MoD says troops are well equipped

By Jonathan Barnes and Alison WithersFEARS about the welfare of troops serving in the Gulf have been dismissed by the Ministry of Defence.Worried relatives of East Anglian servicemen preparing for military action against Iraq have contacted the East Anglian Daily Times to express their concerns about the troops' living conditions.

By Jonathan Barnes and Alison Withers

FEARS about the welfare of troops serving in the Gulf have been dismissed by the Ministry of Defence.

Worried relatives of East Anglian servicemen preparing for military action against Iraq have contacted the East Anglian Daily Times to express their concerns about the troops' living conditions.

They claimed some Army and Navy personnel did not have proper equipment, were not getting enough food and were living in a poor environment.

Some relatives have even sent food parcels to their loved ones in an effort to ease the troops' discomfort.

But Ministry of Defence officials and an Army welfare officer denied the claims and insisted the thousands of troops stationed in the Gulf were being adequately provided for.

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Tracy Sams, from Shotley, near Ipswich, said her husband Shaun, a petty officer on board the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, had asked her to send him vitamins because the food was so poor.

She spent £18 in postage to send a food parcel weighing less than 2kg to her husband, who is serving in the Arabian Gulf.

PO Sams went to the Gulf on board HMS Invincible in 1998 after Iraq expelled UN weapons inspectors and has not had cause for complaint before, according to his wife.

Mrs Sams, 36, said: “Shaun has been in the Navy for 20 years. He never complained about the food in 1998. I could understand it if we were at war already.

“They're just getting virtually the same meals - two choices, one of them usually a curry. He got excited over what he thought was a bit of meat, but it turned out to be a mushroom.”

Mrs Sams added the troops on board the aircraft carrier, which is captained by former Ipswich schoolboy Alan Massey, were well aware of how much better equipped the U.S. forces were.

Derek Farthing, whose son is a Royal Marine commando serving in the Persian Gulf, accused the Government of “spinning” information about the troops' living conditions.

He said: “When I spoke with him last week, my son had been in the Gulf for three weeks and had seen one newspaper, had no TV, was not allowed to use the RAF shop, his NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) suit was out of date, as also was his anti-bacteriological medical kit.”

Mr Farthing, from Mickfield, near Stowmarket, said he hoped to send his son a food parcel - and had discovered it would cost £9.60.

He added: “We waste millions on spurious projects, but hesitate to spend a penny on providing for our own troops, who are alongside the Americans with their three meals a day routine and more equipment than they can use. Quite frankly, I wonder what this country is coming to.”

Major Terry Worster, Army welfare officer at Colchester Garrison, said troops families' had been given a briefing by a returning officer who had allayed many of their fears.

“The soldiers have got everything they have been waiting for - food, clothing, shelter, showers, toilet paper, everything. It has all been issued,” he added.

“There is no cause for concern about the troops whatsoever - not as far as I am aware.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are dealing with a major logistical operation and, as with anything of this size, there will be a few glitches with distribution arrangements.

“We are in preparation for a very busy time and need to make sure we are as ready as possible. There is an awful lot to take into consideration.

“But we are fully confident all our troops abroad will be kitted out in good time and there are plentiful supplies of food and ration packs for all our sources.”

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