[1989:] We have an organization in Britain, the Territorial Army. It's a weekend army, and people who feel very important when they are in uniform join it. It's a bit of a joke, because they wear the uniforms the real army doesn't want. And they close up their offices on Friday night to play these war games together. (Intro Iain MacKintosh)
[1996:] The question, then, has to be asked: why do they want to [join the TA]? You are paid, but as part-time jobs go you might be better off at Burger King. [...] One theory has it that all men, and some girls, like to run around playing at soldiers, but that doesn't seem to be the real motivating force within the volunteers. They aim to be professional. I found few of the gun-nutter-military-fetish types you might imagine frequent such an establishment. If anything there was a social etiquette that any gun/war talk was frowned upon.
I think the reason most people volunteer is the essential otherness of it all. You're stuck in a completely different environment to your usual one, doing very challenging things with a cross-section of people you do not encounter in your everyday life. It's a great leveller and a unique tool for finding out something about yourself. [...]
The army life lacks its obvious old benefits. Its offer of showing you the world is less relevant these days when for £250 you can holiday in Goa or Mombasa. And the old pull of Queen and country fades as those young people with a sense of civic duty queue up for work with VSO or Oxfam. It can't even offer you a job for life any more. What it does give you is something different: a pride I had never felt before. (Gavin Hills, Observer, 26 May)
[1997:] There is a masonic severity and secrecy about the Handel Street headquarters [of the TA's Intelligence Security Group]: a rambling shell of a building that sits between the British Museum and the lecture halls of London University. You enter by a buzzer system, passing through an unmarked door into a long and dingy corridor with a rubberised floor. The place has the feel of an urban scout hut. To the left are offices; to the right is the sergeants' mess room, straight ahead, the huge drill room with a spiral staircase leading to the first floor.
This is where the spy-warriors click their heels, plan their weekend manoeuvres, and dream of battling Ernst Blofeldt and Saddam Hussein; among their numbers are academics and soap actresses; reporters and antique dealers; solicitors and civil servants. Above, on the second floor, in a higgledy-piggledy arrangement of cramped offices, is the commanding officer's room. It was here that Carole Maychell was held without access to a solicitor for over a week [as a suspected Stasi spy]. It was an illuminating episode that suggested that some senior officers commanding the TA's spies were living on another planet - the Planet Stasi [...].
In the three years since the Maychell affair first exposed the existence of the TA's spies, the paranoid regiment has been dogged by scandals - major and minor - including accusations of mismanagement, nepotism, sexual impropriety and plain stupidity - and claims for compensation, unfair dismissal and redress before the Army Board. One senior military official was recently moved to describe the unit as 'a boil on the bum of soldiering'. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Founded in the late Sixties, the Intelligence Group was designed to be a last line of defence against any potential Soviet onslaught. [...] In practice, it seems, the corps was run like a playground gang with no real purpose, the leaders guilty of nepotism and vindictiveness. (Peter Beaumont, Observer, 9 March)
[1998:] [After the Strategic Defence Review,] there is likely to be a big cut in the Territorial Army, which costs about 5 per cent of the total defence budget. Its numbers will fall from 55,000 to 40,000. [...] Defence sources claim the infantry division has not been called up in 50 years, and is based on the assumption of a full-scale Russian invasion. (Patrick Wintour, Observer, 5 July)