I wanted to know how much the Ministry of Defence paid out to a family of a solider killed in action and was reminded of the Military Covenant which exists between the soldier and his country:

“Soldiers will be called upon to make personal sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice – in the service of the Nation.  In putting the needs of the Nation and the Army before their own, they forego some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces.  In return, British soldiers must always be able to expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as individuals, and that they (and their families) will be sustained and rewarded by commensurate terms and conditions of service.  In the same way the unique nature of military land operations means that the Army differs from all other institutions, and must be sustained and provided for accordingly by the Nation.   This mutual obligation forms the Military Covenant between the Nation, the Army and each individual soldier; an unbreakable common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility which has sustained the Army throughout its history.  It has perhaps its greatest manifestation in the annual commemoration of Armistice Day, when the Nation keeps covenant with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in action.

This summary is part of a much larger document – Soldiering – setting out the standards of behaviour expected of those serving in the British Army.  I found it a very surprising document which emphasises above everything the necessity of a proper morality, but a morality which cannot be taken as a given since the Army, like society, is subject to changing forces.

“British soldiers no longer come from societies which share broadly common roots and horizons based on traditional, usually Christian ethics and morals. Traditional ethics can be widely regarded as reactionary and authoritarian. Contemporary morality puts a higher premium on individual rights than on duty to society. Notions of duty or obligation are much less apparent, except in terms of respect for the rights of others. Material rewards play an ever greater part in the benefits expected by individuals in return for their labour. The rise of the importance of the individual in society, and the associated stress on the rights rather than the responsibilities of the individual has profound implications for the Army. Established structures and traditional principles are questioned. So even those who volunteer to be soldiers do not necessarily share common standards and values. Hence it is fundamental to the Military Covenant that the Army is responsible for identifying and articulating its ethical tenets, adjusting as appropriate to wider change, and inculcating and sustaining them in its soldiers.”

General Sir Richard Dannart sticks to his guns.  His ethics are firmly Christian, evangelical and include an insistence that soldiers are told that death is not the end.  In October last year he gave a talk at Spring Harvest (a well known Evangelical Christian festival) at which he said: 

 ‘In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal, and I think there is very much an obligation on …a Christian leader to include a spiritual dimension into his people’s preparations for operations, and the general conduct of their lives. Qualities and core values are fine as a universally acceptable moral baseline for leadership, but the unique life, death, resurrection and promises of Christ provide that spiritual opportunity that I believe takes the privilege of leadership to another level.’

Soldiering is aspirational as much as it is contemporary.  There are sections entitled Self-less Commitment, Discipline, Integrity, Loyalty, Respect for Others and the extract below is taken from the section on Courage.

“Courage is not merely a virtue; it is the virtue. Without it there are no other virtues. Faith, hope, charity, all the rest don’t become virtues until it takes courage to exercise them.  Courage is not only the basis of all virtue; it is its expression.  True, you may be bad and brave, but you can’t be good without being brave.  Courage is a mental state, an affair of the spirit, and so it gets its strength from spiritual and intellectual sources. The way in which these spiritual and intellectual elements are blended, I think, produces roughly two types of courage.  The first, an emotional state which urges a man to risk injury or death – physical courage. The second, a more reasoning attitude which allows him to stake career happiness, his whole future on his judgement of what he thinks either right or worthwhile – moral courage.  Now, these two types of courage, physical and moral, are very distinct. I have known many men who had marked physical courage, but lacked moral courage. Some of them were in high positions, but they failed to be great in themselves because they lacked it. On the other hand, I have seen men who undoubtedly possessed moral courage very cautious about physical risks. But I have never met a man with moral courage who would not, when it was really necessary, face bodily danger. Moral courage is a higher and a rarer virtue than physical courage.  All men have some degree of physical courage – it is surprising how much. Courage, you know is like having money in the bank. We start with a certain capital of courage, some large, some small, and we proceed to draw on our balance, for don’t forget courage is an expendable quality.  We can use it up. If there are heavy, and, what is more serious, if there are continuous calls on our courage, we begin to overdraw. If we go on overdrawing we go bankrupt we break down.”

“Courage and other broadcasts”, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme has been running since 2005 and is intended to provide a no-fault compensation for injury or death where service is the only or main cause.  Pensions are payable to surviving adult dependants and to children.  In the case of a surviving spouse, the deceased’s salary at the time of death is multiplied by a factor to reflect his or her age at the time (0.853 at age 28 and 0.913 at 33, for example), and a pension equal to 60% of this reduced salary is paid to the spouse.  Children are entitled to a pension of about 10% or 15% of this figure, depending on the number of children in the family. An additional Bereavement Grant of up to £20,000 may be payable.  Many soldiers take out additional insurance to cover for the eventuality of their death and the existence of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme does not prevent relatives from bringing an action in negligence against the services, claiming a higher amount in damages.  The 2007-2008 Request for Resources made by the Ministry of Defence to the Treasury asked for £1,027,007,000 to cover the cost of providing pensions and compensation.

I could not see that a single mother losing her eldest son would be entitled to anything as of right, though I know that money is paid out – perhaps if the mother can show she was financially dependent on her son.  There again, I suppose money is no compensation at all.  It is a Mother’s worst nightmare.

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