'˜We'd be better off in Afghanistan': Fury of soldiers left without heating at Thorney Island base

SICKENED soldiers say they would rather be fighting in Afghanistan than living at an ageing army barracks that has been without heating for months.

Friday, 6th January 2017, 7:57 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:13 pm
Soldiers of the 16th Regiment Royal Artillery parade at Thorney Island

Troops based at Thorney Island’s Sergeants’ Mess, in Baker Barracks, claim they have been forced to pay to live in accommodation which has been without a working boiler for eight months.

One senior non-commissioned officer told The News the issue is affecting about 60 soldiers from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery.

The revelation has outraged armed forces campaigners who have called on the government to fix the issue as a matter of urgency.

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One soldier, who has been in the military for more than a decade, said troops were at the end of their tethers. He said: ‘They are saying that there is no money left to repair the boiler.

‘It is disgusting that we pay rent for this – any other landlord would be taken to court.

‘The temperature was 4C last night.

‘If we were allowed to join a union we would all be on strike.

‘I would be better off in Afghanistan – at least it was warm there and we were looked after.’

The base is home to hundreds of soldiers from the specialised air defence regiment.

The whistle-blower – whose identity is not being revealed by The News – said this was not an isolated incident, claiming many of the UK’s other army bases were in disrepair.

And he said some of the artillery troops on Thorney Island had opted to buy their own personal heaters.

He added the situation was hitting morale and causing ‘fed up’, experienced soldiers to consider quitting the army.

Colonel Peter Walton is a non-executive director of Portsmouth-based armed forces campaign group UK National Defence Association.

The retired army officer was shocked by the news and called for action to fix the problem.

He said: ‘I have never heard of anything quite this bad. That is outrageous.

‘Yes, the army is short of money but not short of hundreds of pounds to sort out a boiler.’

The news comes after the regiment recently welcomed a further 140 soldiers from two more battalions to Thorney Island.

In a statement to The News, the army admitted there have been ongoing issues with heater system.

A spokesman added: ‘We acknowledge there have been heating issues in the Sergeants’ Mess at Baker Barracks which we are striving to resolve.

‘During this period personal heaters have been issued and there is now the option for the mess occupants to transfer to the new state-of-the-art single living accommodation blocks.’