In a message to all staff, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards and Permanent Under Secretary Ursula Brennan write:
As we all get ready to go home for some rest with our friends and families it is right that we remember those who cannot be at home at this important time. Our thoughts are, of course, particularly with the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines serving around the world, whether in Afghanistan, Libya, off the Horn of Africa, in the Falkland Islands or any number of the vital training and assistance missions around the world. But they are also with the civilians deployed on operations in support of the military.
Most sadly of all, our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. This season is one when we all would like to be with our close families and so it will be for some a moment when the pain of loss will be felt more keenly than ever.
It is also important that we reflect on the year’s achievements and difficulties. Most important are operations. In Afghanistan we have continued to work to improve the security of the Afghan people, and have started transition to the Afghan security forces in two of the three districts in the UK’s Area of Operations. In Libya our efforts, together with our NATO allies, culminated in the liberation of the country and the promise of democratic elections.
We continue to take forward the biggest organisational change programme Defence has seen in a generation, delivering the Strategic Defence and Security Review and Lord Levene’s Defence Reform Review. This year we launched two new support organisations - the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Defence Business Services - and have appointed the first Chief of the new Joint Forces Command which will launch in April next year.
Some of the decisions taken have been difficult. Like every department, we are affected by these turbulent times for the economy. Many good people have left, and many of you will still be anxious about impending job reductions. The transition to a smaller, restructured Defence will be tough but we firmly believe that there has never been a more important time to focus on Defence’s contribution to promoting and defending the nation’s interests.
That contribution depends on our most important asset, and what continues to give Defence the edge: the people with whom we have the honour to serve. We are immensely proud in knowing that we have the honour to lead this Department, and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Again and again those both in uniform and in civilian roles surprise us with their imagination, tenacity, determination, courage and humour. Thank you to those who serve, to those we have lost, and those who cannot be with us, but importantly too, thank you to the families and friends who sustain us through the operations and deployments that demand so much of all of us and who support us in difficult roles, at home and abroad.
Next year will not only see operations abroad but mark occasions for us all to celebrate. We will have the honour of supporting the festivities marking Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and assisting the country in enjoying the Olympics. It will mean extra work for many but I am sure you will share our pride at participating in these great national events.
It is with gratitude and pride that we say thank you for your hard work this year and we know that next year will demand as much or more from you. So if you can, enjoy your leave, come back rested, and have a very merry Christmas.
Separately, in a message to all Service personnel, General Sir David Richards writes:
This Christmas marks my first anniversary as Chief of the Defence Staff. It has been a more challenging, interesting and demanding year than I could have imagined, with a breadth of command responsibilities that has been exceeded only by the support I have been given by the people I have the privilege to lead.
Last Christmas few could have imagined what the year would bring. In the past 12 months we have further pushed back the insurgency in Afghanistan and extended the rule of government; we have evacuated people from Libya, supported the citizens of Benghazi and Misurata, before freeing all Libyans from oppression; and we have acted against piracy off the Horn of Africa. Throughout this period we have maintained the nuclear deterrent, the defence of our interests overseas and our essential vigilance over the UK. This is an amazing effort by all three Services, individually and together, and demonstrates why you consistently win the highest praise from all our allies.
We should of course not forget the support of the civil servants and other government departments we work alongside around the world and without whose capability our actions would be limited.
This year has placed a huge burden on our friends and families. Not only those whose relatives have so tragically paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan, but all those whose loved ones have been away for those family moments like birthdays and anniversaries. When we are away, they bear the weight of worry along with all the family duties we are not there to help with. It is something of which we take too little account.
This is also a year to say thank you. In particular to all those around the country who have supported us. Whether that is through charities or quiet, private actions amongst the community, I am grateful for the support that recognises the courage and dedication of the men and women in our Armed Forces.
Next year will demand more of us again. Afghanistan will continue to bring out the best in you and, though I don’t know where or how, I am confident that the instability we see around the world will require us to act again.
I look forward with confidence in the knowledge that whatever duty we are asked to perform you will rise to the challenge and exceed already high expectations.
For those of you who can, have a great leave and come back refreshed and ready for a new year. For those of you on duty, I know I will not be alone in thinking of you on Christmas Day and feeling great pride in the privilege and honour I have to serve amongst you.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.