“Bang, Bang!”

The latest in a series of British money-saving policies has shot the Navy’s morale.

It is reminiscent of the 1970s British TV comedy series “Dad’s Army,” in which a geriatric band of insufficiently armed, bumbling volunteers were pictured as the protectors of the British home front. British sailors are now shouting “bang, bang” instead of firing live ammunition.

The Ministry of Defense has instituted the new policy in a drive to save over £1 million (us$1.5 million)per year. Shouting “bang, bang” rather than firing the shore-to-ship guns saves £642 ($974) per shell. HMS Cambridge, which is based near the port of Plymouth, already has the new program in full swing.

Previously the sound of gunfire filled the air, but now the distant cry of “bang, bang” is heard over an amplified sound system. Supporters of the “bang, bang” policy say it has reduced the level of noise for local people and expanded previously restricted fishing areas.

The sailors themselves are not so supportive. “You sit in a gun and shout ‘bang, bang,’” said one. “You don’t fire any ammunition. It’s a big joke and the sailors are disgusted. It is just like being back in the school playground when you shouted ‘bang’ to shoot your friends in a game of cowboys and Indians” (Electronic Telegraph, May 20).

During the British Empire’s zenith, Britannia ruled the waves. But today foreign countries and rogue nations smirk at a Britain that would shout “bang, bang” to fend off the approaching foe in naval exercises.

British Navy officials have decided to close their gunnery school next April as it is deemed that firing from the shore is no longer necessary. Training will now be conducted through static non-firing simulation in the continued drive to save money.

A sailor who trained on the HMS Cambridge said, “The cuts constantly coming in mean the Navy has lost its pride…. It is hitting morale and the effectiveness of the fleet” (ibid.).

Over last year’s Christmas period, only three of the Royal Navy’s warships worldwide were on patrol. The rest were tied up, saving fuel. Before the financial year is out, vessels will have been withdrawn from multinational exercises, and fuel-saving “speed limits” on ships actually allowed out of harbor will also have been imposed.

The Royal Air Force (raf) is suffering too. In June 1998, 81 out of 186 Tornado bombers were operational, but recently this fell to 53. “Historically, the raf has rarely had more than half these jets in service and working, because it keeps a large number in reserve, but the latest figure is shocking” (The Express, Jan. 24).

Cash shortages leading to delays in ordering spare parts have played an important role. Restricted by spending limits, the air force has lost many of its fighter pilots to major airline carriers.

The new “thrifty” defense policy has fearfully reminded British war veterans of the time prior to World War ii when ill-equipped soldiers trained to defend their island with broomsticks and wooden guns. After Winston Churchill was finally installed as prime minister, he established a war ministry and instituted an accelerated program of military hardware production that helped equip the nation to fend off Hitler’s Nazi onslaught in the Battle of Britain.

In their efforts to be “penny wise,” Britain’s socialist administration has become “pound foolish.” This is inevitably resulting in breaking the pride of their military power (Lev. 26:19).