BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 14:19 GMT
'Low morale' permeates British troops
Troops board helicopter carrier HMS Ocean
British troops now face the prospect of war with Iraq
Many British troops are suffering from low morale especially in the Army and Navy, according to latest research

More than a third of soldiers (36%) and a quarter of officers believe the Army is experiencing poor morale, although the same troops rated their own morale much higher.

A similar survey of the Royal Navy found 27% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the conditions of their service and 22% rated their own morale as poor or very poor.

Details of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) survey have come to light as thousands of armed forces personnel prepare for possible military action in the Gulf.

More than 1,800 Army personnel took part in the MoD's continuous attitude survey in April and May last year, said Defence Minister Lewis Moonie in a written reply to a question in the Commons by Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Keetch.

Marines at Devonport
Soldiers are short of even the most basic of kit - their boots.

Ben Brown
BBC special correspondent

Mr Keetch blamed overstretch of the forces in too many different operations and concerns over equipment, such as jamming SA80 rifles and boots which melted in the desert heat, for the unhappiness.

He said it was time to "put soldiers first".

In the survey, 88 officers (25%) and 499 (36%) soldiers rated Army morale as low, while 83 officers (23%) and 273 soldiers (19%) said it was high.

But 67% of officers and 56% of soldiers said their own personal morale was high, compared with just 10% of officers and 16% of other ranks who rated it as low. In the Navy survey of about 950 sailors, 41 said their morale was very poor (4%) and 170 said it was poor (18%).

This compared with 69 (7%) with very good morale, 328 (34%) with good morale and 344 (36%) who rated it average.

Some 33 (3%) were very dissatisfied with their conditions of service, 230 (24%) were dissatisfied, 229 (24%) neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, 417 (44%) satisfied and 40 (4%) very satisfied.

Gulf troops' concerns

Mr Keetch said: "Morale is clearly a matter of perception, but perception counts. It's time we started putting our soldiers first.

"The MoD has well-documented problems with retention, overstretch and unsuitable equipment which can all impinge on morale.

"The MoD has a great deal to do if we are to have the motivated and satisfied armed forces that we require, particularly in view of their current obligations."

Military experts believe the climate has changed in recent months with morale rising as British troops head off for the Gulf.

Some don't feel that we have a right to invade a country just because we don't like their system of government. This will inevitably affect morale

Former Royal Marines officer
Major General Patrick Cordingley, a brigade commander in the Gulf war, said this was to be expected.

"At the moment they are caught up in the excitement of going somewhere and they've got a sense of purpose," he said.

However, if war ensues, the reality could set in that troops may die in the conflict.

Mr Cordingley said: "If things get really nasty you start to believe that, actually, you might die out here sometime soon.

"At that stage you want to know your wife, family and friends are behind you, and the country as a whole believes in what you are doing."

For some, public support is vital to boost confidence, but that appears to be lacking as opposition to any conflict becomes more evident.

One former officer from the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade said: "Most military people I know who are going feel that they don't have the support of the public.

"Indeed, some don't feel that we have a right to invade a country just because we don't like their system of government. This will inevitably affect morale."


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

24 Jan 03 | UK
21 Jan 03 | Middle East
21 Jan 03 | Politics
20 Jan 03 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes