John Reid. Thank God we managed to avoid the nightmare; Prime Minister Reid. That really worried me in 2006-2007; Chris Lightfoot and I were planning to start a dedicated anti-Reid website at one point.
Anyway, Reid has been personally fingered by the coroner’s inquest into the death of RHA Captain James Philippson, as the Grauniad reports. Philippson was killed in Afghanistan in the bloody summer of 2006, taking part in a mission to recover a crashed drone. (I thought the point of drones was that they were expendable.) It turns out that his unit had not received their night vision goggles, Minimi light machine guns, M203 grenade launchers, combat body armour, or ballistic matting for their vehicles when they went into action. According to the Army inquiry, whose papers were produced in court:
“Critically,” it said, “the secretary of state, [then John Reid] had delayed announcing the Helmand deployment because he wanted to ensure that the campaign could be won, that the 3,150 manning cap was not exceeded, and that Britain’s Nato allies were also contributing.” The board’s report continues: “The immediate consequence was that the two-month delay effectively froze the [urgent operational requirement] process and resulted in the [Helmand Task Force] deploying without much of the mission essential equipment that it had requested.”
Having buggered about endlessly – first trying to send two battalions from 16AAB without their fire support (and what a disaster that would have been – one battalion plus with all the air support, logistics, sappers and artillery 16AAB, the RAF, and the Americans could muster came close to being overrun) and then sending the support and only one battalion – Reid’s managerialist crappery sporked the UOR process, under which urgently required equipment is obtained. No machine guns for you!
But what I want to know is this; Minimis and M203s are not new equipment in the British Army. Special Forces have had them for years; so have the Marines, and more have been issued for practically every major operation since 1991. Now, when 16AAB, 3 Cdo and 7th Armoured went to Iraq in 2003, the Army issued UORs for just these weapons and these articles of kit. We well know that the extra armour plates showed up too late for some men; however, the guns were indeed delivered on time, and the plates did eventually arrive.
So, if 16AAB got a boatload of shiny new guns, armour an stuff in 2003….what happened to them between returning to the UK in the autumn of 2003 and deploying to Afghanistan in 2006? It wouldn’t be the first time that equipment procured under a UOR was sold off as surplus in order to satisfy the MOD’s weird accounting procedures (the work of G. Brown) and then a second UOR generated to replace it a year or so down the track. Any information will be treated in the strictest confidence.