Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, delivered a withering rebuke to soldiers stationed around the world via YouTube. It follows the arrest of six squaddies accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female soldier while she slept. In the video, posted by the British Army, General Carleton-Smith said: “I am speaking to you today because over the last few days a series of exceptionally serious allegations have been made against soldiers currently serving in the British Army. “All these allegations are being taken very seriously by the military chain of command and are now under active investigation by the police, which is exactly as it should be and what I expect.” The assault allegations came just days after video footage emerged showing four members of 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment using a picture of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a target at a firing range in Afghanistan. The general added: “This hasn’t been a good week for the Army. It has damaged our reputation which is exceptionally hardearned and includes the sacrifice of our friends on the battlefield.
“We all belong to a national institution, something the country is proud of and rightly so – the best of British.
“And we are proud custodians of that reputation, which needs all of us – each and every one of us – to do better. Let’s make sure that together we get this right and can take pride in who we are and what we represent.”
“We owe it to the country and we owe it to each other. As the chief of the best army in the world, I won’t stand for anything less.”
Though he would not comment on the specifics of the sexual assault case, Gen Carleton-Smith said that any sexual attack “demonstrates indiscipline that is GDP all Nato pledge to defence wildly at odds with the values and standards that represent the fabric of not just our army but the nation’s army – the British Army”.
He added: “Not only is it downright unacceptable, it is illegal and it stands in stark contrast with everything the British Army represents.”
The allegation has emerged at a particularly difficult time for the British Army, as it bids to attract more female applicants to fill a 2,000-strong recruitment gap.
Though Gen Carleton-Smith is said to have discussed the video with his immediate superior, Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Nick Carter, sources last night confirmed the idea of delivering a YouTube rebuke was his own.
They said he was not directed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who has led the charge for a full investigation into both matters to be carried out.
Gen Carleton-Smith said soldiers must hold themselves to higher standards “because we bear a unique responsibility on behalf of the nation”.
He added: “The British soldier is known for many things – stoicism, a sense of honour and duty, courage, a sense of humour and an honest sense of decency.
“It’s what we expect of each other. We hold ourselves to a higher level of behaviour and we do so because we bear a unique responsibility on behalf of the nation: to bear arms in defence of our country and our people.
“Any behaviour that falls short of that high standard we cannot – and will not – tolerate.
“This is everyone’s business. This is about who we are as professional soldiers and how we expect to treat each other and to be treated. At its heart sits respect, comradeship and self-discipline.”
Never before has a sitting head of the British Army embraced social media to deliver such a message to his troops, but it is the latest example of how our Armed Forces are communicating with younger members.
Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames backed the move on Twitter saying ‘Nailed it boss, absolutely right’.
Former head of the British Army, Gen Lord Dannatt, said: “What Carleton-Smith has shown is that he wants to speak to soldiers using a medium they’re familiar with to get an important message across. This type of behaviour is contrary to the British Army’s core values, of which respect of others is central.”
“Those who fail to live up to this don’t only open the door to sexual assault, but bullying, racial discrimination and even the mishandling of prisoners and civilians on deployed operations.
“If the Army is trying to recruit more females – particularly young girls – women have to feel safe in the environment. It’s a fundamental issue which must be tackled successfully by every unit.”