A British Army soldier on duty in Afghanistan
A British Army soldier on duty in Afghanistan Reuters

Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has denied a report by the Daily Telegraph newspaper that wounded soldiers would be sacked from their jobs as part of an overall plan to reduce costs and slash the military budget.

According to the Telegraph, it viewed a classified document which suggested that 2,500 wounded soldiers -- including 350 who have lost limbs -- would be let go, as part of plan to cut up to 16,500 Army-related jobs (up from a previously announced 12,000 eliminations).

The leaked memo is believed to have been composed by a British Army captain and distributed to senior commanders stationed in Afghanistan.

Bizarrely, it was leaked on the same day as Armistice Day, when Britain honors its war dead.

However, a spokesman for the MoD told media: Beyond those already announced, there are no further Army reductions planned. The information in this leaked Army memo from a junior officer is incorrect. There is absolutely no plan to change our treatment of service personnel who are wounded, injured or sick. Personnel injured on operations will not be included in the redundancy process while they are undergoing medical treatment.

The MoD has already started the job-culling -- in the first segment, about 7000 army troops will be made redundant.

By 2015, the UK defense establishment is planning to cut a total of 54,000 jobs, including 12,000 from the Army, 5,000 from the Navy; 5,000 from the Royal Air Force; and 32,000 civilian staff.
The leaked memo, if true, would raise these figures.

Jonathan Beale, BBC’s defense correspondent, commented: “The timing of this leak is clearly deeply embarrassing for both the British Army and the Ministry of Defense, just as the entire nation remembers the sacrifices made by those who serve on the front line. Though the MoD has all but disowned the memo, it does highlight some of the painful decisions that will have to be made as the Army tries to reduce its strength by 20,000 troops by the end of the decade.”

Beale added: It may have been written by a relatively junior officer, a captain, but it was still distributed to commanders on the ground. There are difficult decisions to be made. How does a shrinking army deal with the hundreds of soldiers who have been injured and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan? The Army's promised that they will be helped in their recovery, and as they make the transition to civilian life. The hope is that many will agree to be medically discharged, but the Army does not want to disown those who have served on the front line. But an army needs soldiers who are fit to fight on the front line. And controversial decisions will have to be made.”

British soldiers and their families are understandably outraged.

Diane Dernie, the mother of Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, who lost both legs and suffered brain damage from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan five years ago, told UK media: It's very difficult if you are not fit enough to return to your army job but you aren't fit enough to return to a physical career outside of the Army, then what is there for you? Surely in an organization the size of the MoD, there must be some leeway to employ some of those who are wounded who want to remain in service.