British Soldiers Can’t Wear Uniforms in Public
British military personnel are unable to wear their uniforms off base because of persistent harassment.
Plans to urge soldiers, sailors and airmen to wear their uniforms in public were in disarray last night after RAF personnel were ordered to dress in civilian clothes while off-duty because of persistent threats and abuse. The uniform ban was imposed by the station commander at RAF Wittering, near Peterborough, after a number of servicemen and women walking in the city in their military clothes were targeted because of their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gordon Brown and Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, tried last night to overturn the ban. But the incidents in Peterborough threaten to undermine a new planned policy, favoured by the Prime Minister, that aims to draw the military and general public closer together.
The Prime Minister is to be presented this month with a report that will call for the widespread wearing of military uniforms to engender respect and appreciation for the Armed Forces. In the US service personnel wear their uniforms off-duty. This was banned in Britain in recent years because of the IRA terrorist threat.
Quentin Davies, a former Tory defence spokesman who defected to Labour, was asked by the Prime Minister to review ways of improving the public’s attitude and opinion of the Armed Forces. The Times understands that Mr Davies will recommend that all British military personnel should be encouraged to wear their uniforms in the street. The MP is known to be of the view that if other sections of society, such as firefighters, paramedics and police officers, can wear uniforms, members of the Armed Forces should also do so as a matter of course. Mr Davies is also expected to recommend that local authorities be persuaded to organise homecoming parades for any units based in their communities that have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or other conflict zones.
Truly shocking. Granting that public opposition to the Iraq War was always much higher in the UK than the US, incidents of American soldiers being harassed have been rare; indeed, the response to soldiers in uniform, especially at airports when they may be coming or going from a combat zone, is overwhelmingly positive.
As an aside, it was the policy of the U.S. Army until relatively recently that soldiers wear Class A uniforms when out in public; they were permitted to wear fatigue uniforms only for pit stops to and from work, such as getting gas or stopping off at a convenience store. Now, it’s fatigue uniforms (BDU or, more recently, the ACU) almost all the time. I’m not sure that’s such a good change.