The continuing casualty rate amongst members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces engaged in Vanity Blair’s two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan has, in part, been caused by an extraordinary failure on the part of The Ministry of Defence and, more particularly, successive Defence Ministers (of which the present is currently heavily engaged moonlighting in the Scottish office as the SNP ploughs its Independence furrow) and Defence Procurement Ministers to provide armoured vehicles capable of withstanding a major attack by an improvised explosive device (ie a roadside bomb or IED) or a sustained attack by small arms fire.

Other blogs, notably EU Referendum and individual writers such as Christopher Booker have been gnawing away at this issue for some time (and I do not propose here to go over any of the ground which they have covered so well) but newspapers generally have been poor at picking up on what is, on any rational view, an avoidable national disgrace.

Rather I want to ponder on one possible aspect of this crisis that may just have relevance.

Many years ago, those involved in trying to bring down the Apartheid Government of South Africa and replace it with a black majority rule, tried to get HMG to engage in a total arms embargo of the Republic. Although many countries did join such an embargo, the UK for much of the time stood out against it, in part out of our own perceived national interest at not risking a hostile Soviet-backed ANC Government dominated by the South African Communist Party controlling the Cape sea routes and partly because of the usual belief that if we did not supply the arms and get the money, someone else almost certainly would supply them.

In the event South Africa responded as one might expect. Instead of throwing in the towel, an entire new arms industry was built up from next to nothing to supply most of the Republic’s needs in terms of both internal and external security. And as The Republic conducted a series of small wars and counter-terrorist operations in South West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola and in its own border zones and in the townships, it was able to develop and constantly to improve a whole range of armaments. The G6 Self-propelled artillery system was developed in this period and is today accounted one of the finest such systems in the world.

By the time the Apartheid era had come to an end the South Africans had built up a major arms industry and, far from having had its ability to arm and supply its armed forces extinguished was actually exporting its armaments all over the world and had developed Africa’s first and, thus far, only nuclear bomb (which capability was carefully dismantled before the ANC came to power, thus making South Africa the only nation so far to have and then to disavow the possession of nuclear weapons). A great success for sanctions was thus achieved.

Given the operational needs of the South African Defence Force it is unsurprising that South Africa became a leading exponent of armoured vehicles with protection against anti-tank mines and other forms of explosive device. Forged from experience in the Bush where SWAPO, a long-term recipient of arms from Cuba and the USSR, became adept at the deployment of land mines, the Casspir, originally made by TFM of South Africa, became the frontline armoured vehicle for South African infantry and also found a significant role in internal security.

Scenes of Casspirs being used by Security Forces in the Townships of South Africa became commonplace on the television news and will have become associated in the minds of the many opponents of Apartheid with the suppression of the Communist-backed ANC’s campaign to end white minority rule. I must be one of the few bloggers to have been on patrol in one: many years ago an old friend, then a somewhat maverick colonel in the South African Police, arranged for me to go out one afternoon through the Alexandria Township outside Pretoria, to my relief on a quiet day. Nonetheless it has always, in its field combat role, proved thoroughly tough and durable, easy to maintain and repair and amongst the best in its class.

Meanwhile, the Casspir, well into its third decade of deployment and development, is still being built. The company building it now belongs to the major arms manufacturer British company BAE Systems and so, though the Casspir is still built in South Africa, it has become a British product. Why, you might ask, is not the deficiency in mine-protected vehicles not made up by ordering this tried and tested specimen?

Do you suppose it might be that its appearance in use by British troops might make certain former anti-Apartheid campaigners uneasy with bad memories and associations?

And if the Casspir is not suitable, BAE have other offerings such as the excellent RG31. Why have we not replaced the thin-skinned Landrovers with something of that sort? Why not buy British?

BAE Systems is here