The 19th August is World Humanitarian Day, which celebrates all aid and health workers providing life-saving support and protection to people most in need. For decades the UK Armed Forces have been at the forefront of providing humanitarian support, both at home and overseas.
At its heart, the UK Armed Forces’ primary role is to keep people safe. They defend UK interests and support peacekeeping efforts, providing vital assistance in response to natural or human-made disasters. In these situations, people from across the military services will deploy almost immediately to tackle food and water shortages, lack of sanitation and damaged infrastructure. In recent years they have helped with floods in the UK, the Ebola outbreak in Africa and hurricanes in the Caribbean. Their professionalism has saved countless lives and helped to rebuild devastated communities.
On the international stage, the UK Armed Forces actively contribute to disaster-relief efforts, and World Humanitarian Day is the ideal opportunity to recognise their contribution. Of course, people in uniform rarely seek praise, seeing their actions instead as simply “doing a good job”. However, COVID-19 has meant the British public has seen first-hand the crucial role our Armed Forces have played in keeping the country going during the pandemic.
Operation Rescript is the biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime, involving up to 23,000 personnel in the COVID Support Force (CSF). The NHS Nightingale Hospitals across England were built rapidly with the support of the Brigade of Gurkhas, Royal Anglian Regiment, Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. In addition, the Royal Logistics Corps led with sourcing and delivering PPE to the NHS, and the RAF supported the East of England Ambulance Service.
In Scotland, the CSF provided similar support with the temporary hospital NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital at the SEC Centre in Glasgow. While in Wales, the CSF helped transform Cardiff’s Principality Stadium into Dragon’s Heart Hospital. Although no temporary hospitals were built in Northern Ireland, the CSF did give advice and deployed military medics to work alongside civilian healthcare staff.
The Armed Forces have been essential in providing tests through their ongoing work supporting test centres. In Liverpool, over 2,000 soldiers from 16 units were involved in a testing pilot scheme, which helped to reduce the infection rate from 680 per 100,000 people to less than 100. As a consequence, these units were awarded the Freedom of Liverpool.
Deputy Mayor Wendy Simon said: “We owe the British Army troops an incredible debt of gratitude”. She added: “We have had so many compliments about their patience, helpfulness and professionalism in supporting people through the process of having a test.”