I am sure that you will sleep more soundly in the knowledge that what is left of our armed forces has a Joint Equality, Diversion and Inclusion unit. Vlad, Fat Boy Kim and other potential enemies must quake at the thought that, notwithstanding equipment challenges including having only a handful of obsolescent tanks, aircraft carriers with no aircraft, Type 45 Destroyers with engine problems and a major recruiting shortfall, the British Armed forces are politically correct. We have the JEDI and the force is with us.

This fantastic capability has been highlighted in the British Army’s Soldier magazine. The Telegraph reports that a soldier wrote in asking why he was required to answer the phone with a greeting which ended: ‘How may I help you, sir?’ mischievously making the point that the presumption that the caller was male might cause offence. He went on to question whether calling officers ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ (rhymed with ham) might also reinforce stereotypes, and should therefore be abandoned.

The trivial case of answering the phone is actually a problem faced and solved by every business telephone user. ‘How may I help you?’ is a sufficient end to the initial greeting, which is what the Army’s Deputy Head of Employment advocated in his response. He also, rightly, made the point that addressing officers as Sir or Ma’am is necessary and will continue. If the soldier had been ordered to assume everyone was a ‘Sir’ not a ‘Ma’am’ then the person giving that order was an idiot – there are plenty of them in every walk of life. No big deal. Storm in teacup. Demonstration that common sense isn’t.

On the wider issue, officers hold the Queen’s Commission (and warrant officers, e.g. Sergeant Majors, hold the Queen’s Warrant). With those appointments comes significant power and responsibility, and this needs reinforcing constantly. Saluting commissioned officers is part of this reinforcement process, as is the use of ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ to all officers. This is common practice in almost all armies. In the British Army it is, inevitably, also a way for soldiers to express their feelings: it is possible to say Sir/Ma’am in a manner that drips with contempt – perfected by the Colour Sergeant instructors at the officer training academy at Sandhurst.

Indeed, when I served as an officer in an armoured regiment and therefore as part of a tank crew, living in very close proximity with my Welsh soldiers for protracted periods, ‘Sir’ was a term of reproach – ‘Boss’ was what one was called when one was doing well, and it probably still is (in combat arms at least).

For sure there is an element of mischievous coverage in this; the Telegraph’s headline (Stop addressing officers as ‘sir’ on the phone, soldiers told as greeting is ‘outdated’ and risks offending people) is shamefully misleading. However it is the case that the Army, by the very nature of its fundamental role (defending the realm by all lawful military means – which includes disembowelling Her Majesty’s enemies with a bayonet), is not politically correct. Given the pre-eminence of PC within today’s governments, this probably means that the cultural gap between the Armed Forces and Westminster is wider than is healthy. We risk returning to the Lloyd George Brass Hats versus Frock Coats battles, which were decidedly not in the national interest.
To that extent I am impressed and delighted that our new Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, prevented the Army’s current recruitment slogan ‘Be the Best’ from being abandoned on the PC grounds that it might offend to anyone who, in Samuel Johnson’s words, ‘thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea’. If Gavin Williamson has the balls to take on the PC lobby and win, as well as injecting some backbone into the brass hats, he could well be one to watch. More power to his elbow.

  • Timmy

    Excepting your nukes, Britain is no longer a global military power.

    I am sorry.

    • Nockian

      We need to be. The fifth largest economy on an Island with almost 70 million people needs a military that can offer a staunch defence. We have spent too long relying on the economic/military strength of the USA which is beginning to fail. The EU is pathetic. The West is leaving itself at the mercy of states which are growing in confidence and military might.

      • Uusikaupunki

        But, but, there is no need to panic……That kindly mrs May has signed us up to that amazing all-conquering army known as the EU Defence Force.
        Even the Irish Republic had the wit to opt out of eventual conscription to said force, but not us….even after allegedly “leaving” the EU……

        • Nockian

          Its hard to imagine isn’t it ? This will be the EU commissioners private army, which means it’s the crony corporates private army. Imagine the defence contracts awarded to EU arms manufacturers ! Money,money,money.

          • David R

            Imagine the invasion of Poland to force regime change!

          • Uusikaupunki

            Actually, a few years ago Cameron spoke of EU borders stretching from “The Atlantic to the Urals”.The last time anyone tried that on it all came to a rather sticky end. “Drang nach Osten“….

    • paul parmenter

      But having nukes is still fairly handy, you must admit. Unless Corbyn gets in with his pledge never to use them.

      • Royinsouthwest

        If Corbyn gets power he will probably change his mind and think that we can create an informal alliance with other nuclear powers such as Pakistan, Bort Korea and (before long) Iran to deter Trump.

    • Colonel Mustard

      How is Russia today, Timmy?

    • martianonlooker

      Don’t write us off too soon. We make sure our enemies die laughing.

  • Nockian

    All this froth evaporates when the reality of combat, on the ground, with bullets, shells, bombs, snipers and IEDs sets in.

    I read an account of the Falklands war, in which a British infantry man out of ammunition, had to kill a young argentine soldier with a fixed bayonet. The horrific description of the young conscripts eventual death was savage and brutal. It left a lasting impression on me. Its difficult to understand where the whole ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’ thing fits in when contrasted with the need of having an army of soldiers, strong enough to pit themselves against an enemy in bloody, hand to hand, mortal combat.

    Hey, put please don’t offend anyone on the telephone.

    • martianonlooker

      “difficult to understand where the whole ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’ thing fits in”.
      Nowadays that soldier would have to do an equality impact assessment on his Argentine soldier, paying particular attention to that individuals protected characteristics (if any). Factor in any reasonable adjustments and said squaddie would be left wondering why he had bothered to get on the boat in the first place. Do the Forces have a recruiting problem?

    • Groan

      In the mid 80’s I worked closely with a couple of men who’d been in the “troubles” and Falklands. Neither were effusive but over a drink would share some of the things they had done and seen. I am grateful to them and the others who do the these things so that I and later my sons (and daughter) don’t have to. I was chastened when in my 20s I would listen to the casualty roll and realise almost all were younger than me. Later in my career I was involved with those whose experiences probably played a role in their acute mental health problems.
      One may remember too that the pictures of the Argentinian troops eventually captured showed rows of conscripts not much more than boys.
      One day such conflict may become history but while it isn’t those who serve us deserve our respect and understanding and support. Not PC platitudes or fictions of nice wars “played to game rules”.

      • Nockian

        It is the case that they know what they are getting into and why they are doing. In many ways it’s the ultimate calling that most of us would never have the courage to face. It shouldn’t be defiled by pragmatic toss pots.

        • Groan

          I guess I’m off message with this. but in my limited experience I don’t think they do necessarily know what they’re getting into. Perhaps we take them so young because they are not so schooled in life. To my mind this makes it doubly important we respect them. To be honest if it were me in charge I’d raise the entry age by a few years.

          • Nockian

            The media no longer sugar coats it. The Hurt Locker, Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan reveal the realities of war. Of course the young believe themselves to be indestructible – I did at eighteen-but that’s a function of youth and not because they don’t know what combat is.

  • paul parmenter

    Sorry, I am still confused. How can it be correct to call officers Sir or Ma’am when you will never know which of them are male, female, LGBT, transitioning or already transitioned? You are bound to risk causing offence, which as we know is a terrible crime. This is a really, really serious issue that the military needs to prioritise. I don’t want to think that my country and possibly my life are being defended by someone who is politically incorrect. I could never sleep at night.

    • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      “Yes, superior officer.” Nice and gender-neutral, if a bit wordy. Emphasises hierarchy, and thus may reinforce feelings of inadequacy in the subordinate, but some things cannot be helped, I suppose…

    • Harley Quin

      To update Orwell, ‘We sleep safe in our beds because rough men / women / transgender persons / neither one nor ‘tother but fluid stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.’

  • Uusikaupunki

    Reminds me of when a friend of mine was a Captain in the (then) RASC in Germany. Upon him picking up a ringing telephone, a voice at the other end said ” Captain XXXX here….”
    ” Yes, squire, what do you want?” Replied friend nonchalantly…..
    Voice at other end…” …This is Captain XXXX RN“.
    Friend : “Yes SIR, how may I help you?”

    • Labour_is_bunk

      RASC = Run Away Someone’s Coming? That would please the PC freaks.

    • martianonlooker

      I always had terrible interactions with the RN:
      Caught smearing an admirals car with bacon butty greased hands trying to get the wren driver to talk to me.
      At a RAF station telling an RN commander to f’off, over the phone, when he insisted that his rating was there. I thought it was a wind-up.

      • Uusikaupunki

        That’s what comes of trying to butter up wrens !

        Did you hear the (allegedly) true story of the crusty old Admiral running a “stone frigate” shore training establishment during WW2. Infuriated that the trainees were not getting their equipment fast enough, he flashed off the following signal:

        “Essential WRNS clothing be held up until the needs of my ratings be satisfied”.

        • martianonlooker

          When I was at a stone frigate they still had a pig farm. My old dad (ex ww2 RN) told me it was there in his day to supplement rations.

  • Ministry of Hope

    I think I’m more alarmed that the author thinks that Williamson, a former Whip so therefore a Cultural Marxist Blue Party apparatchik, is some sort of ally then the insane transgender agenda hitting our armed forces. If Williamson really had the best interests of the country at heart, this lunacy wouldnt be happening. When Cultural Marxism reaches the armed forces and gender issues become more important that the defence of the realm, then we must be in the last stages of societal decay. But then again as the EU integrates European NATO countries under the PESCO arrangements then we wont have a military for much longer anyway so staged chaos and the demoralisation that this causes is probably to help justify this transformation.

    https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headQuarters-homepage/34226/permanent-structured-cooperation-pesco-factsheet_en

    • martianonlooker

      Nail on head

  • rbw152

    Given that, as you say, fighting a war is not very PC in itself, do you see a time when soldiers might just be trained to ask the likes of ISIS for a sit-down and a nice cup of tea?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes, when Corbyn is in No.10. That is his standard operating procedure for dealing with terrorists and enemies of this nation.

  • Katie

    Military isn’t the place for a bunch of cisgender transphobic snowflakes. According to the Pope we trans ppl are more dangerous than nuclear weapons so just go and put the kettle on, there’s a sweetie Patty baby;)

    • martianonlooker

      Next sentence….”No, you’re wrong there”?

  • Katie

    Reading some of the transphobic nonsense & sabre-rattling from all these wannabe macho armchair cyber warriors is hilarious! ‘Transgender agenda’? What a load of conspiracy theorist wingnut rubbish! If we’re so unmartial then why y’all scared stiff of a bunch of transgender girls?

    • martianonlooker

      Why you no type in bold? You ‘the’ Kate?

      • Tricia

        She still doesn’t seem to gave gone to Canada does she, even though we offered assistance!

    • HappyCheese

      If they’re transgender, they’re not girls are they? But its okay, Tony Blair showed us all that there’s a “Third Way” twenty years ago. We just need to come up with a new vocabulary to match it. Have you considered the phrase “New Girls”?

  • North Angle

    “Vlad, Fat Boy Kim and other potential enemies must quake at the thought that, notwithstanding equipment challenges including having only a handful of obsolescent tanks, aircraft carriers with no aircraft, Type 45 Destroyers with engine problems and a major recruiting shortfall, the British Armed forces are politically correct.”

    Patrick, whilst I agree with the broad principle of your article, there are a number of issues with the above statements. The rather lazy “aircraft carriers do not have aircraft” statement is demonstrably untrue, highly misleading and smacks of a lack of research. It already has Merlin helicopters, and the F-35s (14 of which have been delivered) are not due upon HMS Queen Elizabeth until she has completed her sea trials, at which point (in November 2018 I believe) she begins aircraft trials.

    All ships have to undergo sea trials before they do anything else, to ensure they are seaworthy and their crews are up to scratch, and HMS Queen Elizabeth is no exception. It would be pointless to undergo aircraft trials before the ship itself is ready to receive them. Read this: https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/myths-surrounding-queen-elizabeth-class-aircraft-carriers/

    I also take issue with your “obsolescent tanks” – that’s patently and obviously ridiculous to anyone who has ever understood tanks and tank designs. Yes we only have a handful of them (which is a different argument), but the Challenger II is at the front edge of tank capability right now.

    As for the Type 45s, not one Type 45 has never been forced to return to port because of a lack of power or propulsion. You need to read this article: http://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/putting-the-type-45-propulsion-problems-in-perspective/

    • Timmy

      but the Challenger II is at the front edge of tank capability right now

      This tank is the only main battle tank in the world that has a rifled barrel. Everyone else is Smooth bore.

      Are smarter than everyone else?

      • North Angle

        There’s advantages to both rifled and smoothbore. There’s a reason the Challenger II has achieved the longest-ranged tank kill, ever. HESH rounds can kill pretty much anything, HEAT is just that – anti-tank.

        The Arjun has a rifled barrel too, I believe.

    • Challenger 2 is obsolescent because it has no stretch potential for its gun. This I know having spent plenty of years in them. And HESH is not primary anti armour round for simple reason that modern compound armour formulations are less susceptible to over-match by HESH. APFSDS is primary anti tank round, and it’s ability is a function of the length of the penetrator and muzzle velocity. on CR” the former is limited by two part ammo and the latter by the rifling.

      Re F35, its full ISD is some time away, assuming that the carrier version is delivered in quantity on time.

      Re Type 45, currently 4 have problems and are not deployable.

  • Tricia

    I am informed by a recent recruit to the RAF that training for guard duty now involves challenging not by saying “Halt, who goes there” but by “Identify yourself as man, woman or other”. My daughter found it hilarious when she was accessing a RAF facility where they asked her for a name and she gave the name of the person she was visiting. They looked at the details but could not find, she then realised that she should have given her own name and gave them that. They found the name, but had been too PC to point at that she was not a man, when the she gave the original name. She could not stop laughing and asked them why they had not challenged her not being a man – errrrrr. Not good if security cannot make basic decisions.

  • Greenlander

    In the armed forces everyone has a rank, so just call them that, no sir or ma’am needed.

  • UKCitizen

    The military is usually the last institution to fall as it is forced to dilute its ranks with PC recruits from the already compromised populace, if it can actually find any willing to defend the nation they have been made ashamed of!

  • Timmy