Royal Engineers assisting the Environment Agency during severe flooding near Romsey in Hampshire, 2014
We rely on the army in times of crisis. Army divers and engineers were called in to assist the Environment Agency during heavy flooding in Britain in 2014, in this instance to divert water away from homes in Romsey which had already been flooded. Using ropes and plastic bottles as floats to position scaffold poles on the riverbed, specialist Royal Engineers worked through the night to design and construct a weir to reduce the force and speed of the fast-flowing river. This diversion upstream saved a lower embankment from failing and allowed flooded properties to be drained.
The army can provide manpower, skills, discipline and equipment during extreme weather scenarios. Soldiers do not expect to keep regular working hours, act as the last resort in emergencies like flooding, and are trained to respond to environments only accessible by foot through flooded ground. But they are not compelled to act when civilian resources break down. The pieces of legislation that allow soldiers to assist in civil emergencies do not specifically outline the army's role beyond co-operation and information-sharing, and local authorities, services and agencies are advised to undertake emergency contingency planning without factoring them in. Following the flooding in 2014, some have recommended a revision so that the army are involved as a matter of routine.
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National Army Museum, Study collection