UK: Filling in the foxholes - EX-MILITARY MEN IN THE ARMS TRADE.

UK: Filling in the foxholes - EX-MILITARY MEN IN THE ARMS TRADE. - Old soldiers never die: they fade, it seems, into the defence industry. Toady's trawl of senior officers on the retirement list and in Who's Who reveals some 120 who admit to past or pres

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Old soldiers never die: they fade, it seems, into the defence industry. Toady's trawl of senior officers on the retirement list and in Who's Who reveals some 120 who admit to past or present connections with the arms trade, as executives, directors or consultants.

The largest numbers, perhaps because they are used to speedy take-offs, are from the RAF: Air Marshall Sir Donald Hall, for example, left off being Deputy Chief of Defence Staff to become Deputy Chairman of GEC-Marconi, while Air Chief Marshal Sir Thomas Kennedy, ex-Air Member for Personnel, is on the board of Dowty.

The Army, being much larger, fares better than the Navy numerically, but then the Senior Service did produce what was inarguably the joint forces' Senior Old Boy, in the august form of Admiral Sir Raymond Lygo, ex-chief executive of British Aerospace. (Sir Raymond, who had been a naval aviator, contrived to bail out of BAe just in the nick of time). In the bellicose mid-80s, this progression from mess to boardroom caused a certain amount of lip-pursing in Whitehall, the select committee on the Civil Service muttering primly about the numbers of ex-comrades sitting on both sides of the Ministry of Defence negotiating table. ("New Polaris, Bodger old boy? Right-ho".)

Now, Toady can reveal HM Government's foolproof strategy for getting around this problem: the recession. HMG's policies have clearly been aimed at creating the current implosion in the defence industry, thus removing the possibility of embarrassment by ending its role as a retirement home for elderly warlords.

Tackling supply as well as demand, the Government has further announced plans to cut the strength of Britain's armed forces by 18%. All of this has been variously and ingeniously disguised, with commendable British initiative and modesty, as the result of world recession and the end of the Cold War, but Toady's invariably impeccable sources suggest otherwise. Remember, you read it here first.

You need not grieve too long for the prospects of the old warhorses. One redoubtable rear admiral points the way forward in his Who's Who entry. Ignoring the blandishments of arms manufacturers, he emigrated to Australia, index-linked pension in tow. Giving the lie to Churchill's terse summary of naval traditions ("rum, ?SODOMY? and the lash"), he lists his interests as "sitting in the sun, drinking plonk and watching the shielas go by".

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