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British Military Current Events

The perils of contracting out without great oversight.

And I think it's rather unfair to feature RMA Sandhurst in this photo... as I recall one working shower (out of the available 8) was more than enough for a platoon ;)

Ministers in talks to axe housing contract for soldiers after families left in mould-infested homes​

Hundreds of Armed Forces personnel were forced to speak out about the ‘scandalous’ living conditions they have endured this winter

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is in Michael Gove’s constituency and the MP has met families to discuss Pinnacle’s issues Credit: Eleanor Bentall

Ministers are in talks to axe the housing contract for military accommodation after families were forced to spend Christmas in mould-infested homes.

The Telegraph understands that Alex Chalk, the minister for defence procurement, said the Government “may well scrap the contract” that was awarded to Pinnacle Group by the Ministry of Defence in 2021.

The minister, who has been in post since October, is also said to have instructed the Ministry of Defence’s Permanent Secretary to conduct an internal investigation into how the contract was signed off.

It comes after hundreds of Armed Forces personnel were forced to speak out about the “scandalous” living conditions they have endured this winter, from broken boilers to no running water. Others have told this newspaper how they have been on hold for hours - some with sick children - waiting to speak to someone at Pinnacle, only to be told it is not possible to send someone out to help.

‘Heard horrendous stories’​

Heledd Kendrick, founder of the Recruit For Spouses social enterprise, said: “This is one step too far. When a military family is hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away from friends and family, potentially with a serving member deployed or away during Christmas, the least that should be provided is a number to call who can help with any urgent housing issues. We have heard some horrendous stories over the last few weeks and young children’s lives have been put at risk as a result of weak leadership and planning and it’s just not good enough.”

Ms Kendrick said families felt as if they had been “blatantly ignored”, despite some living in freezing conditions with “mould growing everywhere”.
The £144 million contract awarded to Pinnacle, which serves families living in 49,000 military properties across the country, came into force in April this year.

The property management provider, whose company’s accounts record its highest paid director as earning £320,000 in 2021, up from £291,000 the previous year, is the main point of contact for families to report issues with their accommodation. All property maintenance is then outsourced to VIVO and Amey, who subsequently employ local tradespeople to carry out the repairs.

Earlier this month Mr Chalk told the Commons that the MoD was of the view that contractors were failing to meet their requirements and said a “rectification plan was imposed” in September. He also addressed that Pinnacle only had 14 people working in its call centre - a figure that has now been increased to 60. One defence source added: “Clearly the way Pinnacle could provide it so cheaply was by not employing enough staff to man the phones.”

On Dec 17, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tweeted that he had “directed those responsible for accommodation services to up their game”.
However, military families told the Telegraph many in their community were “staggered” it had taken until the 17th to publicly speak out on the issue.

“It’s a bit odd,” one said.

“Ben Wallace could have been more reassuring to people, reaching out to army families.”

‘Michael Gove has been fantastic’​

Lucy Thomas, a military wife who recently met with Michael Gove, whose Surrey Heath constituency has the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on its patch, along with other families to discuss the matters regarding Pinnacle’s issues. She said: “It shouldn’t take a constituency MP to have to be so active on the issue, but Michael Gove has been fantastic and made a huge difference to families.”

It is understood that Mr Wallace “has applied a lot of pressure” and was “pushing hard” to solve the problems, however one military spouse from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, said the MoD had “signed an inferior contract, which presumably cost a lot less, with knowingly worse management standards”. She cited how the new contract downgraded the service level response time for loss of heating or hot water from being an “emergency” and warranting a response in 24 hours, to “urgent”, allowing a 48 working hours response. The Telegraph understands a senior civil servant warned the Defence Infrastructure Organisation at the time of the contract change that this would be an issue come the winter.
Another defence source added: “There was a lack of proper due diligence as to whether the contract was right and the provider able to do it properly.”

An MoD spokesman said: “£350 million has been invested over the past two years to improve service family accommodation, over and above maintenance costs, with over 14,000 homes receiving some form of upgrade. A further £176 million is being invested in the 2022/23 financial year for improvements to a further 20 per cent of homes most in need of them.

“The defence secretary and defence ministers have met the CEOs of Pinnacle, Amey and VIVO, to make certain rapid progress is made to ensure the full provision of decent, liveable accommodation for our personnel and their families. The Ministry of Defence and all suppliers are in constant contact throughout the Christmas period.”

Long odds at Ladbrokes ;)


Female recruits sign up for gruelling Royal Marines training course hoping to join all-male unit​

TWO women have signed up for the gruelling Royal Marines training course.

Top brass are hopeful at least one will get through the 32-week course and earn the coveted green beret.

Bosses are hopeful at least one of the two new female recruits will get through the course and earn a coveted green beretCredit: www.photo-point.co.uk

The Royal Marines is the last frontline unit with no women.

Since 2020, three female rookies have joined the Marines, which is part of the Royal Navy.

Two quit the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, Devon, within weeks.

A third had her career cut short by injury.

British Army gets roasted for latest recruiting ads... it's been taken down from all sites except LinkedIn.

Hop on the outrage bus before it's too late! E.g.,


Satellites can map a natural disaster, but it’s our soldiers that help the people in its path. #FutureArmy

British Army gets roasted for latest recruiting ads... it's been taken down from all sites except LinkedIn.

Hop on the outrage bus before it's too late! E.g.,

View attachment 75711

Satellites can map a natural disaster, but it’s our soldiers that help the people in its path. #FutureArmy

DEFRA perturbed they may go the way of the Border Force.

Since the Border Force went on strike and the Army had to step in passengers have been asking that the soldiers be tasked full time to passport control - they are friendlier and more efficient.

How long would it take DEFRA to muster the requisite number of Mod 2/3 quals to clear that one street?
To be fair, what we noticed on major disaster training at YVR back in the 90's was that the first Responders (Fire and EHS) had a hard time adapting to mass causalities events, and could not adapt out of their training box. The Fire fighters were quicker learners than the EHS who really struggled with the Triage situation on a decently dynamic site (anchored herring skiffs, airliner liferafts and such to simulate a downed aircraft on a flooded mud bank). When your dealing with a lot of injured or trapped people, you going to have to take risks and do things differently than with a singular car stranded in the water.
Typical Army officers not planning properly and being outraged that yelling louder isn't actually a viable COA to solve the problem that a little foresight and planning on their part would have easily avoided.

So what else is new?

I recall an exercise where they made the mistake of assigning Officers and NCOs from a crap hat (regular Infantry) unit to our battalion as Observer/Controllers during a very wet and miserable airborne exercise, in a very hilly part of Scotland.

We enjoyed using them as subjects to test our casevac procedures... all of them. ;)
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Well done that Captain!

Polar Preet: 'I made it to the South Pole, an incredible place to be!'​

British Army officer Captain Preet Chandi has made it to the South Pole.

Capt Chandi, also known as Polar Preet has had to battle tough temperatures of up to -50c and wind speeds of around 60mph on her quest to become the first woman to cross the continent alone with nothing but a 120kg pulk (a sledge used to carry equipment across the snow).

She tweeted her delight at reaching the "incredible place", but she could not stay long as she still has a big journey to go.

Capt Chandi posted in her latest update: "Day 57. I made it to the South Pole, an incredible place to be!

"Didn't stay long as I still have a big journey to go. I've been skiing 13-15 hours a day, averaging 5 hours sleep & not getting the mileage I want with the tough conditions."

The adventurer who spent her second Christmas in a tent surrounded by snow and ice has a cut-off date to finish the challenge of around 22 January.

"I could have finished at the South Pole but I thought about all the reasons I wanted to do this journey and wanting others to push their boundaries, she added.

"So I'll continue to push mine and do as much as I can in the time I have left."


baby diaper GIF by NETFLIX
Gungy medics? Move along, nothing to see here ;)

Military medics have no hot water for months and no showering facilities on and off for years​

Some military healthcare professionals working in NHS hospitals have said they have been living without heating or hot water at their base for months and are having to be moved to alternative accommodation.

Dozens of British Army medics who work at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough have said they are expected to work 13-hour shifts at a time, without adequate showering facilities at their paid accommodation, because of broken boilers and outdated heating systems.

There have been reports of intermittent problems with heating and hot water in the medics' accommodation as far back as 2019.

In a post to the 'military banter' website Fill Your Boots, medics based at Marne Barracks in Catterick, North Yorkshire – whose MP is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – have said they have not had hot water in some areas of their camp for months and the issue of no showering facilities has been happening on and off for years.

Middlesbrough's James Cook is an NHS regional major trauma centre and is a 32-mile drive from Marne Barracks.

Since the backlash, a senior source at the base has said arrangements are being made for those without showers or heating to be relocated into existing accommodation on site, where hot water is not still an issue.

An anonymous post shared online reads: "A block full of military healthcare professionals have not had hot water or heating for weeks/months and it is not expected to be resolved till the end of the month at the EARLIEST!

"They're expected to work 13-hour shifts in James Cook hospital without any access to hot water.

"The solution to this was to use the camp gym showers which are only available from 8am till 8pm which doesn't facilitate them as they have a 45-minute drive either way to work and leave for clinical shifts at 6am and don’t get back till 9pm.

"On top of that the solution for the no heating was they have been provided six portable heaters for a block of 52 personnel!!!!

"The block has had workmen in but has been left with open roof panels and wires hanging from the ceiling but still no hot water or heating."


From aspiration to reality: updating UK defence policy for 2023​

by Baroness Anelay January 12, 2023
The momentous geopolitical and economic events of 2022 posed fundamental challenges to UK defence policy. The Government set out its defence priorities in the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper in March 2021. Even at the time, these documents did not give enough of a sense of priorities; now, the strategic and economic assumptions underpinning them have changed too.
In this context, the cross-party House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee, which I chair, has been running an inquiry reviewing the policies set out in the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper, and whether they remain accurate and relevant. We took evidence from April until November of 2022 and today, we published our report.

The changing context

The combination of large-scale warfare in Europe and the worsening economic outlook, as well as mounting tensions between the West and China, have created security circumstances graver than anything the UK has faced since the height of the Cold War.
Vladimir Putin’s reckless and illegal invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed the European security environment. Although Russia’s military failures highlight some of its weaknesses, witnesses to our inquiry cautioned against complacency, particularly when some of Russia’s strongest capabilities remain unused. The Government correctly identified the threat from Russia in the Integrated Review, and it must remain vigilant.
Given that the conflict in Ukraine remains ongoing, our Committee was cautious in drawing premature conclusions. However, one important lesson is that conventional warfare burns through weapon and ammunition stocks at an alarming rate. This highlights the need for the UK Government to build greater resilience into its own stocks, supply chains and industrial capacity.
The economic assumptions underpinning UK defence policy have also changed, particularly with the impact of inflation on defence spending. The risk is that the Government will not be able to deliver on the aspirations of the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper unless further resources are made available. At present, it remains unclear whether the Government will retain its commitment to spend 3% of GDP on defence. The Defence Secretary has personally committed to shielding the defence budget from inflation, but this may be vulnerable to Treasury decisions on wider Government spending.

Allies and adversaries

The threat from Russia has also underscored the importance of defensive alliances, especially NATO. The UK has long relied on alliances and coalitions to generate military mass that it cannot achieve alone. Sustaining the credibility of the UK’s hard power contribution to NATO must remain a key driver of UK military posture.
The Integrated Review was right to highlight the importance of cooperation with our American and European partners. We are concerned, however, that the latter could be undermined by the poor quality of recent UK-EU relations, and in particular the UK’s bilateral relationship with France. Resolving these tensions would be beneficial for the UK and the western alliance as a whole.
Although the Integrated Review emphasised a ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific, this was envisaged primarily in economic and diplomatic, rather than military, terms. We do not, therefore, see the ‘tilt’ as incompatible with prioritising NATO and the defence of the Euro-Atlantic. Nevertheless, the Government should avoid over-committing resources to the Indo-Pacific, given the deterioration of the European security environment.
The Integrated Review labelled China as a “systemic competitor” to the UK. As it updates the Integrated Review, the Government should consider carefully whether this designation is still appropriate. Another important question is the emphasis placed on the Middle East; in our Committee’s view, the original Integrated Review did not give the region its due prominence.

Current and future defence capabilities

We found that the three Services each face their own challenges in translating the aspirations of the Integrated Review into reality. The Royal Navy did well out of the Integrated Review, but is vulnerable to the impact of inflation. Reforming the British Army for the modern era will be particularly difficult. The Government has been criticised for its planned reduction in the number of personnel. However, we do not see headline troop numbers as the best metric by which to judge Army capabilities; what matters is whether the Army has the capabilities, the equipment and the training to carry out the tasks expected of it. The RAF, meanwhile, faces its own challenges, particularly controlling the air in high-intensity conflict, and should be strengthened through closer cooperation with NATO. All three Services also face the issue of inadequate weapons and ammunition stocks, as exposed by the war in Ukraine; addressing this should be a top Government priority.
The Integrated Review placed a renewed emphasis on the nuclear deterrent; this must remain credible in the current security environment. There is a case, however, for greater transparency and, in particular, parliamentary scrutiny. The Government has never explained the rationale for its proposed increase in warhead numbers, and is often reluctant to admit to the scale of expenditure on the deterrent.

New and emerging technologies

The Integrated Review has been described as making a “bet” on new and emerging defence technologies. Technology is sometimes framed as an alternative to military mass, though the Ukrainians have shown that it can sometimes act as a force multiplier. On expenditure, however, the Government’s ambition of reaching 2.4% of GDP on R&D spending would merely bring the UK into line with the OECD average, which may not be sufficient. We also heard that bureaucratic obstacles are holding back innovation. In particular, the Government needs to work on eliminating the so-called ‘Valley of Death’ issue, in which promising innovations are not translated into practical capabilities.

Defence enterprise

We welcome the establishment of the Secretary of State’s Office for Net Assessment and Challenge (SONAC); we hope this will become a permanent feature of the Ministry of Defence, beyond the tenure of the incumbent Defence Secretary. However, more work needs to be done to change the culture of the Ministry of Defence. We are particularly concerned that the Department is not institutionally capable of accepting an appropriate level of risk. Taking risks can be challenging when national security and taxpayers’ money are at stake, yet failing to take risks can become a source of peril and waste in itself. The Department also needs to improve and transform its working relationships with external partners, especially industry and academia. We were disappointed to hear that, for one defence start-up, the Ministry of Defence is seen as “one of the worst customers in the world”.


Overall, our Committee’s view is that the original Integrated Review did not do enough to outline priorities and hard choices, leading to a lack of focus in the Defence Command Paper. The Government plans to publish updates to both documents soon; it should treat this as an opportunity not only to set out what has changed in the last 21 months, but also how it plans to translate the aspirations of the previous Review into reality. In doing so, they should take account of the conclusions and recommendations of our Committee’s report.