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Most of you already know by now that I am married to a soldier, and in some ways married to the national institution known as the army! (Get me my white coat that fastens in the back!!!)
Soldier magazine is subtitled "Magazine of the British Army" and is targeted mainly at soldiers. It was a CIB award winner in 2006 as the UK's best internal news magazine. I will attempt here to give you an idea of what is within the magazine.
On sale for the princely sum of £2.50 every month, the magazine is on sale in newsagents in Britain (although not many actually stock the magazine, you may have to order it in), NAAFI's across the globe and is also available on the internet at www.soldiermagazine.co.uk, where you can also purchase a yearly subscription for the sum of £23 or a two year subscription for £40. If you live overseas this is higher at £32.20 for 12 months and £60 for 24 months. However, if like me, you life at a BFPO (British Forces Post Office) address, your 12 month subscription is only £13.80. They are currently running a promotion whereby all new subscribers get a free binder to hold their magazines as well. (Subscription costs include the magazine and all postage and packing charges).
The magazine is a nice glossy 92 page spread of about A4 size. On the front cover is always a military themed photograph, Page 3 shows you what is in the current issue. For example, in the issue for February 2007 the contents were as follows:
7 - Update starts here - February's update was an interview with Prime Minister Tony Blair, focussing mainly on the war on terrorism, and how the UK military could be involved in operations against terrorism for "a long time to come" It is only one page long , but still an interesting article. Each month, the update article is about a topic that is in the media attention, but yet close to the army in some way. Here it is about all the strain put on the forces with Iraq/Afghanistan and the pressures faced by soldiers and their families. I always make a point of reading the update article if nothing else.
27 - Chuckle with chip - this is a one-page spread of cartoons. February's issue has 5 cartoons. My favourite quote on this issue has to be "if poverty is defined as having too little of everything, then destitution must be 'working for the MoD'!" You can email for copies of Chip cartoons or caricatures at email@example.com.
49 - Talkback - This is a five-page spread of letters and emails from readers on issues that affect them. These letters and emails come from all ranks from Privates right up to Generals and Colonels, and also from members of the public. A lot of the public who write in are ex-servicemen/women or family members. In February's issue there are letters about medals, removals, allowances and housing. If a reply is needed to the letter, then this is given, usually by a high-ranking officer.
57 - Home Truths - February's issue has the one-page spread entitled "Tipping the Point" and is mainly about army housing and has been written by the Editor of the Army Families Journal. It shows that only 18% of army houses are of the highest standard and at lease 40% of army families in Britain are housed in "less-than-perfect accommodation". I am obviously one of the lucky ones - as I currently live in a brand-new (just built) 3/4 bedroom house! But I have lived in some awful housing, including a 3 bedroom ground-floor flat that was not much bigger than a rabbit hutch, and having 2 kids running around, it was a constant uphill battle to keep tidy. Housing is always a bone of contention with the army and this article is very interesting and informative and I have read it quite a few times.
62 - Garrison Guide - this is the entertainment diary for four of the UK garrisons at Colchester, Aldershot, Bulford/Tidworth and Catterick. It is basically a what's on guide for these areas, not just aimed at soldiers, but good to know. For example, the Bootleg Beatles played on 28 February in the Anvil in Basingstoke.
64 - Bulletin board - this section has details of past competition winners, useful telephone numbers, details of appointments, searchline for those trying to get in touch with old comrades or information for those researching relatives who were in the forces, roadshows, and reunions.
74 - Games - this is a 2 page spread reviewing computer games. Most single (and married!) soldiers tend to have some kind of games console. (Personally I managed to resist getting one for himself until the Nintendo Wii came out. I did end up giving in but it has taken himself almost 6 years to persuade me to get one of these machines!). This spread is a review section the newest computer games of the month. February's features games of Fifa 07 for the X-Box and Killzone Liberation for the PSP. There are ususally between 5 and 7 games reviewed each month.
78 - Books - here we have another review spot, but this time on books that are available to buy. These generally have a military theme. A couple of the books featured in February were Steady the Buffs by Mark Connelly and Modern Combat Pistols by Maxim Popenker. Very often, the books are historial in nature such as the history of the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry. If you are looking for a military themed book as a gift, then this section is generally very informative.
90 - Vox pop - this is right at the back of the magazine and it is a monthly feature where the magazine asks soldiers for their opinions on a "hot topic". February's issue asks members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers for their opinions on the decision by government to raise the maximum recruiting age from 26 to 33.
17 - Opportunity Knocks - this article is about the new "super regiment" The Rifles, and the men and women within this regiment. It is quite interesting but more geared towards the serving soldier.
21 - Climate Change - this article gives guidance on soldiers operating within extreme weather conditions. It also shows how the military medial services have specialisations in many fields and evaluating the latest kit for use in extreme conditions. I would say this article is mainly aimed at commanders but did hold some interesting information.
24 - Head Start - this is about post-operational psychological injuries (post traumatic stress disorder to most people) and how the army is working towards providing first class support for all soldiers before, during and after an operational tour. I have to say that this was exceptionally interesting and I read it twice to make sure I understood it properly. I know the army does have an excellent system in place to deal with these issues, as both my hubby and his brother have both been in war zones and have both been offered extensive counselling before, during and after their time on tour.
29 - Sandhurst SOS - a rather interesting article on how the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst has joined in the fight in Afghanistan against the Taliban. It is mainly about the new Officer Candidate School in Kabul and how the RMA Sandhurst is working to help the new generation of officers in the Afghan National Army.
33 - From the Cradle To the Grave - this is about the work of the Gurkha Welfare Trust, who work to help ex-gurkhas back in Nepal who are living on a pittance of a pension after giving years of service to our army. Many get just £25 per month, but thankfully that is changing.
37 - Cutting Edge - This is about a new weapon in the war against terrorism, the Cutlass. This is a robot designed to tackls home-made bombs or improvised explosive devices as they are also known.
39 - The Big Bling Debate - This spread is mainly about the views of the readers about unofficial medals. These letters are from all walks of life and are both for and against the wearing of unofficial medals.
44 - Junior Jocks - how members of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland are keeping hold of their Black Watch heritage. It is mainly about their junior NCO course. It is interesting but not factually accurate as home turf is not Fort George, the Fort is home to 4th Battalion, The Highlanders, but you can't get everything right!
46 - My Army: Col Bob Stewart - This article is about Colonel Bob Stewart, arbitrator in Bosnia. He has a new role - as arbitrator between warring neighbours in a new Channel 5 programme called At War With Next Door. This is an article on Col Bob and what he has done in the army, and what he has done since leaving the army in 1995. Very interesting.
78 - Different strokes - A music review spread with a difference - here the reviews are not done by magazine staff, these reviews are written by soldiers music. Quite informative, and shows the current trends within the army of the kind of music listened to.
81 - SoldierSport - no it's not a typo, this is how it is shown in the magazine. All about soldiers and sport funnily enough. The issue I have has a wonderful article on Tommy Docherty and his time in the army. This spread of articles covers many sports and goes right up to page 89.
Throughout the magazine there are advertisements for all sorts of military-related things, kit suppliers, pen-pals, book shops, mess-dress providers, etc. These advertisers are the life blood of any magazine and these ones are particularly geared towards the military. Some of the adverts are quite interesting, and the magazine does state that it takes no responsibility for people replying to adverts - this is done at an individual's own risk
Do I get my money's worth with this magazine? Well in one word - yes! For £2.50 you get a magazine packed full of interesting articles and decent competitions. I have yet to win a competition yet, but that does not stop me entering them every month!
Do I recommend this product to others? Yes - most definitely. If you are serving, ex-serving, retired or just have an interest in all things military, then this is a really interesting magazine to read. The subscription costs are also very good value.
It is a very specialised magazine and will only appeal to those who have an interesting in military affairs but it is one of the best out there. Myself and hubby get this every month and we both read it (sometimes they do have articles which interest wives too!), and it is certainly one that I generally have lying about the house.
I am giving this the 5 star treatment as it does cover all of the key points of army life and treats sensitive subjects with dignity and sensitivity. Personally I do enjoy reading this, even if some of the articles are more generally aimed at my husband. And he reads this from cover to cover every month without fail! My hubby does not generally read many magazines but this is certainly one that I can guarantee he will read! It certainly gets the thumbs up from him!
Thanks for reading! Di xx