Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Iron Lady's Anger over Soldiers' Boots Revealed

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Iron Lady's Anger over Soldiers' Boots Revealed

Article excerpt

Byline: Hannah Flint Reporter

PRIME Minister Margaret Thatcher was left furious after a Christmas visit to Northern Ireland during the Troubles over the quality of North East soldiers' boots, newly released state documents have revealed.

She was left appalled after meeting soldiers from the Coldstream Guards, a regiment formed in Berwick, Northumberland, having learned of a shortage of overboots for troops operating in the area in December 1982.

The files, released by the National Archives in Kew, west London, revealed Mrs Thatcher toured shops and chatted with residents in Bangor, County Down before visiting the Coldstream Guards at Bessbrook Barracks in County Armagh.

A letter from her private secretary the following day to the Ministry of Defence said she had been informed of the shortage of overboots for the troops operating on patrols in the border areas.

The letter added: "The Prime Minister was told that there was not as many as one pair of overboots for each man, and also that the overboots wore out very quickly."

The Ministry of Defence's Jane Ridley wrote back saying not a single complaint of poor durability had been received before the Prime Minister's visit and "if this were a real problem, reports to this effect would have emerged before now".

She explained overboots were only required for patrols, so were not issued to every soldier as part of their personal kit and that checks led them to be "assured that the boots are quite satisfactory".

Mrs Thatcher was left furious by the response, and she wrote a message on the letter which read: "Seldom have I received a more unsatisfactory letter. A bureaucratic gem."

She added: "Send the letter back. The answer won't do."

A second letter from the MoD explained the overboots were used by soldiers in close observation platoons and were supplied as needed, rather than to every man as part of their personal kit.

The Coldstream Guards had been given a further 38 pairs along with another 248 pairs of a different boot, and the battalion's end-of-tour report said the overboot "proved its worth and was excellent for keeping feet dry and warm". …

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