Top army bomb squad officer Col Bob Seddon resigns

Col Seddon said it takes six years to fully train a specialist operator

This is very disturbing news and shows how desperate we are in Afghanistan for certain skills.  The BBC has this

The Army’s top bomb disposal officer has resigned, the MoD has said.

The BBC understands from army sources that Colonel Bob Seddon, of the Royal Logistic Corps, quit over fears bomb disposal training could be compromised.

There has been pressure on the Army to produce more bomb-disposal experts quickly as a result of the threat of roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

According to the BBC the MOD admits how stretched the resources are. Panorma will have a feature on this at 8:3o tonight,

In a statement to the BBC, the MoD admitted guidelines for rest periods and the length of tours had been broken in Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately at a time of high operational commitment, breaches of harmony guidelines do occur but we are taking steps to address the situation.”

New defence secretary Liam Fox, who visited Afghanistan this weekend, said he would make sure everything possible was done to ensure that British forces had what they needed to deal with the “indiscriminate threat from IEDs”.

Panorama: A Very British Hero, BBC One, Monday 24 May at 2030 BST

via BBC News – Top army bomb squad officer Col Bob Seddon resigns.

Royal Marine from 40 Commando killed in Sangin

Always and Forever

Sadly  a Royal Marine from 40 Commando has been killed in Sangin, Afghanistan. The MOD has this:

It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a Royal Marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines, serving as part of Combined Force Sangin, was killed in Afghanistan today, Friday 21 May 2010.

The Royal Marine was killed in an explosion that happened near Patrol Base Almas, in Sangin, Helmand province, this morning.

He was conducting a joint foot patrol with the Afghan National Army to reassure and improve the security for the local population in the area when the incident took place.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, said:

“It is my sad duty to inform you that a Marine from 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed by an explosion this morning in Sangin.

“He was conducting reassurance operations with the Afghan National Army when he was struck by an explosion.

“He died a Marine, doing his duty alongside his British and Afghan comrades. His actions will not be forgotten and we will always remember him.”

Next of kin have been informed and have asked for a period of grace before further details are released.

My thoughts are with his family and friends on this sad day.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Military Operations | Royal Marine killed in Sangin.

Liam Fox: New Secretary of State sends message to Defence staff

I heard a rumour last night that the Defence Secretary was to be Paddy Ashdown and was surprised but quite pleased as I don’t really rate Liam Fox, the new Defence Secretary.

Sadly the rumour didn’t turn out to be true. I believe it would have been a good move and with his experience in conflicts he could have brought a realism to Defence that has been missing for some time.

It seems that I am not the only one of that opinion as Subrosa has been explaining here. As she says

Out of all the appointments mentioned today this one concerns me most. Liam Fox, as shadow defence secretary, never performed better than average. His media interviews were composed of soundbites and no substance and often he seemed far more concerned that the public knew he had been to visit our troops in various parts of the world rather than address their concerns.

Sadly she is correct he has managed to make Bob Ainsworth almost appear talented. Let us hope that his performance in the real role, where we need someone well above average, is better than his role as shadow.

Hopefully he will be backed up a good team who can help him through what will be a tough time in the next few years. This is a department that cannot fail. There are some very good names out there on all sides of the fence who can lend their experience at all facets of defence.

Anyway here is what he had to say today.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Defence Policy and Business | New Secretary of State sends message to Defence staff.

New National Security Council established

Promise fulfilled.  Strike one to Cameron (and Clegg). As Cameron said

…from minute one, hour one, day one that I walk through the door of Downing Street if I am elected

The inaugural meeting of a National Security Council, which will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron today, Wednesday 12 May 2010.

The National Security Council (NSC) being established by the Prime Minister will oversee all aspects of Britain’s security and the council will also be reviewing the terrorist threat to the UK at its inaugural meeting this afternoon.

The Prime Minister has appointed Sir Peter Ricketts (Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) as his National Security Advisor, a new role based in the Cabinet Office.

Sir Peter will establish the new National Security Council structures, and co-ordinate and deliver the Government’s international security agenda.

The council will co-ordinate responses to the dangers the UK faces, integrating at the highest level the work of the Foreign, Defence, Home, Energy and International Development Departments, and all other arms of government contributing to national security.

The council will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Permanent members will be the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for International Development and the Security Minister.

Other Cabinet Ministers, including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, will attend as required. The Chief of the Defence Staff, Heads of Intelligence Agencies and other senior officials will also attend as required.

Finally we see the War in Afghanistan being taken seriously and our Armed Forces getting the commitment from the Politicians they deserve.

Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Defence Policy and Business | New National Security Council established.

…from minute one, hour one, day one – Afghanistan

Can I just remind David Cameron of this pledge made last year and repeated on the Andrew Marr show a week ago:

David Cameron will set up a “war cabinet” to deal with the Afghan conflict if he wins the general election, the Tory leader revealed today.

The select group – comprising top ministers, army chiefs and key intelligence figures – would meet “from minute one, hour one, day one that I walk through the door of Downing Street if I am elected”, Cameron told the Sun as he set out 10 key pledges the Tories would deliver if they formed a government after the next general election.

“Our military is at war in Afghanistan, but quite frankly, Whitehall isn’t,” said Cameron. The Conservative leader – whose election prospects were given a boost when the Sun came out in support of his party this week – said British troops “have to succeed” in the conflict and that sending in more soldiers was the “potential answer”.

I know it will take a few hours to get settled but this is as urgent as the Deficit. Our Armed forces have been under censorship for the past month and many have seemingly forgotten we are fighting a war in Afghanistan. This must now be back on top of the Political Agenda.

I will be holding you to this promise, David, don’t let this country and it’s Armed Forces down

David Cameron pledges to set up ‘war cabinet’ to deal with Afghanistan | Politics | guardian.co.uk.

Marine from 40 Commando dies in Afghan explosion

Always and Forever

Sadly another member of our Armed Forces has died in Afghanistan.

The BBC has this.

A Royal Marine has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence says.

The member of 40 Commando Royal Marines was killed while on a foot patrol in Sangin, Helmand Province, this morning.

The death take the total number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan to 285.

Next of kin have been informed and asked for a period of grace before further details were released, an MoD spokesperson said.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith, said:

“He was part of a foot patrol in an operation which was being conducted in support of the Afghan National Army when he was struck by an explosion.

“He died in the course of his duty, seeking to provide reassurance and security to the local nationals in Sangin. He will be sorely missed and his sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

My thoughts at this sad time are with his family and friends.

BBC News – Marine dies in Afghan explosion.

Edinburgh homecoming parade for 3 Rifles and 1 Scots

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3 Rifles and 1 Scots have marched in Edinburgh after returning from Afghanistan.

They were taking part in a homecoming parade on the Royal Mile to thank the public for their support, before being presented with their service medals.

The Edinburgh-based troops were deployed to Helmand in October 2009.

During the six-month tour the 1,400-strong battlegroup lost 30 members, the biggest loss of life in a battlegroup for 60 years.

The troops marched from the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, past some bereaved families and injured colleagues who were unable to march.

The 650 soldiers paraded down the Royal Mile, accompanied by pipes and drums. Princess Alexandra received a royal salute outside the city chambers.

The battlegroup, from B Company of the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and 3 Battalion The Rifles, were also being presented with their operational service medals at Redford Barracks.

Lt Col Nick Kitson, the commanding officer of 3 Rifles, said he believed the public recognised the job they were doing.

He said: “People are really beginning to get a great understanding of what we’re doing and what the sacrifices are and really getting behind us.

“There’s no greater evidence of that than the way the city of Edinburgh has already looked after us and afforded us the wonderful privilege of marching down the Royal Mile.”

Maj Dickie Head said the losses in Afghanistan were difficult but their mission carried on.

He said: “As far as we’re concerned we’re there doing a job, as you can imagine the casualties have a significant impact, they do make you perhaps pause and think.

“But you’ve also got to realise when you’re in amongst it and making it happen you’ve got to think about fighting the battle day-by-day.”

Maj Head said this meant continuing the struggle against insurgent forces while working to win over the local population, a challenge which he said was making progress.

Dedicated memorial

Thousands of people also lined the streets of the city on Friday as the battlegroup paid tribute to their comrades who had been killed while serving in Afghanistan.

More than 400 soldiers marched from Redford Barracks to a memorial service in Colinton Parish Church, accompanied by the Band and Bugles of the Rifles and the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Some of the soldiers bore injuries suffered while fighting in Afghanistan.

A memorial at Redford Barracks has also been dedicated to soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan.

In Perth, a day of celebrations was being held to mark the awarding of the freedom of the city to the 7th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Territorial Army Battalion.

BBC News – Edinburgh homecoming parade

A bracing reminder of the price we pay for Political Freedom

National Memorial Arboretum

If you want a reason to Vote then read the following column by Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph, a little snippet:

On Monday, partly out of frustration with this uncertainty, I escaped the campaign for a few hours and went to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It being a May bank holiday, visitors were welcomed by squalls of rain and hailstones whipped up by a bitter north wind. We quickly learned the trick of keeping within sprinting distance of shelter as we followed the paths leading up the tumulus to the memorial recording the names of our most recent war dead.

Despite the weather, however, there were squadrons of people climbing the long white steps to the circle of Portland stone from which, when the rain eased, it was impossible not to admire the green of England in the spring. Families, couples, solitary visitors running a slow finger over a recognised name, groups of squaddies just returned from duty or about to go on tour – all taking turns to peer through the gap in the wall, which is designed to capture the sun at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and beam a shaft on to the bronze wreath in the centre.

More than 15,000 names are inscribed there, and as is right for a country that has no plans to give up its ambitions to be a global player any time soon, there is room for another 15,000. The stonemason is even now adding the names of those who died on active service last year. He has got as far as Upton S R, the crisply engraved letters recording our debt to Warrant Officer Sean Upton, 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, blown up by an IED while on patrol in Helmand last July. His wife Karen, with her children Ewan and Hollie, was the first war widow to receive the Elizabeth Cross, the Queen’s and the nation’s recognition of the terrible sacrifice we require of our military families. Despite the wind, the acoustics of the circle amplified quiet exchanges and observations from all around us: “That’s Jack”, “He was just 19”, “We were mates”.

The memorial is not a place for talking politics. Those I fell into conversation with appeared to be uniformly certain to vote, and agreed that the greatest duty of the nation and its politicians was to remember the cost of freedom. Some found it odd – no more – that Afghanistan, a war we have now been fighting for longer than any foreign conflict since the Napoleonic Wars, has barely rated a mention during the campaign.

Hopefully on Friday David Cameron will be setting up, as his first task in Office, the War Cabinet to try and sort out the mess that is Afghanistan.

Time for Change, Vote for Change, Vote Conservative on May 6th, Vote Alex Johnstone in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

Election 2010: a bracing reminder of the price we pay for political freedom – Telegraph.

Two UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Always and Forever

Sadly another reminder to our Politicians that we are, despite the media blackout /censorship, fighting a war in Afghanistan. Two soldiers have been killed in the line of Duty whilst we have suspended effective government for a month.

Let us hope that come Friday we can expect the new government to get serious with what is happening to our Armed  Forces in Afghanistan.

The BBC has this:

Two British soldiers have been killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said.

One soldier, from 21 Engineer Regiment Group, died in a traffic accident.

The other, from the same regiment, was killed in an explosion – both died in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Next of kin have been informed.

The latest deaths on Monday morning mean 284 UK military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001.

Reconnaissance trip

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lt Col James Carr-Smith, said of the soldier killed in the blast: “He was travelling to meet up with local Afghan contractors prior to continuing with reconstruction programmes when he was killed in an explosion.”

Lt Col Carr-Smith said the other casualty had been “part of a team conducting a reconnaissance to replace a bridge over a canal in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand, in order that local Afghans could travel more freely, when he was killed in a traffic accident.”

Lt Col Carr-Smith also said both soldiers died in the course of their duty, and would be remembered.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the two soldiers.

BBC News – Two UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

British soldier dies in Afghanistan blast

Always and Forever

A sad reminder to our politicians that whilst they are fighting the General Election, our Armed Forces are fighting a real war in Afghanistan. The BBC has this

A British soldier has died in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said.

The soldier, from 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment serving with 40 Commando Royal Marines Battle Group, was killed on Sunday.

He died near PB Waterloo military base in Sangin, Helmand Province. His next of kin have been informed.

He is the 282nd member of the British military to be killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001.

Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel James Carr-Smith said: “He was providing protection to his fellow soldiers who were returning from a patrol when tragically he was killed in an explosion.

“He will be greatly missed and his actions will not be forgotten.”

The last soldier to be killed in Afghanistan was Fusilier Jonathan Burgess, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh who died in the Nad Ali area of Helmand on 7 April.

Fusilier Burgess, 20, from Swansea, was shot during a fire fight while on patrol aimed at disrupting insurgents.

My thoughts are with his family and friends on this sad day.

BBC News – British soldier dies in Afghanistan blast.