Ex-head of UK Army backs military Covid help at N&N

Norfolk peer Lord Dannatt is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy. P

Norfolk peer Lord Dannatt is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Rural Economy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The former head of the British Army has said it “makes complete sense” for the military to be deployed to help the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital cope with the coronavirus pressures.

The NNUH said 30 trained military medical staff would be helping support clinical staff at the hospital which is treating three times more patients with Covid-19 than at the maximum during the last peak.

A member of the military at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital

A member of the military at the ExCel centre in London which is being made into a temporary hospital - the NHS Nightingale hospital, comprising of two wards, each of 2,000 people, to help tackle coronavirus. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Lord Richard Dannatt, who lives in Keswick, just south of Norwich, said the military brought expertise in key areas and had been involved in helping the nation cope with the pandemic since last March.

He said: “The armed forces, the Army in particular, are the nation’s reserve of trained manpower. We are there to help in any crisis whether it is flooding, foot and mouth crisis of the past, or helping out in fire strikes, or indeed assisting in this pandemic. 

“The military have been involved throughout from helping to build the Nightingale hospitals to being very much involved in helping the distribution of the vaccine now. 

“The 30 staff who are coming, be they clinical staff or general personnel, will help the overall staffing at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and it is a most appropriate use of trained manpower.”

Extra psychological help is being provided to critical care patients in the wake of the Covid-19 pan

Staff provided to critical care at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. - Credit: Archant

The military are part of extra staffing at the hospital that also includes former NHS workers returning to help and Norfolk County Council being asked if it could provide ‘mutual aid’ - making staff available to give the NHS assistance.

Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the general staff from 2006 to 2009, said whatever role the military were given they would have the skills to carry it out.

“We have experts in every field that an army would need and the armed forces medical services are a key part of our overall capability that we used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq most recently,” he said.

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“And logistics underpins everything that the military does, moving supplies from point of origin to where they are needed, which is why bringing them in to help with distribution of the vaccine makes complete sense. 

“It's logical that the military are brought in at a time of national need.”

NHS Paramedics Andy Kemp and Dave Bacon trained soldiers from the 1st Queens Dragoons Guards on the

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust paramedics training soldiers from the 1st Queens Dragoons Guards during the coronavirus pandemic. - Credit: UK Ministry of Defence 2020

He added: “The military is quite prepared to do whatever the nation asks, whether it is to deploy on overseas operations or counter insurgency or equally we always understand that military aid to the civilian authorities is part of our duties.

“If the nation requires us to do stuff at home we will do stuff at home in an enthusiastic fashion. It is all part of the service.” 

When the military has helped out 

Troops during the North Sea tidal surge in 2017. 

Troops evacuating residents during the North Sea tidal surge in 2017. - Credit: MOD

Flooding 

Army personnel have regularly been called on to help during floods in Norfolk. During the 2017 North Sea tidal surge, troops from the King's Royal Hussars were out on the streets of Hemsby helping communities. It was the latest such deployment helping with everything from evacuations to delivering sandbags. 

In December soldiers from the 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment took part in a joint training exercise to learn how to assemble temporary flood barrier defences in Lowestoft so they are further prepared in future. 

The army were involved in the cull operation during the food and mouth outbreak. 

The army were involved in the cull operation during the food and mouth outbreak. - Credit: PA

Foot & Mouth 

The UK’s worst epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, which led to the destruction of six million farm animals, closed much of the countryside even Thetford Forest became off-limits and the Royal Norfolk Show was cancelled.

The army were eventually called in to take control of the cull operation with their expertise of logistics seen as vital.

Any future foot-and-mouth epidemic will see the army drafted in from day one under an action plan to combat the spread of the highly infectious virus.

Military crews provided fire cover in Norfolk using green goddess during the 2002 fire strike.

Military crews provided fire cover in Norfolk using green goddess during the 2002 fire strike. - Credit: PA

Fire strikes

Britain's first firefighters' strikes in 25 years in 2002 and 2003 saw military crews providing fire cover in Norfolk using six green goddess and two red goddess vehicles.

During the strikes soldiers fought to control a fire in six houses in the Gaywood area of King's Lynn. Green goddesses were joined by a military breathing apparatus rescue team vehicle, and another military unit sent from Norwich.

It was an echo of the 1977 fire strike when army Green Goddesses fought our blazes.