Woolly thinking in the Army

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The Independent Online
From Mr C. J. A. May

Sir: Your "Generation Why" strip cartoon (12 May) showing animal lovers releasing sheep on to a Ministry of Defence gunnery range reminded me of National Service infantry exercises in Wales in 1960.

It was explained by our directing staff that the farmers who had been dispossessed were allowed to keep sheep on the range, but paid a per head rent for them which exactly equalled the rent the Army paid for their land, it being deemed that there were 90,000 sheep. As there were in reality about twice that many, we were told that we could shoot 90,000 of them before the Army had to pay any further compensation.

A large amount of live rifle and machine-gun ammunition was shot off each day, and after some two weeks of this a sheep was injured, casting a severe gloom over the troops in the foxholes. This sensitivity was despite being frequently woken as the sheep wandered into trip wires, sending up flares and causing all to stand to in the icy night wind; at other times they coughed horridly in the dark, giving us nightmares.

Yours faithfully,