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View Article  HMS Illustrious back June 3rd - Life is breathed back in Lusty

HMS Illustrious returns to sea June and rejoins the fleet in July

Contrary to reports, she can still be used to fly jets. The only real physical change during the refit was the ammunition racks, which is a work-able change. 

She's also a bargain - £35m to run for the next four years. 

Life is breathed back in Lusty

23 May 2011

AFTER a £40m revamp, Britain’s only aircraft carrier will return to sea on June 3 to start down the year-long road back to front-line duties.

HMS Illustrious hasn’t been seen at sea since the beginning of 2010 when she sailed to Rosyth for a 16-month refit in the hands of Babcock.

Lusty was due to emerge from her refit as the nation’s strike carrier, taking over from HMS Ark Royal.

Last autumn’s defence review put the kibosh on those plans – and saw Ark axed as well as her Harriers. The review also meant Illustrious’ refit plans had to be re-drawn.

Instead of returning from Rosyth as a Harrier carrier, she’ll return to business as a helicopter assault ship, relieving HMS Ocean.

It took a couple of months following October’s review to incorporate the changes into Lusty’s refit, but since the turn of the year in particular, the ship has been a hive of activity.

When 2011 opened there were just 150 ship’s company (fewer than a quarter of her typical complement) living ashore at nearby HMS Caledonia.

Numbers quickly doubled and, with work sufficiently progressed and ‘domestic functions’ working once more – heating, lighting water, galleys – the sailors moved back on board on February 22  to the sound of pipe and drum.

“At that moment Lusty began to come alive once more,” said Cdr Richard Winter, the carrier’s weapon engineer officer.

Since then the ship’s company has almost doubled in size again – it’s nearly 600-strong now, just 50 or so short of the normal complement – with Capt Jerry Kyd joining as Commanding Officer from Ark Royal.

Work carried out since the revamp began early last year includes super-efficient paint applied to the hull which will mean the 20,000-ton warship will cut through the ocean faster – cutting her fuel bill in the process.

Living quarters have been spruced up, the latest MOD computer system (DII) fitted throughout the ship – no mean task as Illustrious was designed in the pre-personal computer age – 500m (1,640ft) of pipework replaced, plus 650 valves and all eight exhausts.

All well and good, but all that technology and equipment is no good without Jack and Jenny. Lusty’s sailors have been conducting extensive training: fire and flood, duty watches, firearms, personal protection, engineering trials, machinery brought back to life, the ops room, flight deck and hangar restored to normal.

At the same time Illustrious’ soul has been revived by personalising mess spaces, sporting activities, morning prayers and Sunday services, and the daily rituals of Colours and Sunset.

More than 200 Sea Cadets (including 71 in one go) have toured the carrier, as well as local VIPs and school children.

“The message from everyone aboard HMS Illustrious is clear – despite what you may read or hear: Lusty is on her way back to the Fleet,” said Cdr Winter.

“A nearly-600-strong ship’s company is working extremely hard to ensure that Illustrious sails from Rosyth on June 3rd for sea trials before rejoining the Fleet at the end of July.

“No doubt many people will be pleased to see Lusty back in her home port, proud and ready to serve the nation once again.”

After the initial period of trials and return to the Solent, Illustrious will be alongside until the autumn when rigorous trials and training begin in earnest.

She’s due to take over from Ocean as the nation’s on-call helicopter carrier from the summer of 2012.

Illustrious' ship's company move back on board. Picture: LA(Phot) Dean Nixon, HMS Illustrious


View Article  The only Royal Marine EVER to win Distinguished Flying Medal

The only Royal Marine EVER to win Distinguished Flying Medal

No other Royal Marine will ever win the medal again as it has now been withdrawn

The only Royal Marine decorated with the coveted Distinguished Flying Medal following the end of his astonishing 38-year career.

Lt Cdr William O'Brien - known as Uncle Bill and one of the finest military men of his generation - flew missions in Afghanistan last year aged 54, the oldest pilot there.

Prior to that his military service involved six tours of Northern Ireland, the Falklands - where he won his rare DFM for valour and courage - and then Iraq in the 1990s.


Lt Cdr William O'Brien on the day of his retirement from the Royal Marines in 1999
Lt Cdr William O'Brien - known as Uncle Bill and one of the finest military men of his generation - flew missions in Afghanistan last year aged 54, the oldest pilot there
Lt Cdr William O'Brien, seen with an impressive array of medals on his retirement day from the Royal Marines in 1999 (top), flew missions in Afghanistan last year aged 54, the oldest pilot there

No other Royal Marine will ever win the DFM because it is no longer awarded


O'Brien in the pilot's seat of a helicopter at U.S. Army base Fort Rucker in Dale County, Alabama
O'Brien in the pilot's seat of a helicopter at U.S. Army base Fort Rucker
in Dale County, Alabama

O'Brien, who was also a major in the army air corps and marines and a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, joined the Royal Marines in 1972.

He was awarded the King's Badgeman badge as the best all round marine of his troop, No. 29 King's Squad.

Following four tours to Northern Ireland his career literally took off when he qualified as an air gunner.

He then gained his wings in 1981 and won the Bob Bowles Trophy for being the best student.


O'Brien delivering ammunition to British troops on the settlement of Goose Green in Lafonia on East Falkland in 1982
The heroic pilot delivering ammunition to British troops on the settlement of Goose Green in Lafonia on East Falkland in 1982. O'Brien won his rare Distinguished Flying Medal for valour and courage in the Falklands War

Following two more tours of Belfast he headed to the Falklands and won his DFM.

The London Gazette on October 8, 1982 recorded: 'During the attack on Darwin and Goose Green Sergeant O'Brien piloted a Gazelle helicopter.

For two days his helicopter conducted supply and casualty evacuation operations, often under enemy fire.

He also took part in 17 night flying sorties to evacuate wounded personnel and resupply vital ammunition.

At times these sorties necessitated flying forward to company lines in the heat of battle and in appalling weather.

The conspicuous gallantry and cool professionalism displayed on all these occasions was superb and Sergeant O'Brien made an outstanding contribution.' 

O'Brien receiving his Green Beret in 1972. He started as a Royal Marine commando in the 70s before learning to fly helicopters in the Army Air Corp
O'Brien receiving his Green Beret in 1972. He started as a Royal Marine commando in the 70s before learning to fly helicopters in the Army Air Corp

He said afterwards: 'We flew a number of sorties mostly at night in an armed Gazelle, not that we ever used the rockets in anger.

'I am not sure how effective they would have been if we had - they had a fairly basic aiming system just a chinagraph cross on the aircraft windscreen.

'It was the early days of night vision devices.

'They were fairly rudimentary and we taught ourselves how to use them on the way down.' 

After the Falklands, O'Brien qualified on the Lynx helicopter and in 1984 passed as a flying instructor, once again winning the best student award.

He then served in Turkey and Iraq in Operation Haven then became a flying instructor in the US.

In 2008 he was commissioned into the Royal Navy Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and volunteered for Afghanistan.

He said at the time: 'I was given an opportunity to deploy and felt obliged to take it, simply because I am still training Apache pilots and I need to see what they are expected to do when they come out of training school.' 

Asked about the differences between flying in Afghanistan and the Falklands, Lt Cdr O'Brien said: 'The intensity is more than I was expecting and is more than I recollect from the other place.

'It is full on all the time. I fly an Apache so I don't feel terribly threatened, although the flying environment is quite hard work sometimes.'

O'Brien flying a helicopter on pre-deployment training at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona, U.S., before a mission in Afghanistan
O'Brien flying a helicopter on pre-deployment training at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona, U.S., before a mission in Afghanistan

Now, the married family man who lives in Somerset, is considering a new career and is putting his six medals, photographs and mementoes up for auction.

'Major O'Brien had an astonishing career with the marines, army and navy and was flying in operations at the age of 54.

'In the Falklands he was there to save lives and more recently in Afghanistan he's been more offensive.

'He came top of the class in pretty much everything he did and of course won his DFM during the Falklands war.

'He has a wife and children and just wants to embark on a new career. He is a lovely, down-to-earth man who has mentioned writing a book about his career.' 

This is the impressive medal set resulting from one of Britain's most glittering military careers

The DFM was introduced in 1918 as the other ranks' equivalent to the DFC, which was awarded to commissioned and warrant officers.

It ceased to exist after 1993


View Article  38 Warrant Officers in the British Army "Fired by Email"
38 Warrant Officers in the British Army "Fired by Email"

Both the Ministry of Defence and the Army have apologised for "causing distress" after 38 soldiers - including one serving in Afghanistan - were sacked by email.

The warrant officers who were dismissed by email were told it was because the Army also needed to make savings.

The message to the men read: "I write to notify you that with regret, I must issue you with 12 months' Notice of Termination.

"As I'm sure you are aware the Army has to make significant cutbacks and we... are expected to play our part in reductions."

The 38 warrant officers - the highest non-commissioned rank - all have at least 20 years' service and continue in the Army on a rolling contract.

However, The Sun claimed one of the veteran soldiers received the bad news while on the front line in Afghanistan.

An Army spokesperson said: "We apologise for the distress that this will have caused.

British troops in Afghanistan
All the men have at least 20 years' service with the British Army

"Commanding officers have now spoken to the soldiers concerned to ensure that they receive all necessary advice and support."

The MoD has been quick to point out this was not a mistake on the part of civil servants or ministers - but a mistake in terms of sequencing made by the Army.

Army sources said the individual responsible for the gaffe would be spoken to by the chain of command about the need to be sensitive in these matters.

When their contracts are up in a year's time, the servicemen will get their full re-settlement package and thousands of pounds towards future training.

Despite this, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said getting fired in such a way was unforgivable.

"To be sacked by email is a shameful and callous way to be treated.

FOXNWOLF COMMENTS;

This is typical of the governments attitude towards our armed forces. Apart from the offending email re "38 Warrant Officers in the British Army Fired by Email". How about;

"Who sent the email"


"Who gave permission for that signal to be sent"

I hope that the person who pressed the "ENTER" button that sent the message winging thru to the unsuspecting 38 W.O.`s also gets notified that they are going to loose their job.


Who ever it is SHOULD BE FIRED....... whether its a Civil Servant or Government Minister they should be out of the door, nothing more and nothing less.

SOMEBODY SHOULD BE NAILED FOR THIS

View Article  Courageous Royal Marine honoured by his community
Royal Marine Warrant Officer Class 1 Matt Tomlinson has been made freeman of his hometown, Street in Somerset - the first ever honorary freeman of the area


Royal Marine Warrant Officer Class 1 Matt Tomlinson, wife Sharon, daughter Ellis, and sons Daniel Brian and Harvey parade through Street in a 1916 La France open-topped car

Hundreds of Street residents turned out to cheer and wave flags as the parish council conferred the distinction to recognise WO1 Tomlinson's operational awards - the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) and Military Cross (MC) - and his achievements over the years within the Royal Marine Corps.

Before the formal presentation ceremony at which he received the scroll of the freedom of the village of Street from parish council leader Bryan Beha, there was a parade along the High Street in which WO1 Tomlinson and his family travelled in a 1916 La France open-topped car with well-wishers lining the streets and a marching band leading the way.

WO1 Tomlinson was joined for the day by his proud family: wife Sharon, daughter Ellis, aged 14, and sons Daniel Brian, aged five, and Harvey, aged seven.

WO1 Tomlinson, from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, based at HM Naval Base Devonport, said:

"The day was fantastic, a real honour to be granted the status in a town where I grew up from the age of two until I joined the Corps.

"About 300 people lined the High Street to witness the event. And the same amount attended the ceremony at Elmhurst School in Street. At the school a presentation was delivered by the school's year-five children about my life in Street and my career in the Corps.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Matthew Tomlinson
Warrant Officer Class 1 Matthew Tomlinson was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery under enemy fire in Afghanistan and the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for a mission in Iraq in 2006

"The parish councillor read portions of my citations for the CGC and the MC."It really was a great day and an opportunity to thank the people of Street for their support to myself and the wider Armed Forces. A collection was also made for the RN/RM [Royal Navy/Royal Marines] charities which raised approximately £400."In May this year WO1 Tomlinson was awarded the MC by Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace - one of the highest honours for bravery in the country.

The award was for a tour of duty in Helmand province in Afghanistan when, as a member of 3 Commando Brigade, WO1 Tomlinson braved grenades and gunfire to rescue an injured soldier and retrieve the body of another comrade killed in an explosion.

He was also awarded the CGC for a mission in Iraq in 2006, after his actions under fire saved the lives of the 16-strong US Marine Corps assault force he was commanding.

WO1 Tomlinson was raised in Street where he still lives with his wife and three children, and was nominated for the village freemanship by local resident Rose Stuckey. This was willingly endorsed by the parish council as recognition of his outstanding bravery."We all enjoy our freedom here, but we are all aware that freedom isn't free - it is bought for us by the people who are willing to fight for it."

Warrant Officer Class 1 Matt Tomlinson in the turret of a Viking armoured vehicle in Afghanistan

The pupils at Elmhurst School, as part of their presentation, said:

"He told us that he is not a hero, but people think he is because he risked his own life to save others. He told us that his heroes are his wife, and the younger Marines."

In his acceptance speech, WO1 Tomlinson paid tribute to 40 Commando Royal Marines, who recently returned to their barracks in Taunton after losing 14 of their ranks:

"I ask that you join me in welcoming them home, and that you remember everything they've done, remember their injured and never forget the fallen," he said.

Thanking his family for their support he also paid tribute to two colleagues, including one of his friends who had fallen in battle on his third tour of Afghanistan:

"Thank you all, each and every one of you, for this honour. Thank you Street for all of the memories that have kept me going through tough times and memories I have called on when I've been in the middle of action to keep me strong and keep me going.

"Thank you all for being here, your support is appreciated, and believe me, it is felt by us all."

2nd Nov` 2010

View Article  Shrinking The USMC

Shrinking The USMC

August 15, 2010: The U.S. Marine Corps is again threatened, this time with a sharp reduction in its size. In response, marine commanders say they would prefer to be a smaller force, one that concentrates on its main mission; amphibious operations. The marines were unhappy with the way they have been used as an army auxiliary over the past decade. The marines consider themselves specialists, while the army are generalists (and, for example, carried out more amphibious operations than the marines did during World War II). But by law (which specifies the minimum size of the Corps, a law that could be changed) and determination (of generations of marines), the marines have come to comprise a quarter of America's ground combat forces. That's active duty, when you could the much larger army reserve force, the marines are 18 percent of ground combat forces. The marines never wanted to be just another part of American ground combat forces.

The marines are also concerned with their relationship with the U.S. Navy, which has now formed another ground combat force. To understand how this came about, you have to understand the relationship between the navy and the marines. The marines are not part of the navy, as they are often described. Both the navy and marines are part of the Department of the Navy. The Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force each have only one component.

Over the years, the marines have acquired more and more autonomy from the navy. When the U.S. Marine Corps was created, over two centuries ago, marines were sailors trained and equipped to fight as infantry, and they were very much part of the navy, and part of ship crews. This changed radically in the late 19th century, when all-metal steam ships replaced wooden sailing ships. The new "iron ships" really didn't need marines, and there were proposals to eliminate them. In response, the American marines got organized and made themselves useful in other ways. For example, the marines performed very well as "State Department Troops" in Latin America for half a century (late 19th century to just before World War II), where American troops were frequently used to deal with civil disorder abroad, and nation building. During World War I (1914-18), they provided a brigade for ground combat in Europe, where they demonstrated exceptional combat skills.

During the 1930s, as World War II approached, the U.S. Marine Corps really ran with the ball when the navy realized they would have to use amphibious assaults to take heavily fortified Japanese islands in any future war. Thus, once the U.S. entered World War II, the marines formed their first division size units, and ended the war with six divisions, organized into two corps.

The Marine Corps was no longer just a minor part of the navy, but on its way to being a fourth service. Over the next half century, it basically achieved that goal. But in doing that, the navy lost control of its ground troops. Navy amphibious ships still went to sea, with battalions of marines on board. But because the marines are mainly an infantry force, and the war on terror is basically an infantry scale battle, the marines spent a lot more time working alongside the U.S. Army.

Thus, over the last five years, the new U.S. Navy has built a new ground combat force, staffed by 40,000 sailors. This is NECC (Navy Expeditionary Combat Command), which is capable of operating along the coast and up rivers, as well as further inland. NECC units have served in Iraq, and are ready to deploy anywhere else they are needed. The 1,200 sailors in the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams are particularly sought after, because of increased use of roadside bombs and booby traps by the enemy. NECC has also organized three Riverine Squadrons, and these served in Iraq. NECC basically consists of most of the combat support units the navy has traditionally put ashore, plus some coastal and river patrol units that have usually only been organized in wartime.

This new navy organization, and the strategy goes with it, still comes as a surprise to many people, especially many of those in Congress who were asked to pay for it. It came as a surprise to many NECC sailors as well. The navy even called on the marines to provide infantry instructors for the few thousand sailors assigned to riverine (armed patrol boat) units. The navy already had infantry training courses for Seabees (naval construction personnel) and members of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams. Now it's combining all that in the new Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) course, which will be conducted at a base in Mississippi.

With the marines appropriated by the army for land combat, the navy still wanted and needed land forces. So the navy has created NECC. The navy still considers the marines its primary "infantry force", but the NECC will contain sailors trained and equipped for land operations the navy believes it should be involved in. Some of these are still on the water, like "riverine operations" (small gunboats and troop carriers to control rivers and coastal waters against irregulars), and "naval infantry" to defend navy land bases in hostile territory.

The U.S. Marine Corps has mixed feelings about NECC, for the marines have long been the navy's ground combat troops. The navy says that the USMC mission will remain. Thus the marines want to shrink so they become small enough to handle anticipated navy amphibious operations, and not large enough to have troops available for large scale support of army operations.

In effect, the American marines want to be more like the British marines. That's interesting, because British marines are called Royal Marine Commandos, and are quite different. Britain, which invented the modern concept of the commando, disbanded it's ten army commando's (as the battalion size commando units were called) at the end of World War II. The Royal Marines, however, saw the commando concepts as a welcome addition to their own amphibious doctrine and retained three of their nine Royal Marine Commandos. Since World War II, the Royal Marines have maintained at least three commando battalions (called commandos, instead of battalions.) Artillery and engineer units are supplied by the army.

Like the U.S. Marines, the Royal Marines realized that assault from the sea was always a commando like operation, requiring special training, bold leadership and an aggressive spirit. The Royal Marines, like their American counterparts, continued to innovate. In 1956, it was a Royal Marine Commando that launched the first helicopter assault from ships against a land target (during the invasion of Egypt). The Royal Marine Commandos were used extensively to keep the peace in Ireland during the 1970s and 80s. In 1982, it was two Royal Marine Commandos and one parachute battalion that did most of the fighting to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentina. The Royal Marines have performed peacekeeping duty in the Balkans and Africa, and served as an amphibious fast reaction force.

While the U.S. Marines made a name for themselves with multi-division amphibious operations in the Pacific during World War II, the Royal Marines stuck with the commando type operations that characterize what marines spend most of the time doing between major wars. Remember, the last large scale amphibious operation took place sixty years ago (Inchon, Korea in 1950). Since then, the typical marine mission has been a quick assault using a small (usually battalion size) force.

In anticipation of this, the U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was created over the last few years. In that time, it has sent some of its 2,400 personnel on over thirty deployments (in South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia). MARSOC is organized into a headquarters, a two battalion Special Operations Regiment, a Foreign Military Training Unit, and a Marine Special Operations Support Group. There are 3-4 Special Operations companies in each battalion. The marines basically lost two of their four Force Recon companies (one of them a reserve unit) in order to build MARSOC. Meanwhile, more troops have been added to division level reconnaissance units, to take up some of that slack. The Special Operations companies (with about 120 personnel each) can provide Force Recon capabilities to marine units they are attached to.  The two Special Operations Battalions provide a combination of services roughly equal to what the U.S. Army Special Forces and Rangers do, as well as some of the functions of the Force Recon units. Eventually, there are to be nine companies in the two Special Operations Battalion.

All the other services, except the marines, contributed to the formation of SOCOM (Special Operations Command) in the late 1980s. The marines finally got around to working with SOCOM in 2005, when it was agreed that they would create a marine special operations command (MARSOC). The Marine Corps had long resisted such a step, largely because of its belief that marines are inherently superior warriors, capable of highly specialized missions. This attitude began to change during the fighting in Afghanistan, when marines were assigned to support SOCOM troops there.

 As a result of that experience, marines were attached to SOCOM for liaison and observation purposes. In 2004, the marines organized a company sized unit of commandos, "Detachment One", using volunteers from their Force Recon troops, the closest thing the marines had to commandos. Detachment One was sent to Iraq, where it's performance convinced SOCOM that marines could operate at the SOCOM level.

The marines see their future as a smaller (by a up to a third, or more), even more elite, force, and better equipped force. The marines want to get back to sea, and the reduction in force (RIF) can be done without losing a lot of the valuable combat experience the marines have gained in the last nine years. Recruiting will be reduced for a few years, and some marines can transfer to the navy (in jobs that both sailors and marines handle), especially the NECC force. Marines have long moved over to the army, and the army would be glad to get an infusion of combat experienced marines, especially NCOs and officers. The marines may also expand their reserve force, and marines who decide to get out, can simply move over to the reserves.

The marines who remain with the Corps will probably continue the more extensive training marines have been getting for several decades now. This makes the marines an even more elite force, which is what many marines are fine with.
http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htamph/articles/20100815.aspx

Foxnwolf comments;

Why does the UK & US governments want to "shaft" their Marine Corp ???

View Article  Troops returning from Helmand pay for own flights

Troops returning from Helmand pay for own flights

British troops returning from Afghanistan are paying for commercial flights back to the UK because the RAF's ageing transport aircraft keep breaking down
Fresh wave of British soldiers arrive in Afghanistan

Delays to "rest and recuperation" (R and R) flights are now almost routine because of the operational demands being imposed on the TriStar jets, former passenger airliners bought by the RAF in the early 1980s.

Some soldiers and marines have lost up to a quarter of their break as a result of flight disruption and troops are now warned not to book holidays during their time off from the front line, because of the chance of delays to their journey home.

Most flights on the "air bridge", which links Afghanistan to the UK, stop at Cyprus to refuel, and increasing numbers of troops are now opting to pay for commercial flights home from there, rather than take their chances on the TriStars.

Defences sources claim that at least 20 to 30 per cent of flights returning from Afghanistan are delayed at some stage during the journey due to mechanical failure.

In June, more than 200 soldiers returning to Britain on R and R were delayed in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan for several days after a military flight broke down at RAF Akrotiri, the main British base in Cyprus.

The delay also resulted in crucial military personnel, such as bomb disposal experts and medical teams, being stranded in the UK until another aircraft could be found to take them to Afghanistan.

After the R and R flight left Kandahar three days later, dozens of soldiers opted to buy easyJet flights back to the UK when the aircraft refuelled at Cyprus rather than risk further delays.

At the same time, hundreds of troops flying out to Kandahar were forced to spend four nights in transit accommodation in the British base in Cyprus, even though it had been contaminated with sewage following a flood.

Troops are only entitled to 14 days R and R during a six-month tour and no allowance is made for lost days caused by problems with the TriStar fleet.

The Ministry of Defence maintains that there is no reason why any serviceman should have to pay for flights home but it accepts that there have been problems with the RAF aircraft.

During periods of peak travel, such as the change over of troops at the end of tour – known as the relief in place (RIP) – the RAF charters civilian flights to cope with the extra number of passengers.

One RAF source said: "There are only three dedicated RAF TriStars which carry passengers. They are knackered. The engines are airworthy but they are constantly breaking down. The cabins haven't had an upgrade for 25-years – it's a disgrace.

"The air bridge is often pushed to breaking point during the RIP when the RAF can barely cope. You can't blame the soldiers for buying their own flights – most have just lost confidence in the RAF. Who wants to spend their R and R sitting in an airport lounge in Cyprus?"

The RAF TriStar fleet is composed of nine aircraft bought second-hand from the Pan Am and British Airways in the 1980s. Six of the aircraft are used for in-flight refuelling but can also carry passengers.

The role of the remaining three aircraft in the fleet is passenger transport and each of these aircraft can carry up to 266 personnel.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark and a former infantry commander, said: "R and R is absolutely precious to soldiers on operations. Anything which interferes with it will be a major blow to morale, not just for the troops but also for their families. The problem with RAF transport flights has gone on for too long."

The House of Commons Defence Select Committee has previously warned of the morale problems caused by troops returning from operations in Afghanistan. In a report in 2007, James Arbuthnot, chairman of the committee, said: "The UK needs to be able to transport troops, equipment and stores to trouble spots around the globe quickly.

"New transport aircraft, and tanker aircraft which can also carry service personnel, are expected to enter service early in the next decade, but as is often the case with the MoD, it is 'jam tomorrow, but never jam today'. It is not enough to give our troops the best training and the best equipment, if we cannot transport them to where they are needed and support them once deployed."

A spokesman for the MoD said: "TriStar is a hard working aircraft, operating in tough environments which, unfortunately, can sometimes lead to unavoidable delays. Acting upon the concerns of personnel who have experienced problems, the incoming Government has recently made significant changes to ensure they do not lose out on R and R as a result of disruptions to the airbridge.

"We are acutely aware of the inconvenience that this can cause to personnel and their families, as a result those affected are granted additional Post Operational Tour leave on a day for day basis."

Foxnwolf comments;

This is absolutely scandalous, I hear that Easyjet is offering special rates to fly troops on RNR. They and others ought to be offering FREE FLIGHTS not profiteering in any way at all. Come on all you other airlines, chip in and help out.

As far as the MOD is concerned, they as usual should hang their heads in shame.


View Article  Britain - a world power ?
Britain - a world power ?
Would this be tolerated by the U.S., Canada, Australia - or indeed, any country which has contributed troops to the operations in Afghanistan ?

Click Here

I think not. Perhaps it is time we re-evaluated our place in the grand scheme of things and concentrated on "fixing" the country once and for all.
View Article  Royal Marines future
Royal Marines future

You may have either seen or heard of the discussions in the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and UK press concerning a likely  UK Army initiated suggestion for UK defence budget cuts, which would involve disbanding the Royal Marines in its current and 300+ year old traditional form as part of the Royal Navy, and making the Royal Marines be made part of the UK Army; as part of a special warfare element comprising the UK parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines.
 
When this sort of loose and very dangerous talk is going around MOD things tend to stick unless more informed opinion and facts are brought into play.  In that regard, I thought the Commandant General Royal Marines recent speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London should get wide distribution as it so eloquently and succinctly expresses the extreme value UK defence gets from the Royal Marines, and has done throughout the ages.  Most grateful if you could pass this on widely through USMC circles as a cry for help from one Marine to another.

Letter from CGRM; 7th July 2010

“WHAT LESSONS FROM TODAY'S OPERATIONS ARE

SHAPING CAPABILITY IN THE FUTURE?"


Mark Twain described history as ‘a huge Mississippi of falsehood’ - nevertheless I reflect on the fact that:

 

Yesterday marked the 22nd anniversary (6th july 1088) of the Piper Alpha oil rig explosion, to which the Royal Navy was amongst the first to respond, in the guise of HMS PHOEBE and BLACKWATER

 

Today, in 1932, marked the nadir of the Dow Jones Index – during the maelstrom of the Great Depression

 

We currently grapple with the consequences of the sinking of the DEEP WATER HORIZON - together with a global recession whose full implications are yet to be realised - not least for an island nation state so dependent on international trade

 

All of which suggests that there perhaps really is ‘nothing new under the sun, only history you didn’t know about’ – something to reflect upon when envisaging radical change to time proven capabilities in James Bergeron’s ‘Transitional Age’, where the new rules are poorly understood

 

Today also happens to be the anniversary of a maritime culinary revolution – in 1862, the ‘sea trials’ began of dried potatoes - brackets sliced - and dried meat -  brackets – ground – so eat your heart out Jamie Oliver - the spirit of innovation in the Fleet leaves you astern by a century and a half.  It’s not just the Army which marches on its stomach!

 

[Slide – Significance of Littoral]

Analysis presented in the Future Character of Conflict work coincident with the Defence Green Paper as well as the Foreign Secretary’s remarks, dissected yesterday by Christopher Meyer, indicates that an effective player in the complex; congested, contested cluttered, constrained and connected security environment of the future - must be able to influence through global reach; create time and space for political engagement, and offer scalable capability – from diplomatic to kinetic, to enable and to preserve the maximum range of strategic choices, for as long as possible.


The Secretary of State reaffirmed, here, on the 14th June, that the primary mission of the Armed Forces is the application of lethal force.


But Littoral Manoeuvre – a concept which encompasses Amphibious and Maritime Strike Operations -  is distinguished by its rheostatic nature.  It is scaleable, flexible and agile – even chameleon in character – it can be employed as a precise and responsive instrument to support our Foreign and Security policy. 


Fundamentally it is about manoeuvre not attrition nimbleness not mass adaptability not fixity discrimination not prescription It offers presence. 


The ability to poise; to influence; to apply ‘force on mind’ through a judiciously calibrated posture – without occupation; to deter and coerce without commitment.  It can PREVENT in the widest sense, whether by direct involvement; by facilitating the business of Other Government Departments, or as a visible, powerful symbol of UK interest.


And, if needs be, it can, as a brigade Theatre Entry Force … smash down the door…albeit elegantly, and mindful of the implications of Feng Shui!


The utility of this instrument is writ large through the 29 deployments involving either specialist amphibious shipping and/or the Landing Force, over the past 10 years, applying a carefully calibrated blend of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power across the globe.

 

72.5% of the Royal Marines is deployable and 64% will deploy or be at high readiness to deploy over the next 24 months; others are committed to protecting the nuclear deterrent, SFSG and the Band Service. 70 % of the RMR has deployed for 6 months on Operations since 2003.  

 

Acknowledging the current gaps arising from the HERRICK Main Effort, we retain the fundamental capabilities to deliver a Theatre Entry effect independent of Access, Basing and Overflight limitations.

 

That’s the ‘How’ – now the ‘What’

 

We have an Amphibious Fleet in being comprising of 1 x LPH, 2 x LPDs and 4 x LSDAs.  These assets have a mean age of only 7 years. They cost £1.3Bn to procure and they are projected to remain in service beyond 2032.

 

They can manoeuvre to outflank and strike, with strategic agility, over 300 nautical miles, in 24 hours.

 

The Landing Force - 3 Commando Brigade - has the capacity to land 2 Commando Groups ashore in one cycle of darkness, from over the horizon, up to sea state 4, with a first assault wave of 500 men hitting the target simultaneously in a four Company Group lift, two by surface and two by air.

 

I thought I might now use a couple of vignettes from last year, and the present, to demonstrate the utility of this construct - this joint amphibious team:

 

Starting with my deployable 2* Headquarters, which has been committed on operations for 51% of its 8 year life.

 

Based on staff of about 50, this HQ has now deployed as a Maritime, Land, National and Amphibious Component Command.

 

Last year it deployed to Iraq as the last UK divisional headquarters, to set the conditions for, and to orchestrate the TELIC drawdown and transfer of authority to the Iraqi Army – an undertaking which was distinguished by its focus on Iraqi needs and its cultural sensitivity.

 

3 Commando Brigade was engaged at the outset of the TELIC campaign – conducting an opposed amphibious helicopter assault onto the Al Faw peninsula ahead of the main attack.  So first in - and last out …

 

40 Commando deployed for 6 months, as an Amphibious Ready Group on Exercise TAURUS, developing contingent capability toward BSSFI .

 

It trained, exercised, and engaged with Malta, Turkey, Greece/Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, The Maldives, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Brunei.   Countries of significant importance to the UK – either by virtue of their priority in CT terms, as part of our wider regional engagement strategy and trading interests; or their utility to the UK for training purposes.

 

Partnering is maritime core business – it is braided throughout the Royal Navy’s 500 year history.

 

The ARG’s activities ranged from the largest scale UK/Saudi Arabia exercise since Operation GRANBY, in 1991, through to individual small boat training in Yemen, and joint multi-agency planning exercises in Bangladesh.


HMS ALBION delivered capacity building training to the Nigerian Navy enhancing the security operations in the Delta not least to the benefit of UK citizens working in the oil industry. Continuation training was delivered earlier this year by 1 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.

 

Throughout the entire period of TAURUS 40 Commando remained poised as the UK’s high readiness reaction force.

 

Meanwhile the bulk of the Brigade was engaged in Helmand. The rigours of this campaign are well understood.  It places immense demands on our people, their individual judgement, determination, resilience, courage and discrimination.  It requires every Marine to be his own general.   The Corps has been committed to HERRICKs 5, 7, 9, 12 (and soon, 14) … and in the case of the Armoured Support Group, many, and the SBS, all in between.

 

These have been ‘hard yards’, the butcher’s bill makes grim reading - pro rata, Lovat warriors have sustained over 2.5 times both the fatal casualties and the grievously wounded of our Khaki comrades.

 

But the ability to cope and flourish amidst complexity and uncertainty – together with familiarity with a joint and inter-agency approach, bred through training in the amphibious environment, has equipped us well for the demands of such messy wars amongst the people. This willingness to adjust, to endure and to seek understanding is a hallmark of our people, and a theme to which I will return.

 

This year, my 2* Staff, having re-roled as a Maritime Component Command through Ex COLD RESPONSE, now forms the core of the EUNAVFOR Operational Headquarters, running the Counter Piracy Operation off the coast of Somalia.  27 Nations collaborating with NATO and Coalition Maritime Forces to safeguard the Global Commons.  Twenty percent of the world’s trade passes through the Babel Mendeb …one LPG tanker every two days en route to Milford Haven – without which the lights of the United Kingdom would within days start to dim.

 

I have already touched upon 40 Commando and HERRICK 12 – they have been much in the press of late, holding the ring in Sangin.  I will not labour this except to say that they are seamlessly integrated into the US command structure.  There have been many references in this conference, to our relationship with the United States … Special or otherwise – and its importance.  But our relationship with the United States Marine Corps – the acme of American military excellence – is genuinely a special one:  Marine to Marine – even brother to brother, which transcends nationality. A link which I would suggest provides disproportionate leverage to the UK.

 

Meanwhile, as Peter [RAdm Peter Hudson RN, COMUKMARFOR] has said, a sizeable chunk of the Brigade Landing Force is embarked and participating in an Amphibious and Carrier Strike exercise – AURIGA – integrated again with US forces – building on Exercises TAURUS, COLD RESPONSE and foreshadowing COUGAR next year, to regenerate contingent capability

 

One Maritime Force, consisting of two Task Groups, separable but not separate, providing: Contingent, Expeditionary, Scaleable, Independent, Organic, Flexible, Balanced and potentially Forward Deployed forces.

 

So what of the future?

 

For this maritime force to integrate fully, our surface assault capabilities must have speed and reach, enhancing further our ability to manoeuvre and negate an adversary’s access denial (A2D2) capabilities.  The acquisition of the triad of genuine, fast Over the Horizon assault craft between 2016-19, is a priority.

 

30 Commando IX Group is unique, and is the modem for the 3 Commando Brigade’s precision effect.  It is key to its UNDERSTAND and DISCRIMINATE functions.  It comprises 20% of the UK’s Tactical SIGINT.  It has established excellent relationships with other Intelligence Agencies.  As a model of best practice, we should continue to invest in it and to evolve its ISTAR capabilities.

 

I have neglected so far to mention several of the Defence Lines of Development which underpin the future of the LitM capability. Training is one: Lympstone – the centre which provides all of this: training the airmen, sailors, marines and soldiers – the many, many soldiers, who lean into this Commando challenge. Lympstone, of the 12 training organisations scrutinised by OFSTED last year, was cited as the very clear exemplar in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.

 

In conclusion though and tying the past, present and future together, I would focus briefly on the people engaged in this activity. The moral component – the why we fight: the single most important factor.

 

The FCOC Paper states that ‘the future agile force favours the capability of people (physical and mental robustness, flexibility and a premium on training) over platform numbers.’

 

The activities I have described are undertaken by extraordinarily high-calibre people.

 

The Boys and girls are Bright:

 

Forty percent of Royal Marine recruits are educationally qualified to be officers. Over 10% have university degrees. Two currently in training have Masters Degrees and when I was running the Commando Wing fifteen years ago, two fully qualified vets joined up – we only discovered this when none of their respective troops visited the Sickbay because they were being ‘physicked’ with Horse Drench and Saddle Liniment.

 

I visited 539 Assault Squadron in Plymouth a month ago and talked to a group of coxswains who were about to conduct a long navigation exercise in Off Shore Raiding Craft to the Scilly Isles.  One Marine looked older than the rest and I asked him what his background was.  He explained that he had joined the Corps late and had, to use his word, ‘wasted’ some time working at the ‘Hadron Collider’ – smashing atoms - as a Professor of Sub-Atomic Particle Physics.  I told him not to smash my boat up!

 

Fifty percent of my officers finish in the top ten percent at the Joint Staff College. That said, we have the lowest ratio of Officers to other ranks in the 3 Services.

 

No, the Boys are Resilient, indeed I can reassure Julian [Professor Julian Lindley French, Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy, Royal Netherlands Defence Academy], that footballers aside, Tommy Atkins has not become soft - 3 weeks into 40 Commando’s recent tour Sergeant Lee Walters was caught up in an intense fire fight and was shot in the neck, the hand and the foot.  He refused to be listed, and sitting up in bed, informed his anxious wife of his misfortunes himself.  Incidentally, on HERRICK 5, Sgt Walters engaged in another battle, on a pitch-black night, fell down a well.  Which his Mates thought – 3,000 miles from the sea- was taking a commitment to amphibious operations a bit too far.

 

Three weeks ago Captain John White, OC Recce Troop, 40 Commando was blown up on patrol.  Barely conscious, having lost both his legs and one of his arms, he sought to reassure his anxious Marines as they loaded his stretcher onto the MEDEVAC flight.  “Don’t worry Boys, ‘gold’ in the Para Olympics Next!”

 

The Corps numbers 3% of the manpower of Defence, but constitutes 37% of the badged manpower of UK Special Forces.

 

And Finally – my Boys are Imaginative and Innovative - One example:

 

The week I became Commandant General, Recruit Phillip Cain, 6 weeks into training contracted Meningitis, despite repeated multiple amputations to stem the spread of the disease, he very quickly died.  His young and still inexperienced Troop were adamant that they would carry his coffin at his military funeral and were issued with Regimental Blues four months early to do so with exemplary precision and self-control. At the 7 month point, they duly completed their four Commando Tests and were, in time honoured tradition, given their green berets at the end of the 30 Mile March on Dartmoor.  Philip Cain’s father was there too and received a piece of precious green felt from Prince Michael of Kent … for in spirit and soul his boy was also a proud Commando Soldier, since his Mates, on their own initiative, had carried his ashes throughout. 

 

I would suggest that whatever the future may hold, precious DNA such as this, will be of value to Her Majesty’s Government.

 

In 1803, Napoleon remarked of the Corps: ‘How much might be done with a hundred thousand soldiers such as these’

 

Thank you
View Article  A large portion of Gordon Brown's toecap for you chaps - this is what he meant by giving the miitary all he asked for !
This sums up Brown's performance and his continuing farrago of lies regarding the respect that he has for the Armed Forces ........ NOT !

Click here - read it and weep

I wonder if the M.P.s of all parties and the ones who lost their seats are expected to adhere to the same time schedule ?

No - didn't think that these self serving pieces of sh*t would ...... or care.

Kipling rules - "Tommy this, and Tommy that,
                         And "Kick him out, the brute"
                         But he's the saviour of his country
                         When the guns begin to shoot"

Time to write to your M.P.s, lovely boys ......... because the majority of them "don't like it up 'em".
And if you voted Labour then hang your heads in shame !
View Article  Military covenant to be enshrined in law

30th July 2010

The MOD has today published its response to comments made by the public on the Defence aspects of the Coalition's Programme for Government.

From left: Dr Liam Fox, William Hague and Andrew Mitchell

From left: Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox, Foreign Secretary William Hague, and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell talking during a flight to Kabul, Afghanistan
[Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire]

'The Coalition: our programme for government' sets out a programme for partnership government over the next five years. Its online version enabled people to enter public discussion of the programme and, until 10 June 2010, people were invited to submit comments.

Over 9,500 comments were published, showing a commitment by members of the public, from all political persuasions and all walks of life, to shape the debate on the country's future.

There were lively and informed debates on subjects as diverse as climate change, foreign policy and badger culling.

Each Department has published a response to the comments for each section today, explaining the Government's position on the most popular subjects and setting out the next steps in realising the programme's vision.

Here follows the Defence response to public comments on The Coalition: our programme for government:

"After 12 years without a defence review, when our Armed Forces have at times been overstretched, with legacy equipment programmes from the Cold War, and in our current financial circumstances, we are now undertaking a long overdue Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) against three core principles:

  • Relevance: Defence posture and capabilities must be relevant to the world we live in, dispensing with much of the Cold War legacy.
  • Realism: We cannot insure against every imaginable risk so we must decide which risks we are willing to take.
  • Responsibility: the nation has a duty to support our Service personnel. We are determined to ensure they have what they need to do what we ask of them, and that they and their families are looked after properly.

"Economic strength sustains in the long-term the capabilities we need, including military capabilities, to keep our citizens safe and maintain our influence on the world stage.

"Economic stability and prosperity in Britain is the top priority for the Government and is at the heart of the coalition agreement. The national finances today are severely constrained by the huge budget deficit left by the previous Government which threatens the health of our economy.

"We must therefore cut spending and Defence cannot be immune from this. The future defence programme we inherited is entirely unaffordable, especially if we tried to do what we need to do in the future while simultaneously doing everything in the way we do it today.

"But whatever the specific outcomes of the SDSR, we will ensure procurement delivers effectively and that the UK has robust and well equipped Armed Forces able to protect our security and interests at home and abroad.

"At the moment our Armed Forces are engaged in a vital struggle in Afghanistan to ensure that trans-national terrorists cannot find safe and unhindered sanctuary there as they did before 9/11. We are resolved to see the mission through and to train the Afghan National Security Forces so that they can take over the security of their country and our forces can come home.

"But where we can, we seek to avoid conflict. Deterrence is key to this, and the nuclear deterrent is fundamental to our ability to deter the most destructive forms of aggression. We will continue to press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

"But in an unpredictable world where we cannot see very far into the future, where nuclear weapons will not be disinvented, where we are seeing wider proliferation, we will not gamble with the country's future. We will therefore maintain the UK's essential minimum deterrent.

"The capital costs of the successor programme are likely to be up to £20bn; that is a small proportion of government expenditure. But where we can reduce the costs we will, which is why we are scrutinising Trident's renewal to ensure value for money."

To see the other Government Departments' responses see Related Links.

"At last, government has realised that there are 60 million citizens who really do have ideas."

Oliver Letwin, Minister for Government Policy

In a video posted on the Programme for Government website, Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

"The response has been fantastic and I'm pleased to see people have really engaged with this process.

"I hope people will see that this is different, it's a permanent change to the way we run government, and that it is worthwhile engaging in this kind of process in the future. It's important for us in government to remember we don't have all the answers."

Oliver Letwin, Minister for Government Policy, said:

"At last, government has realised that there are 60 million citizens who really do have ideas. Through processes like this, we can give real power to the people and make things open."


View Article  Welcome To Hell

Welcome To Hell

Hero British soldiers have spoken for the first time of their daily battles with the Taliban in a scorching Afghan outpost called "Hell".

B Company of the 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment have lost nine men killed and 12 seriously wounded in five weeks defending the remote Kings Hill base in Helmand.

But the lads remain determined to see the job through and believe it is a battle they can win. Just 500 metres from their mud-walled compound lies a building they constantly watch.

A young soldier on watch said: "This is where the Taliban meet up. They are all around us here. What you're looking at is the front line.

"Walk out there on your own and you would be dead in seconds. That field is full of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and the ditches around it are even worse."

Andy Bush The soldier - who cannot be named because he is a sniper, hated by the enemy - went on: "The other day the Taliban crept in and, using trees and a ditch as cover, planted nine IEDs. The next morning two of our guys were killed and a few more were badly injured. It's a coward's way to fight."

A team from The Sun spent time with the Mercians, for whom the dust, heat and primitive conditions make life uncomfortable enough without Taliban attacks.

We were greeted with the words: "Welcome to Hell."

Yesterday we published dramatic pictures from a battlefield video showing the miraculous survival of Lance Corporal Adam Smith, 23, after being shot in the face in an ambush.

B Company is led by Major Richard Grover, who clearly enjoys the support and respect of his 100 men. His Wirral accent reveals he is from the same area of the UK as most Mercians.

Part of his job is helping them deal with the loss of comrades. He said: "For the first few days the guys are downbeat. You have to be strong. One private lost his leg in an IED strike. He was the ninth man in the patrol to walk over the pressure plate.

"For some reason, because he's a big lad and was carrying a heavy pack, it detonated. Another is now a triple amputee. He got thrown into a ditch by the explosion. It's worse when it's an IED, because there's no one to fire back at." He added: "What impresses me about these men is the fact they are just ordinary guys, lads like any you would meet in the street. But they are doing an incredible job."

As we were being shown around, the clatter of incoming Taliban machinegun fire filled the air.

Seconds later a soldier on a sentry post let rip with several short bursts of fire. The enemy gun fell silent. Corporal Lee Kelly, 32, said: "This is guerrilla warfare, it's a dirty war. Every day there's a contact. One of my very best mates, Corporal Andy Breeze, was killed.

"I think we'll be in Afghanistan a long time. It's a marathon, not a sprint. But we are pushing the Taliban back. Progress is being made.

"This is definitely our toughest tour - but we'll get through it."


View Article  Battle Of Britain Town Pays Homage To Remaining Few

Battle Of Britain Town Pays Homage To Remaining Few

Bromley town centre was brought to a standstill on Friday when residents turned out in their hundreds to pay tribute to some of the last few remaining Battle of Britain pilots. 

The event was part of the Battle of Britain 70th anniversary commemoration and saw six veterans, now in their 80s and 90s, heartily cheered as they arrived in Bromley's Market Square in a convoy of vintage vehicles as part of a parade led by 228 (Bromley) Squadron Air Training Corps.

Leader of the London Borough of Bromley, Councillor Stephen Carr, welcomed the 'living legends' Captain Billy Drake, Flight Lieutenant Bill Green, Flight Lieutenant William Walker, Squadron Leader Tony Iveson, Wing Commander Bob Foster and Wing Commander Peter Ayerst who, along with 3,000 other young airmen, had done their bit to defend 1940s Britain from the aerial onslaught by German bombers, and arguably from German invasion.

The event was held in Bromley due to the town's proximity to the famous fighter station at RAF Biggin Hill which was at the centre of events in the summer of 1940.

Wing Commander Martin Tinworth, Battle of Britain 70th anniversary project officer, said:

"There is a huge level of public interest in this anniversary across the country and we want to show that the RAF is a progressive and modern Service that is proud of its heritage."

Representing RAF Northolt, Wing Commander Chris Platt explained that he was there to recognise the fact that both stations, Northolt and 'the Bump', as local RAF Biggin Hill was affectionately known:

"...had a lot in common, not only did both stations come in for a lot of stick during the Battle of Britain, but 32 Squadron, which now operates from Northolt, had been originally based at the Bump."

He said that he felt sure that the veterans would recognise many of the elements that comprise today's squadron, especially the people and:

"...their spirit and determination to do their job and stand firm in the face of enemy opposition."

Bromley's Mayor, Councillor George Taylor, said he was delighted to see so many people turning out to thank those who had fought against the enemy in the skies over southern England:

"At Biggin Hill 453 airmen died in aerial combat and 91 died on the ground. For us, Biggin Hill is more than just an airfield; it represents all those who risked their lives for our freedom," he said.

The mayor then rededicated the freedom of the borough, originally given in 1980, by presenting a ceremonial sword to Wing Commander Bob Foster. The sword was then taken to the chapel at Biggin Hill 'where it will stay lest we forget,' said the mayor.

To end the ceremony there was a flypast by a Hurricane, a Spitfire and a Lancaster bomber of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, then 54 white doves were released - each one representing ten aircrew who lost their lives during the Battle of Britain.

The veterans and the civic dignitaries were joined by Dame Vera Lynn at the RAF chapel in Biggin Hill for a short service.

Forces sweetheart Dame Vera posed for pictures with the veterans and current serving personnel beneath the new gate guardians, a Spitfire and a Hurricane.

Display pilots, Flight Lieutenants Tim Clements and Rich Walton, who thrill the crowds with their aerobatic fast jet displays at the Biggin Hill air show, were thrilled to take time out from their rehearsals to meet the veterans and hear about their exploits.

In a characteristic display of understatement, veteran Group Captain Billy Drake said, pointing to the Typhoon pilots:

"These are the real professionals. We were just bloody playboys who wanted to fly planes."



View Article  US To Take Over In Sangin
US To Take Over In Sangin

British troops are to be pulled out of the Sangin area of Afghanistan - where nearly a third of UK deaths have occurred.

It is understood the Government has decided the notoriously volatile district in northern Helmand province will be handed over to US forces, possibly later this year.

The move - set to be announced later by Defence Secretary Liam Fox - comes after Britain handed over command in Helmand to an American general last month.

Mr Fox is expected to say that Britain will concentrate on Helmand's populous central belt, leaving the north and south of the province to the US.

Sangin, currently home to 40 Commando Royal Marines, is particularly dangerous because it contains a patchwork of rival tribes.

It is also a major centre of Afghanistan's opium-growing industry.

It has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting the British military has endured since the Second World War.

Of the 312 UK deaths in Afghanistan since 2001, 99 occurred in Sangin.

There is likely to be a mixed response to news of the handover - relief that such a deadly burden has been passed on but also sadness at the high price paid in troops killed and injured.

Britain's 8,000 forces in Helmand are now greatly outnumbered by the 20,000 US Marines sent there under President Obama's surge strategy.

Sangin is the latest part of the district to be handed over from British to American control.

The town of Musa Qaleh was transferred in March and US marines took charge of the strategically important Kajaki dam last month.

View Article  Operations In Afghanistan: British Casualties

Operations In Afghanistan

British Casualties

The Ministry of Defence has published the following casualty figures for Operation HERRICK. These figures are updated every two weeks, two weeks in arrears.


All casualties suffered by UK Forces are a source of profound regret. UK personnel put their lives on the line to help the people of Afghanistan to build a strong and stable country; we cannot pay high enough tribute to the job that they are doing, or the sacrifice some of them have made.

The MOD is committed to publishing casualty statistics, openly and on our website. While we do not publish statistics for all personnel who require minor treatment, we do record details for all personnel who need to be admitted to our field hospitals with more serious injuries and with diseases.

The Defence Medical Services aspire to provide first class treatment for all injured or ill Service personnel, aiming to restore them to full fitness or, where this is not possible, to the best state of health their condition permits. We also work closely with the NHS to ensure a smooth transition into NHS care when responsibility for their healthcare transfers at the point of demobilisation for reservists or discharge for regulars.

For the period 7 October 2001 to 31 December 2005:

Centrally available records show that:

  • 6 UK Military Personnel were categorised as Very Seriously Injured from all causes excluding disease
  • 4 UK Military Personnel were categorised as Seriously Injured from all causes excluding disease

Work continues to verify and validate data for aeromedical evacuations and field hospital admission in both Iraq and Afghanistan prior to January 2006. Once this data is compiled it will be added to the website.

For the period 1 January 2006 to 31 May 2010:

Centrally available records show that:

  • 1,282 UK military and civilian personnel were admitted to UK Field Hospitals and categorised as Wounded in Action.
  • 2,606 UK military and civilian personnel were admitted to UK Field Hospitals for disease or non-battle injuries.
  • 188 UK personnel were categorised as Very Seriously Injured from all causes excluding disease.
  • 190 UK personnel were categorised as Seriously Injured from all causes excluding disease.
  • 3,449 aeromedical evacuations have taken place for UK military and civilian personnel injured or ill in Afghanistan.

For further details see:

Afghanistan Casualty and Fatality Statistics

Frequently Asked Questions

What medical facilities are available for UK troops operating in Afghanistan?
The UK provides 'Role 1' facilities at all UK Main Operating Bases, Forward Operating Bases and Patrol Bases, in Kabul, Kandahar and throughout Helmand Province. Role 1 facilities provide Primary Health Care and Pre-Hospital Emergency Care. The composition and complement of doctors, nurses and medics is dependant on a number of factors; the number of UK personnel being supported, the geographical location, the evacuation time to a surgical facility (Role 2 or Role 3) and the operational situation at the time. The Main Operating Bases at Camp Bastion and Kandahar also have dental, physiotherapy and mental health facilities which are able to provide peripatetic and referral support to all UK personnel.

Those more seriously ill and injured UK personnel are treated at deployed hospital facilities which are either designated as Role 2 or Role 3 dependant on the level of diagnostic and specialist surgical and medical capability they provide. They can provide intensive care and high-dependency facilities, as well as surgical, medical, A+E, physiotherapy, dental, mental health, x-ray, CT and laboratory facilities. UK personnel are primarily supported by the UK led Anglo/American Role 3 hospital at Camp Bastion and the NATO Role 3 facilities at Kabul and Kandahar. However, all Role 2 and Role 3 facilities are available to support ISAF and Coalition personnel as determined by the clinical needs of the casualty.

In total the UK deploy over 400 medical staff to support operations in Afghanistan (this includes Medical Group personnel and those integral to the Battle Groups).

What is NOTICAS reporting?
Notification of Casualty (or 'NOTICAS') is the name for the formalised system of reporting casualties within the UK Armed Forces. It sets in train the MOD's next of kin informing procedure. NOTICAS is taken extremely seriously - as the MOD's Joint Casualty and Compassionate Policy and procedures set out, NOTICAS reports are to be raised for every casualty and the reporting process is undertaken as quickly and sensitively as possible, it takes precedence over all but the most urgent operational and security matters.

What do 'Seriously Injured' and 'Very Seriously Injured' mean?
The NOTICAS reports raised for casualties contain information on how seriously medical staff in theatre judge their condition to be. This information is used to inform what the next of kin are told. 'VSI' and 'SI' are the two most serious categories into which personnel can be classified:

  • 'Very Seriously ill/ Injured/wounded' or VSI is the definition we use where the illness or injury is of such severity that life or reason is imminently endangered.
  • 'Seriously ill/Injured/Wounded' or SI is the definition we use where the patient's condition is of such severity that there is cause for immediate concern, but there is no imminent danger to life or reason.

The VSI and SI categories are defined by Joint Casualty and Compassionate Policy and Procedures. They are not strictly 'medical categories' but are designed to give an indication of the severity of the illness to inform what the individual's next of kin are told. In the figures for Operation HERRICK (Afghanistan) and Operation TELIC (Iraq) we have excluded those individuals categorised as VSI or SI whose condition was identified to be caused by illness, to produce figures for the number of UK personnel categorised as VSI and SI whatever the cause of the injury, but excluding illnesses.

What is the figure for personnel 'Wounded in Action'?
This figure is based on Wounded in Action figures, including those wounded as a result of hostile action and is derived from admission data returns from the UK Role 2 enhanced facility in Camp Bastion, the Canadian Role 3 facility in Kandahar and the French and Greek Role 2 facilities in Kabul.

These figures give the total number of aeromedical evacuations,including any aeromed movements connected to the casualty's treatmentoutside of Afghanistan.

What is a non-battle injury?
Any injury that is not caused by a hostile act - examples could include a sports injury or a road traffic accident.

What is the difference between Killed in Action and Died of Wounds?
Killed in Action is the definition used where a battle casualty is killed outright or dies as a result of wounds or other injuries before reaching a medical treatment facility. Died of Wounds is the definition used where a battle casualty dies of wounds or other injuries received in action, after having reached a medical treatment facility.

What improvements have you made to the way casualty figures are collected and reported?
Since 28 October 2006 we have been able to provide data on the personnel admitted to medical facilities as a result of disease, as well as for non-battle injury. This was a challenge because these statistics include data provided by other ISAF nations in Afghanistan, who do not use the same definitions of disease. This additional reporting has been brought about by improvements in tracking of this category of personnel, and brings the reporting of statistics for casualties in Afghanistan into line with reporting for casualties in Iraq.

Furthermore, since 28 October 2006 improvements in the way the data is recorded in theatre, collated, and analysed back in the UK have made it possible for updates to be provided every two weeks, two weeks in arrears, rather than monthly, one month in arrears.

View Article  Violence Flares At Homecoming Parade
Violence Flares At Homecoming Parade


Muslim extremists have bombarded our soldiers with abuse at a homecoming parade — calling them 'Butchers' and 'Baby Killers'.

Violence erupted as more than 200 heroic members of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment marched through a town centre after returning from Afghanistan to vile taunts and jibes.

A new group of fanatics — who call themselves Muslims Against the Crusades — branded our brave boys "the death squad" and chanted "go to hell".

Incredibly, the extremists were allowed to protest at the same time, and in the same street in Barking, Essex, as the soldiers' welcome home parade.

Trouble flared as they waved placards which read: "return of the butchers", "baby killers" and "what are you dying for?18k."

They chanted "wicked soldiers go to hell", "murderers, murderers" and "sharia for UK".

Riot police were forced to step in as they clashed with angry locals who draped themselves in England flags, belted out the national anthem and retaliated with chants of "scum" and "we pay your benefits".

Eggs, glass bottles and pork sausages were also thrown at the group of around 40 protesters.

The girlfriend of a brave Royal Anglian soldier who was killed in Afghanistan said the extremists' outrageous protest should have been banned.

Lance Corporal Scott Hardy, 26, from Chelmsford, Essex, was killed in an explosion near Musa Qala in March just two weeks before he was due to return home. He was one of five soldiers in the regiment to lose their lives.

His partner Charlene Byrne, 24, who works in a solicitors' office, was shocked to see the Muslim protesters at what should have been a heroes' welcome.

She said: "It's absolutely disgusting. I know this kind of thing has happened before but I don't understand how it has been allowed to happen again.

"They should have been banned from attending. They should never have been allowed to hijack this. If the Government knew what this group was planning they should have put a stop to it.

"It's terrible these extremists have got away with it. Obviously not everyone supports what's happening in Afghanistan, there are people who are very angry about it, but they shouldn't take it out on the soldiers."

She added: "The lads who go out to Afghanistan don't care about the politics, they care for each other and they are doing a very difficult job trying to help the people of their country.

"I feel so sorry for them for having to put up with this abuse. They were doing their jobs and deserved a real heroes' welcome.

"The Muslims Against Crusades are calling them cowardly but our lads are out there putting their lives at risk for their country. I don't think that's cowardly."

Head of the fanatics' group, Abu Assadullah, 20, said: "We are quite disgusted by the fact these murderers that raped our people are coming back and they are being honoured for doing something wrong.

"These people have been killing and raping and pillaging in Islamic countries and they should not be welcomed home. As Muslims, we wanted to make a stand."

He said: "The families of the soldiers are not the only ones with feelings. We also have feelings, our fellow Muslims are being butchered.

"Islam is not a violent religion but we will use violence if necessary to defend ourselves. Democracy is failing, that was clear as this year we had a hung parliament. Islam is the alternative.

"People in this country are very patriotic. They support Britain even if the country has done something wrong. We want to show that there is an alternative. Sharia law would provide an alternative, it would provide balance in the UK."

Disturbingly he added: "People say 'don't take it out on the soldiers, they are just doing their jobs'. But how it when Osama Bin Laden blows up a plane or a building he is a terrorist. It is not that he is just doing his job - this is a double standard. They are both killing."

The hour-long parade was delayed as the vile extremists clashed with members of the far-right English Defence League.

Moments after the soldiers passed tensions reached boiling point and they charged through a police barricade to exchange punches with the Muslim group.

Police piled into the mob to separate them. One man was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and led away as the police surrounded the extremists.

Assadullah claimed the officers were more "heavy handed" with his followers but onlookers were left stunned as police circled the fanatics protecting them from angry bystanders.

Dee McEvoy, 50, from Barking, stood in front of the protest group waving two union jack flags as the soldiers passed.

She said: "I'm here for the army and the British forces. The protesters are entitled to their opinion but they are taking it out on the wrong people. They should be taking it out on the Government. This is not the reception these boys and girls deserve."

In a video message on YouTube a Muslims Against the Crusades spokesman says the devastating 7/7 and 9/11 terrorist attacks were justified because of the Americans and British "occupying our lands, and going to rape, kill and murder".

Abu Amanah adds: "There is a battle taking place. What do you expect? When you throw a brick at somebody's house you should expect a brick thrown back at you.

"As long as you occupy our land and steal our resources and prevent us from implementing Islam we will stand up."

The extremists had earlier passed out leaflets featuring British soldiers along with a bloody puddle in the shape of a skull calling the troops "death squads". They called on Muslims to "rise up and condemn this sickening parade".

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Liam Smith wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to ban the protest fearing there would be violence.

But his pleas were ignored.

Emily Penson-Clark took the day off work to watch the homecoming parade with her young daughter and parents.

She said: "I think the protesters are filth. I'm here to support our troops. They put their lives on the line for us.

"Our boys are out there dying for us, there's no comparison between this lot and our soldiers. We are losing our sons in Afghanistan, I took the day off work today, that's how important this is. It is so important to show our troops what we think of them."

The soldiers marched proudly through the town centre undaunted by the sickening abuse, with fixed bayonets and accompanied by the Minden Band.

Colonel of the Regiment and current NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Sir John McColl, said: "The Vikings made considerable progress in Afghanistan of which they can be very proud; and as a result of their efforts, Helmand Province is a safer and more secure place.

"But it was not without the cost and they have lost five brave young men, with many more injured."

Foxnwolf comments;

Make your voice heard. This violence & intimidation has to stop now.......

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View Article  Afghan Hero Killed Back In UK
A hero soldier who survived being blown up by a Taliban bomb has died crossing a road in Britain the day after leaving an Army rehab centre



Rifleman Ross Robinson - who served with 4th Battalion, The Rifles - was hit by a van on the A303 near Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire.

The 21-year-old father from Leeds had been recovering from back wounds caused by a blast that killed a close friend in Afghanistan.

Despite his own injuries, Rifleman Robinson continued to clear the ground and help with the evacuation of Rifleman Sam Bassett.

Only later when the extent of his own injuries became clear was he too evacuated.

His death came just 24 hours after being discharged from the recovery centre at Headley Court in Surrey.

He had served with the battalion for only 18 months - but his commanding officer said he had "matured rapidly" in Afghanistan and showed "great courage" during his recovery.

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Jones said: "He took on the role as lead man in his section, clearing the ground for those that followed.

"There is no lonelier task and it demands real depth of courage and selflessness.

"He showed humbling commitment when his friend was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device.

"He was much-loved for his quick tongue, humour and character. Never far from trouble, he lifted the mood of all those around him."

Rifleman Robinson leaves his parents, brother and daughter Lilly May.

The final members of his battalion only returned to Britain on April 25.

View Article  A British sniper set a world sharpshooting record
It was silent but deadly



A British sniper set a world sharpshooting record by taking out two Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan from more than a mile and a half away -- a distance so great, experts say the terrorists wouldn't have even heard the shots.

Craig Harrison killed the two insurgents from an astounding distance of 8,120 feet -- or 1.54 miles -- in Helmand Province last November firing an Accuracy International L11583 long-range rifle.

"The first round hit a machine-gunner in the stomach and killed him outright," said Harrison, a corporal of horse in the British Army's Household Cavalry, the equivalent of a sergeant in the American military.

"The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too," Harrison told the Sunday Times of London.

The shots -- measured via GPS -- surpassed the previous record held by Canadian Army Cpl. Rob Furlong, who killed an al Qaeda gunman from 7,972 feet in 2002.

Harrison's shots were roughly equal to the distance between the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park.

Experts called Harrison's sharp shooting as perfect as it gets.

"When you are shooting that far, if you miss by a hair, you miss by a mile," said John Plaster, a retired US Army sharp-shooting instructor and author of "The Ultimate Sniper." "That is about as precise as any marksmen on the planet could shoot."

He said Harrison's targets likely never knew what was coming.

"At a distance like that they cannot even see anyone and they would not even hear the muzzle report," Plaster said.

Harrison, who fired the bullets while his colleagues were under fire, said perfect weather helped him nail the perfect shot.

"[There was] no wind, mild weather, clear visibility," he said.

Harrison learned of his record nine days ago, when he returned to England. In the weeks after his record shot, he suffered a minor gunshot wound and broke his arms when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
View Article  Police chief (ex RM) is held for 'torching car to cover up affair with barrister's wife'

Police chief (ex RM) is held for 'torching car to cover up affair with barrister's wife'

A police chief who allegedly set fire to a car to destroy evidence of his affair with a barrister’s wife has been arrested.


Arrested: Chief Superintendent Jim Trotman allegedly set fire to a car to destroy evidence of his affair with a barrister's wife

Chief Superintendent Jim Trotman had been using the police hire vehicle to visit his mistress and wanted to hide the fact he illegally clocked up mileage for personal use, sources said.

After the car was destroyed by the flames, Mr Trotman claimed he was the victim of an arson attack and even named the barrister as a possible suspect, they added.

The married father-of-two has also been suspended from Thames Valley Police while detectives investigate allegations of arson, insurance fraud and perverting the course of justice.

A source said: ‘Officers who do a lot of travelling on behalf of the force are not allowed to use their private cars but have one hired for them by Thames Valley Police.

‘Mr Trotman used a hired car a lot and apparently found it useful because he could take his woman friend around with him without his own car being spotted and recognised by colleagues out on patrol.

‘Apparently he is in bother with the force because when you take out a hire car you have to sign a document saying you will not use it for any private mileage.

'But Mr Trotman was, by all accounts, using the car to go out with his lady friend.’

Of the fire, the source added: ‘He named a man who was a barrister and who was apparently embroiled in the aftermath of a marriage split.’

However, detectives investigating his claim handed over the investigation to the force’s Professional Standards Department.

It is understood that their inquiries centred on an insurance claim made by the police chief in relation to the hire car.

Mr Trotman, an ex-Royal Marine, was arrested in front of colleagues last month while on duty at the force’s headquarters in Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

He was taken to a Hampshire police station for DNA tests and interviewed under caution. He has been suspended from duty on full pay and bailed pending  further enquiries until April 8.


Investigation: The police chief was arrested in front of colleagues while on duty at the force's headquarters in Kidlington

On Thursday night, neighbours said Mr Trotman had recently moved out of the £370,000 detached house he shared with his wife Charlotte and their two children, one of whom is severely autistic, in Wallingford, Oxfordshire.

He has since moved into a £450,000 townhouse in the nearby town of Abingdon overlooking the marina.

Mr Trotman, who is also an assistant Cub Scout leader, has been head of strategic development at Thames Valley Police since 2007. Before his promotion he was a police commander for Oxford for two years.

During his tenure he was credited with helping reduce crime and overseeing the introduction of neighbourhood policing. The police chief joined the police force in 1992, and was made area commander for West Berkshire.

He served in the Royal Marines in the First Gulf War in Iraq between 1990 and 1991 and also in Northern Ireland.

He was not available for comment last night.

A Thames Valley Police spokesman confirmed that ‘a senior police officer’ had been arrested, suspended from duty and bailed pending further inquiries.

He said: ‘The arrest was made by officers from the force’s Professional Standards Department after an investigation.’


View Article  Exposed: The fake 'war hero'

Who made his own medals and claimed to have fought at Goose Green

A pub landlord who pretended to be a war hero for 20 years could be prosecuted after a two former members of the Parachute regiment publicly exposed him in a military-style sting.

Billy Dailly, 58, wore home-made medals and said he had been a hero soldier in the Falklands.

Dailly was even pictured at a special Remembrance Sunday dinner last year wearing his 'awards' and a Parachute Regiment tie.

But his lies unravelled when ex-Paras Peter Elcock and Joe Harvey caught him out in a perfectly-executed pincer movement.

Mr Dailly was forced to confess his lies in front of customers in his packed pub The Grosvenor Arms in St John's, Worcestershire, before fleeing in shame.

Mr Elcock, 53, and 55-year-old Mr Harvey wore disguises to hide their identity and tricked the landlord into recounting his lies.

Then, when he was out of the room, the pair unveiled their uniforms and revealed that Mr Dailly's name had never appeared on the list of medal winners.

When his lies were exposed, the landlord was overcome with embarrassment and admitted the deceit before running away in disgrace.

Mr Elcock, who is a fundraider for Help For Heroes, likened the fraudster to fantasist Walter Mitty.

'I had seen this individual once or twice at Remembrance Sunday parades in Worcester,' he said.

'It had sprung to mind that he was never closely involved and always kept to the fringes before disappearing when the parades were over.

'But then a few friends started asking me if I knew him because he had apparently also been in the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment and was telling people that he knew me.

'More importantly, he was also claiming to have won the Military Medal at Goose Green in the Falklands for bayonet fighting, but when I Googled him I could see he had never been there.

'After a bit more searching on the internet it became clear he had never even been with the Parachute Regiment.

'I was disgusted that he has spent the last 20 years telling people these stories and pretending to be the big paratrooper man who won the Military Medal.

'It's just the lowest of the low. It's despicable.

'I knew guys that had won the Military Medal and been forced to sell it when it when they fell on hard times and others that had died winning one.

'For him to go around claiming the kudos of a war hero was utterly wrong and my friend Joe who had served with me in Berlin in 1974 and on several tours in Northern Ireland felt so strongly about it he travelled from Wales to help me confront him.



Genuine parachute heroes Peter Elcock, right, and Joe Harvey wore disguises to hide their identity and tricked the landlord into telling a tissue of lies

We just went in the pub and got him talking about the paras, but after a while it was clear he was getting a bit nervous because his stories were not adding up.

'When he went out for a cigarette we turned to the people in the pub and told handed them copies of a list of all the people who had actually won the Military Medal.

'When he came back we were waiting for him wearing our maroon para tops and our regiment badges.

'His jaw hit the floor when he saw what we were wearing. I said, "You are not on this list, are you? Why is that?"

'First he wanted to talk outside, but we told him no. We said he had some questions to answer for everyone there.

'Eventually he admitted that he had never been in the paras and then he ran away. He actually ran out of his own pub.

Billy Dailly pictured in his replica medals in a bar after last 
year's Remembrance Day service

Billy Dailly pictured in his replica medals in a bar after last year's Remembrance Day service

'It's the kind of cowardice I would expect really, which is why he was never with paras and never won the Military Medal.' 

Mr Dailly had served over ten years with the Gordon Highlanders in Ireland and yesterday tried to defend his actions.

He said the deception was only meant as a practical joke on a friend who had served with the paras.

He said: 'I knew a guy who had been in the paras and when he moved to Worcester 20 years ago I decided to wind him up by telling him I had served with them too.

'It was just a wind up that got out of hand. I hold my hands up and admit I was wrong, I can totally understand why anyone would be upset about this.

'But I just wanted to see how far I could take it. The medals weren't even real, they were ones I made myself on a machine at work. They didn't even look like the real thing.

Steel helmets abandoned by Argentine armed forces who surrendered at Goose Green. Dailly claimed he fought in the battle

'There was no malice intended whatsoever. I regret starting this wind up in the first place and I know I should have knocked it on the head ages ago.

'It's just all been blown out of proportion and now I have to face all my customers and try to explain myself.' 

On a Facebook page entitled 'We dislike Stolen Valour', outraged servicemen and their families hit out at Mr Dailly's actions.

David Jones said: 'Hanging is too good for the Weasel!! Simple nail him up for as many years as he's lied!!' 

Alan Pitcher said: 'These people lead very sad lives trying to be someone/thing they couldn't be. They shouldn't be allowed out in public especially with the boys out in the sandpit doing a brilliant job.'

The Military Medal, up until 1993, was awarded to British Army personnel below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle. 

A spokesman from Worcester police said: 'If the matter is reported and evidence is presented to us show an offence being committed under the Armed Forces Act 2006 officers will investigate the circumstances further.' 

This latest fake soldier comes after Roger Day from Hinkley, Leicestershire, was pictured marching at a Remembrance Day parade wearing an impossible array of medals last year.

The 61-year-old was exposed as a conman and originally convicted of 'unlawfully using decoration' under section (1) (b) of the Army Act 1955.

But all charges were dropped as the Act was repealed by the Armed Forces Act 2006 11 days before Day took part in the march.


View Article  Jackal 2 makes its public debut
Deep in the heart of the English countryside, just outside Aldershot in Hampshire, the calm of a hot spring morning is shattered by the roar of a 5.9 litre diesel engine.  The Jackal 2 is the upgraded version of the Army's weapons mounted patrol vehicle and is making its public debut for the very first time.



Its predecessor - The Jackal - was deployed to Afghanistan in April 2008 to provide British forces with an off-road vehicle that could travel long distances, provide fire support when needed and, importantly, could offer a degree of protection against small arms fire and roadside bombs and so-called improvised explosive devices (IED).


People are defending their country with their lives, they deserve the best equipment money can buy
Quentin Davies MP

While not impervious to all IEDs, they were seen as a safer alternative to the Snatch Land Rover, a vehicle developed for use in Northern Ireland in the early 90s which although providing some protection against small arms fire, came in for criticism from some quarters, saying it did not provide sufficient protection against the range of IEDs found in Afghanistan.

In October 2008, Gordon Brown said £700 million would be spent on new troop vehicles - the Protected Mobility Package - which at the time pledged to buy 100 more Jackal vehicles.

Six months later, the order has increased to 110 and the first vehicles are due to roll off the production line in Honiton, Devon, as part of a £74 million deal with the vehicles manufacturer Supacat.

Of course, what the army is now buying is called Jackal 2, although many of the changes from its predecessor are rather subtle.

The basic armament - a top mounted .50 caliber machine gun - along with a secondary 7.62mm general purpose machine gun is still there, although the .50 cal gun position has been moved forward.

"While firing the gun on the old vehicle was very effective, the noise would give the driver a very hard time," Sean Limbrick, the chief engineer behind Jackal 2 told the BBC.

Jackal 2
The Jackal 2 can travel 1000km on a single tank of fuel

"The new position makes all the difference and it also allows the gun to be depressed [pointed downwards] far more, giving the operator more flexibility."

Upgrade

The engine, transmission and suspension are basically the same, however the chassis has been upgraded allowing the vehicle to carry a greater load and give it greater strength - vital if a vehicle is to survive the blast from a roadside bomb. The majority of casualties linked to the Jackal in Afghanistan were caused by IEDs.

On the floor of the vehicle, underneath the gunners position, are a number of blast plates. The two seats also have steel protection surrounding the underside and back.

The Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, said that amongst the troops in Afghanistan, The Jackal was one of the most popular vehicles after the Mastiff protected patrol vehicle, despite some casualties, and he expected Jackal 2 to be equally well received.

"The object is to continually improve our portfolio of vehicles. We produce a vehicle, it goes to the front line and we take account the experience of the front line including disasters and fatalities.

Jackal in Afghanistan
The Jackal 1 has been in service in Afghanistan since April 2008

"We feed that back to the engineers and see if we can improve the vehicle. And so there is a continual process of improvement," he said.

The new vehicle can now carry four soldiers, one more than the Jackal 1. There are other changes that have been made as a result from feedback from troops in the field.

The armoured door now locks back into the open position, allowing troops travel while looking out the door.

"We found that many soldiers wanted the ability to have a wide field of fire, so the door can now be locked open," said Mr Limbrick.

The rear of the vehicle has also been redesigned, allowing fuel or water cans to be carried on the outside of the vehicle, allowing troops to store their Bergens (backpacks), extra ammunition, or other equipment.

Mr Davies said that although the Jackal 2 was expensive, it was money well spent.

"People are defending their country with their lives, they deserve the best equipment money can buy."


View Article  British Troops get new Sharpshooter Rifle

British troops get new Sharpshooter rifle to blast Taliban... because their weapons have a longer range than ours...


British soldiers in Afghanistan will be issued with a new infantry combat rifle for the first time in 20 years, the Ministry of Defence announced today.

More than 400 Sharpshooter rifles, which fire a 7.62mm round, are being purchased as part of a £1.5million 'urgent operational requirement'.

The first batch of the U.S.-made rifles will be used by the 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, from October.



'Urgent requirement': More than 400 U.S.-made Sharpshooter rifles will be used by British soldiers in Afghanistan

Quentin Davies, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said: 'Troops in Afghanistan are already bristling with a variety of weapons they can use when fighting the Taliban.

'The Sharpshooter rifle adds to this arsenal and provides them with an additional, highly-precise, long-range capability.

'This is a concrete example of where we add to our range of equipment to ensure our brave forces have the best kit available to them on the frontline.'

Sharpshooter rifles have a 'kill range' of up to 900 yards, while the Army's standard issue SA80 A2 assault rifle, which fires smaller 5.56mm bullets, is limited to around 300 yards.

Insurgents in Afghanistan are said to have learned the effective range of the current issue weapons and return fire from their AK47 rifles, which also fire 7.62mm bullets, from further away.

The MoD said the semi-automatic weapons, also known as L129A1 rifles, were the first new infantry combat rifle to be given to troops in more than two decades.

Colonel Peter Warden, Light Weapons, Photographic and Batteries team leader at Defence, Equipment and Support, said: 'The Sharpshooter rifle is very capable and has been bought to fulfill a specific role on the frontline in Afghanistan.




'It is a versatile weapon which will give our units a new dimension to their armoury.

'Initial feedback to the rifle has been very positive and the Army units deployed in Afghanistan are very keen to get their hands on it.'

The L129A1 Sharpshooter is a gas-operated weapon that carries a 20-round magazine.

It is 945mm long and weighs 5kg. It will be manufactured by Lewis Machine & Tool Company in the United States. Features include a single-piece upper receiver and free-floating, quick-change barrels available in 305mm, 406mm and 508mm. It has four Picatinny rails with a 540mm top rail for night vision, thermal and image intensifying optics.


View Article  After 44 years, remains of Aussie soldiers on way home
Two Australian soldiers, lost during a secret mission in Indonesian Borneo 44 years ago, are on their final journey home to be buried with full military honours.

In a ceremony conducted at Halim, Indonesia, the remains of Special Air Service Regiment Lieutenant Kenneth Hudson, 30, of Brisbane, and SASR Private Robert Moncrieff, 21, of Newcastle, were officially handed over to Australian authorities.

That ceremony was attended by families of Lieutenant Hudson and Private Moncrieff, Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin, Special Operations Commander Major General Tim McOwan and former special forces soldiers.

Major General McOwan said the ceremony marked the beginning of Lieutenant Hudson and Private Moncrieff's final journey home.

"Today we bring home two SAS patrol members who rested in the soil of another land for 44 years," he said in a statement.

"The return of these men to Australia closes a chapter in the Special Air Service history.

"The SAS is a family and now two of our brothers are coming home. Their Regiment and patrol mates have never forgotten them and for 44 years they have been living with the pain of leaving their mates behind."

Lieutenant Hudson and Private Moncrieff were lost on March 21, 1965, when swept away as they and two other soldiers attempted to cross a flood-swollen river while on a covert mission inside Indonesian territory.

This was the time of "confrontation" when Indonesia's President Sukarno had threatened to obliterate the new Malaysian confederation.

Australian and Britain had despatched forces in response to Indonesian military incursions into Malaysian Sarawak.

Recently the bodies of the two soldiers were found by Indonesian villagers who helped a joint Australian-Indonesian team find where they had been buried.

Mr Griffin thanked the Indonesian Government and military for their assistance in recovering the remains.

"These two soldiers, who paid the ultimate price while serving our nation, are being returned to their country, their family and they will finally be laid to rest with full military honours," he said in a statement.

Mr Griffin said a RAAF C-130 Hercules would fly to RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia, where the remains would be received by family, friends, current and former serving members of the Special Air Service Regiment.

Private funerals will be held for the returned patrolmen in Perth and Brisbane.

View Article  Yes, this Marine with 18 years’ service hit a Taliban bomber suspect, cutting his lip. But did he REALLY deserve to have his life ruined?

Mark Leader was only six when the Task Force set sail for the Falklands in 1982. The tales of military courage and derring-do which filtered back from that distant conflict would inspire him, as would the dream that one day he might wear the coveted green beret of a Royal Marine Commando.


Dedicated: Mark Leader today with his fiancee Jo Snook and their six-week-old son William. Last week, he, along with Captain Jody Wheelhouse, was thrown out of the Royal Marines for hitting a suspected Taliban bomber with a wellington boot

He did make it into the elite force, having enrolled on the tough Commando selection course even before his 17th birthday.

His service would take him all around the world, from Kosovo to Kuwait, Dungannon to Diego Garcia, but nowhere was more challenging than Helmand province in Afghanistan, where he served two tours.

And it was there that his 18-year career, during which he reached the rank of sergeant, would come to an ignominious end, after a moment’s misjudgment. A hitherto exemplary and unblemished record counted for nothing, it seemed, when set against a regrettable but relatively minor assault on an Afghan prisoner.

Last week, Sgt Leader, 34, along with 45 Commando colleague Captain Jody Wheelhouse, was thrown out of the Royal Marines for hitting a suspected Taliban bomber with a wellington boot. Mohammed Ekhlas had earlier been detained by Marines who spotted four men ‘digging in’ a roadside bomb near a British base in Helmand province.

More.......

The court martial heard Leader and Wheelhouse later burst into a tent where 48-year-old Ekhlas was being held and struck him around the head with the rubber boot, causing a cut lip, two loosened teeth and facial bruising.

The court rejected Sgt Leader’s defence (which he still fervently insists is the truth) that he was trying to stop the man from escaping.

Although Capt Wheelhouse admitted a charge of causing actual bodily harm, Sgt Leader denied it, saying he acted in self-defence against a ‘dangerous and violent prisoner’.

mark leader

Career soldier: Marine Sergeant Mark Leader pictured on a tour of duty in Afghanistan in October 2007

But even if the prosecutors were right and the articulate, quietly spoken NCO did let his disciplined professionalism slip for an instant (after three of his colleagues were blown up by roadside IEDs – improvised explosive devices), the stark contrast in the subsequent fortunes of the ‘bootneck’ and the bomber seem wholly unjust.

Ekhlas was handed over to the notoriously corrupt Afghan police and released without charge. Perhaps not surprisingly, he could not be traced when his testimony was sought for Sgt Leader’s court martial. No one can be certain, but few doubt that the Afghan would have returned to the bomb-planting which apparently led to his arrest.

For Sgt Leader, however, the alleged offence meant an immediate return to the UK in the most shaming of circumstances. Before the trip home, he was stripped of his firearm, his uniform and his dignity and returned to these shores wearing the kind of white paper forensic jumpsuit usually associated with murderers and terrorists.

During a stressful year with the case hanging over him, he vacillated between hope and despair, but only in his darkest moments did he imagine he would be cast out of the close-knit military family which had embraced him for more than half his life.

He compared the trauma of his dismissal to a divorce, but yesterday told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I took a split-second judgment and, presented with the same circumstances, I’d do the same again.’

Sitting at home in East Anglia with his podiatrist fiancee Jo Snook, 39, and their six-week-old son William, he must now contemplate the grim realities of life on civvy street with no job and a criminal record. He said: ‘I’ve got to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance and get my CV together, but all the kind of security jobs which I might have considered are out for the moment because you need to be CRB-checked and I’ve got the assault conviction.’

Although no longer in the Royal Marines, he said that having joined straight from school, he would always be a Marine and remains loyal to them.

He recalled: ‘It was all I ever wanted to do at school from the earliest days. I was in the Scouts, then the Army cadets. Straight out of school, I went for the Corps, and was taken on for the five-day Potential Recruits Course and then the Royal Marine Commando course in Lympstone, Devon, for 30 weeks.

‘It was the toughest thing I ever did, very physically demanding, but it instilled in me the values that have made me a Marine: courage, courtesy, determination and unselfishness. I’m not from a military family, but my parents were very proud.’

His years of training and operational experience, which included two tours in Northern Ireland and even a stint filling in for striking firefighters, were nothing compared to Helmand.

mark leader

Frontline: Mark (left) with his Marine comrades in the harsh landscape of Afghanistan in February 2007

‘Afghanistan was a very hostile environment. My first tour in 2006 to 2007 was as close to modern-day war-fighting as you can get, and we were out on the ground in very basic conditions for nearly the whole six months.

‘We’d create fire positions, occupy buildings, create an all-round defence and there was a lot of contact. Since then, the Taliban’s tactics have changed from trying to hit us head-on to using IEDs, but it’s just as dangerous.’

The fateful incident began at 2pm on March 19 last year near Wishtan base, Sangin, when four men were spotted planting an IED.

A patrol gave chase and two suspects, one of them Ekhlas, were arrested. He put up a fierce struggle, during which he received facial injuries. The other man was shot dead while escaping.

Five hours later, Ekhlas, in plastic handcuffs, was being held a mile away at Forward Operating Base Jackson, where Sgt Leader and Capt Wheelhouse were based, and the prisoner was put in the custody of their troop, to be held in a tent.

There, Royal Military Police Lance-Corporal Ellen Chun ensured he had food and took photos of his injuries. At some point, the cuffs were removed to allow Ekhlas to pray.

Sgt Leader said he and Capt Wheelhouse went to the tent to check on the guard duty, but upon opening the tent could see no guards, yet found the prisoner, uncuffed and standing up.

wheelhouse

Court martial: Mark's colleague, Captain Jody Wheelhouse, who was also thrown out of the Roayal Marines over the incident

Sgt Leader said: ‘I immediately assumed he was making a run for it and I grabbed the nearest weapon available – the boot – and hit him with it and using minimum force put him down on the ground.’

L/Cpl Chun returned to the tent, having found Ekhlas a sleeping bag, and told the court she found the two men assaulting the prisoner, who was streaming with blood.

It turned out that the two Marines guarding Ekhlas had been in the tent, but were not immediately visible when Sgt Leader opened the flap, which led him to assume something was wrong and tackle the prisoner.

He said: ‘It was a split-second judgment call and the whole thing lasted about two or three seconds. I may have drawn the wrong conclusion but, given the same circumstances, seeing what I saw, I’d do the same again without hesitation.’

According to the prosecution, the two assailants fled the tent but Sgt Leader insists he went in search of his sergeant major to explain the situation. When he found him, however, he was ushered to another empty tent and told to wait.

He was then arrested, his clothes taken away for forensic examination and he was given the white jumpsuit, which he wore for the short Chinook helicopter flight to Camp Bastion.

He said: ‘I can still remember sitting on that flight and feeling anger and frustration.

'The other guys in the helicopter didn’t say anything, but you could see in their eyes that they knew what was going on.’

He was held overnight and flown back to the UK. It was not until three days after the incident that he got a chance to explain himself to the Royal Military Police.

He said: ‘In a way, that hurt as much as anything. I’d served 18 years with never a disciplinary problem but now, suddenly, without being given the benefit of the doubt, I was treated like a criminal and for so long never given the chance to explain myself.’

Eventually, he was released on bail and returned to duties in the UK, but for months was left in the dark as to whether the case would go to trial or be dropped.

Throughout the five-day hearing, Sgt Leader remained confident of an acquittal.

His lawyer presented expert medical testimony to the effect that swelling from the injuries sustained during Ekhlas’s initial arrest could have taken some hours to show fully.

Glowing character references from senior colleagues presented to the court spoke of Sgt Leader’s qualities of ‘calm maturity’ and ‘a man of integrity’.

He said: ‘I never expected to be found guilty. It seemed clear to me that the case was not proven. I was telling the truth. I was absolutely devastated when I heard the verdict. I felt anger at the justice system.’

He said the severity of his sentence had surprised his colleagues and that they had expected him to be retained.

‘To have this end my career in the Marines was way out of proportion to the alleged offence. This guy was caught red-handed planting IEDs and soon after the incident he was released by the Afghan police.

‘So he’s free to go back to what he’s doing, and probably claiming the lives of British troops, while the life I’ve known for 18 years has come to an end.

‘I may have been brought back to the UK wearing a paper suit, but on the same plane were the coffins of men who were killed in Afghanistan. Three of my friends were killed in the months leading up to this incident, one of whom had to be identified by his DNA.

‘Other mates have come back with severe injuries. I feel lucky compared with them, but I just want to put across the point that we are asking the troops out there to fight with one arm tied behind their back.

‘People should understand the extreme pressure it puts on young soldiers when they’re fighting an enemy which has no rules, while they have to be accountable for their every action.’

On Capt Wheelhouse’s guilty plea, he said: ‘I’m loyal to the Royal Marines and the chain of command, and he was in that chain.’

As he contemplates life as a civilian – still unsure whether he will receive a military pension and other benefits worth up to £400,000 – he refuses to speculate on whether he has been used as a political scapegoat, adding: ‘That’s not for me to comment on. We’ll never know I suppose.’

Sgt Leader did not seek, and was not offered, payment for this interview, but a donation has been made to the Help For Heroes charity.

Foxnwolf comment.......

The MOD, their "back room boys" ought to be held to account
over this Stitch Up.......
View Article  Firm confirms Carling Cup soldier's payout review

An insurance firm has confirmed that it is reviewing a claim made by a wounded soldier who carried the Carling Cup onto the pitch at Wembley.

Abacus said it asked for "clarification on the medical situation" of Pte Dave Tatlock, of 2 Para, after the match.

His claim was already under review at the time but other "very significant" payments had been made, the firm said.

Pte Tatlock, of Manchester, was hit by shrapnel from a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in July 2008.

The 20-year-old, from Gorton, took the trophy on to the pitch in February after extensive rehabilitation.

Solider 'angry'

He lost the use of his calves and has severe nerve damage. He has no use of his left foot, wears a splint to walk and can only move his right foot slightly.

Pte Tatlock took out £56-a-month private cover with Abacus before being deployed to Afghanistan, and said he was in line for a £25,000 payment for losing the use of his left foot.

He told the BBC the first time he heard it had been placed under review was about a month after his appearance.

"Some jobsworth somewhere has seen me walk out on to the pitch," he said.

Pte Tatlock's walk onto the pitch unaided did prompt contact with his rehabilitation social worker for clarification on the medical situation
Abacus insurance

"He's seen me walk out with the cup without my stick and thought: 'Well, he's lying', which was pretty hard to understand.

"I don't know why they have tried to do it... words cannot express how angry I am."

In a statement published on its website on Wednesday, Abacus confirmed that it had contacted the soldier's social worker after his pitch side appearance.

"At the time of the Carling Cup final at Wembley, Private Tatlock's claim was under review pending further medical information," it said.

"Parts of his claim had already been settled and very significant payments had already been made. One part of the claim remains subject to further review.

"Pte Tatlock's walk onto the pitch unaided did prompt contact with his rehabilitation social worker for clarification on the medical situation.

"The update given was that further medical investigations were due to be carried out. This enquiry did not alter the standing of the claim."

Abacus said the outstanding part of Pte Tatlock's claim remained under review pending further medical advice.

Foxnwolf Comments;

Please contact "Abacus Insurers" and let your feelings be known.......

Abacus Insurance details as follows;

Address:

Abacus Limited,
Queen Isabelle House,
Kingsclere Park,
Kingsclere,
Newbury,
Berkshire,
RG20 4SW

Phone Numbers:

Tel: 01635 299591
Fax: 01635 299516

Email:

"Click Here"

PMPT & Semper Fi.......



View Article  Pilot shot between eyes but lands chopper safely

A mother has spoken of her pride for her son who saved the lives of 20 people when he landed his Chinook helicopter safely despite being injured in a fire fight in Afghanistan.

Fortune favours the brave: Flight Lietenant Ian Fortune 
landed his Chinook after being shot in the face
Fortune favours the brave:
Flight Lietenant Ian Fortune landed his Chinook after being shot in the face

Flight Lieutenant Ian Fortune, 28, was shot between the eyes during a battle between American and Afghan forces and heavily-armed rebels in Helmand province, near Garmsir.

He had landed to pick up casualties, despite being told it was too dangerous to land, and after the casualties were loaded on board, a bullet bounced off the front of his helmet, where night-vision goggles are attached, and went through, hitting him between the eyes causing severe bleeding.

Other bullets hit the controls, damaging the stabilisation system of the helicopter.

But Flt Lt Fortune managed to fly for eight minutes to land at Camp Bastion.

It is the first time a pilot has been shot while in the air during the Afghanistan war.

His mother Anne Fortune, of Worcester Park, said: “I’m obviously very proud of him. At the end of the day he was doing his job.

“I would say that was exactly Ian. He will stay calm. That is what they train them to do.”

She said she was proud of the whole RAF crew: “If it was not for them the helicopter probably would not have got back.

“I think he is good at his job but I am his mother.”

Her son who went to Kingston Grammar School (KGS), decided he wanted to be a pilot when he was 13 and, after going to Exeter University, he joined the RAF.

Meanwhile, Mrs Fortune has coincidentally followed her son into flight.

She worked for the Bank of England when he was deciding to become a pilot but now works for British Airways.

Nick Bond, assistant headteacher at Kingston Grammar School, said: “He has clearly saved the lives of his comrades in very difficult circumstances and displayed exemplary behaviour, kept his cool and managed to land his helicopter.

“When you knew him, it’s the sort of thing he would do.”

Flt Lt Fortune is now back at RAF Odiham after the attack on January 27.

A spokesman said: “He is fine. Obviously a little bit shaken but very proud of the good work by him and the rest of the crew.”

View Article  Marines dismissed for assaulting Afghan prisoner
Two Royal Marines have been dismissed for assaulting an Afghan man after he had been detained on suspicion of planting a roadside bomb.


Sgt Mark Leader & Capt Jody Wheelhouse

Devon-based Sergeant Mark Leader was found guilty by a court martial panel of assault causing actual bodily harm to Mohammad Ekhlas on 19 March 2009.

Captain Jody Wheelhouse, from 45 Commando, Arbroath, Scotland, admitted the same offence at an earlier hearing.

Wheelhouse was sentenced to dismissal with disgrace and Leader was dismissed.

The two men were sentenced at the HMS Nelson court martial centre at Portsmouth Naval Base, Hampshire.

The trial heard that Mr Ekhlas was assaulted by Leader and Wheelhouse, and that Leader - based at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon - was seen hitting Mr Ekhlas with a Wellington boot.

udge Michael Hunter said: "This was a sustained assault on an injured and unarmed prisoner, a middle-aged Afghan man who was suspected of being part of a group who were attempting to plant an improvised explosive device.

"It is understandable that those who have seen the effects of these devices should feel a degree of hatred or emotion towards those who plant them, especially when in Sergeant Leader's case they had lost friends.

"But acts such as this against an unarmed man undermine the standards of our armed forces and undermine everything our armed forces are trying to achieve in Afghanistan and puts the lives of our personnel in even greater danger."

High standards

Speaking outside court, Lt Col Nick Jermyn, from navy command headquarters, said: "We will always seek to bring to account those whose actions fall short of our high standards of behaviour, and the actions of these two individuals are not reflective of those of their colleagues in the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy or the wider armed forces."

Bob Williams, representing Wheelhouse, described his client as young and inexperienced, with less than two years in service at the time of the offence.

"He now finds himself absolutely distraught, he's devastated by what he has done. He has accepted his role in these unpleasant events and he's thoroughly ashamed of what he has done."

Wheelhouse admitted striking Mr Ekhlas twice to the body with the boot, but said he had only joined in the assault as he was following the example of Leader, who was his troop sergeant.

Leader, according to his defence Marcus Tregilgas-Davey, disputed that the assault was his idea.

His claim that he had only hit Mr Ekhas because he believed he was trying to escape custody was not believed by the court martial panel.

'Degree of provocation'

Mr Tregilgas-Davey said Leader was set to lose up to £400,000 in pension and other benefits through his dismissal from the service.

He said: "There was a degree of provocation in that Mr Ekhlas was caught red-handed planting an IED and Sergeant Leader had lost three of his friends through IEDs."

The trial heard that Mr Ekhlas was apprehended east of Sangin, Helmand Province, on suspicion of planting a roadside bomb, and was subjected to violence, classed as being legitimate force.

He was transferred to a base where his injuries were photographed before he was taken to a tent, usually used by ill servicemen, the court heard.

A female Royal Military Policewoman, who was guarding him had to leave the tent for a short time, putting the two Royal Marines in charge. They then assaulted him.

Mr Ekhlas was later handed over to the Afghan authorities, then released and cannot be traced, the court was told.

View Article  Ermey speaks his mind on Corps issues
R. Lee Ermey made his reputation using words and expletives as blunt-force instruments as a drill instructor in the iconic movie “Full Metal Jacket.”
And 23 years after the movie’s release, the retired gunnery sergeant is still not mincing words in mounting a fight to change the name of the 212-year-old Navy Department to the “Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.”
In Washington to beat the war drum for that cause alongside members of the Marine Corps League and Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., “The Gunny” laid out in plain talk why the Corps deserves equal billing with the Navy. And in an exclusive interview, he also spat out his views on gays serving openly, tattoos, rules of engagement and more.

Q. You are an avid supporter of House Resolution 24, which calls for renaming the Navy Department to include a reference to the Marine Corps. Why is this important to you?

A. When we die, when mama and dada get that letter of condolence, it would be kind of nice if the Marine Corps was mentioned. Just change the letterhead. What’s the harm in that?

Q. What about those who object on the grounds that doing so will be too expensive?

A. Just go ahead and use up whatever [stationery] you’ve already got — then buy more with the “Marine Corps” on it.
Here we are spending trillions of G-- damn dollars on health care, but when you want to change letterhead on a piece of paper, they get all uppity about how much it is going to cost.
These young men and women are fighting and losing their lives for this country. We aren’t asking for our own department. We are reasonable people. We are just asking for an honorable mention.

Q. What are your thoughts on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and recent efforts to end the ban on open service by gays and lesbians?

A. I don’t have a problem with “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It works. Now all of a sudden, this illustrious leader of America decided he wants to put openly gay people in the military. But where are they going to live and take showers, and which bathrooms are they going to use?
I liken it to putting me in the woman Marine barracks. I would have a great time, but I don’t think they would like it very much.
If I’m taking a shower in an open shower bay, the last thing I want is some guy looking at me having sexual fantasies.
I think everybody in this country should have equal rights, but I don’t think we should infringe on someone else’s to give another person more.
There is no problem serving alongside [gays] in combat.
I’ve never had a problem with that. The only problems I see are social.

Q. You served in Vietnam. What do you think about the rules of engagement today in Afghanistan?

A. We lost Vietnam because a bunch of people in Congress who had never been in the military or never experienced war were calling the shots.
In Vietnam, we couldn’t fire our rifles unless we were fired upon. That seems like chicken s--- because you might not get your turn.
Under this administration, after a firefight, it seems like we just about have to put up yellow tape, conduct forensics and collect shell casings like a crime scene.
It’s gotten to the point where a young man is afraid to shoot his rifle in self-defense because he might be brought up on murder charges. I think we should be above that. We should have amnesty. Higher-ups in Washington have amnesty. How about the poor warrior in the field just trying to do his job?

Q. The Marine Corps recently passed more stringent tattoo regulations. Any thoughts?

A. I think it’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous — borderline silly.
I challenge anybody who is making these decisions to prove to me that a Marine, because he has tattoos, is unable to fight.

Q. Some Marine leaders make the argument that these regs strive to maintain professional appearance.

A. Samurai warriors had tattoos, and they seemed to be pretty honorable people.
I’ve got three tattoos on my forearm. They’ve been there for 100 years, and I’ve never noticed them hindering me. For sailors and Marines, they are a log of where you have been.

Q. Some people might like to see you run for office. Do you have any political ambitions?

A. No. This old man has too many skeletons in the closet. I frequented a few too many *****houses, tattoo parlors and places of ill repute in my time. Boy, could they have a ball with me, digging up bones.
I’ll just keep doing what I do and get involved if I see there is a need.

View Article  Gurkhas getting robbed for £500 each by "GAESO"

Gurkhas hoping to move to Britain are being tricked out of their savings by 'unscrupulous' groups claiming they can help them settle here, MPs have been told.

The veterans are being charged £500 cash for advice on applying for a UK visa and misled into thinking they will be entitled to housing and benefits.

It has meant many have ended up here facing poverty, homelessness and unemployment having spent their savings or borrowed money for flights and visas.

Gurkhas hoping to move to Britain are being tricked out of their savings by 'unscrupulous' groups claiming they can help them settle here, MPs have been told.


Many Gurkhas have been given 'misleading' information about the housingand benefits they would be entitled to if they moved to Britain

The veterans are being charged £500 cash for advice on applying for a UK visa and misled into thinking they will be entitled to housing and benefits.

It has meant many have ended up here facing poverty, homelessness and unemployment having spent their savings or borrowed money for flights and visas.

The plight of the veterans was highlighted by a recent Mail investigation carried out by Sue Reid.

She found elderly soldiers had sold up and headed to Britain unaware of the difficulties that faced them whether it be their lack of English or money to set up home.

'They come with no idea of the expense of living in a country where the basic cost of setting up a rented home is £2,000,' said Annabelle Fuller of the Army Benevolent Fund.

'They are begging us for help. The Ministry of Defence predicted this would happen, but the media focus of the campaign was on the Gurkhas' rights to settle.'

The Mail investigation found one former rifleman sold his home, farmland and livestock to raise the money to get to Britain.

But Unman Singh Gurung, nudging 70, with barely any English found himself stranded in a mildewed room in Aldershot, Hampshire, with little prospect of getting a job and no money to fly home.

At the same time his wife, son, and daughter face an equally uncertain future. They have no money to fly to Britain or to pay for the three UK visas they need to settle here.

Furthermore their home and business are gone.

Yesterday's meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee was also told that the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation in Nepal was charging veterans £500 for needless advice.

Defence Minister Kevan Jones told the committee it was 'extremely disappointing that certain organisations who purported to be on the side of the Gurkhas now appear to be exploiting them'.

Last month's Mail investigation revealed the extent of the scandal. Thousands of Gurkhas who want to settle in Britain have made the 'voluntary' £500 donation to GAESO.

They are then passed onto solicitors working for UK-based firm Howe & Co who advise them on their applications before claiming legal aid for their services, Mr Jones told the committee.

Mr Jones revealed that Justice Minister Lord Bach had launched a probe into the activities of lawyers assisting veterans.

Last night Kieran O'Rourke, a partner with Howe and Co, strongly denied his firm had behaved improperly. He said the company had written to GAESO making clear that the veterans should not be required to pay.

It had also informed the Legal Services Commission, said Mr O'Roarke.

He added: 'We provide our services free of charge to the Gurkhas and we don't take back-handers. We are whiter than white on this issue.'

Mr Jones said it was vital to 'get the message across' that veterans could get free advice from a Ministry of Defence resettlement office in Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

The Government was forced into an embarrassing U-turn last year by giving all Gurkhas who had served in the British Army for more than four years the right to live here.

Ministers originally said only those discharged after 1997 could apply.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz, a former Labour minister, said he was 'very concerned' by the revelations and Labour MP Martin Salter, who fought for veterans resettlement rights, said they were being 'conned'.

Since the Government caved in to the campaign, some 4,100 visas have been issued to Gurkhas.

Last month the Mail told how one ex-rifleman Unman Singh Gurung, who was nearly 70, sold his farm in Nepal and took out an unaffordable loan to move to England only to end up penniless in a mildewed attic room above an empty shop in Aldershot, Hampshire.

Mr Jones also said he was 'disappointed and irritated' by actress Joanna Lumley, who spearheaded the campaign to win thousands of Nepalese veterans and their families the right to settle in the UK.

Despite evidence of 'exploitation' of the veterans she had refused to criticise it, he said



The information below is supplied directly by Foxnwolf and LocknLoad


THIS IS THE ONLY LEGAL WAY FOR GURKHAS TO APPLY
FOR BRITISH CITIZENSHIP

Non points-based system

Veterans can get FREE ADVICE from a Ministry of Defence resettlement office in Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON HOW TO OBTAIN A VISA
"CLICK HERE"

DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL APPLICATION FORM
"CLICK HERE"

THE OFFICIAL COMPLETED APPLICATION FORM IS TO BE TAKEN DIRECTLY TO THE

BRITISH GURKHAS NEPAL CAMP in MAN BHAWAN, JAWALAKHEL, LALITPUR, YOU MUST PHONE THEM FOR AN APPOINTMENT
Telephone +997 1 553 3519 or +977 1 553 3521 ext 327 or 329
or 
Fax +977 1 554 7561
View Article  Freedom award for military care centre

WELL DONE HEADLEY COURT

Headley Court has been granted one of the highest honours the district council can bestow.

At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night, councillors agreed to award the freedom of the district to staff at the centre, which provides medical rehabilitation for injured soldiers.

District council chief executive Darren Mepham said: "The council wishes to recognise the service to the community which all the staff at Headley Court provide."

There are around 360 members of staff, both military and civilian, based at Headley Court.

They include specialist consultants, nurses, exercise rehabilitation instructors, social workers, physiotherapists and prosthetics and podiatry specialists as well as administrative support staff.

Col Jerry Tuck, commanding officer at Headley court, said: "I am delighted at the council for granting the freedom of the district to all our staff at Headley Court.

"We all acknowledge the honour that this represents and it will be a big boost to morale."

A scroll will now be bought, at a cost not expected to exceed £2,000, and a presentation will be made at the full council meeting on May 25.

A 2009 Act of parliament allows the district council to award the title of honorary freeman of the district to people of distinction and those who have given great service to the area.

The freedom of the district is honorary only and confers no legal rights.

View Article  The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month
Today I was in a South Yorkshire village - an unusual occurrence for me as I tend to be home a lot these days. Sometimes laziness; sometimes apathy; sometimes ( mainly) because I have had a bit of a "sickie" just lately.

As is my usual routine on this day, at 11:00 I stopped and stood quietly for two minutes. The fact that so few people do has crossed my mind in the past so today, as I stood, I also watched. I was surprised how few other people did. It isn't because I'm ex-forces. It isn't that I'm getting old enough to hedge my bets just in case there is an escape clause in my not accepting that there is a God. I think it's because, when I was born, my upbringing had something to do with it - also, maybe a combination of lots of other things.

In an age where the instant requirement for 24 hour news puts footage from war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan instantly on t.v. with all the "action shots" and pictures of casualties perhaps the meaning of 11:00 on the 11th of November has been diminished. After all, the ceremonies to "remember" are held on the Sunday nearest to that date - not on the day. But two minutes out of a day is not much to ask, is it ?

Born in 1947, the importance of the occasion was always a part of my childhood. Traffic stopped, pedestrians stood quietly, shops stopped serving ( even Asda nowadays (and others) stop serving - no matter what you feel my emails re. Asda Rochdale might have suggested -  and even though some customers get the hump about it). Church bells could always be heard - a nation stood quietly. My Dad told me no stories about the theft of his youth or the loss of friends caused by the 39-45 war.( I did hear about his mates always persuading him to play the piano in the pubs in the run up to D-Day because people used to put pints on the piano top and he was teetotal ( canny lads, only too pleased to help Dad out !!!!!) - but I never heard the stories of when he was a bit too busy to have a beer in the days following D-Day.)

My time in the Corps ( 63/74) had the occasional moment but it was a ten and a half year banyan compared to the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. The intensity of those puts a heavy night in Nee Soon after a trip "over the other side" into perspective. People are more angry now about what the country asks "The Boys" to do; they rant and rave but the loudest seem to be the ones who's proximity to the violence of fighting seems to be confined to a Saturday night on the High Street.

If Wooton Bassett and - no doubt unpublicised - other places can quietly observe "the slow ride home", is it too much to expect a return to two minutes - just two minutes - quiet reflection on 11/11 at 11:00 ? I think not. You can soon recover those two minutes - the "passengers" through Wooton Bassett can't.

If you feel strongly about the young men dying and being injured in wars, whether you believe the wars are justified, unnecessary or built on lies, don't vent your anger in an email to your mates, the press or even down at the pub. Just take that two minutes every November 11th - sometimes a "quiet revolution" can be more effective than a noisy shout.

There are 1440 minutes in a day; 10,080 in a week; 525,600 in a year. Are just two of those minutes of your time just too much to give up ?
.
.
.
.
.
.
Thank you for the time that you have taken to read this - not far off two minutes of your time, was it ?


A footnote : Since the introduction of the Number 10 "petition" page, we have seen some silly ideas for petitions put forward which are signed by a few people with vested interests. Anyone, feel free to petition for the "Two Minutes Silence" at 11:00 on Eleventh November ........ I'll sign it. I imagine a lot of people will.
Yours aye

Gongdonkey

View Article  USS New York
She will be arriving in NY harbor on Nov 1st, 2009 and commissioned to the US Navy Nov. 7th....... If you are planning a trip to NY, you will be able to tour the ship during that week.



View Article  Ex-Para Held over Theft of Iraq War Medals


A FORMER paratrooper has been arrested on suspicion of callously stealing medals from his brave comrades to flog on eBay.

Military cops swooped on the 28-year-old after heroes from 2 Para reported their service gongs missing.

The suspect, who has now left the battalion, was arrested at his home near Corby, Northants, before being released on bail.

The victims are from one of the worst-hit units to fight in Afghanistan - having 10 men killed and scores more wounded on a bloody tour last summer.

At least three of the soldiers who bravely fought the Taliban had their service medals, including Northern Ireland and Iraq gongs, swiped from the battalion's Colchester HQ.

But it is feared up to 15 Paras may be victims. A source said: "Some of these medals have appeared for sale on eBay. People are not aware these are callous thefts from our nation's finest fighting men."

Smoke grenades, military detonators and pyrotechnics were also found at the suspect's home. The MoD Police said: "The investigation is continuing."

"Burn his Ass" (Foxnwolf)


View Article  Injured Soldier "Paul Mather" Directs Air Strike


Badly injured by a rocket-propelled grenade while on a routine patrol, a British soldier ignored his pain and stayed on the radio to direct American pilots overhead to suppress the enemy.

Corporal Paul Mather from the Army Air Corps was on patrol with 2nd Battalion The Rifles alongside elements of the Afghan National Army when they found an old Russian-style anti-tank mine on the north-western side of a group of compounds, no more than 500m from the Forward Operating Base that they were returning to.

Following the discovery the platoon took up defensive positions as experts dealt with the device. Cpl Mather's role as a Forward Air Controller was crucial in co-ordinating air support to protect the troops on the ground.

Speaking later, Cpl Mather explained what happened:

"I was speaking to a pair of A-10 jets [United States Air Force operated aircraft] at this time and I had them scanning the area around us looking for any threats to the patrol.

"It was then that an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] came over the wall and hit a soldier on the back of his rucksack. It bounced off and landed on the floor in the middle of the patrol. I heard a massive shout of 'RPG' from the Platoon Sergeant and everybody dived into available cover."

The shrapnel from the first blast missed Cpl Mather but he felt his body go numb from the shock wave. With his hearing temporarily gone as well, the first he knew about further explosions was when he felt the shrapnel rip through both his upper legs and left arm:

"It hurt like hell, but after the explosions had stopped and my hearing came back I climbed through the irrigation ditch towards a stream. Once out of immediate danger I ran towards a group of soldiers who were treating other casualties."

Six other casualties were also being treated following the blasts, but Cpl Mather was the most seriously hurt:

"I had a hole in my left bicep that the medics applied a field dressing and tourniquet to, to stem the blood flow. And I had lots of shrapnel injuries to the back of my legs and buttocks, one of which was a hole the size of my fist."

Despite his injuries Cpl Mather quickly realised that the A-10s and Apache attack helicopters above them had seen the explosions and were trying to contact him to find out what had happened so he picked up his radio handset and began to relay information to the pilots about where the enemy was:

"I told one of the Fusiliers to take a smoke grenade from my bag and throw it into the compound where the RPGs had come from. The pilot immediately picked up the smoke signal from his cockpit and started to relay the information to his wingman. I then gave direction for a strike onto the compound."

Most of the casualties had by now been put on stretchers, including Cpl Mather, and they began extracting out of the danger zone to a casualty collection point ready to be picked up by the MERT (Medical Emergency Response Team) helicopter.

As they moved, the Taliban started preparing to engage them again with RPGs from the same positions as before. The patrol immediately laid down suppressing fire onto the compounds:

"It was tricky because there were multiple local national buildings to the east of the wall, and I had to ensure that I wasn't going to hit any of those buildings as we were not sure what or who was inside them."

Two further air strikes were carried out on the target and then the A-10s pushed clear of the helicopters but kept their eyes on the target area in case they were further needed:

"I got the pilots' eyes onto the Taliban compound and told them to tell me if anything moved within and posed a threat. It was then that I saw the MERT coming in to collect us so I told the guys to pop smoke ready to receive them.

"As they landed I told the guys on the radio that I was handing it over because I had to get evacuated for medical treatment. It wasn't until I was on the helicopter that I took morphine to ease the pain."

Despite being a serious casualty and now on morphine for the pain, Cpl Mather could still be heard on the ground shouting commands and directions for the close air support aircraft whilst the Chinook was lifting off the ground.

His injuries were so severe that he was flown back to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham for further treatment, but is now at home recuperating with his parents.

Cpl Mather decided to become a Forward Air Controller after seeing the Joint Tactical Air Controllers and the Fire Support Teams on an exercise in Arizona and describes it as by far the greatest and most challenging job he has done in the Armed Forces. He added:

"It's very rewarding being able to help out the troops in contact or help finding targets for UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] or jets."

View Article  Hurt Helmand Heroine "Sally Clarke"


A brave Army medic hit by shrapnel from a Taliban grenade ignored her agony to treat SEVEN wounded comrades.

Lance Corporal Sally Clarke, 22, refused to board a rescue helicopter and stayed with the injured until medical back-up arrived.

Comrades of 2nd Battalion The Rifles hailed her a heroine but she said: "I was the only medic. I couldn't leave them."

L/Cpl Clarke was on patrol with her platoon in Helmand province when a rocket grenade exploded. Fragments hit her in the back and shoulder. But she ran to help Cpl Paul Mather, 28, the most seriously hurt with wounds including a fist-sized hole in his flesh.

A chopper rescued some of the injured but L/Cpl Clarke, of Cheltenham, Gloucs, tended other soldiers until a second helicopter arrived.

She said: "My injuries were not that bad." The MoD said: "Her selflessness sets a fine example."

View Article  Nick Clegg Calls For Forces Pay Increase

The most junior ranks of the armed forces should get a £6,000 pay rise to help boost morale, the Liberal Democrats have said.

Other privates and lance corporals should also get an average salary increase of at least £3,000, with an extra £1,000 for higher non-commissioned officer ranks, the party said.

Leader Nick Clegg said the measures would increase the "shameful" salary of the current lowest-paid recruits to £22,680, and put them on an equal footing with new police and firefighter starters.

"Nobody can put a price on the sacrifices our troops make on our behalf, but it is clear to everyone that pay levels are shamefully low for the lower ranks," he said. "We can't continue to reward the bravery of lions with peanuts. The Liberal Democrats will ensure that no soldier, sailor or airman goes into harm's way on less basic pay than a new recruit to the police or fire service."

The rises would see the average basic pay across the ranks of private and lance corporal rise to around £25,000. Mr Clegg said the move would cost between £300 and £400 million and should be funded from existing the Ministry of Defence budget by slashing the number of "desk jobs" by 10,000.

He said: "At the moment there is one MoD desk job for every two servicemen. We believe the ratio should be reduced, particularly as so many desk jobs in MoD are already done by serving officers. Other countries with similar sized militaries have a much smaller ratio."

British Army servicemen and women were awarded a 2.8% pay rise earlier this year after the Government accepted the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.

The rise - described as one of the best in the public sector by the MoD - meant the basic pay for a private on operations rose to between £16,681 and £25,887.


View Article  Five more UK dead in Afghanistan


Fifteen UK soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan in the last 10 days

The Ministry of Defence says five more British soldiers have died in Afghanistan, taking the total number of deaths announced on Friday to eight. The five, from the 2nd Battalion The Rifles, were killed near Sangin, Helmand province, on Friday morning. Next of kin have been informed.

Their deaths takes the number killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 184 - more than those killed in the Iraq war. UK forces are engaged in an offensive in Helmand with US and Afghan troops. The five soldiers were killed in two separate blasts while on the same patrol.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "While there are no words to ease their loss, our heartfelt sympathies go to their families, friends and fellow soldiers at this very difficult time: their deaths were not in vain."

Earlier on Friday (10th July 2009), it was confirmed a British soldier from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment died near Nad Ali in Helmand. That news came hours after the deaths of another two soldiers, again in Helmand.

Fifteen soldiers have died in 10 days in southern Afghanistan.
View Article  PM welcomes creation of Elizabeth Cross


The Prime Minister has welcomed the creation of a new medal for the families of British Service personnel killed while serving their country.

Earlier today, the Queen announced the creation of the Elizabeth Cross, which will be granted to the next of kin of Armed Forces personnel killed on operations or as a result of terrorism.

Gordon Brown said the new medal would be a “special and fitting tribute” to those who lose their lives serving the country.

He said:

“The British Armed Forces are the very best in the world. It is right that the sacrifices they make for the security of our country, and for stability abroad, are properly honoured. Her Majesty The Queen’s announcement today of the Elizabeth Cross for all the families of those who die on operations or as a result of terrorism is one I warmly welcome.
“It will be a very special and fitting tribute for the great debt we owe to those personnel, as well as for the enduring loss felt by their families.”

The Elizabeth Cross is the first new award to be created using a reigning monarch’s name since the George Cross was instituted in 1940 by King George VI.