganoff might originally have been named after a junior member of the Stroganov dynasty who got himself sliced to pieces by some of Napoleon’s hussars outside Moscow.. It’s probably bollocks, but it’s out there as a suggestion. I discussed this with a proper Russian restaurateur and chef in Madrid’s best Russian restaurant when I was wooing Mrs RT and we’d eaten it after a starter of proper blinis. Our only common language was German, which Mrs RT (Des) could not understand. We thought that it was a nonsense, but it made a nice story, and he enjoyed our conversation enough that he waived his bill, called for some vodka, and we had a bit of a session.

Feeling hungry. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/beefstroganoffwithma_71568

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 15, 2013 11:15 pm

@RT – If that isn’t true, it should be…I have a great affection for the dish myself, not least because as a starving student in a garret one of my key possessions was a well-seasoned iron frying pan ideal for preparation of said same…at that time a chap who could cook something more enterprising than a vesta curry, mix an adequate champagne cocktail and launder his own sheets could generally maintain a pretty acceptable social life…

140 proof polish vodka from the freezer helped as well, of course…

IXION
June 15, 2013 11:19 pm

Please!

This is ‘Think Defence’! NOT ‘Think National Mythos’!

I really could not give a stuff for all this ceremony crap, what regiment faced in how many directions against the French 200 years ago, or who were/are the ‘Heroes of Mboto Gorge’ .

Turn the Guards, kings troop HOC etc into TA units. Staffed by men who want the posh uniforms and the sex with both women and men that goes with them. (I seem to recall ‘The bucks Militia’ had that function in the 18th/19th century). Give em a job Train them up as security for the royal household and govt buildings. AND TAKE THEM OUT OF THE DEFENCE BUDGET as active armed forces. Boris and the Met can pay for them and reap all those tourist dollars.

I know TD poured scorn on the more horses than tanks line. But IMHO it is a valid indicator of where our priorities lie at the moment. Those 200 horses will cost about £4 million a year between them. £4 million on walking cat food! lets not get into the cost of Bear skins… What military utility does all that have? How am I 1 jot safer in my bed tonight because, because some piece of cloth was waved round a sand filled square in London yesterday? In real terms bugger all. Yet it comes from a budget that pays for stuff that matters like fuel for exercises and training. The time those guardsmen spent training to stand in line and march about like that, are we safer? Or would it have been better spent practicing their fighting skills?

The jury went out and came back years ago on this whatever officers might think, whatever people may say afterwards, ‘Unit pride’ has very little to do with tradition, and everything to do with current military prowess.

The whole ceremonial tail is starting to wag the dog the guards are only the pongo equivalent of the Red Arrows.

Now if you want an ‘Army for the Tourists’ then fine, But recognize that real fighting capability is being lost to supply it’s needs.

Like I said. Pick your structure/ policy and resource it properly, anything else is folly.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 12:35 am

– Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t all of the aforementioned provide active service units for operations? Undertake ceremonial duties when they would be on a UK rotation in any event? Cover security duties for the Head of State, official residences and so on that would need to be provided somehow? Garrison the Capital City? Potentially represent a reserve of trained infantry in extremis?

Furthermore, apart from a handful of big events, isn’t most of the manpower provided by a supernumerary Public Duties Company of some sort? Aren’t most of the uniforms already in stock, along with practically all of the other kit?

Be interested to know how you worked out the bill for the horses, but £20,000 per animal sounds a little stiff to me…

Essentially these are trained soldiers from various branches who do proper work on the same basis as the rest of the Army, but are organised to provide some fancy dress stuff when rotated to the UK…I am struggling to see how serious financial savings would be achieved by winding the whole business up…and I think continuing with it carries quite real if difficult to quantify reputational benefits.

Chris.B
Chris.B
June 16, 2013 1:07 am

Send Mr. Alexander down Colchester way.

If the Para’s don’t get him, I f**king will.

Martin
Editor
June 16, 2013 5:20 am

The man issue her is that with pensions, health and education ring fenced the next biggest budget is defence. It’s pissy compared to the big three but still substantial enough. I hoped Hammond would show some balls and possible use a red line in defence cuts to threaten a leadership challenge but that looks doubtful now. Cameron is just an out and out lier that makes me sick pledging to increase the kit budget and not make any personnel reductions WTF where will the money come from then.

The only real answer to this is for the government to grow a spine and stop pondering to the growing band of millionaire pensioners in the country. Cuts need to be made but they need to come across the board from health to pensions and everything in between. defence has nothing left to give and even if we cut in by another third it would not make Osbournes target of £11 billion in savings.

The world has truly turned on its head when a group of defence commentators are he’ll bent against any for of involvement in Syria and the Labour Party is preaching significantly more fiscal discipline and sense than the Tory’s.

to be honest as well I think its the politicians that make the NHS and pensions a bid deal. Firstly at least half the country does not know the first thing about government policy and dos not give a s**t. Most of the other half that do are I think sensible enough to understand the predicament. means testing the basic state pension and winter fuel allowances would solve most of our financial issues along with a bit of fat trimming in the NHS.

Repulse
June 16, 2013 6:38 am

To quote our American cousins – “Freedom isn’t free”.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 16, 2013 7:19 am

IXION, your argument is sadly completely destroyed by the simple fact that everyone on parade yesterday, or guarding St James’ Palace or the Tower, and the other public duties is also an operational soldier, and does their turn on operational deployments.

The cost (whatever it might be) of the ceremonial side – uniforms, horses, vast amounts of polish, brasso and blanco, even the call charges for the mobiles used discreetly behind the scenes for coordination – are dwarfed by the amount of revenues brought into the country by American and Australian tourists who come to look at it all. There is an argument which I’d agree with that the MoD should not pay for that, and the simplest way seems to be to quantify those costs (a juicy little contract for an accounting firm), and whatever it turns out to be, give the MoD an uplift of that on the overall budget.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 8:29 am

The news sources quote 400 bandsmen. Are some of them just ordinary guardsmen banging a drum?
@RT – you say everyone on parade is an operational soldier – it is stretching it a bit to claim that for the bandsmen isn’t it?

Can an army of 82,000 really afford a Corps of Army Music (their own website is undecided – quoting both 700 musicians in 23 bands and 1,400 in 22 bands!). That Kneller Hall site must be worth a fortune as well!!

23 bands!
There are 5 Guards bands, and they are all based at Wellington barracks – if they are needed for unit cohesion why aren’t they with their units…(not that I really see that argument now the bandsmen are from a pool allocated to regimental bands)
If it is for historical reasons how come the Army Air Corps has one, and as for “The band of the Adjutant General’s Corps”?

Some of you gents are soldiers/ex-soldiers – do you/did you gain anything from your unit having a band. Would it make a difference if there were just three or four max?

Simon257
Simon257
June 16, 2013 8:42 am

I have said this before, but people like Danny Alexander, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Nick Clegg, Yvette Cooper; Ed Miliband, Boris Johnson. (I could go on but I haven’t got all day!) Is that they have NEVER, EVER, had a job outside of politics!

They have come straight out of University and into a political job of some sort. If you look at their online profiles, their is no sign of them working at McDonald’s, stacking shelve’s at Tesco or Asda or even working behind the bar at the Student’s Bar at Uni. They have no experiance of what life is really like for the great majority of the public.

I have no problem with someone being educated at Eton, or going onto Oxbridge for that matter. It does matter to me though, that if someone who wants to get into Politics, whatever the level. Must have experience of life in the real world. And at least a minimum of 5 years for that matter.

I was going to put this in the Sea Control Tread, but better hear I think. So to Mr Alexander, I raise your 400 Horses quip, with the 3000+ Windmills that are costing the British Public a fortune in subsidies.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/10122850/True-cost-of-Britains-wind-farm-industry-revealed.html#disqus_thread

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 16, 2013 8:45 am

ChrisM,

Bands are good things. For a start, all of them have an operational role as medics. I don’t imagine you’d advocate getting rid of medics on operations.

I think the numbers confusion might come from Pipes and Drums, which are different from Bands (obviously they all make music). The Ps and Ds have a primary role as machine gunners in most regiments (or tank crewmen in SCOTS DG).

Meddle with the necessity for bands or Ps and Ds at your peril. Apart from the fact that they all have proper war roles which have to be done in any case, we loved them. They’re part of the Regimental family, and music plays an enormous role in keeping traditions going. The only purpose of regimental traditions is to support a modern fighting unit.

Simon257
Simon257
June 16, 2013 8:51 am

@ Chris M

I take no pleasure in pointing this out, but Drummer Rigby, was not only a musician but had served his last tour in Afghanistan as a Machine Gunner.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 8:58 am

@RT
Are they really part of the regimental family if they joined to be musicians and then got allocated to you? Do the ranks love them as much as the officers?
Do they actually routinely get deployed or is it a bit of a fig leaf?

These are honest questions rather than just bitching. The numbers look extremely excessive for a shrinking army and I always take the heritage/history stuff with a pinch of salt when it comes from old Generals in the media.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 9:06 am

@Simon
Rigby was a bugler wasn’t he? That is like the Pipes and Drums RT mentions, not a bandsman of the Corps of Music.

@RT
Is the operational role just a figleaf – do bandsmen routinely get deployed?
Do the bands matter as much to the soldiers as the officers?
These are genuine questions to people who are closer to the reality, not just sniping. The numbers look very big for a shrinking army and I struggle to take the history/heritage arguments at full strength when they come from ancient old generals

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 9:31 am

@RT – The UK gets almost thirty million overseas tourist visits a year and those visitors contribute over £10 Billion to overall GDP. Therefore:

1 Carry out a statistically representative exit survey of tourists, and identify the proportion whose visit included at least one Public Duties event, and whose reasons for visiting included British traditions and history.

2 Calculate the relevant contribution to GDP made by those tourists.

3 Increase the proportion of GDP allocated to defence accordingly; in fairness, we might do the same for the arts; I’d guess those two headings would probably cover the overwhelming majority of “reasons for visit”

4 Take the money from Pensions, the NHS and Education…on the grounds that tourists clearly don’t come to admire our large cohort of grasping pensioners; murderous, extravagant and grossly over-managed hospitals; or largely mediocre and sometimes utterly useless state-maintained schools and the producer-lobby union barons that have ruined them.

Harsh but fair in my view…

GNB

Simon257
Simon257
June 16, 2013 9:33 am

@ Chris M
Not that it matters, I have seen images of him as a Drummer though.

If I remember correctly, I do believe it was the Para’s. One regret, they had about the Falklands Conflict, was that they did not take the Regimental Band. Not taking the band, meant no Stretcher Bearers.

Observer
Observer
June 16, 2013 9:33 am

RT said:

“The cost (whatever it might be) of the ceremonial side are dwarfed by the amount of revenues brought into the country by American and Australian tourists.”

This itself is very, very true, tourism is an industry that does feed on pomp and splendor, and sometimes you have to spend money to earn money. For example, Singapore’s main airport spends money like a drunk lord to make transit passengers happy, free movie theatres, free massage chairs, landscaped gardens, free phone recharging, wi-fi. All this costs money, huge amounts of it, but look online at the reviews of the people that insists on travelling through Changi airport again because of these “free” facilities. So yes, ceremonials are an expense, but one that earns their own keep and more. Well, some of them. Scrapping them might be penny wise, pound foolish.

Though “Dancing Queen” by ABBA might not have been an entirely appropriate song choice for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham. :) Worth a chuckle though.

IXION
June 16, 2013 9:33 am

OK (sits down cup of coffee by side computer has finished up dating crack knuckles and start typing)…

GNB You are not wrong all of the people dressed up in Ruritainian splendor are ‘proper soldiers’ most bandsmen I believe are medics.

Most are ‘Fulltime guardsmen’ rather that TA etc.

Timewise: – The implication is that they can train for all this crap and their combat skills not suffer. Which means they are either supermen, or that the other soldiers who don’t do silly hats, at least part of the time lounge around doing bugger all.

They do not actually provide much ‘security’ indeed the Met plod are quite clear that ‘real security’ at events and palaces etc is the job of the Royal protection Squad. The guns ain’t loaded.

Costwise : -As for the uniforms they cost a mint. For example, A horsegurdsmans boots will set you back grand. The skin for the bearskin costs £650 each (according to the great god Wikipedia) although they last a long time.

As for horses. I suspect that £20,000 is and under estimate. It will cost you £2-4000 a year to stable exercise and keep in good order a basic horse. These chargers and drum horses are very much the top end of the 4 legged industry Mercedes /Top end BMWs exceeded only by thoroughbred race horses (Ferraris). It is not a natural act for horse to stand still whilst someone bangs a drum on their back. Or not to run at the first loud noise. they spend years in training.

All in all it costs a bomb, (Or latterly a stack of mortar bombs). It looks great but it is emphatically not a ‘job on the side’.

There doesn’t that feel better now we are arguing again. :)

Red Trousers

Your argument is blown out of the water by your own admission that all this ceremonial claptrap costs a chunk of money and that in your eyes the MOD budget should be subbed for it. So it’s either increase the budget or operational utility suffers somewhere down the line as money is spent on buttons, rather than fuel for vehicles or ammo for training….

See above. Seriously I bet it takes weeks to get good at marching like that (although some of the lines yesterday were a bit crooked). How ‘operational’ are they really? We know the Paras and Marines were openly contemptuous of the Guards in the Falklands (particularly their fitness).

One Para of my acquaintance whilst of course being of the belief that the Paras were gods gift to soldiering, was surprisingly ‘OK’ with the ‘ordinary’ regiments of the Army. He did reserve his ire for SOME TA units (he said the standard was very variable) and the Guards. Again their level of physical fitness, and combat drills.

Are the guards supermen or are the ordinary soldiers in less exalted units inferior so have to spend more time on combat drills to keep up?

Like I said Put the whole lot on the same premise as the Honorable Artillery Company, then the Ruperts can wear the uniforms and get the debutants, and the men can ‘play’ in the parks. The country can count the cash brought in.

We can get back to a defence policy that is about defending the country- not dressing it up!

x
x
June 16, 2013 9:35 am

@ IXION

What do you think HM Forces are defending?

Sugarboat
Sugarboat
June 16, 2013 9:53 am

The cuts for me are a 50% reduction of MPs, MEPs, MSPs, Welsh and Northern Ireland versions – now this would be a meaningful start, there is a comparison with Councils/NHS etc. they always cut those working at the coal face never the pen pushers at the rear, as far the new reserve philosophy I will only be convinced when it is fully manned and equipped and has demonstrated competency, I remain very despondent about our future level of Armed Services plus equipment with no doubt high expectancy of use by our politician’s?

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 16, 2013 9:56 am

So the Treasury is moaning the Army has more horses than tanks. Is this the same treasury that mothballed many Challenger 2 tanks? Or failed to buy Warrior 2000? Or refused to replace the Scorpion family with Stormer family vehicles? That wasted £500m on the FRES/Ascod fiasco? That would not fund a Challenger 3 or C2 upgrade? That is quite happy to let our tank factory in Newcastle shut for good?

Observer
Observer
June 16, 2013 10:03 am

“Which means they are either supermen, or that the other soldiers who don’t do silly hats, at least part of the time lounge around doing bugger all.”

Most of the time, it’s bugger all. Hey, it’s the army, welcome to “hurry up and wait”.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 10:05 am

“One regret, they had about the Falklands Conflict, was that they did not take the Regimental Band. Not taking the band, meant no Stretcher Bearers.”

Surely they would have preferred more fully trained gun firers? Even if they did spend some of their time stretcher bearing?

IXION
June 16, 2013 10:06 am

X

If I ever have to fight for this country (by which time, given my physical state ,will mean the Iranians are marching up the M6 and have just taken Manchester). I will be fighting for western secular liberal democracy.

I will emphatically NOT be fighting for the ‘tradition’ of marching about in silly hats at my expense!

Mark
Mark
June 16, 2013 10:08 am

When accountants are told and realise that there sole function is to account for the money not to dictate or opinionate how it is spent the world will be a better place.

It appears we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing sometimes we need to feed the sole the cost of which is hard to quantify. In a small act i wonder how much credit the UK got when after September the 11th the bands played the star spangled banner at the changing of the guard which was then beamed across the pond.
I have no problem what so ever with the cost of these things it helps the armed forces to connect with the population which very rarely see them locally as there national footprint has reduced.

Apas the band of the Royal Marines.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 10:16 am

Hartley – it is – mind you, when Ministers start sniping in a rather stupid way in respect of a pretty serious issue it is usually an indication of a weak case…

– Gloomy by name….however in the spirit of good fellowship, perhaps we could pay for it by scrapping Legal Aid altogether and simply employing Public Defenders on the US model…on the minimum wage obviously, because all those going to the barricades for the current system assure us that Legal Aid Briefs are practically in the Poorhouse in any event, and take on the work because of their profound moral commitment to it…I’m assuming these poor starving Lawyers would welcome any steady income, however small…

GNB

IXION
June 16, 2013 10:19 am

Sugarboat

AMEN brother!

John Hartley

Sorry but the mighty FRES clusterf*ck, is mostly the responsibility of the army. The spec has been re written so many times, and trials held and re held because the Army can’t make its mind up. The AScod thing is just the latest element of this multi layer mess. We could have had Boxer IN SERVICE 5 years ago……. a program we were in on the ground floor on, paid for , pulled out, and then reinvented the requirement for. In ANY private industry the people responsible for FRES would have been sacked and sued, and quite possibly prosecuted. Unfortunately most of them wear khaki. When they finally bury the British army armored formation it will have a stake marked FRES through it’s heart.

As for the rest- yes politico’s take their share of the blame. But ultimately if all those projects you mentioned went ahead it would have needed a hugely expanded equipment budget.

IXION
June 16, 2013 10:29 am

GNB

I would LOVE to be a public defender! Civil service wage/pension/holiday, not having to complete the most ridiculously complicated billing structure humanly imaginable (did you now I still have 26 different rates of pay under the current system, and each has to be laboriously recorded) etc etc.

The late lamented ‘Trust me Tony’ and his Lord chancellor crony tried to set one up…. they boasted about it, and how its efficiency would be shown by a 3 year rolling trial, at the end of which they would scrap criminal legal aid……….Then as the football cowds chant when they are 5 nil up at half time ‘It’s all gone quite over there’ 2 years in, the idea was quietly shelved, the figures were so bad they have never been publicly admitted!

Rumor has it the scheme would have cost 3 times as much as legal aid

Oh and at minimum wage with the grand or more tax credits I would get, I would be about the same financially.

x
x
June 16, 2013 10:47 am

IXION said “silly hats”

I see. What really is driving all this is professional envy. You don’t get to wear a silly hat and a costume to do your work. Look not everybody can talk utter b*llocks, make it sound like they have swallowed a law library, and con everybody in court they are sincere. If we could we would all be barristers wouldn’t we? ;)

As for “Western secular liberal democracy”, what’s that then? :) Seriously the threat to that is to be found in other areas within the state from the BBC to academia to Westminster. I fear getting rid of all the Queen’s horses and some of her more musical men isn’t really tackling the problem areas. HMtQ and armed forces are probably the only two pillars of state that the general public have utter faith. If you think sawing at those pillars will help the state solve its problems then you are sadly mistaken.

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 10:48 am

“It appears we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing ”

Apologies but that is one of the most trite and meaningless phrases around.
The accountants are there to lay out what the costs are. The management and politicians have to decide the values (which the accountants can then use to produce comparisons if required).

The key question is to whom the value is accruing. If the ceremonial really does support military moral (though the RN seem to manage) then it is fair enough that the MOD are paying. If it is about tourism and impressing foreign dignitaries then it should be coming out of someone else’s budget.

Simon257
Simon257
June 16, 2013 10:53 am

@ ChrisM

As luck would have it 2 Para, went to the Falklands, with double the amount of GPMG’s. Due to the fact they were changing their complete allocation of GPMG’s with refurbished version’s at the time. Lt. Col Jones’s decided to keep hold of the old GPMG’S, and take them instead with 2 Para down south.

Before you can put a wounded soldier on a MERT Chinnok, that person still needs to be carried to an appropriate LZ. Better to have some dedicated personnel to do this vital role, than watch an entire section being temporary taken out of the line to evacuate, said wounded soldier.

By the way, the most highly decorated soldier of WW1 was a Stretcher Bearer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harold_Coltman
http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbcoltma.htm

IXION
June 16, 2013 10:56 am

Mark

I am not against silly hats per se. I watched and enjoyed the trooping of the colour yesterday. And yes ‘tradition’ has it’s place but remember The kings Troop was set up as a ceremonial unit, when we already had the HAC, 60 years ago. They KT have only been on parade at the trooping of the colour 18 years. The Welsh Guards are less than a hundred years old. the RAF Less. So tradition is not necessarily that traditional.

However it should not come out of the defence budget.

The desire to keep the guards units has warped the structure of the Army, as TD has mentioned before.

x
x
June 16, 2013 11:12 am

ChrisM said “though the RN seem to manage”

Really?

IXION
June 16, 2013 11:14 am

I get to wear silly wigs!

And that really pisses me off. there a few things more ridiculous than sititng down with a client and discussing:

DNA evidence
Radio location of Mobile phones
Secret decrypts of secure emails
Tracking devices
Computer reports.
CCTV and records of world flights.

And then saying to him in effect forget all that 21st century stuff. Before going into court I now have to put on my head a wig so stupid that no sane individual has worn one in public for 200 years, and you probably saw last worn on telly by Sid James in ‘Carry on Dick’

X you asked me what they, and by extension I would be fighting for. I gave you an answer.

During WW2 during a debate in the house on the proposed national health service/national assistance and education proposals, one labour member put it very succinctly. When some Tory bufton tufton type pontificated about saving the British Empire .

The labour member said in effect. ‘This is what we are fighting for not your rubber trees in some Malayan swamp’.

There is much wrong with all the institutions you have mentioned, and yes a cultural cringe to people who really just need to be told to ‘sit down, shut up, or fuck off’. But I do not think that is an issue for defence budgets.

x
x
June 16, 2013 11:18 am

@ IXION

So you are saying that tradition can decay, but can’t be built upon?

As I keep saying the costs to a trillion pound state are trifling.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 11:18 am

– Touche…although I feel obliged to add that a system in which a minimum wage job can generate a grand in tax-credits has much bigger systemic problems than those that might be solved by reducing the Defence budget still further, or indeed giving up on it altogether…as previously discussed the big numbers that can make a real difference to national well-being are all to be found elsewhere…

@X – In fairness to anybody who fights for this Country is doing so for Western Liberal Secular Democracy, because that is what we are; the difference is that some people couldn’t define the place in those terms, but know it is a bloody good thing when they live in it and are willing to get stuck in; others like me can define it in those terms, but at a visceral level know we were not only the first, but also remain the best; and others again prefer to define it in a more abstract way because they read the Guardian, mostly agree with the BBC and are ever so slightly uncomfortable with anything that smacks of a decent patriotic feeling for the virtues and essential decency of their homeland…

M – Are you an Accountant by any chance?

GNB

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 12:17 pm

@SImon
Would you rather have stretcher bearers, or stretcher bearers that can get stuck in until they are needed?
@X
Do the RN have all the marching bands, horses and expensive old uniforms? My amateur eye seems to see them keeping uniforms pretty simple and up to date.
@GNB
Not an accountant. I move beans around and count them, then give the real numbers to accountants who make the number of beans equal what management want them to equal ;-)
Accountants cause me all sorts of problems so I rarely defend them. But use of the statement “cost of everything but the value of nothing” normally translates to “they know the value of everything, I just disagree with the value allocation as it ignores my pet projects”

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 16, 2013 12:17 pm

Crumbs, the chaps here squabbling about the cost of ceremonial duties sound like a bunch of politicians. Even after all the cuts the annual defence budget is still north of £30,000,000,000 (out of a total government expenditure of somewhere near £700,000,000,000 p.a.). The cost of horses, bands and No.1 dress is so trivial it could be lost as a rounding error.

As for the military worth of the Household troops: OK there was some criticism of the fitness for combat of two battalions deployed in the Falklands, some of it may even have been justified (though I suspect that they were no worse in that respect than most line infantry regiments of the time) but the Guards have served in multiple operational tours over the past couple of decades with no word of complaint – to say nothing of their performance in the world wars and numerous campaigns before those. The idea that we should get rid of five battalions of infantry because they have the title Guards is just silly.

For what its worth, and I accept I might be out of date on this, I think regimental tradition is very important to the average squaddie. The feeling that one is part of something bigger than one’s self that did great things before one was born and will be there doing great things long after one is dead is actually quite a motivator, especially when it comes to getting out of the “safe” hole and going forward. Its all part of how you get men to fight to the death, and win. Which is of course why every fighting army that I have ever heard of, even those without our glorious regimental system, tries to inculcate it.

Of course that spirit cannot be put into a spread sheet and so those that never experienced it can denigrate it, claim it doesn’t exist and slash away, saving pennies but destroying pounds.

Mickp
Mickp
June 16, 2013 12:34 pm

The problem with current and past administrations is they “know the true cost of nothing and the value of nothing”

I’m not sure one can blame the accountants solely for that

And yes I am one ;-)

ChrisM
ChrisM
June 16, 2013 12:45 pm

“The cost of horses, bands and No.1 dress is so trivial it could be lost as a rounding error”

Isnt that sort of thinking part of the problem?
“My little part of the budget is so small it isn’t worth making savings?”
In times of budgets this tight surely you need more of a “look after the pennies…” attitude?
What does the soldier in a part of the army getting cut back feel about all that pomp?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 12:54 pm

@HurstLlama – we are just amusing ourselves until Hammond announces something about either CVF, F35B, the issue of Red Trousers to the boys in green, or pretty much anything about the RAF that we can really fall out about..!

Good thought on UKIP over at TPL by the by – we now seem to have serious parties of political obsessives who work out detailed policies that are deliverable, but have completely lost any kind of real life contact with the electorate (or indeed reality) – or a party close enough to us to be enjoyable company down the pub of evening; whose policies seem to be worked out on the back of a fag packet after nine pints of “Old Arse-Ripper” or some such. My best hope is that Farage and his motley crew win, but then appoint Sir H as Permanent Under- Secretary of State, take on Chris B as a Special Adviser, and fund the Boss to start a proper think-tank…and then repair to their constituencies to get the beer in for the rest of us…

GNB

IXION
June 16, 2013 12:55 pm

GNB

The big number can be found elsewhere:-

We should be shutting a large number of district hospitals and concentrating resources in bigger units. Just try that on a political level and see what happens the most rabid right wing tory MP will shit himself and resign the hip rather than support such a move. Look at what has happened with children heart services. Almost everyone agrees that the number should be cut, but when it comes to what ones to cut, then everyone runs off to their lawyers and the we are back to square one. We should srcap all local control of NHS and make it a National health service.

The police would actually support the merging of the forces in to one English force outside the Met.

The fire service should be national.

All this local control costs money.

But it would be a very bold politician who suggested cutting it. He or she would get lynched.

They may be stupid thieving scum, but occasionally you have to feel a bit sorry for politicians.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 16, 2013 12:58 pm

If people want to delete a unit to save some money at the least possible impact to overall Defence Capability, it is simple. Get rid of the RAF Regiment.

They do literally nothing that other units cannot do much more professionally. They have a single, sole function, to guard an airbase, and from personal experience in Iraq and Bosnia, they are pretty piss poor at that, and from further experience on the Joint Staff Course, their officers are pretty fucking useless as well, disliked by both the Army and proper flying Kevins. Why would they be any good, being rejects from the Army and also the dregs from Cranwell who’d stayed on despite being told they were too uncoordinated to fly.

There are two airbases in the entire world that the UK need to have guarded, Mount Pleasant in the Falklands, and Bastion. A better solution is available than the continued existence of the RAF Regiment.

The cost of the existence of the RAF Regiment is unsupportable. Transfer the troops to the Army as some incremental companies to existing Battalions, train the soldiers properly, give the officers a P45, and tell the Queen’s Colour Squadron to mince off into non-existence.

x
x
June 16, 2013 1:04 pm

Chris M asked “Do the RN have all the marching bands, horses and expensive old uniforms? My amateur eye seems to see them keeping uniforms pretty simple and up to date.”

The RN isn’t without “ceremonial overheads”. A rating’s no1 uniform is just as complicated a most of the army’s similar uniforms; jumper, tapes, collar, white front etc. Swords. Bosun’s calls. Cap tallies. Flags. Dipping ensigns. Even ships’ badges. And so on.

My point is there is more ceremonial out there than perhaps we think there to be. Take my local council. The mayor wears one chain. But because the borough has acquired extra territory over the years there are actually three chains. Our borough is the only one in England with two maces that are paraded before each council session. Now is that common knowledge where I live? No I would say not. Does that mean we should sell the two chains that aren’t worn and the maces for scrap? All human societies have ceremony. You can’t just remove it.

Always troubled here by the expectation that the armed forces should be treated or act in some way that is less than human. Either being ordered to do stuff simply because they are in the forces like they are expendable unthinking robots. Or simply expected to behave differently due to cost. I think that many expecting such would be the first to balk if they were treated thus.

Phil
June 16, 2013 1:17 pm

Good God x we thoroughly agree on something.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 2:04 pm

@RT – If we need soldiers to defend some permanent Air Bases (and the temporary ones we keep setting up) – and those soldiers need to be properly integrated with the Command structure of the bases – and appropriately equipped for the task, and able to operate safely around very expensive fast jets – it is perfectly logical to put those soldiers in the same uniform and within the same command structure as the people running the base.

If they don’t do the job as well as they should, the issue is recruitment and training not uniform. and the solution is improve both those elements, not simply to change the uniform…with some of the best soldiers in the world available to help, there is absolutely no reason why those issues cannot be resolved – and every reason why they should be.

Likewise, if there are bases they don’t guard, they should…including MPA and perhaps Cyprus; as to the QCS I assume like the Guards they have a wartime role, and do that work for part of a career which also includes other and more obviously warlike activities – if not, that is a neglect of command and good management that should be addressed.

If they mince, they need less well-fitting trousers and different boots…furthermore, having seen the odd cavalryman in overalls and riding boots (with spurs) walking, that particular canard seems to me to be at the least a little unwise…before you ask it was the Heavy Cavalry Band at the Leeds Armoury just a few weeks ago…

Chris.B
Chris.B
June 16, 2013 2:08 pm

I’m not sure where some of the criticism is coming from about the Guards utility “in the field”? They rotate through public duties to some degree, and conducted the same pre-deployment training as everyone else before going to places like Afghanistan.

To me the Coalitions budget plans just don’t make any sense. If you want to save money, you start with your highest expenditure lines. That’s Health, Education and Welfare/tax credits etc. That’s where the most money can be saved with the least broad impact on the final outcome. You also have to ask yourself whether this is the right time to be imposing such severe green energy targets, the cost of which is palmed off to energy consumers. And yeah, foreign aid needs looking at.

My big fear looking over the next decade is that we’re going to sell the forces short in terms of equipment and support, then throw them into something that turns out to be way, way over their heads, and ends in a disaster. I sincerely hope I’m wrong on that point.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 2:14 pm

B – you are not wrong…the only saving grace being that a proper full-on disaster would finally settle the question of what the Nation really wants to do…

No comfort to the casualties or their widows and orphans though.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 16, 2013 2:23 pm

“If people want to delete a unit to save some money at the least possible impact to overall Defence Capability, it is simple. Get rid of the RAF”

Quite right, Mr. Trousers. The FAA can take the fighty bits and the AAC can take the transport jobs. There is no need for this third service.

Ooops sorry, just re-read your post and saw that what you said was get rid of the RAF Regiment. Well, that goes without saying, just use the saved dosh to keep/create another battalion of an infantry regiment that has no problem recruiting (e.g RRF).

@Gloomy Northern Boy

“Good thought on UKIP over at TPL”

Sorry, Mr. Gloomy, but where is TPL? I like you other ideas, especially that politicians should get the beers in.

“The police would actually support the merging of the forces in to one English force outside the Met.”

The top brass, probably, but I’d bet that attitude does not prevail amongst the working plods. Why should the Met be kept separate, by the way?

“They may be stupid thieving scum, but occasionally you have to feel a bit sorry for politicians.”

Nope, don’t feel sorry for them in any way, shape or form. They are all volunteers and as they saying went, “If you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined”. Most of them are in safe seats, raking in lots of dosh and getting nowhere near the level of scrutiny and disapprobation that they deserve.

@ChrisM

By all means look after the pennies, but in doing so don’t forget the pounds. Saving ten quid in cash is nice but if in doing do it costs you £100 in value you are worse off.

Chris.B
Chris.B
June 16, 2013 3:42 pm

@ GNB,
“No comfort to the casualties or their widows and orphans though.”
— Which is what worries me.

@ HurstLlama,
re; the police,
There was a plan laid down somewhere, I have a copy of it in a PDF format lurking in the dungeons of my hard drive, for the police to form a national force based around the Met. So the Met would run London, the current local forces would run their own little patches, and then the Met would also run a sort of FBI type organisation that handled some of the more serious crimes and issues on a national level, like coordinating nationwide counter-terrorism efforts.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 3:43 pm

@HurstLlama – slip of the brain – your comment about UKIP was over at Chris B’s place, not Sir Humphrey’s…as usual I am losing track of who said what where…
Confused and Gloomy.

x
x
June 16, 2013 3:55 pm

“has no problem recruiting e.g RRF, 3 Mercian, or XIX of Foot”

:)

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 16, 2013 4:15 pm

Mr. Gloomy,

I have got it now. When you said, “TPL” you meant Sir Humphrey’s excellent site. I am sorry I just did not pick up on the abbreviation – too much wampum on a Sunday lunchtime I dare say. My fault.

@ChrisB

I am a tad dubious about debating police matters here, some of the filth might rub off.

Martin
Editor
June 16, 2013 4:32 pm

@ RT its seems a bit off that the RAF claim the right to anything that flies from Army transport helicopters to Fleet Air Arm jets claiming its cheaper to run them in a single service yet they still need their own private army. :-)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 16, 2013 5:18 pm

– The RAF Regiment was established in WW2 (by Churchill I believe) because the RAF believed the Army to be reluctant to task soldiers to defend Airfields, especially in the Western Desert – where they were clearly vulnerable as demonstrated by the exploits of the LRDG and the SAS giving the Hun a hard time…

I have to say if I were an RAF Officer following this site, I might sometimes suspect my worst enemies were actually the other Services on my own side…thereby leading to the conclusion that a private army was essential for self defence..!

Monty
June 16, 2013 6:16 pm

When it comes to justifying the cost of ceremonial uniforms, I think it was the Duke of Wellington who said: ‘The smart a soldier is dressed, the more highly regarded he will be by women, and the more highly regarded by women he is, the more he will think of himself.’ Having soldiers with confidence in themselves is an essential war winning ingredient.

TD, I was going to have a go at you for using the F-word. Actually, I agree with every word you wrote and think you should have used more F-words.

The facts of life here are very simple. Cameron’s goal is simply self-survival. He wants to be elected next time round. If he cuts the £270 Social Services bill from the budget, he will lose millions votes. If he cuts the armed Forces he will lose very few. Besides which, the Lib. Dems have made it clear that cutting the Social Services bill is a non-starter.

The bitter truth is, Cameron, Osborne, Alexander, Cable and all you other Westminster F-wits, if you want to cut back further, you will have to cut elsewhere.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 16, 2013 6:21 pm

“I have to say if I were an RAF Officer following this site, I might sometimes suspect my worst enemies were actually the other Services on my own side”

And you would be quite right, as would the officers of the RN who would not suspect but know, without a shadow of a doubt, that their most deadly enemies are the RAF. It really is time to get rid of this unproductive hostility that achieves nothing good for the country. 1st April 2018, the 100th anniversary of the RAF, seems an ideal time to abolish it.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 16, 2013 6:50 pm

@TD

Well there is certainly one poster who would not be afraid to admit he is very anti a certain part of the RAF :)

Topman
Topman
June 16, 2013 7:05 pm

‘as would the officers of the RN who would not suspect but know, without a shadow of a doubt, that their most deadly enemies are the RAF.’

Seeing that the navy has fought many a tough enemy, I’ll take that as compliment! :)

Mike W
June 16, 2013 7:40 pm

Re; IXION’s comment:

“How ‘operational’ are they really? We know the Paras and Marines were openly contemptuous of the Guards in the Falklands (particularly their fitness).”

Could someone remind me? Which battalion was it that was largely instrumental in the taking of Mount Tumbledown? The name of the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards keeps running through my mind but I might have got that entirely wrong. Maybe they were not really “operational” at all.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 16, 2013 7:49 pm

@Mike W

Yes but maybe the word “Scots” overrides the words guard? :)

In all seriousness a very good point and having walked from San Carlos to Stanley taking in the main battlefields I can confess that this not completely unfit Naval Officer has much respect for the guys who went up there in the face of enemy fire and grenades!

x
x
June 16, 2013 7:49 pm

I got my fingers burnt on this last time that war was mentioned. I forgot the in’s and out’s and apologized. The Welsh Guards were about to step up to Spearhead after training in Kenya. The Scots Guards had just come off ceremonial.

IXION
June 16, 2013 8:09 pm

Mike

It is common knowledge both at the time and in subsiquent memoirs etc. The guards were criticised for lack of fitness.

I do not say the guards are rubbish just that if you want some line infantry and reccie and tanks. It can be done as well cheaper or more importantly with more resources for training etc. 400 horses or fuel for all the armour for a year?

Oh and my anti RAF colours are flying free in the breeze. Mind you I am supposidly anti navy and anti army.

Monty
June 16, 2013 8:48 pm

As an ex-Guardsmen and one who was also parachute trained, I resent any suggestion about Paras being fitter than Guardsmen. When the Falklands War happened, both the Welsh Guards and Scots Guards were Public Duties battalions. When we weren’t at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, we had little else to do but fitness training. At the time we were running something like 40-50 km a week. We would have happily gone on exercise, gone on the ranges, or conducted any other manner of training. The budgets simply weren’t there to allow us to be as keen as we wanted to be. Later, when i served as Recce Platoon Commander in BAOR with CVR(T) Scimitar, we were limited to 500 track miles per year just as the Paras themselves were lmited to very few actual parachute jumps.

Whatever you criticise the Guards for, you cannot accuse them for lacking in discipline. Standards have remained consistent for hundreds of years. I think it would be unfair to other regiments to describe the Guards as ‘The Backbone of the British Army’ but they certainly have an esprit de corps, cohesion and strength that has served them well in battle. “Sleep easy boys, the Guards are in the line.’ became a mantra during World War 1.

One always expects inter-unit rivalries within the Army. At one level it is healthy, but it needs to be checked so that it doesn’t get out of hand. I dislike the term Kevins. It is clearly meant to be derogatory. I don’t think it has a place here.) I find the inter-service rivalry reported here completely exaggerated. I owe my life to an RAF helicopter pilot. I have many friends in the Navy. I never regarded either as an inferior service. I don’t think anyone in the Army today does either. Nor do i think that UK Defence policy should ever favour one service over another. As far as I know, it doesn’t. It is about furnishing the capabilities we need. If that means the RAF gets a bigger budget, so be it. If the Army has enjoyed a bigger budget historically, perhaps logically it is because Army manpower levels tend to be higher than the other services. Manpower is our most expensive military resource.

With each service having its back to the wall with more cuts looming. it is a time to support one another not to fight each other. Let’s not forget that the disastrous reorganisation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland occurred because the Scottish Regiments could not agree amongst themselves where the cuts should fall. So the decision was taken out of their hands. We can’t let that happen more widely between the three services.

Mike W
June 16, 2013 9:41 pm

” but they certainly have an esprit de corps, cohesion and strength that has served them well in battle. “Sleep easy boys, the Guards are in the line.’ became a mantra during World War 1. ”

Yes, I think those qualities have served them brilliantly well down through the years. Dunkirk, for instance. In a discussion concerning the discipline (or possible indiscipline) of British troops during that operation, one eyewitness said of their (the Guards’) marshalling of troops coming off the beaches and onto the ships and boats: “The Guards, as always were superb.” Standards have remained consistent for centuries.

“We can’t let that happen more widely between the three services.” Agree absolutely. Banter is one thing but …

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 16, 2013 11:55 pm

On the idea of cutting public duties. We live in a democracy (of sorts); government spending priorities are determined by the priorities of the voting public.
That the NHS budget is ringfenced while the defence budget faces further cuts is because the NHS features higher on Joe Public’s list of priorities. And this is probably due to voters having much greater interaction with the NHS throughout their lives.
Fewer and fewer people have any direct connection with the armed forces. Service numbers shrink, there’s no national military service, and it’s now a couple of generations since men were required to serve their time.
If links between the military and the public are allowed to break, then the military will not be in the public’s consciousness when the time comes to cast their votes. Most families now will not have anyone who is either serving or who has served in the past, and perhaps the one main thing that keeps the the armed forces in their minds is the ceremonial displays that they conduct.
Saving a few pounds on red coats and horses today could easily cost the Army a billion pounds worth of infantry and armour tomorrow, once they are no longer in the public eye.

Mike W
June 17, 2013 1:25 pm

@Brian Black

“Saving a few pounds on red coats and horses today could easily cost the Army a billion pounds worth of infantry and armour tomorrow, once they are no longer in the public eye.”

You never said a truer word, Brian.

a
a
June 17, 2013 5:28 pm

remember The kings Troop was set up as a ceremonial unit, when we already had the HAC, 60 years ago.

The HAC wasn’t a ceremonial unit 60 years ago and it isn’t a ceremonial unit today. HAC troops were in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 – at one point during the invasion the furthest-north soldier of the entire British contingent was an HAC bloke – and there have been HAC blokes in Afghanistan continuously since 2007. Not all of them made it back in one piece; not all of them made it back at all.

Get rid of the RAF Regiment. They do literally nothing that other units cannot do much more professionally. They have a single, sole function, to guard an airbase, and from personal experience in Iraq and Bosnia, they are pretty piss poor at that

It’s increasingly difficult to see why 5% of our total infantry strength has to be devoted to the Short-Range Desert Group…

a
a
June 17, 2013 5:32 pm

There was a plan laid down somewhere, I have a copy of it in a PDF format lurking in the dungeons of my hard drive, for the police to form a national force based around the Met. So the Met would run London, the current local forces would run their own little patches, and then the Met would also run a sort of FBI type organisation that handled some of the more serious crimes and issues on a national level, like coordinating nationwide counter-terrorism efforts.

This has just happened in Scotland – there’s now a single Scottish police force rather than lots of little ones. Good idea – the Highlands and Islands force, for example, didn’t have much experience with murder, so now when one comes along they can draw on the Glasgow boys.

Phil
June 17, 2013 5:35 pm

at one point during the invasion the furthest-north soldier of the entire British contingent was an HAC bloke

Bollocks I heard it was a Rock-Ape. Gen.

x
x
June 17, 2013 6:07 pm

@ a re national police force

Smaller forces have always called on larger forces for support.

A national force would be a bad idea. Gnaws away at the idea of policing by consent. It would break the link between a force and the community it polices. The Continentals may go in for para-military forces where police from one area are posted to another area but it isn’t our way. That is one step down from soldiers on our streets. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the IPCC do solid work, but the resource that is called on to investigate the police of one service are the police of another service. Separate organisations. There is a danger a national force could become politicised in a way that armed forces cannot be. Look at ACPO and how it sells itself a quasi-general-staff for UK policing. No a national force is a bad idea. To be honest we need a return to even smaller local forces and other forms of local policing; PCSO done properly if you will.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 17, 2013 6:45 pm

If a police force has a scandal, it has to call in another force to investigate. How do you do that with a single national force? Think the Scots may have shot themselves in the foot with this. They went from 7 or 8 ? too small forces to a single national force. If they have a scandal, they will have to call in an English force. Quelle Horreur. They might have been better off reducing to 3 forces that were large enough to deal with complex cases, but still reasonably local.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 17, 2013 6:46 pm

@x – Whilst largely agreeing with you about the Police – not least because with sensible decisions about shared purchasing, shared resources and effective inter-force work many of the benefits of a National Police Service can be achieved without imposing the cost and bureaucracy of a national command structure – the one exception I might make is to combine the existing more or less wholly-armed units (MOD, Nuclear, Airport) into a single set-up. Seems to we that their function is different in kind to that of most Police Services, and does have an aspect of the para-military about it.

I might also provide SO19 and the like from the same source, with sub-units seconded to and under command of Chief Constables – but I don’t claim enough knowledge of that end of policing to know if it makes sense; what I do know is that the Bobbies I worked with in a seriously tough corner of a Northern City did see them as a bit of a breed apart…although they themselves were no slouches in putting doors through and dishing out cosh if required, so it might be workable.

I would be looking for high and consistent standards of professional training…up to and including the kind of support to the Intelligence Service that I assume is now provided by the SF, at least in the UK proper.

What I have also wondered about is the need in resilience terms for something akin to the French CRS, at least in London and the big Cities…any of the Boys in Blue out there with a view on that?

And finally, if we followed that route should they be Redcaps? Providing an armed Paramilitary Police Reserve to handle seriously bad trouble of various sorts, and leaving traditional Police Officers to “Police by Consent” in exactly they way that Sir Robert Peel envisaged and the Police have so expertly delivered for almost two hundred years.

I should add that part of my reasoning here is to shift cost to the Home Office for stuff I suspect a much reduced Army might in future be expected to both do and fund…

@TD – this thought seems to have drifted into crowd-sourced Defence Review territory…sorry boss…

GNB

IXION
June 17, 2013 7:00 pm

Re HAC

I agree it is not a cerimonial unit. But it has a cerimonial function.

As for the rest. Fine if you want busbies over bullets, horses over fuel for excercises, then fine. If it is the judgement of those involved in organising our forces
That it is better done that way then let it be done.

I think its got bugger all to do with fighting efficiency and everything to do with look at the size of my bearskin.

x
x
June 17, 2013 7:03 pm

@ GNB re MoD Plod, Nuclear Plod, and Transport Plod

Yes I agree with you about the first two. Actually I have been looking at them because of the proposed cuts to the first one. They could take over policing the Cyprus SBA too. Seems to be lots of overlap. Though that shouldn’t be taken as an indication that there are savings to be made.

Not sure about Transport. A week or two back I was looking at our patrol assets in inshore waters compared to other European states. There may be scope there for change. The Australian’s have a federal force and that deals with “civilian police” issues at sea. I shall have to have a look see.

IXION
June 17, 2013 7:15 pm

As for guarding guards. At 3 a.m in police station I guard the guards. Of course a year later after you have been beaten up, the Police Cover up Authority can declare it was a resonable use of force. But its amazing how little ‘reasonable force’ gets used when there is a lawyer in the custody suite.

A national force could do a lot for professional standards.

x
x
June 17, 2013 7:16 pm

GNB re Red Caps as territorial support.

No.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 17, 2013 7:45 pm

@X – Got into a long exchange about a North Atlantic Ridge Coastguard some time ago…and I came away with the belief that the idea had merit if it was an RN Squadron equipped over time for para-military/patrol work…but largely funded by other budgets…Home Office, HMRC, FCO, DfID, the Overseas Territories et al; and backed by UK minesweepers largely crewed by the RNVR – in peacetime they could pick up all the low intensity stuff from the Arctic to Antarctic – but if we needed to put both CVF Task Forces to sea they could do somewhat more (at some risk, but that is the business we are in)

@TD – there might have been some useful thoughts in that discussion somewhere, if you can recall it – mostly about ways and means of securing future resource options in our very large EEZ’s…and grabbing bits of other budgets for policing as opposed to defending the seas.

On the EEZ question, as I am sure you have observed the spectrum of discussion here ranges from “There is nothing there” to “There could be the national equivalent of winning the Euromillions tomorrow” – but in this context I would suggest one of our strategic priorities might be to do the science and exploration to find out in a serious and systematic way – we know less about the deep oceans than we do about space, the Crown owns a big chunk of them, and we are still good at Oceanography and deep-sea activities generally – we also need to have more discussion with the BOTs along the lines of the one the PM has just had about tax; does that form part of the definition of Interests?

GNB

Damn – still in the wrong place…

x
x
June 17, 2013 8:22 pm

@ GNB

I more concerned with water closer to home. Those bits near the Continent and around the Channel Islands. South coat inshore / “near” offshore not high seas. HMNB Portsmouth and Plymouth. Approaches to London. Plus some work in the Irish Box too. Taking on the HMRC/BA/whatever cutters (another 4 to 6 similar) whatecer they do plus fisheries protection plus other “security” tasks.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 17, 2013 10:39 pm

@X – Don’t disagree – but would deal with the whole lot as a single task to assert authority in a domain that I believe will be of growing importance in the century to come, and build on work already being done to re-affirm our relationship with the Overseas Territories (St Helena Airport/probable support to the FI diplomatic offensive/ Cameron’s intervention on tax/probably others) – just to remind ourselves and others that “What we have, we hold” – not least because with modern communications, it can be done pretty readily.

Reminds people we are a seafaring people as well…

GNB

x
x
June 17, 2013 10:56 pm

@ GNB

Yes I know it is important. You are talking to Mr More Ships here.

But google “Coast Guard repatriates Cuban migrants” then consider Cuba is 100 miles from Florida. How far away is the Continent from the South Coast?

Nick London
Nick London
June 18, 2013 8:47 am

Back to the original post, I believe the French Republican Guard is not on their defence budget.

Could we do the same, have the ceremonial done by Civil Servants (I doubt anyone would want a contractor doing this yet, so close to the Olympic security shambles ) trained just to look smart, bags cheaper, and on some other budget Culture, Home Office or Mayor of London – take your pick.

a
a
June 18, 2013 10:29 am

Could we do the same, have the ceremonial done by Civil Servants (I doubt anyone would want a contractor doing this yet, so close to the Olympic security shambles ) trained just to look smart, bags cheaper, and on some other budget

I’m glad you mentioned that because it allows me to bring up my other TA reform plan, which involves adding another infantry battalion to the London District Orbat. The new unit, provisionally known as “The Actors’ Rifles” would be recruited from London’s immense pool of unemployed (sorry, “resting”) actors, and would be a dedicated public-duties unit with no set wartime role.

The advantages are many and obvious:

1. Specialisation means you get better performance. All the chimping about “I joined to be a soldier not a ballet dancer” would end. A squaddie in the Actors’ Rifles would have joined to be a ballet dancer. He might well actually be a ballet dancer in civilian life. He wouldn’t be spending time worrying about keeping his Javelin skills or Scimitar driving qual current while he was bulling boots and practising present arms.

2, The crossover between civi skills and military role is one of the TA’s greatest potential strengths. TA medics are nurses in civilian life. TA REME might be garage mechanics in civilian life. TA sappers might be builders. It makes sense that TA prancing-about-in-silly-clothes-in-public specialists would, outside the army, be professional prancers-about-in-silly-clothes-in-public.

3. Ceremonial duties are a pain in the backside for TA in particular because they mostly happen during the workday, which means taking time off your regular civilian job. But actors don’t work during the day! And they don’t generally have regular jobs anyway. They’d leap at the chance of getting a bit more casual work between productions.

4. It would provide social benefits to London at large; the theatre industry is a massive pull for tourists, bringing in millions, and this is a way to help out some of the least well-paid members of that industry. Maybe it could even be partly funded by a small levy on West End ticket revenues?

5. Hearts and minds. Let’s face it, there isn’t much affection between the luvvie community and the armed forces. This would change all that! You’d be giving the future celebrities – future stars of stage and screen – a bit of exposure to the military, in a very positive context, ie providing them with jobs while they’re down on their luck. And what jobs! Think what an honour it is to be on stage in front of the Queen. On parade isn’t much different. Think of the crowds that ceremonial duties pull in. The knock-on effect in this very important community of opinion formers would be huge.

IXION
June 18, 2013 6:29 pm

The problem with the luvvies militia is security clearance.

I can see many happy hours of interrogstion ahead for the cast of
We Will Rock You coz they used thr phrase ‘Queen”and ‘Bomb’. In the same sentence:)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 18, 2013 11:53 pm

@Nick London – I suspect the Garde Republicaine are not in the French Defence Budget because they are Gendarmes not soldiers, and hence paid for by the Minister of the Interior; but that does not alter the fact that when not in fancy dress they are armed and equipped as motorised infantry (with light armour)…they are responsible for the security of Paris…and they do participate in overseas military expeditions, especially peacekeeping ones.

The Carabinieri in Italy function in a similar way, and their Corazzieri Regiment find the President’s Guard (minimum height 6’6″, and that in Italy!)

GNB

Nick London
Nick London
July 26, 2013 1:35 pm

Have belatedly seen the replies.

@a

You said it better than I could.

@GMB

you are right of course some one has to pay for it.

N

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 26, 2013 1:59 pm

“The new unit, provisionally known as “The Actors’ Rifles” would be recruited from London’s immense pool of unemployed (sorry, “resting”) actors, and would be a dedicated public-duties unit with no set wartime role.”

Have you had much contact with London’s resting actor fraternity? I am afraid your suggestion might well entail new movements being added to the drill book that might not find favour with the GSM (London District), let alone the Lady herself.