That is the claim of local MP Gerald Howarth, who was speaking about the cancellation of leave for the 1Bn Welch Guards which could result in many servicemen being left severely out of pocket.

The prospect of a strike has led to soldiers' three weeks' leave following their six-month tour of duty in Bosnia being postponed, with fears that it has effectively been cancelled.

In a letter to Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram, seen by the News, Mr Howarth says the Ministry of Defence is in danger of taking soldiers' loyalty for granted by drafting them to cover firefighters after spending half a year in the Balkans.

He said many soldiers who had booked holidays for the three weeks' leave have been forced to cancel them due to the firemen's strike over their 40% pay claim.

Mr Howarth continued in the letter: "I understand that the MoD is reimbursing soldiers who have lost money as the result of cancelling flights and holidays.

"However, I am appalled to learn that no such compensation is forthcoming for those family members who have been forced to cancel."

Mr Howarth also said the personnel from the Welch Guards are due to do their fire cover in the Midlands.

On top of having their leave effectively cancelled, the MoD will not fund travel back to their families here in between strike days.

Asked specifically about money lost by servicemen's families because travel insurance does not cover cancellation due to strike action, a spokesman for the MoD said: "That's something we cannot comment on.

"As a soldier your lords and masters are the government. If they decide that you must go and be a fireman, then that is what you must do."