Summarising the military news of the past week.
- Corporal Jonathan Bayliss was killed when the Red Arrows aircraft he was in crashed in Anglesey.
- Gavin Williamson has marked the one-month anniversary of the MOD and Combat Stress mental health helpline for serving personnel.
- While Defence Chiefs have promised to continue to pay for the care of Ben Parkinson, the most wounded British soldier from the Afghanistan war.
The Sunday Express reports on the number of ships that is currently deployed on operations. While this is defended officially (but of course, it would) this is a silly statement to make anyway as most ships are at their home ports in order to take a break for Easter leave rather than because of mechanical defects or gaps in manning.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “Last week there were 32 ships and submarines deployed, in home waters and all five oceans around the world. We have a truly global presence, with some 8,500 Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel either deployed, getting ready to deploy, or standing at high readiness.”
Protecting Britain’s fishing waters
The Telegraph reported how the Royal Navy plans to use HMS Forth the first of five state-of-the-art vessels for fishery protection, as well as counter-piracy, anti-smuggling, border patrol, counter terrorism and maritime defence duties. The paper quotes the Defence Secretary saying the vessels ‘stand ready’ to form part of the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron, and will be the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears in the UK.
Meanwhile Danish fishermen have threatened to ruin the sustainability of fish in UK waters if Britain pushes ahead with plans to take back control of its waters after leaving the Brexit transition deal in 2020.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The Royal Navy has a proud tradition of protecting the UK’s coastline and keeping a close eye on our fishing waters. With these state-of-the-art, vastly capable ships we stand ready to protect our fisheries once Britain leaves the EU.”
A trial focused on alleged recruit abuse by Army instructors at the Army Foundation College has been ended by the judge after he called the three-year Royal Military Police (RMP) probe “seriously flawed”.
Army Spokesman Colonel Marcus Simson said: “We care about our soldiers above all else and do everything we can to ensure they live and train in a safe and secure environment. That is why as soon as these allegations were made in 2014, we asked the Royal Military Police to conduct an investigation.
While there have been no criminal convictions, we will consider carefully whether any internal action or sanction is necessary.”
Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson
Defence Chiefs have promised to pay for the care of Ben Parkinson, the most wounded British soldier from the Afghanistan war after The Mail on Sunday revealed how they had cut his wages, put vital medical treatment in jeopardy and failed to provide him with wheelchairs.
An MOD Spokesperson said: “Minister for the House of Lords, Earl Howe has assured LBdr Parkinson and his family that we are working hard to establish his new care package as quickly as we can. We recognise the family’s frustrations that the new package hasn’t been established earlier however give this is a new and innovative scheme we have a duty to make sure it continues to provide the best care possible. In the meantime we, along with the NHS, continue to deliver LBdr Parkinson’s day to day and specialist needs.”
Royal Air Force
Hawk Crash at RAF Valley
An engineer died after a Red Arrows jet crashed at RAF Valley in Anglesey. Corporal Jonathan Bayliss, 41, died when the aircraft crashed to the ground at the RAF training base in Anglesey at around 1.30pm.The pilot of the Hawk aircraft, which is used by the famous aerobatic display team, survived and is receiving treatment in hospital.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hiller said: “This tragic accident is a reminder that we must never take for granted the risks of our people take in the service of our country. My deepest thoughts are with the friends and family of those involved at this terrible time.”
Mental Health Helpline
To mark the one-month anniversary of the MOD and Combat Stress mental health helpline for serving personnel, troops are being issued with pocket-size cards carrying the telephone number of the dedicated round-the-clock helpline for those suffering battlefield stress.
The Mail Online reports how the card is part of an extra £20m pledged over the next 10 years to fund mental health initiatives. The piece also updates on the first month of operation, saying the helpline has already received more than 300 calls.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our Armed Forces work tirelessly to protect our country and I’m committed to making sure they have all the support they need. The new helpline is up and running and I’m pleased to see that it’s already helping those who have reached out. The helpline card we’re launching today will be an easy to carry reminder for our brave men and women that support is always available when they need it most.”
The Times reported that the Ministry of Defence paid £42,000 to a branch of SCL Group for “data analytics” between December and February. The work was commissioned even though there have been widely reported concerns for two years about the company’s techniques.
An MOD spokesperson said: “We have no current contracts with SCL Group, which includes Cambridge Analytica. As such, the company has no access to any classified information.”