The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, September 29, 2003

British forces carried to Iraq on ships unsafe at any speed

It's one thing that the UK Ministry of Defence is headed by a hulk [1]; quite another that, according to the Guardian today, the troops used to prosecute Saint Tony's crusade in the East should have been ferried there in a fleet of coffin-ships.

The piece says that
Of the 50 ships traced, almost a third had been detained [by coastguards as unfit to sail] and 47 had defects recorded by coastguards during recent inspections, suffering a total of 1,018 safety failures in all.

And, appropriately enough, it seems that the MOD was turning a Nelson's eye towards the decrepitude of these old puffers [2]: for a start,
The records...reveal that the majority of the 50 ships sailed under flags of convenience, even though the government's own advice warns that such vessels are often substandard and employ low paid and poorly trained crews.

Hoon's boys clearly knew these were rust-buckets when they hired them.

Most of the ships were not inspected by coastguards during the MoD charter period...

Hoon's capacity to see no evil extends to more than the hounding of loquacious scientists, it seems.

Joined-up government? Don't make me laugh: the Department of Transport website apparently says that
Substandard ships, operating under flags of convenience, with low paid and generally poorly trained crews, benefit from the cost advantage of lax safety regulation.

The history of the British soldier being treated like shit did not, of course, start with Tony Blair or Geoff Hoon. Around this time last year, in the context of controversies surround the Army's main personal weapon (rifle, to you or me), the SA-80 and the Challenger 2 tank, I mentioned the World War 2 boon of Lend-Lease, the Sherman (known as the Tommy-cooker to grateful members of the Wehrmacht) [3].

A couple of months ago, I saw on the TV an account (caveat spectator, natch [4]) of the way, in Normandy in 1944, the British with their Shermans were able to beat the Germans with their vastly superior (in firepower and armour) Tiger tank: we had ten times as many of our crappy machines as they had of their dream-machines. The technique was for Shermans to work four to a Tiger: three Shermans in turn would take on the Tiger in fruitless combat while the fourth snuck round the back of the Tiger and got in close enough to get a meaningful shot in against its weaker rear armour.

It's the sort of trade of superiority of numbers for superiority of technology that one notes the Red Army for employing during WW2 (using men rather than flails to clear minefields, is the classic, or apocryphal, instance) - though the Red Army's T-34 was a pretty good machine (six hundred bucks for half an hour's test drive right here).

Coming up to date, the London Daily Telegraph on January 16 reported that an MOD found that
55 per cent of soldiers and 42 per cent of officers said they found they needed to buy additional kit. Less than half of all soldiers polled expressed any confidence in Army equipment.

It quotes a private supplier of military equipment as saying
that American army issue desert boots were among the items most frequently bought by British troops.

And the reaction from the mob that, according to MOD apparatchik Richard Hatfield, gave the late Dr David Kelly such
An Army spokesman said soldiers had been buying their own equipment "since time immemorial".

Marie Antoinette could scarcely have put it better.

This, of course, was the situation before hostilities began: coming up to six months in theatre and no sign of being able to reduce the size of deployments in the foreseeable future, the equipment situation can scarcely be getting any better.

Anyone for Damascus?

  1. Extending the alliterative theme: not only Hapless Hoon but Hoon the Hulk; the Incredulous Hulk, a man more generous than me might put it.

  2. Was Para Handy among those whose vessels were chartered?

  3. Pick up links on all three from my October 17 2002 piece.

  4. Seems to be the soundest Latin equivalent for viewer, at first glance at Lewis & Short.


In this connection, one has to admire the chutzpah of Teflon Tony's lovingly crafted desert paean of May 29 (from the pen of Alastair Campbell, no doubt, in the odd moment he could spare from fucking Gilligan) to the men who had made possible his exercise in compassionate carnage (if Blair's heart bleeds, others will surely follow):
You have made this whole country, our country, hold its head up high, and I think that is a wonderful, wonderful achievement. It is your achievement and thank you.

From the man who gave them substandard rifles and substandard boots. And a gem tucked away amidst the TV movie shlock sentimentality:
I would like to think that maybe in a year or two years time it is going to be possible for some of you to come back here and see the changes in this country that have arisen from what you have done today.

At the current rate of progress, that's not a possibility - that's a cast-iron certainty!

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