A report has been commissioned by the Prime Minister to look at improving retention of personnel in the Armed Forces. It comes after more than 5% (7,500) quit the military in 2017 – an increase from just under 4% in 2010.
Mr Francois told Forces News that retention in the Armed Forces is “getting worse”. “We really have to do something to address the retention issue, not least for the sake of personnel and their families, but also for operational reasons – for defence,” he explained. “We cannot defend the United Kingdom if we haven’t got the skilled personnel there to do it.”
“We’ve got to do something to improve retention within the Armed Forces, the idea of this report is to try and work out what that is and try and make it happen.”
The initial findings of the report will be shown to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary by the end of July. The full report will be released by the end of 2019. On Monday, Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith said the size of the Army was “in freefall”, with numbers having dropped from 78,000 to 75,900 in just under two years.
During defence questions, Ms Griffith said Minister for Armed Forces Mark Lancaster should quit if the number fell below 70,000. But Mr Lancaster said he would “certainly not” quit and dismissed claims that Army numbers were in freefall. He said the Ministry of Defence is “confident that numbers will increase” and “the Army remains at 93% manning and can meet all of its operational commitments”.
The voices of Second World War veterans and their relatives are being recorded to mark the 75th anniversary of some of the conflict’s most momentous battles. Their stories will be captured for an online sound archive created by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). ‘Voices of Liberation’ has been set up to commemorate more than 100,000 service personnel who died in 1944.
Best and Worst
The public will be able to explore and range of recordings and add their own. Among the contributors is 99-year-old Victor Gregg, who served with the Parachute Regiment and was captured by the Nazis at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944. “I was a frontline soldier from the day war was declared right to the gruesome end,” Mr Gregg explains.
“I was never out of a frontline unit so I can presume that I’ve seen it all – the best things that man can do and probably the worst.”
In another poignant recording, Alan Gaudern, 74, reads the last letter from his father, who was killed before they met on 11 July 1944. The letter, addressed to Mr Gaudern’s mother Ethel, said: “You know we’ve faced up to the likelihood I may not come back… but you know I feel I shall come back because I want to so much. “We’ve had a perfect married life together, haven’t we? We must look forward to a more settled future. “But if I don’t come back I want you know how much I owe to you and thank you for our lovely life together and to let you know it isn’t my wish that you remain a widow, if you really fall in love again.”
The CWGC hopes the archive will be a fitting tribute to the dead and highlight its cemeteries and memorials across the world. Chief archivist Andrew Fetherston said: “We believe that by capturing these stories from the public we are creating an archive of international importance and a lasting legacy for those who died for our today.
“We want people to share their connections to the war and our cemeteries to ensure that as Commonwealth nations we have not forgotten their sacrifice.”
The public can contribute to ‘Voices of Liberation’ on the CWGC’s website.
Armed Forces Day 2019 is just 100 days away, with preparations underway for the national event in Salisbury and hundreds of community events across the country. Now in its 11th year, Armed Forces Day is an opportunity for the nation to thank Servicemen and women, past and present, for their readiness to serve and protect the UK and its interests both at home and abroad.
To mark the milestone, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson met members of Armed Forces personnel at Ministry of Defence headquarters. Beginning the countdown to Saturday 29 June, he said:
I’m thrilled that the Armed Forces Day national event will take place in Salisbury this year in just 100 days’ time. The urgent, expert response of the Armed Forces to the Salisbury attack is just one reason why we’re all so grateful for their service.
Armed Forces Day is an annual celebration of the very special relationship between members of our Armed Forces and the people they serve. Communities across the UK will come together to thank the Armed Forces for their dedication, expertise and excellence. I encourage everyone to get involved this year and show their support.
The national event will give the people of Salisbury and the public as a whole the change to thank the Armed Forces for their tireless support towards the city’s recovery following last year’s Novichok attacks. Salisbury has many current and historic links to the Armed Forces and is home to several Army bases and Salisbury Plain, one of the UK’s biggest military training areas. In 100 days time, hundreds of communities across the UK will celebrate Armed Forces Day with street parties, parades, barbecues and tea dances.
A SNP MP has called on the UK Government to urgently amend immigration rules to allow the families of Commonwealth soldiers serving in the British Army to come to the UK. Drew Hendry MP was speaking on behalf of his constituent, Lance Corporal Dennis Omondi, originally from Kenya, whose daughter Ann was denied a visa to come and live with him.
“Commonwealth troops should be able to bring their kids to Britain – if they fight for us, they should be able to live with us”.
Immigration minister Caroline Noakes said she could not comment on the specific case but insisted the Government was sympathetic and recognises the “contributions and sacrifices made by Commonwealth members of the forces”. In February, the Home Secretary faced increasing pressure to change immigration rules so Commonwealth soldiers in the British Army could bring their families to the UK. Senior MPs called for serving Armed Forces personnel to be exempt from the minimum income threshold due to their service to the country.
Under current immigration rules, foreign workers must earn £18,600 to apply for their spouse to live in the UK. The minimum income requirement to bring over one child is £22,400 with an additional £2,400 for each child thereafter. A soldier’s basic pay after training is only £18,600 a year, forcing many to take on second jobs to afford to move their families to the UK.
It follows the scrapping of British residency requirements for Commonwealth citizens who wish to join the Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) removed the need for Commonwealth citizens to have lived in the UK for five years before applying for service. Applicants from nations including India, Australia, Canada and Fiji are now considered for all roles in the forces, without having lived in Britain.
Significant and Vital
Since 2016, a maximum of 200 Commonwealth recruits were allowed to apply for certain jobs without meeting a residency requirement. All other Commonwealth applicants who have lived in Britain for five years have been eligible to apply. In November, Forces News reported how the Armed Forces are struggling to recruit enough personnel to fill a shortfall in their ranks. There are currently over 6,000 personnel serving in the UK Armed Forces from foreign and Commonwealth countries, with more being recruited each year to fill technical and specialist roles. The Army Families Federation (AFF) has said: “Commonwealth members of our Armed Forces make up a significant and vital part of the UK’s defence capability and as a nation, we ask them to make significant sacrifices to do so.”
A new sculpture incorporating more than 4,000 replica bullets has been unveiled to mark the 75th anniversary year of D-Day. The creation, titled D-Day: Soldiers of Sacrifice has been created in tribute to the 4,414 Allied servicemen who lost their lives in the first 24 hours of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy.
The figure represents Denham Brotheridge, widely believed to be the first Allied serviceman to be killed by enemy action on D-Day, atop 4,414 bullets, representing his comrades in arms who fell in battle later that day. Lieutenant Brotheridge of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, took part in a surprise raid on bridges, landing in occupied France via gliders with his men.
The 28-year-old was mortally wounded in the attack which secured the bridge at Benouville. Back home in Smethwick, Birmingham, his wife was pregnant with his daughter, Margaret Brotheridge. Now aged 75, she will accompany the sculpture of her father after its unveiling in Manchester today, as it goes on a national tour of the UK and Normandy ahead of official commemorations in June in Portsmouth. The soldier’s form is crouched down as if to throw a grenade, but instead he is releasing a dove; symbolising peace and acknowledging that the soldiers’ deaths were not in vain.
Funded by the National Lottery, it was commissioned by ‘The D-Day Story’ museum in Portsmouth, the UK’s only museum dedicated to Operation Overlord, the campaign to liberate Normandy from the Nazis, beginning on 6 June 1944. Welsh artist Alfie Bradley, best known for his Knife Angel made from 100,000 knives surrendered during amnesties, created the sculpture. He said: “This has been such a meaningful project, and I’ve loved working with The D-Day Story to create this lasting tribute to the heroes that gave their lives for us in World War Two.
“Den Brotheridge was 28, the same age I am now, when he died.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it would have been to land on the beach in Normandy that day.
“The more I’ve read up on D-Day over the last few months, the more I realise how grateful we all should be for their heroic sacrifice.”
Jane Barnard from The D-Day Story museum said: “We’re thrilled to be commemorating the 75th year since the D-Day landings with such a poignant and meaningful sculpture.
“We have chosen locations close to the heart of Den and World War Two and it’s fantastic his daughter has been able to join us for the tour, her stories of her father are truly captivating and emotive.
“We hope everyone finds solace in the story of Den and the unbelievable amount of bravery all the servicemen showed during D-Day.”
The sculpture will be available to view on the following days:
- March 4: The Piazza, Media City, Salford.
- March 5: Liverpool Parish Church (Our Lady and Saint Nicholas).
- March 6: Villa Park, Birmingham.
- March 7: Waterloo Station, London.
- March 8: Bletchley Park, Bletchley.
- March 9: South Parade Pier, Portsmouth.
- March 10: Pegasus Beach Bridge, Normandy, France.
- March 11: The D-Day Story museum, Portsmouth.
I was watching D-Day veteran Ted Cordery on Good Morning Britain this week and was very moved by his story. He had joined up at 18 to serve on HMS Belfast, landing on Gold Beach on D-Day to witness atrocities like we cannot even imagine.
Aged 91, Ted is now about to embark on one, final journey back to the beaches of Normandy as part of the Royal British Legion’s 75th Anniversary of D-Day commemoration. They still have 100 places left for veterans who may like to make the historic journey and sail back to Normandy for one last time to pay their respects.
When the 50th Commemorations took place, I was lucky enough to accompany my late father, Ron, a veteran of the D-Day landings who fought at Sword Beach and also at Dunkirk and Arnhem. My Dad refused to wear his medals at the Drumhead Service on Southsea common, attended by The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Diana as well as French and American heads of state such as Bill Clinton.
A very reserved man, he never liked to be ‘showy’ preferring others to take the credit instead. But he proudly marched, his head high and it was a moment I’ll never forget. Ten years later, I had the privilege to run Portsmouth City Council’s PR campaign for D-Day 60 and met many incredible veterans who had served. However, their number was dwindling even then.Now with D-Day 75 looming, the British Legion is asking if any former veterans would like to be involved in the crossing.
This will be the last veteran-attended D-Day commemoration before it passes from living memory into history and hearsay. So, if anyone reading this knows of any veterans who might find it cathartic and emotionally cleansing to pay their respects, please contact the Royal British Legion in order to reserve them a place. I am not glorifying war, far from it, but it moved me to tears to see Ted struggle with his emotions over his fallen comrades. Without their sacrifices, we wouldn’t have the freedom we take for granted today. Read more here
Researchers from the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have joined forces with a consortium of 14 other organisations to review and enhance the support available to Scotland’s ex-Service personnel
Unforgotten Forces’ is a three-year project which aims to evaluate and improve the care and support available to ex-Servicemen and Servicewomen over the age of 65, and involves some of Scotland’s leading organisations, including lead partner Poppyscotland, Defence Medical Welfare Service, and Legion Scotland as well as many other charitable organisations.
Researchers from the university are working closely with veterans and care providers to better understand Scotland’s current care provision, undertaking action-based research and delivering findings to lead partner Poppyscotland every six months. It is hoped these findings will support the project in developing services to better meet the needs of Scotland’s older veterans.
A number of UWS researchers have been involved in the project, which has been supported by a £4 million grant awarded by The Aged Veterans Fund funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds. The research team consists of Dr Liz Frondigoun, Dr Ross Campbell, Dr Murray Leith, Dr Allan Moore, Dr Rob Smith, John Sturgeon and Linda Thomas.
Dr Liz Frondigoun, project lead and senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at UWS, said: “As we get older, we, unfortunately, lose the close connections in our personal support network, which is why social and health care for the elderly is so important. We’ve found that some of Scotland’s veterans feel they must ‘make do’ and deal with issues such as loneliness because they are unaware of the services available to them.
“Unforgotten Forces isn’t just about evaluating the current work these organisations are doing, but also how we can spread the reach of these services to benefit those who have given so much for our country.”
Gary Gray, head of Welfare Services at Poppyscotland, said: “Having commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War, the welfare of our veterans is at the forefront of many people’s minds. The research group will be asking for feedback from those using the services throughout the process, ensuring we are delivering exactly the support that our ex-Service personnel need.”
UK military personnel, veterans and their families are being “completely failed” when they need mental health care, a committee of MPs has said. In a report, they said it was a “scandal” that a “shamefully small” part of the UK’s health budget was spent on support for veterans. The NHS and Ministry of Defence should create a specialist mental health centre those in need, the report said. The government said it spends millions on armed forces’ mental health care.
The recommendations come from the House of Commons Defence Committee – a group of MPs who have been carrying out an inquiry into the issue. Their report, part two of the inquiry, says that despite improvements, “there is no doubt that some serving personnel, veterans and their families who need mental health care are still being completely failed by the system.”
- ‘Higher levels of PTSD among veterans’
- New mental health helpline for troops
- ‘I feel abandoned by the Army’
“With specific mental health care provision for armed forces families also non-existent, it is no surprise that many veterans and their families believe that they have been abandoned,” the committee added. It found many servicemen and women often do not seek help because of the stigma around mental health problems and the fear of damaging their career; the quality of care given to servicemen and women is a postcode lottery – with “unacceptable variation” across the UK.
‘Waiting a year’
Out of an NHS budget of more than £150bn, less than £10m a year (0.007%) was spent on mental health services specifically for veterans, the committee found. It said demand was “swamping” the capacity with some individuals being forced to wait up to a year for treatment. The MPs recommended that a “world-class centre for the treatment of mental injuries” should be set up within the next 12 to 18 months, where veterans can go as soon as they are diagnosed. They suggest it could be located at the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire. The NHS in England should consult with the MoD to set it up, the MPs said. The MoD must also review the help which is available for the families of armed forces personnel and veterans, the report added, as they can also be affected by military life.
Ruth Smeeth MP, who chairs the defence committee, said the MPs acknowledged the work being done by the MoD and UK health departments, “but it is simply nowhere near enough”. She said: “Fundamental issues still clearly exist, with scandalously little funding allocated to veteran-specific services, and it is unacceptable that veterans and their families should feel abandoned by the state as a result. “It is vital that veterans get the quality of care they need when they need it, no matter where they live, supported by a world-class national centre.” The chair of the British Medical Association council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said the situation as it stands was “completely untenable”, and welcomed the creation of a specialist mental health facility.
- The real model army helping veterans with mental health issues
- Veteran trauma service ‘rebuilding lives’
- The dogs who help veterans with PTSD
- Depression ‘more common in military’
A spokeswoman for the government said NHS England was committed to providing mental health care around the country so anyone can access help as close to home as possible. “This includes bespoke services for veterans, which have been supported by an extra £10m as part of the NHS long term plan,” she said. “At the same time, the MoD has increased spending on mental health support for those serving in the armed forces to £22m a year, and is working to tackle the stigma around asking for help throughout the military community.” BBC News
A British Army Colonel has said people in the Armed Forces should be able to serve beyond 55 years old as he takes up a new post as the voice for veterans in Scotland. Colonel Charles (Charlie) Wallace, former Deputy Commander of 51 Brigade & Army HQ Scotland, has spoken of the need for a balance in the military between maintaining the physical demands of military life while ensuring the services did not lose intellectual experience among longer serving personnel. He was speaking after taking over from Eric Fraser as Scottish Veterans Commissioner, an ambassador for all veterans in Scotland.
He said the rules over retirement age had been changing to reflect a society that was now living longer, with people remaining active into a much older age than previous generations, and he said he supported moves to allow people to be able to serve until they are aged 60 to reflect society and ensure valuable experience remains within the forces. Colonel Wallace, speaking to broadcaster Mark McKenzie at the Forces Radio BFBS Scotland studio in Dreghorn Barracks, Edinburgh, told of his own transition to civilian life after reaching his mid-Fifties following 35 years of service.
Independent from the Scottish Government in his new role, he gives impartial advice on how to improve support for the veterans community to both the government and other public sector organisations. He said: “I have to say I wasn’t sure I was going to do 35 years but what was offered to me kept me in for those 35 years. “But I do think I’m probably a minority.
“Most people will leave well inside 35 years and so the transition for them is going to be different than it was for me.
“I had the lucky privilege of being able to work out, knowing that I had got an end date, that I could, therefore, have to prepare for my time when I became a civilian, so that process has lasted for three / four years, leading up to the moment that I left, and of course now continuing now that I’m in civvy street. “I was looking around. I knew that I was going to have to leave the Army at the back end of 2018 because I had reached my 55th birthday, that’s it, time up, so I knew I had to look for a job. “I knew I had to work out what I was going to do when I left. “This particular post with the veterans commissioner gives me an enormous opportunity to have a positive effect, I hope for our veterans, with the Scottish Government.”
He said he believed personnel should be able to serve in the Armed Forces for longer than 55 years, especially as society lives longer, and he said the rules are changing and people should be able to serve until they are 60. However, he said the Armed Forces had to take a balanced view as being in the military was a very physical activity and very demanding role.
“How much demand can you place on someone who is in their late 50s?
“There’s a balance to be had, so it’s about intellectual capacity and experience versus physical capability and if you get the balance right then you succeed and if you don’t then you either break people or you’re chucking people out too early.”
Col Wallace’s 35 years’ service included various command appointments on operations and at home. He saw active service in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the UN in the Former Yugoslavia, and in Northern Ireland during Operation Banner. He also served in Brunei, Hong Kong, Nepal, the Falkland Islands, most of Northern Europe, the USA, Canada and India.
Col Wallace recognises that he was lucky to have so many years to prepare for his return to civvy street. He is concerned for those who have served a shorter amount of time because there’s sometimes less time to prepare for life outside of the Armed Forces.
“I think what the military should be doing is concentrating more on preparing their people to leave and actually shouldn’t be afraid to talk about that.
“They shouldn’t be afraid to consider the issues that are going to be facing somebody who has been well looked after, in relevant terms, working in a very isolated environment and then suddenly being booted out the door and they’ve got to fend for themselves.
“That’s not right so I would like to see the military doing more about that.”
Charlie was the chief planner in HQ Multi-National Division (South East) in Basra, Iraq and held the same role for a year in HQ Regional Command (South West) in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province for which he was awarded the US Bronze Star.
“There are hundred’s of stories of service people who have left the services and have been hugely successful in what ever walk of life they’ve gone into, and we mustn’t forget that.”
Col Wallace took over from Eric Fraser who wrote four comprehensive reports on various aspects of life for veterans in Scotland.
“The first thing I’m doing right now is taking a review of all those recommendations and exactly what has the Scottish Government done to address some of those issues that he has raised.”
In his role as Scottish Veterans Commissioner Col Wallace is meeting the veterans he represents so what is he discovering? He said:
“There is actually a very positive view that I’m getting from the community itself so far, admittedly I haven’t been everywhere yet so I’m sure there will be some where things aren’t working quite so right and I’m looking forward to finding out about that.”
Col Wallace is also interested in how the Scottish Government is behaving towards the veteran community.
Graeme Dey MSP was appointed Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans in June 2018 and in Col Wallace’s opinion has made a concerted effort to ensure that ministers in health, housing, jobs and skills are actively engaged in supporting the veterans community.
The early May Bank holiday in 2020 could be moved to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, according to The Times. Ministers hope to cancel the traditional May Day bank holiday on 4 May and instead allow workers a day off on the slightly later date of 8 May. A number of countries across Europe, such as France and Russia, celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany with a public holiday every year.
Traditionally in the UK, the early May bank holiday is used to celebrate workers’ rights. An exception was made in 1995 when the Government moved the May bank holiday to 8 May to mark the 50th anniversary of VE Day. Then a quarter of a million people gathered on the Mall in London to wave Union Flags, listen to Dame Vera Lynn sing and see the Queen, Queen Mother and Princess Margaret appear on the Buckingham Palace balcony. The proposed move could encounter resistance from the trade union movement.
Frances O’Grady, the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Congress, told The Times: “May Day and the 75th VE Day anniversary are both special days and celebrating them should not come at the expense of each other. The government should give people time off for both.” According to The Times, writing to Chancellor Philip Hammond, the Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “I believe that the country should be allowed to take time to commemorate this great occasion and to recall those who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War on behalf of us all. “Although the date of Armistice Day is well known across the country because of the events on Remembrance Sunday, I believe the day of VE Day may be less well known. “It would be a tragedy if this date slipped from the minds of the general public.”
Mr Clark added that the change would also allow the nation to pay tribute to members of the Armed Forces:
“As well as marking the Allies’ great victory in 1945, the bank holiday would also be an occasion to pay tribute to members of the UK Armed Forces who have served and continue to serve our country since then.”
In 2020 VE Day is due to fall on a Friday, meaning the commemorations will likely continue through the weekend.