UNFIT FOR WAR; Troops Complain about Hunger and Lack of Protection

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Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS;CHARLES REISS;COLIN FREEMAN

BRITISH soldiers preparing for war in the Gulf say they are underfed and ill-equipped.

The Americans have derisively labelled them "The Borrowers" and "The Flintstones" because of their lack of key supplies, it emerged today.

Soldiers who could be fighting Saddam Hussein within days say they still want for a whole range of necessities, including proper clothing, vehicles and guns, forcing them to go cap-in-hand to US colleagues. Some even claimed to have no respirators to protect against chemical attack.

They were derided by Army commander General Sir Michael Jackson, in Kuwait today, who said his troops were ready now for war and joked of their conditions: "If anything, I am a little concerned it might be too comfortable."

That was not the picture painted by the complaints which poured in to the BBC from soldiers and their families today.

One Royal Marine commando, who has also served in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, sent an email saying that food supplies were still short and that weapons and other key equipment - from desert boots to lifesaving camouflage for vehicles - had still not arrived. He went on: "Scrounging everything from the Americans. As it stands, people here will die."

Other servicemen, resurrecting a complaint which first surfaced weeks ago and which the Ministry of Defence said had been solved, have had to buy their own boots.

Complaints first started some weeks ago, but were dismissed as teething problems by the Ministry.

Yesterday Tony Blair called them "misleading and irresponsible". …