« A cut too far? | Main | Services unlimited ... »

July 23, 2004

Gravis offensae levis gratia ...

So said Pliny when asked to write a history of his times. It means simply, "grave offence will be taken, little thanks will be given."

I have little doubt that future historians of the history of these isles will find it incredible that a nation that once strode the globe in confidence, brought a hundred years of relative peace to the 19th Century, and launched the industrial revolution could collapse so swiftly and utterly. They will marvel at the fact that it was not defeated in war, beaten at sea, or in the air in combat, but undermined and destroyed from within - by its political class and by its so-called Civil Service.

In 1945 this nation had more than 3,000 ships in commission, more than that number of aircraft ready for combat and over 1 million men under arms. Little more than 5 years of a Labour government later, bankrupt and mired in the beginnings of the labour unrest that would see the country become an inward looking and self-doubting society of dependents, the great battleships were being sold for scrap iron, the aircraft carriers laid up, and the armed forces reduced to a quarter their war compliment. But the Civil Service had expanded in the war and expanded still further in the peace. It expanded continuously even as the armed forces and the Empire they had guarded were steadily diminished by those same parasitic politicians and civil servants. By the 1970's the Nation was on its knees - but that didn't stop the growth of the penpushing bureaucracy and their lust for power.

Yesterday the man who holds the office of Secretary of State for Defence announced a programme - the 7th since this government came to power - that will almost entirely destroy this country's ability to defend itself. His announcement will reduce this country's defences to 300 Main Battle Tanks (1,584 in 1990), 39 Warships (80 in 1990), and and 247 Aircraft (430 in 1990). Manpower is reduced from 153,000 soldiers in 1990 to 102,000, 63,500 sailors to 36,000 sailors, and 89,500 airmen to 41,000 after the reductions. The entire plan includes the destruction of the Regimental system which is what has made the army a most effective fighting force and the disbanding of some of the country's most admired regiments.

Will there be any real savings from this? Of course not; the only beneficiaries will be the ever increasing army of parasitic civil servants and their equally parasitic brethren, the permanent cadre of politicians who have together conspired to destrioy this nation from within for their own self-agrandisement and personal power.

Blair has launched more wars and demanded more from our service men and women than any Prime Minister since Lord Palmerston - and he continues to swagger about with his manic smirk even though he knows full well that the Civil Service is stripping the forces of the ability to fight. They are deprived of essential equipment while millions is wasted buying furniture for pampered penpushers, and entire office blocks are rearranged and redecorated because the new Permanent Under Secretary doesn't like his or her predecessor's decor. They get away with it because the politicians haven't the guts to challenge them or to deal with it, and to compound the problem, they are all incapable of identifying anything about the technical side of the functions they manage. They are all "bottom line" managers - firmly believing that by re-arranging the numbers and switching round the funding they are "managing" the operation "efficiently".

I am prepared to bet that the majority of them haven't the faintest idea what actually happens at the delivery end of the operations they manage - and those who do have some inkling probably think it's still done with an abacus as it was in "their day".

Historians will have a field day, but there won't be much to offer in the way of thanks. Democracy will be long gone, as will the wealth, the hope, and the future as a nation. No wonder they want us in Europe; it will be much easier to hide their incompetence.

Sic transit gloria mundi - Kipling was right in his poem "Recessional" - the nation is dead, it remains only for the scavenging bureaucrats to destroy the corpse.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 23, 2004 09:19 AM


This is highly unfortunate. I don't know as much about current events in Britain as I feel like I ought to, but what I'm learning isn't very pretty. And I'm finding that what's shown in the American news media is pretty amazingly shoddy (big surprise there).

It's very sad to see the British armed forces being gutted so savagely, and to see such an historically great nation declining so rapidly. It's also quite scary, as an American, in very personal terms.

For one thing, our two nations have had a very special relationship for most of this century that, I feel, has been very beneficial to both. And I think I can speak for most Americans when I say that even though I believe we've made some mistakes since the attacks on the world trade center (perhaps even some very serious ones) I'm personally thankful to the UK and to her citizens for standing so stoutly by our side since then.

For another, I'm very, very concerned that we are only a few generations (if that) behind you over here on this side of the Atlantic. Our beauracracy is growing exponentially as well, with no sign of abatement. I worry about that all the time.

I can only hope that things aren't as bad as they seem over there right now and that you (and we) can find the right leadership to prevent a total decline.

Posted by: Russell Newquist at July 23, 2004 06:20 PM

I agree emotionally with what you say, but I think you slightly overstate your case.

I grew up as the child of a serving army officer, who served the army for every day of his adult life. My ancestors served their country in every generation. I now work along side Army, Navy and Air Force medical personnel in an NHS hospital, nursing (among many other people) wounded army personnel returning from Iraq. It is an immense privilege.

My father was an infantryman and the Regiment he joined in 1945 was the Buffs. (Though he'd served in other regiments during the war.) In the course of his forty two year army career it merged twice, first (I believe) with the other Kent regiment to become the Queen's Own Buffs, secondly with neighbouring home counties regiments to become the Queen's Regiment. Since his death it has merged again to become the Princess of wales' Regiment. My father found it all very sad, but it's not neccessarily the end of the Regimental system itself, because people still join a regiment or corps, with a personal ethos and inherited history from their ancestor regiments and a very specific geographical link, all be it on a regional basis rather than a county one. Even then battalions often maintain a more specific geographical link than the Regiment, with, say, the 3rd battalion of the Queen's Regiment covering much the same area that the old single battalion Buffs did until 1960. This still makes the system distinct from, say, the US Army, where, if you join the infantry you can be sent to any infantry unit in the service. One of the rationales behind the current 'reforms' is that by merging single battalion regiments in other parts of the country into multi battalion regiments they increase the ability of those regiments to resource themselves. Letters in the Telegraph this week from Army planners pointed out that many battalions deploying overseas need to 'borrow' companies from other regiments to supplement their own depleted forces, itself a process which undermines the regimental system. The reforms would mean that soldiers could be borrowed from other battalions within the same regiment, and be organised internally. The expectation is also that units will serve longer in their home regions. (Just because your regiment comes from Kent doesn't mean that that's where it serves) As a child I moved every one to two years with great effect on my education and personal relationships. By moving bases less frequently the hope is that the social support that the regiment maintains will be strengthened not weakened.

You compare service levels with the war and with 1990. They are both significant dates because they reflect the end of the second world war and the cold war. It inevitable that services contract after wars. The same thing happened after the Napoleonic wars for example. Fourteen years ago the military forces of three continents gazed at each other over the Plains of Germany. Whatever wars we fight now are simply not going to be on the same scale, cut backs were inevitable. At least we're not following the old military adage of preparing for the war we've just had rather than the next one. Personally I'm much more bothered by the fact that we no longer have the independent facilities to fully deploy our own troops. I'm not anti US, I just don't want us to be dependent on them.

Posted by: James F Hamilton at July 24, 2004 12:22 PM

Mr Hamilton

Your family has a long and proud history in the service of your country.

When the action starts and another human soul is obviously determined to do you fatal personal harm, the support of your immediate colleagues and therefore the regiment (or in my case, squadron) in which you serve is of such importance that if you have not experienced it you can have no conception. Sorry.

Your remarks are no doubt well intentioned.

We do not have the facilites to properly deploy.

We do not have the facilites to properly fight in the multiple fields that HM government sees fit to deploy us any more. Our squaddies and airmen are leaving in droves because they spend all their time away from their families or when they are at home they are to undertake skills training or guard duties.

Emasculation of HM Services was NOT a requirement following the end of the 'Cold War'. (Unless you are completely asleep there is another clear and present danger to our Western Christian Society. But no one will speak its name.) Giving well motivated and trained people the wherewithall to fight, if need be, and to fulfill their voluntarily shouldered obligations to Queen and Country was.

I even quote a Liberal author: 'People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf'.

When the chips go down.., and they will in the not too distant future, and we all have to re-assess our values in something of a hurry... remember this.

Posted by: blivet at July 24, 2004 11:23 PM

What worries me most about you lot is that you have disarned your citizens. Not just disarned them, in fact, but denied them the right to self-defense. I suggest you re-assess your values before the chips go down.

Posted by: Kathy K at July 26, 2004 02:28 AM

I do not have a problem with "modernising" I do have a problem when this is used as a disguise to run down a service or reduce it. In this instance we are expected to believe that new "smart" weapons and systems will allow 39 ships to do what it took 80 to do previously. That the RAF can do with 247 aircraft what it needed 430 to do previously. The numbers give the lie and so does that fact that, in a real crisis, it will take four years to replace each ship and at least as long to train crews to man them, a year to replace each aircraft and three times that to train their pilots. Even the PBI now have such high levels of training that it takes anywhere between 0ne and two years to train an Infantryman (or woman) to operate effectively their weapons and to not get killed in the first five minutes on a battlefield.

There is no way the papershufflers in the newly refurbished HQ can be used to fill the gaps - which was what used to happen until all the useless and wasteful "managers" parachuted in - while real soldiers, sailors and airmen are trained. These cutbacks are not about modernising, they are about destroying our defence capability and about diverting the money to vote winning handouts.

As for the obscenity of spending the price of a new Type 45 Destroyer on refurbishing an office block and providing state of the art chairs for the worthless incompetents who populate the Whitehall HQ of the MoD, they should all be cleared out and charged for misuse of public funds!

Sadly Mr Hamilton, the same will soon be happening in the armed forces as is the case in the NHS. Incompetent managers whose ignorance is manifested in stinking toilets, disgraceful mixed wards, dirty wards, soiled bedclothes and nice bright shiny office suites for themselves and their hordes of paper shuffling clerks, will become the reality in the armed forces as ships are confined to harbour because the "management" have spent the money for fuel on glossy brochures and "target" measuring.

There is always room for improvement, but it should never be in reducing a service while expanding the bureaucracy!

Posted by: The Gray Monk at July 29, 2004 11:46 AM