7 DECEMBER 2002, Page 34

Good men, bad kit

From Mr Gordon Bourne Sir: I read with interest Corporal Bussey's letter (30 November). It is comforting to hear from a man of his experience that the standard of recruits is no better or worse than it always was. However, ask any young serviceman today how many times he has heard older and more experienced colleagues say, 'Training isn't what it was in my day', and he would rapidly lose count.

As Bussey himself points out, the operational tempo today is non-stop. But this tempo means that senior NCOs simply do not have the time to take new recruits under their wing and teach them skills they should already have learnt.

The old custom of keeping these sorts of problems in-house, and getting on with the job regardless is one that I in principle

agree with. It is this dutiful obedience and determination to get a job done without complaint and regardless of circumstance that makes the British armed forces the formidable opponent that they are. But people should not be afraid of, or prevented from, speaking out when a government wilfully and cynically chooses to take advantage of this quality to neglect their duty of care to their own employees.

Surely it is better to make the public aware now of these inadequacies so that they may be rectified, instead of people finding out only when good men start coming home in bags, because their weapon failed them or because they were not adequately prepared for the task.

Gordon Bourne

London W9