A highly sensitive internal report into the state of the British Army has revealed that many soldiers are living in poverty. Some are so poor that they are unable to eat and are forced to rely on emergency food voucher schemes set up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Some of Britain’s most senior military figures reacted angrily yesterday to the revelations in the report, criticising the Government’s treatment of its fighting forces.
The disturbing findings outlined in the briefing team report written for Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, include an admission that many junior officers are being forced to leave the Army because they simply cannot afford to stay on.
Pressure from an undermanned army is “having a serious impact on retention in infantry battalions”, with nearly half of all soldiers unable to take all their annual leave as they try to cover the gaps.
The analysis, described by General Dannatt as “a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the views and concerns of the Army at large”, states: “More and more single-income soldiers in the UK are now close to the UK government definition of poverty.” It reveals that “a number of soldiers were not eating properly because they had run out of money by the end of the month”. Commanders are attempting to tackle the problem through “Hungry Soldier” schemes, under which destitute soldiers are given loans to enable them to eat.
The scheme symbolises a change from the tradition of soldiers getting three square meals a day for free. Now hard-up soldiers have to fill out a form which entitles them to a voucher. The cost is deducted from their future wages, adding to the problems of soldiers on low pay.