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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Scum Of The Earth? (Updated)

UPDATE: Apparently the Chief of the Defence Staff thinks something fairly similiar.

Although this blog is primarily a memoir, events over the last few months have caused me to reflect on the army as a way of life and the way we are viewed by the general public.

It used to be that 'Tommy Atkins' could do little wrong. Our lords and masters would be pilloried in the press from time to time for 'letting the boys down' but down at the coalface it appeared we were almost universally loved.

Now it seems that every week in the media there is another story of squaddies up to no good. Has our behaviour got worse? I very much doubt it. Perhaps the press coverage is the same and it's just I've become more sensitive to it.

I suspect our continued deployment in Iraq has something to do with it. Incidents such as the prisoner abuse court martial may have led to a change in perception and even such postives as Pte Beharry winning the Victoria Cross have not counterbalanced this.

The British Army website describes us as "a force for good, carrying out essential work both in the UK and overseas." That's the way I like to think of us.

Maybe we just need another Fireman's strike...................

With relatively little contact with "civi's" perhaps I'm totally wrong. I'd appreciate your comments on this one - especially from British readers.


* - The Duke of Wellington once described his army as consisting of "the scum of the earth"

14 Comments:

Blogger MuppetLord said...

I think it is the number of stories allegedly involving British soldiers.

It seems that people may be confusing the British with US soldiers...whether the stories are true or not is another matter.

I doubt that British soldiers have anything to do with it, though it wouldn't be surprising if it is an attempt to discredit the work that is being done in Iraq.

Personally I have the utmost respect for anyone that serves in the forces, especially those in the Army. It seems that you have to deal with a lot of hairy situations with perhaps less than ideal equipment.

2:41 pm  
Blogger Miladysa said...

I do not think it is anything addressed against the British soldier of serviceman/woman. I think that it is the war itself that is not popular and people mourn the loss of British blood on it!

4:23 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

No U, you're not wrong. As someone else said, it's the war that's not popular, not the British soldiers per se. Let's put that another way;it's the politicians who got us involved in this American madhouse that are not popular - and you lot are taking (to some extent) the rap for their misdeeds. A shame, that.

4:51 pm  
Blogger Brom said...

I was in the States not so long ago and got introduced to a guy who my friend described as "Special forces, seen some action" We chatted a bit about culture differences that sort of thing and then mingled our way around the rest of the people in the bar we were hanging out in.

At the end of the evening he came back to me, he wanted to tell me that he had never met any fighting men that came close to our SAS. "Best soldiers in the world, he said, be proud of them".

10:39 pm  
Blogger Graham said...

I just find it sad. In the UK we sometimes lose sight of the basic things as a result of our cynicism. Innumerable influences lead people to risk their lives on our behalf... but fundamentally it is still the most remarkable thing, and I don't know if we always retain an appreciation of that in our judgments.

In the UK there is also a ferocious appetite to further undermine the situation in Iraq by whatever means available which also takes its toll.

That old cliche, "I'm against the war, but for the troops," actually doesn't hold much water when holding the troops in high regard gets in the way of attacking the war.

Hope you're doing well Universal Soldier :).

7:15 pm  
Blogger Haggiswurst said...

There is an unfortunate series of events here, first of all there is the whole issue of Iraq and apparent political mess is never out of the public eye (and rightly so because Blair and his craven cronies are to blame for this mess not the Army), there is the sickening revelations of US forces' inexcusable treatment of Iraqi prisoners and finally the age-old tradition of the British red-top press to go for sensationalism - and there is nothing like a good old fear and fascination tale to sell tabloids.

As for the recent court-martials which in terms of the British Army's compliment is a tiny segment of the forces. Like every walk of life there are some right tossers on the job. I am sure the situation in HM Forces is no different than when I was serving i.e. 99.9% are decent hard-working and the other 0.1% shouldn't have bothered applying!

Universal, you are still very much a force for good and the Best - only problem our politicians are not.

If it is any comparative; Mingleton Burgh Council workers get a lot of bad press and still try to carry out a public service. There are parallels as we too are run by politicians! But I guess I wouldn't have it any other way?

8:42 am  
Anonymous PMJ said...

Politicians decide where soldiers are sent and in what circumstances.
Any Officer or soldier who does not like a particular deployment can ask to be excused or resign.
The Army has its own standards and ethos which should be adhered to regardless of the popularity of the deployment, where soldiers fall short of these they can be dealt with in a variety of ways.
One thing does make me angry. Many people, who are not actually pacifists, think that because they do not approve of this particular deployment that therefore when women or children are killed or some other incident occurs which they do not like (none of us like it for God's sake), that that demonstrates the immorality of the deployment.
Allow me to assure those people, if in the future a deployment takes place which you do approve of for whatever reason, that just because you approve of it, does not mean that suddenly no women or children will be killed or prisoners mistreated or whatever.
These are things which happen in wars, and they dont, unless carried out deliberately or as a matter of policy, speak to the morality or otherwise of the deployment or of the troops involved.

2:44 pm  
Anonymous Pat said...

Like any establishment there will always be 'bad apples' (the horrific murder in Cyprus, some years back springs to mind)but I am proud of our forces and find it deeply moving when I think of what they have endured from the First World War onwards. God bless them and keep them safe.

4:46 pm  
Blogger Milton john said...

This is getting better and better, when soldiers start becoming reflective about their role they really take off.....

6:18 pm  
Blogger Universal Soldier said...

Thanks for all the comments.

7:03 pm  
Anonymous Z said...

I agree with a few things that have been said...
it's the war that's not popular, not the British soldiers per se

In the UK we sometimes lose sight of the basic things as a result of our cynicism. Innumerable influences lead people to risk their lives on our behalf... but fundamentally it is still the most remarkable thing, and I don't know if we always retain an appreciation of that in our judgments.

Like every walk of life there are some right tossers on the job.

Actually this blog is a very humanistic look at life in the army and I have probably gained more appreciation for those in the army and what they go through at Universal Soldier than I have ever gained from any other source. So that's a good thing you're doing for me.

Realistically, I doubt many soldiers join the forces with a view to SERVING THEIR COUNTRY or BEING A FORCE FOR GOOD. Most those I have spoke to - wanted a career and were horrified to actually see active service. A friends brother who went to the Falklands totally lost it and ended up in psychological care and we all have a story like that to tell.

Would I want my children to join the forces? - No. I'd rather they swept the streets. But that don't mean that I do not respect the fact that people go out there and get on with the job when there is a job to be done (in what I can only imagine to be horrific circumstances). It means I don't want them risking their life and I don't want them killing some human being. I can't help feeling like that. It's not a judgement.

Oh and one other thing
on the occasions I have seen 'the forces' out on the town - they act like a bunch of rugby players. This does nothing for the public view. I don't respect that macho shit. Give me a librarian anyday. ;)

Er... I think that's it.

12:52 pm  
Blogger Universal Soldier said...

Z - thanks for the comment - just one come back. We may not always be the best behaved on a night out but are probably no worse than any other group of blokes on a lads night out.

If either of my two little troopers wanted to join the forces I would encourage them. It's actually a well paid job and you learn a lot. I've also spent the vast majority of my time involved in peacekeeping and hopefully this has helped prevent death and destruction (we'll get to that eventually in the blog!) :)

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Z said...

no worse than any other group of blokes on a lads night out.

Know what you mean really. My 7 bruvs have an army all of their very own ;)

I'd definitely like to read more of your peacekeeping activities. Look forward to that.

8:11 pm  
Blogger Rich said...

Wellington described his troops as the scum of the earth, but what jolly fine chaps they are.

Nothing wrong with squaddies. If someone shot at me and had the mis fortune to come into my custody then its his own silly fault if he falls down the stairs.

Squaddies, in my opinion, do a job i could not do. So fine they tend to play hard. But being stuck in a bush for six months makes me think youve earned it.

2:06 pm  

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