PM’s speech at Camp Bastion

Transcript of speech given by the Prime Minister David Cameron at Camp Bastion on 11 June 2010.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Lord Cameron

Transcript of speech given by the Prime Minister David Cameron at Camp Bastion on 11 June 2010.

Read the transcript:


Good morning, troops.  I am absolutely delighted that the Prime Minister has been able to come out here to join us, so thank you very much for coming and we very much look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Prime Minister:

Thank you very much, Brigadier, and good morning, everyone.  Thank you very much for coming.  Now, I know you were told that if you came out here this morning, you would get a message from the most important person in England.  And I don’t want to let you down, so I’ve got a message from the most important person in England, and that is of course Fabio Capello, the England manager.

And he wrote me this: ‘Dear Prime Minister, as you’re travelling out to see the service men and women, I would like to ask if you could relay this message on behalf of me and all the England team’.  And this was his message: ‘While the players receive incredible support from the country as we’re about to kick off in the World Cup, it’s important you know how much all your efforts mean to all the players and staff with the England team.  Your brave service to your country means so much to the players, and we will all have complete respect for the incredible sacrifices that you and your families have made.  While we will be doing all we can to achieve success in South Africa for the whole country, we want you to know that we believe that you are the real heroes’.

And I think Fabio is absolutely right with what he says.  Now, last night I was talking to some of the Scots Guards and of course I was saying, ‘Come on guys, you’ve got to be cheering on England’.  And I’m not sure I got - I did get one.  I cut a deal with them.  I said if it ends up as England-Argentina, you’ve got to cheer for England.  I think I would call that progress.

But I want to say a really big thank you.  You need to know how proud everyone is at home of what you do.  And they are proud whatever you are doing here: whether you’re the ones sorting the mail or whether you’re defusing Taliban bombs; whether you’re fighting on the frontline or whether you’re being supported and helping people on the frontline.  We’re incredibly proud of everything that you do.

Some of the stories we read are just so inspiring.  I think of Flight Lieutenant Fortune, who was a Chinook pilot shot in the head, but carried on because he had six casualties on his Chinook and he wanted to get the job done.  I think of Kate Nesbitt, a medical assistant, who ran across an open field under fire to reach a fallen comrade and to give vital life-saving treatment while still being fired on.  I think of Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes, who without any body armour, without any equipment, without any protective clothing crawled through the dust to disable seven linked Taliban mines because he wanted to get to his fallen comrades.

These stories inspire people back at home because when Kim Hughes was asked, why he did what he did, he said what you always say: ‘I was just doing my job’.  But I’ve got to tell you: most people couldn’t do your job.  I couldn’t do your job.  People at home couldn’t do your job, but we’re incredibly proud that you do do your job.  So a really big thank you from everyone at home.

Ad it’s worth remembering why we’re here, why we’re fighting, what this is all about.  This is not a war of choice; it is a war of necessity.  This is not a war of occupation; it is a war of obligation.  On 9/11 when the Twin Towers were blown up and so many British people died as well as Americans, almost every single person that took part in that attack was trained here in Afghanistan by Al Qaeda.  That is why we came here, that is why we cleared away those training camps, and if we left tomorrow those training camps could come back tomorrow, because today the Afghans are not yet ready to look after their own security.  As soon as they are ready, and you are helping them to be ready, then we can leave and go home.

Big progress is being made.  I can see it in the training of the Afghan national army, in the training of the Afghan police.  The fact that we now control 11 out of the 14 provinces here in Helmand, the fact that we have a good governor - Governor Mangal - the fact that we are spreading governance across Helmand.  You are doing incredible work and just as soon as we have trained up that Afghan security, we can go home with our heads held high.

I know what I can expect from you.  I can expect that bravery, that dedication, that service.  And I just want to say a couple of words about what you can expect from me as your new Prime Minister.  The first is a clear sense of mission, of why we’re here.  We’re not here to build the perfect democracy.  We’re not here to build some perfect model society.  We are here to help the Afghans take control of their security so we can go home.  I can sum up this mission in two words: it is about national security, our national security back in the UK.  Clearing Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, damaging them in Pakistan, making sure this country is safe and secure, will make us safe and secure back home in the United Kingdom.  We don’t have some dreamy ideas about what this mission is about; it’s about that, pure and simple.

The second thing you can expect from me is proper support.  I know how hard you all work out here, and I know the promise that I made to all of you, that we would double the operational allowance.  And I can tell you today, it is going to be doubled; you’re going to get it next month, and it’s going to be backdated to the date of the general election.

But there are many other ways in which you deserve our support.  Making sure the good equipment keeps coming through; making sure the new vehicles keep coming through.  Making sure - and we will do this - we double the number of IED teams, so that when you go out on patrol - when you’re out of the bases, out of the FOBs - you’re getting proper protection. 

Alongside proper support is proper backing at home.  I want to make sure, as Prime Minister, that all the things that your families and you can quibble about back at home - whether you’re getting good schools, whether you’re getting proper healthcare, the state of the housing and the flats that some of you have to live in - that we take action on all of these things; and we re-write, and re-publish, that military covenant, the covenant between the government and the civilians of a country and its military: that you do so much for us, and we’re going to properly look after you.  We’re going to re-write that covenant. 

So, a clear mission, proper support for what you do, and backing at home.  But I think there is a fourth thing as well.  And that is to give real leadership in our country, to make sure that we support our military in its broadest sense, in every single way that we can.  During the First and the Second World Wars, and during the Falklands War, there was real support in our country for the military.  And I want to put you front and centre of our national life again.  I think it’s vital.  There’s huge respect and support for what the military does, and I want that in every single part of our country. 

And I want you to be proud of what you do.  I want you to think of that great quotation: that it’s not the politician that brings the right to vote; it is the soldier.  It’s not the poet that brings free speech; it is the soldier.  It’s not the journalist that brings free expression; it is the soldier.  So I want you to help me create a new atmosphere in our country - an atmosphere where we back and revere and support our military. 

Now, I know there will be times when you’ll feel quite down - when you’ll miss your loved ones at home; when you’ll long for that leave; when you’ll wish that you were back home having a quiet pint, or maybe even, as someone said to me, from Nottingham, yesterday, a slightly more noisy pint, when he goes out on a Friday night.  I know there will be times when you’re down.  And when that happens I want you to think of this: think of what you’re achieving.  Think of that soldier who said, ‘Those things we do for ourselves; they die with us.  Those things we do for others and for our world are immortal; they never die; they’re never forgotten.’  What you’re doing here will never be forgotten.  It is great and important work.  You are incredibly brave and professional in what you do.  And I stand here, as your Prime Minister, wanting to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that you should be proud of yourselves and what you do, because your country is incredibly proud of you. 

Thank you for coming; thank you for listening; thank you for everything you do for our country. You make me proud to be standing here as your Prime Minister.  Thank you.

Updates to this page

Published 11 June 2010