Saturday, 26 June 2010

ON ARMED FORCES DAY...

It's armed forces day today - with it's primary focus being on Cardiff and many other cities and towns across the UK. On Armed Forces Day, it's worth remembering that of late our Armed Forces and their families have long had much more lasting and meaningful support from the public than they have from their Governments, perhaps things will change under this Con Dem Government, I hope things will change for the better, but suspect that little will change save for the rhetoric. 

Much needs to change though for our serving service personnel, for service families accommodation, who have suffered from years of ongoing mismanagement of the MoD housing stock and a lack of investment in the welfare of troops and ex-servicemen who should rate far higher when it comes to Government thinking and Government policy.

Every now and again you can honestly sit here and think that little has changed over the years; once again our heroes and heroines are doing battle in a distant land and their families are living quietly in sub-standard accommodation at home. They (My grandfather amongst them) were promised many years ago 'Homes fit for heroes' – which were never delivered, too expensive in peacetime, when UK Governments have little need for heroes or honouring their wartime promises.  The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (in October last year) found not surprisingly that successive Governments at least; don't appreciate our soldiers one bit; as they proceed to hack the defence budget to save money here and there.

Sadly this should come as no real surprise, as there is a long tradition of successive Governments (with ironically the exception being the 1945 Labour Government) of betraying it's service personnel admittedly usually after a wars conclusion rather than while it is still going on. It is deeply ironic that with the ninety first anniversary of a UK Government betraying its promise to our soldiers to ensure that they had homes fit for heroes after the 1914 – 1918 war; that we find ourselves in a situation where soldiers families are continuing to live in sub-standard accommodation.

It is absolutely unacceptable that a third of forces families are living in poor accommodation and is equally amazing that such a large number of MoD properties remain empty at huge expense to the tax payer. It is clear that there has clearly been a long term underinvestment in service housing stock which is unacceptable.

It was and still is a grave insult to our forces that UK Government's - since the early 1990's  - regularly sent UK troops to fight in Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq (again) to mention but a few of Thatcher / Major and Blair's Wars when repeated questions about the provision of their equipment, the welfare and accommodation for their families at home were being  repeatedly raised and repeatedly ignored. 

Our service personnel and their families deserve much better than they are getting from the Government and they deserve far more than what is effectively one Government sponsored day per year...

Perhaps the last word should rightly go to Kipling...

Oh, it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, go away':
But it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play -
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
Oh, it's 'Thank you, Mister Atkins,' when the band begins to play.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll -
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
Oh, it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes when the drums begin to roll.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Chuck him out, the brute!'
But it's 'Saviour of 'is country' when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

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There is more than a degree of bitter sweet irony that Kipling's Tommy remains as relevant today as when it was written... so much for progress

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