London 2012: Complaints over 'substandard accommodation' for troops guarding Olympic sites


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The Independent Online

Soldiers guarding Olympic sites in London are being housed in what family members of the personnel describe as substandard accommodation.

Relatives of the personnel from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (1PWRR) are being housed at Tobacco Dock near Tower Bridge to help with security at the games.

The troops, who have been on operations in Afghanistan recently, were drafted in following the G4S fiasco when the security firm admitted it did not have enough staff to provide security for the games.

Around 500 of the men from 1PWRR are sleeping on camp beds, prompting one mother to say the situation was "absolutely disgusting".

Fiona Mason, from Fair Oak in Hampshire, whose son Paul, 21, is in the regiment, told the Southern Daily Echo: "They were treated better in the desert."

Margaret Powell, 67, from Hill Head, Hampshire, is aware several of her son's friends are staying at Tobacco Dock.

"They come back from Afghanistan and they're treated like second class citizens - prisoners are treated better," she told the paper, who printed a picture of the soldiers lying on camp beds in what appears to be an underground part of the building.

Other parents alleged the troops did not have electricity - a situation denied by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Around 2,500 service personnel are at the Grade 1 listed Tobacco Dock as part of the security for the Games. The MoD said around 17,000 members of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in total are now involved in the Olympic security effort.

The 16,000 square metre site, a 10-minute walk from Tower Bridge, was found at short notice by the military after the last-minute problems with security.

In a statement, the MoD said: "The photograph is taken at Tobacco Dock in East London, which the MoD announced several days ago would be used to accommodate the additional military contribution to Olympic security over the next two weeks.

"The specific area shown in the photograph is underground; it is dry, lit, equipped with ablution facilities and has power and WiFi capability.

"It compares very positively with the type of living arrangements soldiers will have experienced on overseas operations and on regular military exercises in the UK."

Announcing the site earlier this month, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We have been working hard to ensure that our Armed Forces are accommodated appropriately and as comfortably as possible with access to sufficient rest and recreational facilities and that their collective contributions to a successful Olympics is appropriately recognised.

"I am confident that the Tobacco Dock will allow us to do that and our priority over the coming days is to ensure that happens as quickly as possible.

"Our Armed Forces are used to short-notice deployments and dealing with the unexpected, which is why I am confident they will do a superb job in assisting in the provision of security for the world's largest sporting event."