The Parlous State of our Armed Forces    
    Ronald Rickcord makes an analysis of Britain's current Armed Forces    

‘We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat.’ Queen Victoria, 1899

IN AN ARTICLE of mine entitled Britain Undefended published in Spearhead in October 1978 I wrote: "For far too long our defence forces have been neglected to such an extent that today they are lamentably undermanned, underequipped, underpaid and undervalued." Has anything changed during the intervening 22 years? Unfortunately not; if anything, matters are very much worse than they were then. So badly has our military capability degenerated that even the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, an officer not noted for standing up to politicians, has recently warned in a newspaper interview that the fighting ability of the armed forces is being undermined by their involvement in too many humanitarian operations.

Gen. Guthrie is quite right; but before proceeding further I have a bone to pick with him. In his interview he is reported to have said: "It is the duty of the armed forces to serve their political masters." Wrong, General! The newest recruit knows that he owes his allegiance, to the Sovereign. When I joined the Royal Air Force I had to swear and sign the following Attestation Oath, a copy of which is still in my possession:-

‘I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Sixth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of the Air Officers and Officers set over me. So help me God.’

No mention of 'political masters' there!

In my article I defined the main purpose of government as follows:-

‘The first obligation which any government owes to the governed is to provide them with protection from all external enemies, real or potential. We consent to perform the duties and abide by the laws imposed on us by governments on the understanding that the State will protect us from any threat, molestation or aggression. Without such collective protection, the State simply does not exist as a corporate entity; for protection of the individual is the "sine qua non" for owing any allegiance to it.’

I continued:-

‘Today it is clear, even to the layman, that in Britain the contractual agreement between the State and the individual is breaking down because the armed forces, through no fault of theirs, are quite unable to offer much more than a token resistance to any would-be aggressor.’

If the above statement was true in 1978 it is much more pertinent in 2000. The present Government's attitude towards the armed forces is that they are useful when required as an international police force or to maintain law and order in Northern Ireland, but they are not much use for anything else. Indeed, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson recently had the effrontery to refer to certain members of the British Army as ‘chinless wonders.’ Such a comment coming from a member of the queer fraternity that surrounds Mr. Blair is a bit rich! In spite of the Government's misuse of the armed forces in recent times our Services are certainly not a police force and should not be used as such. Even General Guthrie recognizes that. In his interview mentioned above he said, referring to the operations in Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Kosovo:-

‘The Government says that defence should be a force for good. But being a force for good does not just mean cuddling orphans, and giving aspirins and cups of tea to old ladies.’

Quite so; and nor does it mean dropping bombs on defenceless civilians in Serbia, or other places that are of no concern to the Britsh people whatsoever. It is a sad fact that Robin Cook's supposedly humanitarian "ethical" foreign policy has left large area Central Europe a wasteland.

During recent years there been a concerted effort by politcians of various hues to "harmonise" the armed forces. These attempts to make Servicemen "more compassionate" in keeping with current fads of political correctness come under three main headings: racial integration, homosexual acceptance, and feminisation. I shall deal with each of these manifestations of current lunacy in turn.

Racial integration

The policy of integrating ethnic minorities in the armed forces is in full swing. Officers and NCOS, like the police, are now required to attend "racism awareness" courses. One would have thought that they had much more important things to do! This put me in mind of a bizarre situation that occurred while I was serving the RAF. I hope readers will forgive me for digressing, but I feel that what I shall relate below demonstrates just how the perverse policies of the race-mixers affect the Services.

Shortly before I left the RAE I was an SNCO in charge of a section of men in the Electronics Centre of a large RAF station. One day, two of my men informed me that they wished to extend their service order to qualify for a pension. They had to be assessed by our Flight Commander to determine their suitability. The normal procedure was for the Flight Commander to seek the opinions of the men's immediate superior (in this case me) and our Warrant Officer to help him to make his assessment. One of the applicants was a keen and reliable young man whose father was a serving Warrant Officer. The other applicant was a Kenyan Asian, who was slovenly, often late for work, a malingerer, and technically incompetent. Understandably, the Flight Commander recommended that the first applicant be allowed to extend his service, hut refused to recommend the Kenyan. Both men were informed accordingly.

The Kenyan complained that we had discriminated against him; we had, but not on the grounds of race. Some weeks later, the Warrant Officer and I were asked to report to the Flight Commander's office. When we got there we found three gentlemen in civilian clothing in the office with the Flight Commander. The civilians (if that is what they were) immediately began to harangue us by suggesting that we were all guilty of racially discrimination against the Kenyan, which we denied. We never found out if our inquisitors belonged to the RAF's Special Investigation Branch or were functionaries of the then embryonic race relations industry. Possibly they were a combination of both. What we did find out however, was that our keen and reliable young airman was not permitted to extend his service, while the Kenyan was. Thus a good young airman had to leave the RAF on the completion of his current on the completion of his current engagement, while a dud was allowed to extend his. The damaging influence of the race relations industry in the Services is certainly much greater now than it was then.

Homosexual acceptance

To the horror and disgust of the overwhelming numbers of normal sailors, soldiers and airmen, homosexuals may now enlist in the Services. When this idea was first mooted during parliamentary debates about decriminalizing homosexual acts, following the publication of the Wolfenden Report in the 1950s, the then Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO, Field Marshal Montgomery, said he would resign if such a policy were adopted during his time in the post. Very little more was heard of this sick idea until the present Government came to power. More recently, an admiral who was due to take over the post currently held by General Guthrie refused to countenance homosexuals on board Royal Navy ships. He either resigned or was passed over. To make matters even worse, under European legislation compensation to the tune of £35 million is to be paid to homosexuals and pregnant Service-women who were discharged from the Services, even though at the time such discharges were perfectly legal under military law. What on earth is our country coming to?


In addition to the acceptance of homosexuals, there has been an attempt to feminise further the Services by extending the role of women. No one would deny that over many years women have played a valuable and significant part in our Services. There are many jobs that women can do much better than most men, such as nursing, catering, clerical work, etc. But our present political masters wish to use women to perform the duties of front-line soldiers, naval gunners and fighter pilots, etc. - occupations for which women are totally unsuited. Perhaps the powers-that-be see the employment of women as warriors as one way of overcoming the present problems of recruitment. I tend to think that the feminisation and homosexualisation of the Services serve to impede recruitment rather than promote it.

The politically correct policies I have described above are having a deleterious effect on our armed forces. What the politicians fail to understand is that if race-relations sleuths and homosexual activists are allowed to run amok in our Services, if men's work is to be done by women, if people like Private Clegg are to be imprisoned for doing their duty, if the parents of Lance-Bombardier Restorick are denied compensation for the death of their son, while his IRA murderer is released from prison - then it is no wonder that few young men wish to join the Services.

The lot of Servicemen is not made any easier by current lack of the weapons necessary to wage war and the facilities required to make their lives tolerable. In recent months many stories have been reported of ships and aircraft that cannot be used due to the exorbitant cost of fuel; of aircraft that cannot be flown owing to lack of spare parts; of guns like the SA8O rifle that jam when fired in tropical or arctic conditions; of naval gunners having to shout "bang" during gun-firing practice for lack of shells; of soldiers and their families living in sub-standard accommodation; of the virtual demise of the forces' medical services and the disappearance of Service hospitals (only recently, soldiers returning from Sierra Leone contracted malaria due to the lack of anti-malarial drugs); and last but not least, of the desperate shortage of manpower, that leads to endless turbulence, frequent postings, dislocation of family life, and the long hours which Servicemen are expected to work. When I wrote my article in 1978 the total strength of the British Army was 170,000; today it is 100,000.

Spurious argument about economies

Apart from the Government's politically correct agenda, what is the main cause of the misery to which our Servicemen are subjected? The government's stock answer is the need to improve efficiency and economise. But the Services cannot be run like a business. There are too many imponderables, and no one knows when we may be threatened or attacked by an aggressor. What the Government really means by requiring that the Services economise is that they must cut costs. They have already done so. At the end of the Tories' period in office, defence spending consumed 2.7 per cent of gross domestic product. Today the figure is 2.4 per cent, a saving of about £3 billion. But under the terms of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government still demands a 3 per cent efficiency saving. Meanwhile, the "New Money" that the Government recently promised General Guthrie under the terms of the Defence Budget is really a crafty example of legerdemain: it merely restores defence cuts made in previous years.

The Government cannot really plead poverty as an excuse for depriving the Services of the personnel and equipment they need. If Gordon Brown can hoard a vast "War Chest" - a misnomer if ever there was one - to fight the next election, if the Government can squander hundreds of millions of pounds on such follies as the Millennium Dome and spend thousands of pounds on wallpaper for Lord Irvine, carpets for Mr. Prescott and palatial accommodation for asylum-seekers, then surely it can provide the Services with the men and equipment they need.

The Government seems to be unaware of what the main purpose of the armed forces is - to defend our country and our people. Ministers should heed the words of Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff during the First World War (who was murdered by the IRA). He once said in the House of Commons: "It is better to have no armed forces at all than have forces just big enough to invite attack but not strong enough to win."

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