From the viewpoint of a reservist, I would like to add to Joe Eastwood’s excellent article on the impact of the present Government of a thousand cuts’ changes to the Army (

I was a TA soldier for 14 years, serving in a technical capacity in the Royal Artillery. As a genuine rapid reserve deployment Battery, we were equipped with L118A Light Guns and were held in reasonably high regard by our Regular compatriots in 19 Regiment Heavy (The Highland Gunners), despite the fact they were Scots and we were Yorkshiremen, a constant source of ribald banter.

During the 1990’s the Major government, followed by that of Blair, changed the rules of enlistment for TA soldiers. No longer were we to be mobilized as a trained and formed Battery of 6 to 8 guns and all the necessary other parts of a gun battery Orbat, we became individual combat replacements. Moreover, we now had to contend with out-of-area deployment, or foreign-service call-up. Now this gobbledygook may elicit a ‘so what’ response from the uninitiated, so I’ll explain why it is important to keep a Unit together.

Firstly, and I am sure Joe Eastwood would agree, it is about team work and knowledge of your guys. Everyone has strength and weakness. As TA soldiers, we also had outside interests like earning a living and having a family life. Generally, our guys were not youngsters, but were mostly mid-to-late 20s when recruited and reaching physical maturity. These men had a wider experience than the Army to bring with them, and our unit benefited greatly from this spread of skills. As a bunch of friends, we looked after each other and indeed became the band of brothers as often attributed to units of soldiers.

Secondly, if you decide to split such a tight group you destroy morale. The men (and women) are inter-dependent as they know and look out for each other. When men are sent off on an individual basis they are a stranger to their new comrades, and boy don’t you know it! No matter how you have fitted in with your old gang, you remain an outsider for some time as a replacement. This means the replacement gets all the bad jobs, usually is front man on a patrol, is the one who gets the drag stag on Radio duty between 0200 and 0400 somewhere not very nice, and then has to do a further 2 hours foot guard to follow. In short you destroy unit cohesion.

Most TA units were converted to being non-technical some time ago. I laughed heartily and sadly when this happened: a drive towards basic numbers of trained infantry seemed desirable to the powers-that-be: ‘technical’ arms such as Engineers and Artillery were seemingly being down-played in favour of infantry, a view being that TA soldiers were too ‘thick’ to perform technical tasks.

All this despite the fact that the TA Artillery contained a great number of Graduates as enlisted soldiers who enjoyed the hobby, who committed two years, a lot of weekends at Army specialists schools and practising on ranges to become proficient: in no way second grade soldiers. Most of us had joined the Artillery because it was a technical challenge.

We were a busy unit and got to do ‘Gucci’ stuff such as air mobility. We were well regarded and had all the swagger of a well-disciplined arrogant bunch of semi-regular soldiers: we were good and we knew it, even if our other halves called us ‘Dad’s Army’.

While senior Artillery officers fought the corner for the Artillery, Government ministers with no service of their own made arbitrary sweeping decisions. What we have now is a situation within the Army at least where a soldier is now just a number expected to fulfil the criteria of 28 days’ duty in a year.

I would hope that when it comes to UKIP having some say in Government in the future, the ex-servicemen in the party will be given the opportunity to vent their ideas on how to ‘sort it out before we have a bloody disaster on our hands‘  to quote Sean Connery’s line in ‘A Bridge Too Far’.

As Michael Caine said in the same film: Start the Purple. If I could, I would do it all again as I love my country, to take up arms in its defence!  Don’t betray us UKIP.

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