Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The myth and the reality

I suppose we all have our own favourite mental image of the British Army – whether it is that famous Alamein shot (which was actually Australian troops), or the timeless scene of Trooping the Colours, with the Brigade of Guards executing their drill with flawless ease.

That, if you like, is the myth – the image that the powers that be would like you to hold. The reality – or one of the many realities – is shown below, in a photo we've just discovered in one of our many trawls. I do not recall seeing this picture in any newspaper, but it has its own caption which is self explanatory.

The incident to which the caption refers is this one, at the Shatt al-Arab Hotel base, near the centre of Basra.

Months down the line, nothing changes. For want of the right kit, it is this to which our troops are reduced, cowering in their tents hoping that they are not the next to be hit.

Although most of the bombs, miss their targets, many do not. When they do hit a vulnerable site, they cause a great deal of damage and harm. Beyond that, though, the constant mortaring has a highly disruptive effect and is a constant drain on morale. It can only because the situation is so little reported that the government can get away with leaving our soldiers so exposed.


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