PUT THIS ON YOUR “TO DO” List 2014 MR CAMERON!!

The Sunday Times reported last week that the Government is to spend £50million on commemoration projects re WW1 Centenary. It is right and proper to remember the fallen of WW1 but what I do not understand is why there is £50m to spend on commemoration and not money to pay the living soldiers what they have earned and deserve?
 
Surely the best way to honour the soldiers of the past  is to look after the LIVING soldiers and fully honour the contracts on which they have risked their lives? I urge Mr Cameron to review the current redundancy pension injustice for long serving soldiers of today’s “warrior genertion”… Who have seen as much active service as the soldiers of WW1 and have bourne witness to war in all its modern day impersonal horrors in all our names, whether we agreed or disagreed with the reasons we found ourselves in these battle zones around our modern world… The honour and respect we owe our service men and women doesn’t change as modern warfare develops.  Professional soldiers, ones who choose to committ to the values and standards of service life, deserve to be treated as professionals and not expendable commodities, to be tossed aside without their promised “just rewards”. 
 
It is frankly appalling that Ministers and MPs continue to spout the Govt statistical line that only 1.2% are affected by this “shortchanging” of pensions as though to justify this appalling treatment of courage, committment and duty….a scandal Lord Touhig likened to the Maxwell scandal for its immorality on 31 Oct 2013 in the House of Lords. 
 
I believe, and I believe the Government and all Parliamentarians should believe, that one soldier missing out on their “just” rewards is one soldier too many. I urge Mr Cameron to put this matter on his “to do” list for 2014. Restoring Trust in the Immediate Pension, now that really would be a fitting memorial to all soldiers past, present and future! One within his power to achieve. Actions not pretty words or medals Mr Cameron, actions that will actually impact on the lives of the soldiers and their families.
 
Please sign our petition and pass our link on through your facebook contacts to do the same help send a message to Mr Cameron to review this injustice to longserving soldiers and their families.
Thank you http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops
 

Soldier’s wife stands up for pension justice

jolene

On 13 June this year, my husband, Sergeant Michael Anderson, was told he is to be made redundant just three days before qualifying for his military pension. This means Michael will lose almost half of his promised pension.

Michael has been a soldier from the age of 16. He was serving in Northern Ireland at 18, and at 19 was posted to Bosnia followed by a tour in Iraq in 2004. He is now a Welfare Officer and has had the difficult task of supporting families of soldiers killed in action and the severely physically and mentally injured.

Our family, like all service families, accept and have dealt with the highs and lows of army life. We have been honoured to be part of the army family and would very much like to continue to be part of it. Our second child was born when Michael was serving in Iraq. The proudest moment for me was handing Michael his newborn son when he came home. As you can imagine, a very difficult yet joyful time for us both.

Having put duty before family on so many occasions, I cannot now see why the loyalty and commitment we have shown is not being reciprocated by this Government.

When Michael was informed of his redundancy I felt like my heart had been ripped out, more for Michael than me. Everything he knew and had worked for from the age of 16 taken away. We had planned on using the pension to secure a mortgage when we left army accommodation and to support our young family while Michael established a new career on civvy street. After a life of service for our country our family’s financial security has now been cruelly snatched away from us.

The military pension is the key financial promise on which service personnel are recruited, retained and promoted. Calling it a “pension” is really not correct, it is more akin to a resettlement payment. It exists to assist service personnel transit with dignity to civilian life and is a promise around which all army families plan their financial futures.

David Cameron has made commitments to men like my husband as part of the Military Covenant. He said “that those willing to lay down their lives for the country have a right to expect they will be dealt with properly.” But the treatment of my husband, and others in similar situations show the promises the Government made to our military are being forgotten.

Redundancies sometimes need to be made but I believe soldiers who are a few months, or in Michael’s case, days from achieving their pension should be given redundancy payouts that reflect such dramatic pension losses, pensions they have always been led to expect and rely on when leaving the services.

Please sign the petition below and help get a fair outcome for Michael and my family. Help safeguard the Military Pension for all soldiers today and those signing up tomorrow.

http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

Armed Forces Redundancy Injustice

Press Release

 Former Defence Minister to Challenge Government in House of Lords today on armed forces redundancies
 Lord Touhig calls urgent debate on Armed Forces Redundancy Injustice
 
Betrayal of Military Covenant is a major Breach of Trust for our loyal troops
 
Event: House of Lords Debate
Date: Thursday, 31 Oct 2013
Time: from 12.30
 
Former Labour Defence Minister, Lord Touhig, has called an emergency debate in the House of Lords today, to highlight the plight of armed forces personnel who feel betrayed by the Government when being made redundant without receiving the pension payments they were promised.
 
In July, Lord Touhig commented that The Government is making soldiers redundant in a “cheapskate” way to save “a few bob in petty cash’’ and he urged the Government to review how it treated soldiers who lost their jobs as part of military reforms to stop them from missing out on their full resettlement pension rights. 
 
Today’s debate will be another chance for Parliamentarians to try to press Ministers to uphold the Military covenant that this Government enshrined in law.  As we approach Remembrance Day, it is vital that the needs of our loyal armed forces, who put their lives on the line for our country are treated decently and honourably.
 
Despite numerous pleas from the personnel affected, and from members of Parliament, The Government has refused to review its policy decisions, despite clear evidence of the injustice it is causing.
 
The Issue:  Long-serving Soldiers have been made compulsorily redundant close to their Immediate Pension Point (IPP).  As a result they are losing expected resettlement income payments worth up to £200,000 (taxable) each up to age 55.  The army has reneged on its written commitment to these men. They feel betrayed and powerless.
 
Armed Forces are denied employment rights – they rely on trust, which has been betrayed:  Other groups of public servants have unions and representatives to fight their cause, but the armed forces are denied this and rely on the Military Covenant and trust to be dealt with fairly by the nation and the Government.  They accept the redundancy decisions, but cannot accept being treated so dishonourably. Their families have adjusted their lives around the promises made, they must be kept.  We believe this is the first Government to treat Long-serving  service personnel in this way.
 
Appealing to Peers & MPs to take cross-party action to seek a resolution: 
The Armed Forces are denied normal employment protections.  Indeed they are called on to step in when other services take industrial action.  They rely entirely on their Chain of Command, Ministers and Parliament to ensure fair treatment in relation to their terms of service.   Appeals to Ministers have so far failed and Service Complaints have taken an inordinately long time to be dealt with, leaving those affected hanging on, waiting for justice which is being denied.
 
Betrayal of Military Covenant:  The Military Covenant, enshrined in law by this Government last year states: “Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation.  In putting the needs of the nation and the Army before their own they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.  In return British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.” Soldiering –The Military Covenant.    
 
The External Covenant Reference Group calls this situation a “betrayal of the spirit” of the Covenant and calls for Government to “review how it can restore pension rights to those who have been disadvantaged.” p16 Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report Dec 2012.
 
The Army has admitted that “the Covenant” and one of its key tenets for all its personnel “Values and Standards” have not been applied to the redundancy process.  This counters the words in the values and standards handbook “Our Values and Standards are essential to the British Army, they define what the British soldier is. They are more than just words, we must all believe in them and live by them.”
 
Why this situation is so wrong:
 
·      Service personnel were recruited, promoted and retained on the basis of receiving their resettlement Pension, which was also confirmed in writing when Officers converted to IRC.
 
·      Unfairness within cohorts has been created by the Redundancy programme exclusions which are politically, not militarily motivated.  . A redundancy scheme that allows such anomalies undermines the intent to restructure the army while ‘retaining the best’.
 
·      Short-sighted cost-cutting, ongoing challenges and disgruntled service personnel will impact the future performance of our military forces. However much we spend on equipment, if the men operating it and Officers leading the troops are not treated fairly, the Defence forces’ effectiveness will be weakened.
 
Ministers have suggested this is not about the money, but as this appears to be the first Government ever to refuse to properly compensate Service personnel close to Immediate Pension  for their losses, it seems that money must be the issue.  Indeed, the MoD seems to have been under pressure from the Treasury not to compensate these service men and women, but surely a written commitment confirming years of oral commitments, must be honoured?
 
Army morale & trust in the Military Covenant are essential for an effective army. 
 
Today’s Lords Debate title: “Lord Touhig to ask HMG, in the light of the recent comments  by General Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, what assessment they have made of the impact of redundancies on the armed forces.”
 
Those affected are calling  on the Government to :
 
1) Uphold the Covenant for all service personnel and ensure the financial promises made when they sign up, and on which they risk their lives, are honoured.
 
2) to put in place a fair compensation package that recognises cliff-edge pension losses,  compensate those long serving soldiers affected so far and ensure such injustices do not happen again.
 
3) review the Armed Forces Service Complaints procedure which is failing to address this matter in a timely matter .  The Service Complaints Commissioner in her annual report released on 21 March 2013 said that “I am very disappointed that, for the fifth year running, I am still unable to say that the Service complaints system is working efficiently, effectively or fairly. This is unacceptable”
 
Pension Justice for Troops
Contact:
 
 

Please sign the Petition http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

A Broken Government Promise Written in BLOOD!

Hear me rant a bit on Larry’s show!  (I’m not a trained media person…and its quite hard having a “conversation” with someone live on air! ) Go to to 105 minutes in.

Also go to 129 mins in and hear John, an ex Royal Marine, make some interesting points including one about equipment!

Listen to Larry Lamb discussing Army Redundancies

larry
please sign our petition: http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

BETRAYAL of LOYAL SERVICE: Army Wife has her say….

Laura

Laura Richards, wife of an Army Company Commander, made redundant in last year’s Tranche 2 redundancies, just 200 days short of his Immediate Pension Point, speaks out on Radio York.  She and her husband and their young family feel utterly let down by the Army & the Government. They will be losing 50% of the pension on which he was recruited, retained and promoted. 

How would you feel if you had fulfilled 95% of your contract of employment and then got 50% of the promised payments? How would you feel if this job involved risking your life on more than one ocassion and leading and ensuring the safety of others under your responsibility and command?  How would you feel if your husband was treated in this way?

The Immediate Pension is THE key financial promise around which all service families plan their financial lives.   Laura, her husband and their two young children need your support to put this right.  There are other long-serving soldiers in the same positition and they need your help.

Listen to Laura on Radio York speaking to Elly Fiorintini Tues 18th June 2013: Go to: 1hr 17 mins in – 1 hr 25 mins

Army Wife has her say .. 1hr 17 mins in -

Please sign the petition and pass on to your friends and family to do the same.  Please write to your MP and ask them to challeng the Government on this. 

It is just not acceptable for Mr Cameron to say how much he values our Armed Services one day and then treat the men and women who dodge the bombs and bullets so unfairly on another. 

The Immediate Pension SHOULD have been taken into consideration when making the calcuations for redundancy payments for those who have committed to an army career and who were close to pension point.  Please help put this right so that this does not happen to others loyal, committed and hardworking soldiers like Laura’s husband in the future. 

Please Sign our Petition:

http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

Major Christopher Braithwaite: why he feels betrayed

 
chris
 
 
“A small number of servicemen and their families have been unfairly treated as a result of redundancies. The military pension scheme is hugely important to those who serve in our armed forces; it is THE key consideration for servicemen and their families in determining whether to serve a few years in the Army or to commit for a much longer period in order to qualify for a retirement income.
 
As a serviceman who committed to the Army for a full career, it is deeply insulting to have the rug pulled within days of qualifying for a pension, (87 days to be exact in my case), when colleagues who joined the Army on the same day will serve a few more weeks (on resettlement and leave) and receive a remuneration package worth twice that which we and similarly affected families receive.
 
To add insult to injury, the only recourse available to servicemen (the Service Complaint system) has failed to deal with our complaints despite my having lodged a complaint 7 months ago. There are clear political and economic reasons for redundancies, and I don’t dispute their validity. Redundancy isn’t great, but as long as every serviceman and family affected is afforded fair treatment and timely closure, then the government and MOD will have acted properly. The military covenant specifically demands fair reward and access to recourse, neither of which we have received to date. Senior Army officers have failed in their duty to servicemen and their families, and to uphold the Values and Standards of the Army and the Military Covenant.
 
Military command is a unique and special privilege which I have been lucky enough to experience. It is fundamentally about mutual trust. If the senior management of the Army have ‘forgotten’ their fundamental duty to servicemen and their families, they could take a moment to reflect on their experiences and might be able to recall the motto of the Royal Military Academy: Serve to Lead. Thank you for your support.”
 
You can join Chris on twitter:  @CEB_Chris
 
Major Braithwaite is a veteran of the Balkans, Iraq & Afghanistan. He, like others in  this small group of long serving soldiers  made compulsorily redundant close to pension point, are being unfairly treated by the Government and it needs to be put right.   He has served his country with honour and dedication.  We now ask you to give him your support and sign the on-line Parliamentary petition below.  Please share the link and put on your facebook page.  Help send a message to the Government that ALL soldiers who are prepared to lay down their lives for the country should be treated with fairness and respect.
Please sign our petition:http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

 
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35949
 
 
You can hear Chris talking about the issue here:
 
chris
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/10127236/Army-job-cuts-I-feel-betrayed-says-former-Major.html

Forces Redundancy Injustice – Overview

The Issue:   A small group of service personnel, with substantial years of service and operational tours, were given notice of compulsorily redundancy in June 2012, close to their entitlement to an immediate pension, some within days.   As a consequence they are losing out on immediate pension payments worth thousands of pounds over a lifetime. 

How many service personnel does this issue affect in total?   The number of service personnel  affected is relatively small, approx 55-92 in total.  However, these numbers are set to get bigger  in the coming cuts, where 8000 – 10000 more troops will be made redundant, many more soldiers and their families could be affected…. if the Government fails to act. 

Reasons why the Government needs to address this issue: 

This Governemnt has worked hard to enshrine the  Armed Forces Covenant into Law.  It has vowed to work towards achieving and acting on the observations made by the External Covenant Reference Group in the First Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report, published in Dec 2012.  In that report  the External Covenant Reference Group made up of respected verterans groups and academics, including: COBSEO, RBL, SSAFA, WWA and Professor Hew Strachan  state:  Following compulsory redundancy announcements:

“Some personnel have been maderedundant mere days before they would have been entitled to immediate pensions by virtue of length of service. This has understandably ….led to a sense of betrayal of the spirit, if not the precise terms, of the Armed Forces Covenant among those affected…… the government should carefully examine how it can avoid a repeat of such circumstances in future rounds of redundancies …..and review how it can restore pension rights to those who have been disadvantaged so far.” (p16 Armed Forces Covenant Annual Report 2012)

Without acting to solve this issue the Government is failing to uphold the values and standards by which these forces pesonnel  have served. Trust is crucial when your job involves putting your life on the line.  Furthermore this sends out a negative and demoralising message to the armed forces and their dependants:

 a)    Operational tours, professional enthusiasm and the oft proclaimed Military Covenant count for nothing.

b)   Financial and professional costs – to both soldier and spouse when they assume / resume civilian employment – are no longer off-set

c)    Separation and disadvantage are no longer compensated with financial security

 d)   Personal and professional plans cannot now be founded upon the legitimate expectation of an Immediate Pension

 e)    The British Army’s morale and reputation is being damaged on a far wider scale than just the small number of redundees affected (see MoD Survey, 23 August 2012 indicating Officers more dispirited than rest of army – almost 2/3 of senior officers rated morale as low, up by 38% to 62% since 2010)

 What we are requesting:

1)    That the Government acknowledge the problem. 

2)    That it is unfair to these servicemen and their families, and potentially many others, to leave this issue unchanged. 

3)    That the Governement fully and fairly compensate those made compulsorily redundant for the loss of their immediate pensions and to take the immediate pension into consideration when making service personnel redundant in future rounds of cuts, thereby restoring morale and safeguarding the reputation and standing of HM Armed Forces.

We believe the government would not deliberately wish to deny its long serving and committed service men and women the immediate pensions they were promised, have earned and deserve. Armed Forces salaries are abated to take into account pension costs, so service personnel have a valid reason to feel they have been contributing towards this payment. 

The moral obligation to now honour the promise of an immediate pension – on which these men and women have justifiable expectation, and which they believed was part of their pay and conditions and for which they risked their lives – is a compelling one.   

Why we need the public to write to their MPs about this:

The service men and women are unable to speak out as they are still serving.  They have no unions to represent them or federation.  They rely totally on the Chain of Command and MPs & Minsiters to look after their best interests.  Clearly in these cases this has not happened.  We believe there has been some kind of mistake or oversight in the way the redundancy scheme and pension scheme interacts.  Mistakes can be rectified. 

That is why we are calling for a review to ensure all soldiers close to pension point made redundant are fully and fairly compensated for the loss of their pensions.  We need your support to help get these redundancies reviewed and a fair and just solution found.  Please sign the Parliamentary e-petition and help stop this happening  to other servicemen and women and their families. 

ONE SERVICEMAN or WOMAN losing out on the pension they have earned and deserve is ONE SERVICEMAN or WOMAN too many.

please sign our petition: http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

image

Parliamentary Defence Debate: 6 Dec 2012

Hansard Transcript of today’s debate in Parliament. 
My MP, Heidi Alexander, did a great job today in highlighting the issue of making soldiers redundant close to Pension Point. 
At last, the walls of Westminster have heard the truth that has, since the summer, been disguised by the numerous statements of Government Ministers ie…that soldiers are receiving a “significantly increased lump sum”…an extra £10,000 …true, whilst completely ignoring the fact that these long serving soldiers, some of whom have seen YEARS of operational tours, are missing out on thousands of pounds of pension over a life-time and the secruity that the promised pension would have given them and their families.  
This is the worst kind of Government Broken Promise, because it was a promise made to young men and women when they signed up, and on which they have risked life and limb.  It is a financial  promise that these men and women have, in all good faith, planned the financial futures of their families on.  The Immediate Pension is the key financial promise in all military family lives.  For the CoC and Ministers to not have considered this as a factor in the redundancy process is just not acceptable. 
Lets hope the Minister listens to the words of Ms Alexander and acts to ensure no more soldiers and their families suffer the same fate in the coming tranches of cuts. 
There are solutions to this issue…it just needs the will of Government to look for them…
Here  is the transcript…

“I feel quite inadequate to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). He and I are both Members of Parliament representing south-east London constituencies. It would probably be fair to say that we have very different political views, but after listening to the speech that he has just made, some of those political views become somewhat irrelevant, given what he said about his own experience in the armed forces, and what he and many others who serve in the Army, the RAF and the Navy see with their own eyes. I feel very honoured and privileged to have listened to the speech that he gave.

I shall make a brief contribution today. We have heard other speakers talk about important global issues relating to our defence forces, ranging from the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and their safety during that process to important aspects of the role of our defence forces in light of Britain’s emerging position in the world. I want to raise a specific issue about officers who are currently serving in our armed forces.

One of my constituents, Jayne Bullock, came to visit me a couple of months ago because her brother, who is a serving officer in the Army, had been issued with a redundancy notice earlier this year. He was given his redundancy date, which was only days before his immediate pension point. I understand that he will no longer be eligible to receive his pension immediately upon his redundancy, and that this represents a significant financial loss to him and his family. I understand that of the redundancy notices that were issued this summer, that situation affects about 70 or 80 serving officers.

We heard from the hon. Member for Beckenham the vital job that such officers do in our armed forces. The responsibility that goes with being an officer in our Army cannot be underestimated. They have to deal with situations such as that which the hon. Gentleman described. It is only right that those officers are given the pension that they are due. I believe that the compensation that has been arranged for them in some form of lump sum falls far short of what they would have received, had they got their pension at their immediate pension point.

Will the Minister, in his concluding remarks, explain to hon. Members what he plans to do about this problem in the future? Although it affects a certain number of people who received their redundancy notices this summer, the problem will continue as there will be further tranches of redundancies. Would it be possible not to make redundant those people who are less then 12 months away from their immediate pension point?

We are all here today speaking highly of our armed forces, but we need more than warm words. We need to put our money where our mouth is. Will the Minister look into the issues raised by the Pension Justice for Troops campaign that Jayne Bullock has established, and look at what else might be possible in respect of providing those individuals with appropriate compensation? I hope that if not today, then at some point in the future, he will be able to offer those service personnel some good news.”

Stop this happening to other service personnel!

Please sign the petition: http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

The Army Pension Plan – by Martin Rowson

http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

The Issue:   A small group of soldiers, with substantial years of service and operational tours, were given notice of compulsorily redundancy in June 2012, close to their entitlement to an immediate pension, some within days.   As a consequence they are losing out on immediate pension payments worth thousands of pounds over a lifetime.

How many soldiers does this issue affect in total?   The number of soldiers affected is relatively small, approx 70 in total.  However, these numbers are set to get bigger  in the coming two tranches, where 8000 – 10000 more troops will be made redundant, many more soldiers and their families could be affected…. if the Government fails to act.

Reasons why the Government needs to address this issue:  Without acting to solve this issue the Government is in breach of trust and not upholding the values and standards by which these service men and women have served. Trust is crucial when your job involves putting your life on the line.  Furthermore this sends out a negative and demoralising message to its armed forces and their dependants:

 a)    Operational tours, professional enthusiasm and the oft proclaimed Military Covenant count for nothing.

b)   Financial and professional costs – to both soldier and spouse when they assume / resume civilian employment – are no longer off-set

c)    Separation and disadvantage are no longer compensated with financial security

d)   Personal and professional plans cannot now be founded upon the legitimate expectation of an Immediate Pension

 e)    The British Army’s morale and reputation is being damaged on a far wider scale than just the small number of redundees affected (see MoD Survey, 23 August 2012 indicating Officers more dispirited than rest of army – almost 2/3 of senior officers rated morale as low, up by 38% to 62% since 2010)

What we are requesting:

1)    That the Government acknowledge the problem.

2)    That it is unfair to these servicemen and their families, and potentially many others, to leave this issue unchanged.

3)    To find a mutually agreeable solution to this issue and thereby safeguard the reputation and standing of HM Armed Forces.

We believe the government would not deliberately wish to deny its long serving and committed service men and women the pensions they have earned and deserve. The moral obligation to now honour the promise of an immediate pension – on which these men and women have justifiable expectation, and which they believed was part of their pay and conditions for which they risked their lives – is a compelling one.

The service men and women are unable to speak out as they are still serving.  They rely totally on the Chain of Command and MPs & Minsiters to look after their best interests.  Clearly in these cases this has not happened.  We believe there has been some kind of mistake or oversight in the way the redundancy scheme and pension scheme interacts.  Mistakes can be rectified.

That is why we are calling for a review to ensure all soldiers close to pension point made redundant are fully and fairly compensated for the loss of their pensions.  We need your support to help get these redundancies reviewed and a fair and just solution found.  Please sign the  e-petition and help stop this happening  to other servicemen and women and their families.

http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

A VERY BIG THANK YOU to Martin Rowson for his generous artisitc contribution to our campaign!  Political Cartooning doing what it should do….make us smile whilst stabbing us in the eye with a sharp, often uncomfortable thought…. 

“Rowson likens his political cartooning to voodoo – “doing damage from a distance with a sharp instrument.” His portrayal of Tony Blair became increasingly unpleasant over time. “When I first started to draw Blair he was puppy-like,” Rowson acknowledged, “but he became more raddled with time. I used his teeth as a sort of political barometer.” As Rowson noted in 2012, the recurring figures in his cartoon commentary develop a symbolism of their own, and his cartoons “contain characters involved in an ongoing narrative – just because some of them bear a passing resemblance to real people is very often beside the point”.*

Rowson takes pride in the extent to which visual satirists can “get away with telling power that it’s stupid, it’s got a big nose and it should just bugger off.”

For more books by Martin Rowson :

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Martin%20Rowson

* Taken from British Cartoon Archive:   http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/artists/martinrowson/biography

The Military Covenant – by Saul David

All The King's Men lower res

The Military Covenant

by Saul David

Britain has long acknowledged a ‘duty of care’ to its armed forces that dates back to the reign of Henry VIII.   It began as an unspoken pact between society and the military, and was only formally codified by the British Army as a ‘covenant’ in the year 2000. The key passage reads:

“Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation. In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.”

In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.”

Noble words, but ones that have not been honoured. In 2007 the Royal British Legion complained that Gordon Brown’s government was not looking after the needs of troops returning from conflict, particularly in terms of injury compensation and healthcare.  Earlier this year former army chiefs accused David Cameron of breaking the military covenant, this time over Coalition plans to cap military pay rises at 1 per cent (a real-terms cut).  ‘This sends a poor message to those who are fighting on the front line,’ said a former Chief of the Defence Staff.  ‘You are asking someone to risk their lives and that puts them into a special category.’

More recently, The Times reported that the Ministry of Defence was considering draconian cuts to army housing for married couples, and that ‘numerous officers and lower ranks – about 80 this year and more next year – are being made redundant mere months’ before the date they would have become eligible for an immediate pension after 16 years of service.  ‘This means,’ opined a Times leader (‘The Unpensionables’, 24 August 2012), ‘that families who may have planned their lives around a future with a guaranteed income, albeit a modest one, must re-plan their lives without.’

Such shabby treatment of soldiers was ever the case. When the restored King Charles II formed the first professional army in 1660, the full extent of the state’s ‘duty of care’ for soldiers was to make a modest provision for those maimed in battle.  For those who lost their place through age, illness, or under pressure from ‘better men’, there was nothing.  It was to cater for the ‘succor and relief of veterans broken by war and age’ that Charles II founded the Royal Hospital at Chelsea in 1681; yet when the hospital finally opened its doors in 1692, its maximum capacity of 476 veterans was only a fraction of the number of soldiers who qualified for assistance.  To compensate, therefore, James II introduced a scheme in 1685 for pensions to be given to privates and NCOs who had been either disabled on active service or who had served for a minimum of 20 years.  The sum given to a private soldier was a miserly 5d a day (3d less than his normal pay, which was modest enough), barely enough to live on.  And still nothing was paid to those who fell ill or were dismissed before they had served 20 years.

These regulations were still in place a century and a quarter later at Waterloo, though the daily rate for pensions had risen slightly in line with army pay (which was finally increased from 8d to a shilling a day in 1799, the first rise since the days of the Commonwealth).  Small wonder that after every major war from the 17th to the 19th Centuries, the cities were full of disbanded soldiers begging in the streets.  Inevitably many turned to crime (as they still do today), particularly ex-cavalrymen who were allowed to keep their horses and became highwaymen.  So bad did it become in London after the Nine Years War (1688-97) that a line of guardhouses was built on the road from the City to Kensington to protect travelers from ex-soldiers.  Never popular at the best of times, soldiers were now feared and despised in equal measure.

With such poor conditions of service – in addition to the low pay, food was poor and discipline harsh – it was hard to find recruits.  During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), the government resorted to sentencing minor criminals to service in the army, and to release others if they volunteered.  It also used ‘crimpers’ (the army equivalent of naval press-gangs), increased the signing on bounty from £2 a head in 1703 to £5 in 1708, and passed no fewer than nine recruiting statutes during the war.  Small wonder that the author Daniel Defoe noted: ‘In winter, the poor starve, thieve or turn soldier.’

Recruitment was also a problem during the Napoleonic Wars.  In 1806, to make soldiering more attractive, the authorities reduced the term of enlistment from twenty-one years to seven, and increased the bounty to £18.12s (over a year’s pay).  But the measure failed either to improve enlistment rates or to change the general character of recruits, and from 1808 new soldiers were given the choice of signing on for either seven or twenty-one years, with the vast majority opting for the latter (and an extra £5 5s).

Among the first of the ‘seven years’ men was Thomas Pococke of the 71st Highlanders.  The son of ‘poor but respectable parents’, Pococke joined the army in 1807 after failing as an actor.  He served through most of the Peninsular War and at Waterloo (having extended his service), and later wrote a graphic account of his experiences in the ranks.  It does not make easy reading.  ‘I could not associate with the common soldiers,’ he noted of his life as a raw recruit, ‘their habits made me shudder.  I feared an oath – they never spoke without one; I could not drink – they loved liquor; they game – I knew nothing of play.  Thus was I a solitary individual among hundreds.’

Yet Pococke served his time and, having faced and cheated death on numerous occasions – notably at the battles of Vimeiro, Corunna, Fuentes de Onoro, Vitoria and Waterloo – he was discharged in the winter 1815 without a penny.  Having left the army sound of body and without the requisite twenty years’ service, Pococke was not eligible for a pension.  He was last heard of working as a road mender ‘with a number of other poor labourers thrown out of general employment’.

Thus did Britain carry out its ‘duty of care’ to veterans of the most famous battle in our island’s history.  Of course times have changed and, compared to 200 years ago, today’s army pensions are relatively generous: all soldiers are eligible for an annuity after just two years’ service (and, unlike other public sector workings, without the need to make monthly contributions), while those who stay in for at least 12 years are also entitled to a tax-free resettlement grant.   But the debt the state owes its warrior is not just financial.  It’s also – as the military covenant stresses – about soldiers and their families receiving ‘fair treatment’ and being ‘valued and respected as individuals’.  Which is why, when it accused the government of not keeping its side of the bargain in 2007, the British Legion made a number of recommendations to improve the financial support and health monitoring of soldiers on active service, the speed and amount of injury compensation, the level of access veterans had to healthcare, and the quality of advice, support and representation given to bereaved families.

The official response was that the government ‘must do more’, but that fulfilling its part of the deal was ‘not always easy and takes both time and money’. The recent furore over the Ministry of Defence’s plans to cut army pay (in real-terms) and housing for married couples, and the scandal of officers being made redundant before they can claim their pensions (costing them as much as £250,000 over a lifetime), suggests that Cameron’s Coalition government is no closer to honouring the Miltary Covenant than its Labour predecessor was.

 

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Saul David is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham and the author of All the King’s Men: The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo and Great British Commanders: Marlborough, Wellington and Slim (e-book only), both published on 2 February 2012

For those interest in reading more by Saul David and purchasing his books please go to: http://www.amazon.com/Saul-David/e/B001JS8PNQ

Please sign the Parliamentary e-petition if you wish to support “The Unpensionables” mentioned in Saul’s essay and all those other soldiers who may be find themselves made redundant close to their Immediate Pension Point in the coming two tranches of army cuts.  We can have this situation reviewed by Parliament if we get enough votes on the petition.  Please sign and pass on to friends and family. 

History doesn’t have to repeat itself! We need to get MPs working to ensure the Military Covenant is upheld!

Please sign our petition & stop history repeating:http://change.org/pensionjusticefortroops

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