The Great Debate UK

When is the wrong vehicle the right vehicle?


Patrick Hennessey-Patrick Hennessey is the author of “The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.” The opinions expressed are his own.-

In the same week in which Major Sean Birchall became the 169th British service person to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001 (and perhaps more significantly, as is often unmentioned, the 164th serviceperson to die since the British moved into Helmand Province only three years ago), four families announced that they were planning to sue the Ministry of Defence over the deaths of loved ones in the lightly armoured “Snatch” Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Major Birchall was on patrol in the Jackal, a vehicle with less protection than the Snatch but much more mobility and firepower. The 10th person to die in the vehicle it seems that similar concerns are being raised over the suitability of the Jackal as have been being voiced for some time now over the Snatch.

As someone who spent months on patrol in Iraq in the Snatch and even longer driving both on and off road around Afghanistan in the even more vulnerable WMIK (the topless Land Rover largely unchanged since the Long Range Desert Group charged around North Africa in it in the Second World War and the vehicle the Jackal was brought in to replace) the public concern over military vehicles is at once understandable, praiseworthy and a little disconcerting.