Letter: Smaller army needn’t be dull
I AM intrigued by recent comments by retired senior British army officers to the effect that a Scottish army would be too boring to attract recruits, due no doubt to the assumption that it would have a largely defensive role augmented by UN peacekeeping duties.
As a young man, I served in two armies. Prior to joining the British army in 1962, I served in Africa in the Federal Army of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which I joined as an 18-year-old. That army, I suppose, was roughly the size of the proposed post-Independence Scottish army, in that it consisted of five regular infantry battalions plus territorial reservists and support troops. We also had a small but highly efficient air force, equipped with jet fighters.
During the three years that I served in that army, at no time can I remember having been bored. Although, personally, I was either being trained myself or was engaged in training recruits, others in the Federal Army had served alongside their British colleagues in the Malayan Emergency, and there was also an operational Rhodesian SAS Squadron.
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was relatively peaceful during the ten years of its existence, but the army did become involved in internal security duties. In other words, there was plenty to do, even though we were never faced with a credible external threat. The fact is, some soldiers will always be bored, in whatever army they serve. Others will find service in the army – even a relatively small army – to be interesting and stimulating.
And as an ex-British army sergeant pointed out shortly after I had enlisted in the Federal Army, “You never quite know what is around the corner”. I suspect that Scots serving in the Scottish army will find that to be as true today as it was then.
Keith Halley, Dalkeith
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