The pen is mightier than the sword........

A letter from a retired schoolie in today's Sunday Torygraph:

I'm proud to teach sailors like those

Niall Ferguson seems piqued that Captain Chris Air, of the Royal Marines, chose not to open fire on heavily-armed Iranian patrol boats during the capture of 15 British sailors and marines (Comment, April 15). He mentions that HMS Cornwall's predecessors had fought in the Falklands and the Dardanelles and it seemed to be letting the name down not to fight the Iranians. I wonder why he is so keen that British troops should disobey orders and fire on people with whom we are not at war? The use of a warship to provoke an incident that leads to a war is not regarded as a good idea in Britain.

He claims that politicians need military experience, not just training but war experience, to make reasonable decisions. Well, I am a naval officer, trained, and I have been in war. I am also a lecturer in international politics and was head of the defence studies section of a naval university. I work at the base from which Cornwall and her over-worked sister ships sail, and I have the honour to help train and to teach the personnel who work so hard on the intense and difficult patrols off Iran.

To read Prof Ferguson talk of "political hacks" who have "no naval experience whatsoever" is amusing. His new-found belief in the primacy of a uniform sits badly in a society that believes that all military force must be under civil control. This may be going out of fashion in the US; but thank goodness, it is the rule in Britain, and long may it continue to be so. If Britain ever sees fit to declare war against Iran, and God forbid we declare war against anyone, our sailors will show as much fighting spirit as they show in Iraq, as they showed in Yugoslavia, as they showed in the first Gulf War or in the Falklands or day after day on intercontinental ballistic missile patrols. But they will not serve as a pretext for the next phase in the US plan to dominate the Middle East, no matter how many promptings they receive from such fearsome warriors as Prof Ferguson.

(Lt Cdr) Nicholas Bradshaw (Retd), Kingsbridge, Devon
Great letter, and yes in that regard our people did all that was expected of them. And if we ever did get the will to do anything about Iran they surely would feel our fury.

However, crying themselves to sleep & needing hugs for having their iPod taken & being called Mr. Bean :!: That doesn't do the service any justice, and neither does the reaction from top brass.
Nice to see someone fighting back on our behalf. The reality of this particularly unpleasant situation is that none of us was on scene at the time and those fifteen had to make a decision based on events which were unfolding quickly around them. Current ROE, military training and thankfully common sense ensured that "David" did not attempt to take on "Goliath" this time. They were not fired upon and therefore had no just cause to fire at the Iranians. No matter how bad we all feel about this situation - the reality is that the officers present made the right decision.

What happened afterwards is another matter entirely and has made my blood boil since. I don't necessarily believe in the idea of giving only name, rank and number to captors as that would only antagonise and protract the situation but I would hope that I would not allow myself to be filmed looking like I was having a good time and being well treated. The guys and girls must have known from the previous incident that this was likely to happen, after all propaganda is not exactly a new concept. As to writing letters and giving briefings, no matter how carefully the language was chosen, well ….. Christ on a bleeding bike!!! That, in my opinion, was taking the cooperation a little too far.

They were failed by our government who were woolly in their approach to retrieve them and lets face it, if it weren't for the fact that the Iranians decided to let them go, we would probably still be waiting for their release to be negotiated and at what additional cost to our reputation globally.

MOD Media failed them by allowing them to be filmed with their goodie bags and the sad fact is that they probably would have to hand most or all of it over to some faceless civil servant under the rules of "hospitality". They were failed again by the whole selling of stories to the media and I have some sympathy with young Batchelor when he stated that he thought everyone would be doing it. Bad decision resulting from bad advice passed on by those possibly trying to water down the situation to take some of the heat away from the Foreign Office. Military personnel obey the rules, even the most senior and to suggest that the Minister didn’t make or wasn’t aware of this decision …. well, don’t bloody get me started on that one. At least he had the decency to make an apology at the end, even if it had to be dragged out of him and was a little half-baked.

I realise this has already been discussed at length in other threads and at the time I couldn’t bring myself to comment because I was so angry with the way the situation was handled. Now I have reached a point where I just can’t hold the rant in any longer. Like everyone else I was delighted to see all 15 safely returned to the UK but in all my years of service this is the first time I find myself embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living.

There is no glory attached to this for anyone and it sickens me. I only hope that the subsequent lessons identified result in clearer guidance on conduct after capture and ROE for our guys and girls and that the issue of ownership of that particular stretch of water is resolved or that we bolster our presence out there because we all know that the Iranians will look for another opportunity to do this and others, given confidence by their success, might also try their hand in other parts of the world.


you would think a risk assessment would have been conducted with the assistance of a 'red team' analysing all the issues of boarding/ boat ops in this region after the previous incident in 2004, and that SOPs etc would have been amended accordingly. So I regret I do not think it was only the government and MoD media that failed them.
lets face it they've been let down by most everybody including those who are supposed to help, A couple of them made prats of themselves by following, what they were led to believe was the right thing to do, and al round got bugger all help either way! The whole bloody shambles has been a mess from start to finish and the sooner it's forgotten about the better!

Incidentally I believe that the 15 did what was right at the time - but they were in a no win sitution, no matter what happened - and most of them deserve praise for it, not punishment! And for a change the two officers were spot on and deserve to be commended! As for the pair who got it slightly wrong, was that their fault? just remember who they were and the situation and give them a chance - the only bit I found distasteful was the nutter with the 'Ipod' - why did he have it on ops anyway? somebody needs their arse kicking for that one (or is it compulsory now? a lot of other things are!). Come on people give them a chance - drop it and leave them alone!
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