Soldiers have complained about “horrible” living conditions, boredom and a lack of Olympics tickets as Boris Johnson visited their packed warehouse base in London.
The London mayor walked past soldiers sleeping on camp beds in the open, cramped rooms, people washing in plastic crates, smelly portable toilets and an outdoor kitchen as he visited the Armed Forces’ accommodation in an old tobacco warehouse.
The sound of diggers and cranes filled the air as Mr Johnson visited the recreation area – a small strip of concrete next to the old dock.
Inside, troops watched Britain win another rowing gold medal and posed for pictures with the mayor, but others told of missing holidays and having nothing to do while on standby.
Drafted in as Olympics security back-up in the wake of the G4S scandal, some 2,000 Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force personnel now eat, live and sleep in Tobacco Dock in east London.
One soldier looked on as the mayor watched the Games with soldiers eating lunch. But he was nonplussed about Mr Johnson’s visit. “It’s all right I guess, bit of free publicity,” the soldier, who did not want to be named, said. “To be honest, I don’t like it here, it’s horrible.”
Another group of four soldiers spoke to Mr Johnson in the eating area, housing two television screens showing the Olympics.
When asked by the mayor if they were having fun, they grimaced.
One of the group, Cornet Harry Thomas, of the Household Cavalry, said “Because we’re a back-up force, because we’re not assigned to a venue, a lot of our boys haven’t been able to get in and see any of the Games.”
Mr Johnson said of his visit: “It’s been a chance for me to thank them and congratulate them and listen to what they have got to say – some of them want more free tickets – that’s difficult to organise with a snap of the fingers.”