A British Soldier's Pay....

Following this backward-and-forward between myself and the Exile, this week, I thought that I'd look at his suggestion that soldiers' poverty is a significant feature of the new British crisis.

The figures are quite straightforward.

A new entrant to the British Army will get just over £13,377 per year. Pay is subject to tax. Average wages seem to hover around the £17,000 mark. The Ministry of Defence does not provide homes for all soldiers' families, and many of those that it does provide are well below par.

Not surprisingly, many British people don't take the Army's deal. The Army therefore tends to supplement its numbers with troops from other countries, reinforcing a long and now post-Imperial tradition. About ten per cent of the British army seems now to be foreign. These troops are often paid less in terms of benefits and pensions, than British troops. When they wish to settle here, Gurkha campaigns aside, they often meet with resistance.

The Army is also famously bad at providing support for former troops when individuals come home. It does seem to be trying; but I wonder if those involved really can allow themselves to care. It has probably been ever thus, but given that, even when in combat, troops are inadequately equipped and forced to pursue policies that either directly or indirectly support their major enemies, just what sort of a whirlwind is Britain sowing?

Is it any surprise that soldiers' families are often in poverty, or in financial troubles that the soldiers can't sort out because they are off fighting? Is it any surprise that they fall into trouble when they get home often, despite what I would have thought was their high employability?

It may well reflect the sort of viewers and commenters the BBC has, rather than public opinion generally, but soldiers must also contend with a high number of people who don't rate them and who don't want them paid more. That's true in every complex society; the men who do the things others don't want to think about, or whom laptop bombardiers are enamoured of, very rarely get any special treatment for it, even in America.

Why is it that the British army thinks that it can treat its people so, and why do they let them do it?

I write as an outsider. I should declare multiple interests. I know a good few soldiers, and am related to them; my family includes people who served their country; and, of course, my mother and father were from the North-west of Ireland and my grandfather was alive at the time of the Irish war of independence and civil war. I think that's enough to establish full-spectrum commentary here.


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