Following last week’s attempt to kidnap an RAF serviceman near RAF Marham in Norfolk, security has been stepped up in military bases across the country. The two suspected attackers who tried to abduct the RAF serviceman with a knife are still on the run, with reports that the assailants had performed a reconnaissance mission of the base in the week preceding the attack. It is thought one attacker was left with a black eye after the airman head-butted him as he fought off the assault. Authorities are still searching for a man of Middle Eastern appearance, with breaking news this afternoon suggesting the accused may have been spotted at a separate barracks in Colchester on Friday 29th July.
Armed Forces Minister Mike Penning visited the barracks to emphasise the Government’s commitment to keeping personnel safe. During the visit he said he and colleagues would “review and amend our security arrangements continually to try and ensure our people and their families are safe”.
Following the recent attacks in Nice, Munich and Normandy, security forces are on high alert regarding the possibility of a such a terrorist-based attack happening in the UK. Given the targeting of military bases in previous attacks, most notably Fusilier Lee Rigby’s murder outside Woolwich Barracks in 2013, it is likely further military personnel, including police forces will be mobilised immediately.
Elsewhere, The Sun has reported on the plight of a former Gulf War veteran who has been forced to live in a cemetery, as part of its campaign to highlight high levels of homelessness among former service personnel. It is estimated that up to 9,000 men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are now homeless, with a separate poll by the military charity SSAFA showing half are unemployed.
Chairman of the Defence Police Federation, Eamon Keating, has written in the Police Oracle regarding the lack of clarity over the Government’s Strategic Defence Review and what this means for the MDP workforce, who have been “left in limbo” by the continued delays of the MoD to confirm the implications of the SDSR to the security of its establishments. The article highlights the importance of the MDP in delivering security and underlines the need to prioritise the risk to MoD assets and personnel, rather than seeking short-term savings from further reductions to the number of officers.
Finally, reports have suggested that a fire in Allenby Barracks in Bovington, Dorset, may have been caused by two young officers following an alcohol-fuelled argument, when they decided to settle the feud by firing flares at one another. The resulting fire caused a whole corridor of accommodation rooms to be gutted. The altercation happened following an end-of-course father and sons evening, when one of the young men fired the flare by accident into the adjacent building while the two men were having a water-based duel in a pair of kayaks in a swimming pool. The Army has launched an investigation, but it is thought the incident is being treated as “high jinx rather than criminal damage”.
· Royal Navy struggles with recruitment of younger generation of submariners
· Three lives saved through WSP programme
· Father of son killed in training exercise says army not to blame
Royal Navy struggles with recruitment of younger generation of submariners
The Royal Navy has stated it is struggling to fill positions in its new Trident nuclear submarines, due to a younger generation of submariners struggling to live onboard without access to their Facebook accounts. It is believed that young recruits are reluctant to spend 90 days at sea without any online contact with their peers. The statement comes as the Royal Navy attempts to bolster the number of engineers able to service the fleet, including offering incentives of up to £25,000 to retain current staff.
A recent survey by the research firm PA Consulting has confirmed this trend, showing the younger generation of Royal Navy staff viewed a career as a submariner as a less attractive option. The recruitment shortages have been further influenced by the need to find crew for Britain’s new aircraft carriers. One serving officer noted that there were always crew who were willing to serve on submarines, but increasingly they have been difficult to recruit in large numbers. These recruitment difficulties come as the armed forces look to make reductions in staff numbers elsewhere, reflecting a move towards more highly skilled but smaller force.
The challenges in recruitment are indicative of wider issues in recruitment and staff retention within the Armed Forces. The Army Reserve has also consistently failed to meet recruitment targets.
Three lives saved so far through WSP programme
Three lives have been saved from suicide so far since the introduction of the Welfare Support Programme (WSP), set up by the Police Firearms Officers Association and the Police Federation of England and Wales. The programme, which was established in June 2015, has 311 registered officers from 35 different police forces, including the Ministry of Defence Police and the British Transport Police. Its trained staff specialise in helping traumatised officers improve their health and wellbeing through suicide awareness, neuro linguistic programming and bereavement counselling.
Head of health and safety for the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Murphy, said there had been a significant increase in the number of officers coming forward with severe mental health issues, noting the scheme was a “lifeline” to many in distress. The mental pressure facing officers was confirmed in a recent survey by the mental health charity Mind, which reported that five percent of emergency services staff have tried to take their own life.
Father of solider killed in training exercise says army not to blame
The father of Cpl Josh Hoole, who died recently when on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons, has said his son would not have been unhappy with the Army being blamed for his death and that troops should not be “wrapped in cotton wool.” Philip Hoole, a former Sergeant Major, said his son took part in a routine operation and it was most likely a heart condition that had killed his son. He added that he felt army and medical staff had done their best to save his life. The cause of Cpl Hoole’s death has yet to be established and police have subsequently launched their own inquiry. The Ministry of Defence has launched its own investigation.
Hoole’s father also questioned the criticisms directed at the army for continuing to train troops in high temperatures and challenging terrain, adding that politicians needed to accept that a soldier’s role involved fighting in extreme climatic conditions in overseas countries.
Developers tell neighbours to “close windows” to avoid gun fire noise
Developers behind a major housing scheme in the north-east of Scotland have told local residents to close their windows to avoid the sound of gunfire from a local shooting range. The range is used by the Ministry of Defence Police, among others, which has prompted the MoD to formally object to the development plans due the proximity of the Blackdog Rifle Range. The MoD has highlighted the sensitive nature of the local area which was ill suited to residential development due to live firing.
A noise impact assessment, conducted by CSP Acoustics, has concluded that a proposed noise barrier near the development site would help dampen any noise issues. It was noted that nearby major roads and passing traffic would likely cause a greater degree of noise pollution.