On the eve of the Allied invasion of France in 1944, General George S. Patton told his men that, “an ounce of sweat saves pint of blood.” His point was that rigorous training saves lives in combat.
Indeed, it was the training that I received at Mons Officer Cadet School many years ago that prepared me for the challenges I later faced as an Army Officer. So it was a great disappointment for me to hear the Ministry of Defence announcement that funds used for training our Territorial Army would be slashed.
Last year the TA celebrated over a century of sacrifice to our nation. My grandfather, Field Marshal Earl Haig, when he was Director of Military Training at the War Office, helped set up the TA to support the regular Army.
Over 29,000 strong, TA soldiers equal almost a third of our regular Army’s manpower. Currently over 500 Territorials are serving in Afghanistan. Personally, I am an honorary Colonel of a TA Regiment. These brave men and women deserve our utmost support.
As I mentioned in the House of Lords last week, “There is no way that the regular Army could continue the war in Afghanistan without the TA.” With this in mind, what signal did Ministers think cutting TA funding would send to serving and future recruits, to employers of Territorials, and, crucially, to the Taliban?
In the past, governments have endeavoured to ensure our troops have the best equipment in the field. But this government behaves quite the opposite, slashing funding for military training while we are at war. Even worse, the government prosecutes this war in a haphazard manner-cutting programs they only later restart after public scrutiny. We need a principled government that doesn’t treat the defence of our nation as a mere pound sign. Certainly our soldiers deserve better.