Army to give soldiers more time off

Troops to have extra six months between tours of Iraq and Afghanistan

British soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be given an extra six months off between tours because the "relentless pace" of operations in both war zones is putting pressure on their marriages and family lives. The Army is "undermanned" and needs 3,500 more serving troops, its head, General Sir Richard Dannatt, also said.

General Dannatt, in a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London, confirmed that British servicemen and women would have their time between overseas deployments rise from two years to 30 months, because the present system was "unacceptable".

He said: "Many families and marriages have unfortunately fallen victim to the relentless pace of operations. We have seriously stretched our soldiers, both their goodwill and [that of] their families. A gap of one year between operational deployment is not unusual, and often soldiers are spending much of the year before a deployment away from home in training and preparation. This is unacceptable."

General Dannatt, who retires as Chief of the General Staff this year, said he would reduce the amount of time soldiers spent overseas by creating fewer fighting brigades with more troops in each, to be deployed less often. There are 10 units, each with around 4,000 soldiers, but under the new system there will be only six.

He said: "The Army should be about 102,000 soldiers. It is about 98,500. By definition we are undermanned. There is a very strong argument for the size of our land forces to be larger."

The general also criticised the Government for delaying the production of a new generation of armoured vehicles, saying that soldiers' present forms of transport "harks back to the Sixties and Seventies". The Defence Secretary, John Hutton, who is visiting troops in Afghanistan's Helmand province, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I agree with what the general has said and I think we have accepted that the strain of mounting two major operations – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – is creating very substantial strain and stress on our military forces."

Although insisting that it was "not a regular occurrence" for troops to be sent on an operational deployment after only a year's break, Mr Hutton acknowledged that the pressure on soldiers serving in small, specialist units was too high and should be addressed. He said the demand for serving troops would be relieved by the removal of some soldiers from Iraq this year.

But the shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, described General Dannatt's comments as "yet more confirmation that overstretch is seriously damaging the Army's ability to do its job" and called for a review of the present strategy. He said: "The surest way to have unhappy service personnel is to have unhappy service families. General Dannatt's suggestions should be taken seriously, as he is at least attempting creative solutions for our overstretch problem.

"Reducing the number of overseas deployments is a start, but the Government must also look at issues of housing, health care and veterans' welfare if it wants to avert a serious crisis in recruitment and retention. Repairing the broken military covenant is long overdue."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried