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Article published in The Sun, 26 September 2019. © Richard Kemp

Another Defence Committee report, another litany of betrayal of the men and women who sign up to fight for our country.

To add insult to injury, virtually all the failings listed in the latest report come up year after year, and some of them date back to the day I joined the Army 42 years ago.

As an infantry battalion commander in Londonderry, I discovered stalactites that would have impressed any geologist hanging from leaking water pipes in one of the Victorian accommodation blocks.

The squalid barracks we recently vacated near Cambridge had to be refurbished to make them fit for habitation by asylum seekers.

Troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan often found the living quarters there better than those they left behind in Britain.

As a taxpayer I am ashamed the Defence Committee reported yesterday that the same problems persist now.

Soldiers and their families do not expect to live in luxury but they do deserve hot showers and functioning central heating in winter.

Soldiers’ children are not only forced to endure degrading living conditions, many are also disadvantaged educationally by frequent movement as their parents are posted from garrison to garrison.

Again, as a commander I had to thump the desks of local headteachers and education authority bureaucrats to get them to admit Army children who had arrived during the school year.

The same problem also damages the quality of medical and dental treatment some spouses and children receive.

Forces families have been moving from barracks to barracks around the UK and overseas for hundreds of years.

Surely this problem can be completely eliminated in the 21st Century?

One of the greatest scandals the report highlights is the denial of the pensions owed to some war widows.

This only affects between 200 and 300 women, but each one has endured suffering and deprivation due to penny-pinching bureaucracy and lack of ministerial resolve. (more…)

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