Army given a 25-day Christmas break as thank you for the Olympics… and to try and cut its gas and electric bills
All 110,000 military and civilian personnel must take 'block leave' from December 14 until January 7The decision means that all barracks and military sites will be closed for almost a month
23:36 GMT, 2 December 2012
The Army has been ordered to take a 25-day Christmas holiday to try to cut its electricity and gas bills.
All 110,000 military and civilian personnel must take ‘block leave’ from December 14 until January 7, a leaked memo from a senior officer said.
The decision, communicated by Major General David Cullen, means all barracks, Territorial Army buildings and other military sites will be closed for almost a month.
Both Tory MP Patrick Mercer, left, and Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy questioned the month long Christmas break
General Cullen, the chief of staff for land forces, said it was an ‘opportunity for utility savings’. He added that the measure aimed to ‘fully exploit the utility efficiencies available by closing down buildings/working areas over this period’.
Soldiers and civilians who have used up their annual leave have been instructed to ‘work from home’.
The holiday includes an extra five days in recognition of soldiers’ hard work during 2012.
Defence officials said it was a ‘thank you’ for their service during the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee as well as in Afghanistan. The RAF and Royal Navy are not affected by the decision.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said the break was unprecedented in his 25 years of military service. He said: ‘Shutting down the Army for an extended period over Christmas is an act of sheer desperation by military commanders starved of cash by the Government.
‘The troops themselves will welcome the extra time off. But nevertheless, to an Army at war this sends an insulting and morale-sapping message that makes it entirely clear just where spending priorities do not lie.
Holiday: Defence officials said that the extra break was a 'thank you' for soldier's service during the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee
‘The idea that troops can work from home is beyond satire. What are they supposed to do Shooting in the back garden An improvised bayonet assault course at the local play park’
Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former infantry officer, said: ‘Let’s just hope that our enemies are full of Christmas cheer and don’t choose to attack us during this month off.’
Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy said: ‘The Government should make clear if this is a decision based on savings or strategy. If there is an impact on training, operations or readiness in order to save on gas or electricity bills, we should be told.’
Sources at the Ministry of Defence said it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest the Christmas leave plan was a cost-cutting measure.
An MoD spokesman said: ‘In recognition of the exceptionally busy year the Army has had both on operations and at home …the usual Christmas leave period has been extended.
‘Personnel who are essential to supporting operations will remain on task regardless of this leave period and there will be no impact to the mission in Afghanistan.’