“I reckon only one in 10 members of the Territorial Army is worth bothering with,” one senior officer complained last year. “The rest are in it for a bit of fun and are horrified when you suggest you want them to go somewhere dangerous.”
The portrayal of TA reservists as “weekend warriors” who like dressing up and playing soldiers, without having to make the commitment required of regular squaddies, has always been cruel. Yes, it is difficult to enforce discipline in a part-time force where members pick up their pay cheque elsewhere. And yes, the majority lack training equivalent to their counterparts in the Army. But reservists have, in the past decade, fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and died there – take Andrew Fentiman, 23, who left his sales job in Huntingdon to serve in Helmand and was shot. Not to mention the heavy combat seen in Ypres, Gallipoli, the European Theatre and Korea.
So the decision finally to overhaul training for our reserves – while born of necessity after cutting 20,000 regular soldiers – is welcome. The reserves are going to be relied upon more heavily than at any time since the Second World War. If our politicians want to intervene in the so-called “Arc of Instability” from West Africa to Central Asia, Britain will need a force trained in counter-insurgency and capable of rapid deployment.
I guess the reality check for the Defence Secretary, and his successors, will come in finding enough recruits. Who has the spare hours to hold down a full-time civilian career while being trained to regular Army standards? Which boss will smile upon their employee disappearing for 10 months?Reuse content