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The Independent Online
The armed forces have gone on location to help raise their profile and boost recruitment. Fran Abrams, Political Correspondent, says they are appearing in everything from James Bond to pop videos.

Who said there was no glamour in life in forces? No sooner had the Navy finished filming Tomorrow Never Dies last May with Judi Dench and Pierce Brosnan than the army was off to help Oasis shoot a video.

According to a list of engagements that is published this week, it has all just been one long whirl.

In all, the services have helped out on a total of 10 films and television series' since May last year.

There was a Scottish BBC drama, Invasion Earth, which took 22 airmen for three months plus a Chinook and a Puma helicopter for a day. And, as for Soldier, Soldier, they are in virtually every episode.

Carlton Productions, makers of the popular television drama, have a Lynx helicopter and crew plus a Saxon troop carrier on long-term hire from the Army.

The Scots and Welsh Guards, the Household Cavalry and 16 Air Defence Regiment have all been called on to help out at various stages.

Most were carried out at cost price. Yesterday the Ministry of Defence said its personnel were only too happy to win positive publicity and to contribute to the greater good.

Cost price, however, is not always cheap. Want to hire the frigate HMS Westminster? That will be just pounds 2,000 an hour, Sir. Lynx helicopter? To you, pounds 1,500 an hour.

Soldiers, sailors and airmen come at varying rates, depending on their rank. While a private can be had for pounds 121 a day on average, a sergeant might cost pounds 190 and a major pounds 300. The men get up to a fascinating range of activities.

As well as appearing in videos including Oasis's post-holocaust "D'You Know What I Mean?", there was a vast range of other hirings.

In December, for example, the RAF lent a Puma helicopter to the BBC, helped the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust to move some gorillas and rescued Richard Branson's balloon from an airfield in Algeria.

The Army life is not all glitz and glamour, though. In January, for example, a Chinook helicopter was sent to Minehead to remove a tree which fell on a house during a storm.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said that no profit was made from the arrangements, and most of them were done at cost price.

"We want to make sure that we are undertaking activities which promote the MoD and benefit the wider community. Also, it must not conflict with operational or training responsibilities.

"We are also mindful of the fact that we don't take business away from other companies. So we don't charge less than an actor would charge to play a soldier," he said.

A major part of the list concerns exports, though, and it is this which will raise the hackles of anti-arms trade groups.

Companies such as Vickers, which exports to Turkey, and Alvis, which sends armoured vehicles to Indonesia, featured among those helped by the Royal Artillery Export Support Team, which went all over the world to assist British arms companies.

PRIVATES ON PARADE

Private missions: some armed forces hirings since May 1997.

Early May: HMS Westminster finishes filming the latest James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies.

June: Two army Lynx helicopters help out the pop group Oasis with a new video, "D'You Know What I Mean?"

August-November: Twenty-two RAF personnel and a small number of land vehicles help in a BBC Scotland drama series, Invasion Earth.

On 17 September they are joined by a Chinook and a Puma helicopter.

3 December: A Hercules aircraft assists Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in moving gorillas.

16 December: A Hercules helps to rescue the Virgin Global Challenger balloon envelope after it blows away and ends up in Algeria. A Lynx, its crew and a Saxon personnel carrier are hired for the filming of Soldier, Soldier.

Elements of the Scots and Welsh Guards, the Household Cavalry and 16 Air Defence Regiment have also been involved in the series.

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