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Diana Henderson
Dr Diana Henderson

Press Release - 08 March 2005

British soldiers 'dying in Iraq because of Government failure', says historian

British soldiers are dying in Iraq because of the Government’s “appalling” failure to arm and equip them properly, a historian and former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army has said.

Dr Diana Henderson said that failure to provide enough bullet proof vests had led to the death of at least one soldier in Iraq and that others were at risk.

Dr Henderson, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Logistics Corps, was speaking in advance of a free public lecture she is due to give at the University of Bath on Thursday on the subject of women in the Army. She will call for an end to the ban on sexual relationships between men and women in the armed forces.

She criticised the Government’s cut back on spending on the armed forces: “This deliberate endangering of troops’ lives because of penny-pinching is a piece of nonsense,” she said.

Dr Henderson, who is now Director of Alumni and Development at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and an author on Scottish military history, said, “At the moment in Iraq the environment is dangerous, but the Government is behaving appallingly. Our soldiers have not got enough equipment and support and the whole service environment is poor, including help for families, hours of working and living conditions, as well as ammunition and clothing.

“The problem began when there were cuts after the end of the Cold War – the Peace Dividend. I can recall that when service men and women of my regiment went to Bosnia in 1995 there were soldiers for whom we could not get boots so I and my officers all chipped in our own money to buy them.

“This Government in particular will not fund the required amount that is needed for its overseas operations – it’s gone too far in making cuts.” She said the troops had performed a “fantastic” job despite their lack of equipment.

The free lecture will take place on Thursday March 10 at 6-15pm at Lecture Theatre 1.1 in the 8West building on the University of Bath’s campus in Claverton Down. Those interested should reserve tickets by contacting Sheila Willmott on 01225 386631, or at s.d.willmott@bath.ac.uk.

In her lecture, Dr Henderson will call for an end to the ban on men and women having sexual relationships in the armed forces.

She will say that given the falling numbers of men entering the armed forces, it would be impossible for the armed forces to function fully without women. At the same time sexual harassment of women in the services, subtle and unsubtle, still exists and must be addressed.

Given that there are so many women in the services – more than a third of some regiments of the Royal Logistics Corps is female – it is unrealistic, impractical, old-fashioned and in some cases illegal to allow these attitudes and rules to persist, she believes.

“That sort of thinking is old-fashioned now. Does it really reflect modern life? And if not, where is the compromise to be found between service discipline, military effectiveness and real relationships in the modern world?” she said.

Dr Henderson is author of The Scottish Regiments published by HarperCollins.


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