Donald MacInnes: Just a thought for those who really do earn their money

In The Red

Like most men, I should expect, I always wanted to be a soldier. And, likewise, I probably still do. But at this time of year the realities of a career engaged in professional combat are sharply evident, giving us all abundant reason for a little sad reflection.

When I was 16 or 17, had I joined the Army I would more than likely have ended up in Northern Ireland as soon as my training was over – do not pass Go; do not collect £200; go straight to the Crumlin Road. Before the shine was lost from my new boots, I could have been in the grateful crosshairs of an IRA sniper.

Nowadays, young men and women joining up will find themselves on a plane straight to Afghanistan, possibly within weeks of finishing basic training; in a very short space of time getting shot at, frozen in winter, melted in summer, and enduring the perpetual terror of IEDs – for a starting salary of £17,514. Not really a fortune.

Fair enough. No soldier joins up with the intention of getting rich, but it does elicit a certain chill up the back for those of us at home, whose salary isn't quite so hard-won. It's not a lot of reward for risking your life or ability to walk for whichever cause the Government uses to justify your deployment.

But this is hardly a new disparity between the pay of those people fighting for "freedom" and those back home enjoying it; only aware there's actually a war on when the news tells us about more dead soldiers and how their relatives have been informed.

In the First World War, records attest to the fact that your typical trench-bound Tommy was paid 1s 6d (one shilling and sixpence) a day. In today's money, that equates to a spending power of some £3.23 per day. That's £22.61 a week. If you were a good shot, you got an extra sixpence a day as a sniper. Even better, machine-gunners got 2s 9d a day, which is £5.92 or £41.44 a week.

It's all relative, of course. I'm perfectly sure that when those doomed, gallant lads were up to their knees in the freezing mud of Passchendaele or the Somme, their threadbare pay packet was not the foremost concern on their minds. Similarly, our men and women currently struggling through a perishing cold Afghan winter have got other things to worry about than whether or not they are being adequately reimbursed for their activities. But it does bring home to those of us in our warmth and safety the never-ending cheapness of soldiers' lives down the years. It's a fact worth recalling. Especially tomorrow.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

    £45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us