Be realistic about what our armed forces can do

Twice in the twentieth century government and Parliament sent the professional but small British army onto the continent to fight against German militarism and expansion. In 1914 around 100,000 men were sent as the British Expeditionary Force. They fought bravely at Mons, on the Marne and later at Ypres. They retreated a long way but helped the French slow and turn the rapid German advance, stopping them capturing Paris. Most of that force was killed and by year end the UK was embarked on recruiting a far mightier citizens army capable of measuring up to the scale of Germany’s forces.

In 1939 a larger expeditionary force was sent, expanding to around 400,000. This army with our French allies was heavily outnumbered and outgunned by German forces. It had to be rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk, whilst the German forces went on to conquer France. Around 60,000 of the force did not return in the rescue.

On both occasions the UK had been aware of the threat for some time. On both occasions the UK sent an army that was far too small, and inappropriately equipped to stand up to the forces ranged against it. The original British army of 1914 did not have the equipment needed to fight a trench based war, with insufficient machine guns, grenades and artillery. The army of 1939 was better equipped,but lost most of it in the retreat that resulted from the far stronger forces ranged against it.

In 1914 the army command had not thought through tactics in the machine age. As the war got bogged down towards the end of 1914, more thinking was needed over how you defended men in trenches, and how you could mount an attack at such well defended positions. The answer was not clear until the invention of the tank sought to inject some mobility and pace into the static battlefield. Several years were spent whilst at war experimenting with mining, with more intense artillery bombardments on trench lines and in seeking an alternative front in the Dardenelles. Gas also found its cruel way into the repertoire of torture at the front. Most of this failed to produce a breakthrough, and was pursued in battle in ways which allowed far too many casualties for no good purpose.

It is difficult not to be angry to read of the many times armies of men were asked to undertake a frontal assault of a kind which had failed many times before, only to fail again. Wellington sought to conserve his troops and keep them out of danger as much as possible, knowing replacements were hard to come by. In 1914-18 there was a wanton approach to the loss of life, brought on by the huge numbers of volunteers followed by conscription and by a stubborn refusal to see that killing so many was not advancing the cause of victory.

So what can we learn from this for today? Our current army is not large enough to fight a major war against a substantial hostile power. We need the NATO alliance and the engagement of the USA to help keep our peace. The army has been used to fighting asymmetric wars against terrorist groups in splintered countries and neighbourhoods. In some of these Middle Eastern conflicts our force committed has been small, and has not always had the equipment it needed. Were we to be drawn into a wider war we would need time to expand our military numbers and to produce many more vehicles and weapons.

There is a need for more thought over what kind of weapons we might need and what we might face at a time of rapid technological change. Our professional army would become the core of an expanded army were need to arise, which we trust it does not. We need above all to ensure that home defence is strong, which as always depends on our ability at sea and in the air to control approaches to our coast. We also need to ensure that we can sustain our weapons and maintain military production on these islands if our supplies from abroad are disrupted as they were in both major wars of the twentieth century. Our island position makes it so much easier militarily to defend ourselves. It also requires plenty of sea power to ensure supply from abroad, and plenty of flexibility to produce more of what we need at home.


  1. Peter D Gardner
    November 10, 2018

    I might quibble about the history but there is no doubt UK’s position is precarious. The Tories’ record on defence is not good. The Falklands War, for example, was a result of stupidity on the part of Mrs Thatcher’s government. However, she had the wit to change her mind and I have no doubt, having been intimately involved, the Falklands would not have been recovered had anyone else been prime minister.
    More recently, David Cameron gave away warship building in England.
    there is a marked absence of understanding of the linkages between policy, strategy, ways and means and capabilities. There has not been a coherent defence policy review since before Tony Blair’s time as PM.
    War historian Hew Strachan, in his book, The Direction of War (2013), is quite damning about the current generation of Westminster politicians.
    Worse is to come.
    Not only will UK remain subject to EU rule on economic and legal issues, it will be, under Mrs May’s Chequers based deal, subject to the EU’s security and defence policies and the EU’s public procurement rules and the British Armed Forces will thus be under EU political control. This contrasts with NATO, which respects national sovereignty so that political control of a nation’s forces remains at all times with that nation. Such an arrangement is antithetical to the EU’s constitution and ethos.
    If Chequers or something like it goes through, the EU will decide not only the shape and capabilities of UK’s armed forces in future but their operational deployment, including keeping the peace or civil war within Europe.

    1. Peter D Gardner
      November 10, 2018

      PS. And now Mrs May is about to give UK’s fish to the EU. Is that because she had no plans to patrol the seas and protect UK’s rights in respect of its Exclusive Economic Zone, or because it is just another routine concession? UK does not have such a capability, so best to avoid any need for it to arise.

      1. Lifelogic.
        November 10, 2018

        Indeed. May is a very sick joke as PM. Cameron appallingly failed to prepare for (the rather likely) Brexit outcome to his (sloped pitch by government) referendum and then merely abandoned ship like a spoilt child. May has totally failed to prepare the country for no deal Brexit and thus has no real negotiating stength. She has been hugely duplicitous and is a huge electoral liability even against Corbyn – get rid of her and tax to death Hammond as soon as possible.

        Both of these actions were clear gross negligence by two PMs paid to act in the countries interests as “leaders”. Also indeed the heads of the civil service who have gone along with this negligence.

        Off topic what is this nonsense about Dame Emma Thompson and some trainers at the palace?

        “It is disrespectful of society to expect women to totter around in a state of permanent discomfort on stilts that give them bunions.” they say.

        Well no one forces women to wear high heals or indeed to plaster on vast amounts of face paints and polyfiller, many just choose to spend hours and fortunes doing this. Just as many women choose not to study sciences to higher levels, work as refuse collectors, mechanics or on oil rigs. They probably rather sensibly make different work live balance choices for their themselves and their families. You pays your money and you make your choice. Stop winging.

        1. Hope
          November 10, 2018

          JR, your govt sold jump jets for utterly stupid prices knowing the two aircraft carriers would not have planes in the interim! Your govt put up screens to prevent cameras showing diggers tearing apart perfectly brand new nymrod jest! Your govt sacked RAF pilots in their training! Cameron then wanted the military to match in Syria! When told the truth about your govt decimating the military half wit Cameron stated you do the fighting I will do the talking! The same man who stood at a war memorial smirking when Hollande made veiled threats to our country. This is your govt in recent years. An absolute effing disgrace.

          Oxbridge PPE courses need to be scrapped on national security grounds! They are delivering clever idiots.

          1. Hoof Hearted
            November 10, 2018

            Cameron was also responsible for destroying the maritime element of the RAF thus rendering our nuclear deterrent vulnerable to Russian hunter killer submarines.

          2. NickC
            November 10, 2018

            Hope, Given Theresa May’s disgaceful behaviour over our impending non-Brexit, Mr Cameron’s antics with our armed services has rather been eclipsed. Thank you for reminding us of the almost insane 2010 SDSR.

        2. margaret howard
          November 10, 2018


          ” Just as many women choose not to study sciences to higher levels, work as refuse collectors, mechanics or on oil rigs.”

          No, because until the 20th century their jobs were mostly confined to bear and raise the next generation.

          If one were able to count the number of women who died in childbirth over the centuries you would find they vastly outnumbered refuse collectors, mechanics, oil rig workers or even soldiers killed in battles.

          We have done the most dangerous job in the world without ‘whinging’ (sic)

          1. Lifelogic
            November 10, 2018

            Indeed having children used to be extremely dangerous.
            fortunately less so now. I merely make the case that if women choose to wear high heels and study diffent subjects at A level and higher they can hardly blame “society” for it.

          2. L Jones
            November 10, 2018

            I think you mean ” ‘winging’ (sic)”, Margaret.

            But, letting that go – I don’t imagine LL was referring to the present day. The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there. Or haven’t you noticed?

    2. Mrs Alison Houston
      November 10, 2018

      Keep up the good work in spreading this information. I asked John to write about it himself the other day. I guess this is as near as he dares to get.

      It is too late of course, our armaments manufacturers have been handed to the EU on a plate and they cannot keep up with the Americans who can sell off the shelf equipment. Billions of pounds will flow out of the country if we ever need defence equipment quickly and we won’t have the firms, the skills or knowledge to produce it at home, perpetuating a viscious cycle.

      1. Richard
        November 10, 2018

        c.70% of all major public sector contracts for the EU28 are from the UK – so no wonder the EU is very keen to keep the UK inside the EU’s public procurement regulations via May’s ‘non-implementation period’.

        However, the UK retains a significant Defence Industry (BAE, Rolls Royce, Cobham, etc)

      2. margaret howard
        November 11, 2018

        Mrs Alison

        ” Billions of pounds will flow out of the country if we ever need defence equipment quickly and we won’t have the firms, the skills or knowledge to produce it at home, perpetuating a viscious cycle.”

        Little danger of that ever happening while we are the 2nd biggest arms dealers in the world (with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East)

        1. Edward2
          November 11, 2018

          When you say “arms” you really mean any equipment or goods that other nations buy from us for use by their army navy or airforce.

    3. Richard1
      November 10, 2018

      In this context I find it curious that there has been no reporting on the BBC of President Macron’s call – enthusiastically endorsed by the EU establishment – for an EU army, in effect, to supplant NATO. Amongst the potential enemies from which this army might have to defend ‘Europe’ he suggested the United States. Are Continuity Remain happy with this direction of travel in the EU?

      1. Andy
        November 10, 2018

        On the contrary – the story about Macron is currently the third story on the BBC news app and website. This is how most people get their news. So your claim there has been ‘no reporting’ of it by the BBC is simply untrue. A default Brexiteer position I guess.

        1. NickC
          November 10, 2018

          Andy, Claiming that because the BBC has recently started to report it, then the BBC has reported it all along, is essentially bad faith. Nigel Farage pointed out the intentions of the EU for its own armed forces and was promptly sneered at by your hero Nick Clegg. I didn’t notice you or the BBC rushing to Nigel’s defence.

          It’s the standard EU ploy:
          “no, there’s no plans”
          “well, there are some ideas, but no-one takes them seriously”
          “there are some plans, but it will take years to implement”
          “it’s already implemented; you should have stopped it earlier”.

          And the BBC only tends to report it at stage 4. As now, about the EU army.

        2. Richard1
          November 11, 2018

          Desperate stuff from Continuity Remain. It has not been reported on the main broadcast media. Imagine if president trump had (equally but no more absurdly) identified France as a potential military enemy for the US. Do you think the BBC TV and radio news would have overlooked that?

    4. Fedupsoutherner
      November 10, 2018

      The victory in the Falklands would not have been possible without the help of the USA. Our lads were not given the equipment needed. Our armed forces are badly treated by all parties when you think that these men and women make the ultimate sacrifice. Shame on our governments. Is it any wonder recruitment is at a low?

    5. Anonymous
      November 10, 2018

      The Torie’s record on crime is not good either.

      1. Lifelogic
        November 10, 2018

        Not good it is appalling, the police have largely given up on most crime.

    6. Richard
      November 10, 2018

      A summary of how Mrs May, the Cabinet Office & MOD signed the UK up to the EU military after the 2017 Election: which replicates & detracts from NATO:

      Quite something when: “ex-MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove … accused Mr Robbins of “covertly working to lock UK defence and security under EU control after Brexit”… this would “risk fatally compromise our “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance.” He said: “It is by far the worst aspect of the Chequers deal and hitherto has not been made clear to the public.”

      Sir Richard Dearlove was also sufficiently worried to co-author this article: “First, that the ‘deep and special partnership’ that the Prime Minister would like with the EU after Brexit is not on offer: the EU offers subordination or nothing and all the facts are laid out to support that.
      “Second, some civil servants are clearly seeking to lock Britain into a Hotel California Brexit from Hell … Brockbank’s remarks are in the Appendix so all readers may judge for themselves.
      “…Brussels sees its best interest in doing us harm. So no deal was always better that ANY deal. And that will not change.”
      This introduced the Hotel California article: that included the full KitKat tape transcripts in the Appendix.

    7. Richard
      November 10, 2018

      Nato was formed in 1949 to address a lesson learnt that Democracies need to mutually support each other to avoid anti-democratic powers undermining & picking them off individually.

      Thus there is merit in the UK voluntarily contributing (only if alongside Canada, the USA & other major NATO allies) to NATO operations that defend existing (genuine) democracies.

  2. alte fritz
    November 10, 2018

    It is not easy for the UK to decide what types of armed forces it needs because events conspire and, historically at least, we had to think about many parts of the world other than home. What is certain is that we need armed forces, and, as an island, we need strong sea as well as air power.

    All this requires personnel. Service often runs in families but in various ways, the government on which service personnel ought to be able to rely are appallingly treated. Our government might wonder whether it has now pushed the people who regularly serve this country just too far hence the current recruitment crisis.

    1. Hoof Hearted
      November 10, 2018

      I’ve said it before. My grandfathers served in WW1 my mother and father served in WE2, I served during the Cold War and my son served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland. I’m damned if any of my grandchildren will serve the (EU flag ed)

  3. Denis Cooper
    November 10, 2018


    If I was a Remain supporting Labour MP tossing up whether to defy my party whip and vote for Theresa May’s rubbish Brexit deal I would be thinking again now that a Remain supporting Tory minister has resigned publicly declaring it to be utter rubbish, more or less the worst of all possible worlds, and even though that politician only attracts such a high level of media attention thanks to the prominence of his brother.

    Would I really want to have to explain to my constituents why I did that?

    And if I was Keir Starmer I would be rethinking my position within the spectrum of senior Labour party opinion, given that my previous demands for the UK to stay in the/a customs union with the EU has now so very clearly put me on the wrong side of the argument and shown my colleague Barry Gardiner to have been right all along.

    1. rose
      November 10, 2018

      Jeremy Corbyn seems to be going for WTO in the hope that it will get us safely out of the EU, make the Conservatives unpopular in the short term, and put him into no 10.

      Her policy seems to have been, better in the EU with Corbyn than out with the Conservatives. Now she could get the worst of both her worlds.

      1. Denis Cooper
        November 10, 2018

        Corbyn could be more reassured if he consulted the German government about the likely prospects for the UK’s trade with the other EU countries under the terms of the WTO treaties, rather than listening to the deceitful politicised nonsense propagated by the UK government:

        “In the most positive scenario with a comprehensive free trade deal between the EU and the U.K., the study predicts a long-term output loss from a pre-Brexit trajectory of 0.1 percent for the EU and 0.6 percent for the U.K.

        In the scenario where the U.K. and the EU fail to strike a trade deal and fall back on World Trade Organization rules, the study predicts the U.K. economy would lose 1.7 percent of economic output over the long-term, while German and EU GDP would be 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent below their previous pre-Brexit trajectories, respectively.”

        Not Philip Hammond’s “disastrous” 8% of GDP, but a very manageable 1.7% over the long term – similar to recent forecasts from Open Europe.

    2. Richard1
      November 10, 2018

      If I was a Labour MP who wanted to see a general election giving the Trots a chance of govt – which is of course far from what all Labour MPs do want – I would abstain. That way I could come up with some weasel words about not supporting the wicked wicked Tories but at the same time not allowing the UK to crash over the cliff edge etc. I think this might be how BRINO gets through.

      Then it comes down to whether the Country can be extracted from Brino post March 19 as Michael Gove appears to believe. If so, OK, and we will have a few more years of extracting ourselves from the EU. If not is’s perpetual vassalage as pointed out by Jo Johnson. If that view is correct then those who want a clean Brexit need to boot Mrs May asap. Failing that i think a referendum in which reluctant remain would defeat BRINO might be the only route. A gruesome prospect.

      1. NickC
        November 10, 2018

        Richard1, I think your analysis is good. Michael Gove’s complacency about a few more years of political and constitutional turmoil is wrong-headed. Leaving properly now will save all that hassle. Moreover, if we do not leave properly now, the chance may be gone entirely. Theresa May’s mooted military and security amalgamation of UK and EU armed forces will make it almost impossible for us to leave. Mr Gove is playing into the hands of the Remains.

        1. R.T.G.
          November 10, 2018

          “Leaving properly now will save all that hassle.”

          Old market saying,
          “ Your first loss is your best loss.”

  4. Adam
    November 10, 2018

    Effective defence depends on planning well ahead, to foresee & prevent all conceivable means of risk to our nation. Developing capabilities to destroy enemies should be less important than those that can disable their intent & means of doing us harm.

    Our sovereign territories are those where most protection is needed, which should be raised to the highest standard from within. Defence overseas can be sustained via cooperation with regional world allies, including maintaining security of essential resources & environmental quality.

    Conflicts between other nations are a matter for them. Our intervention should be minimised to promoting peace, or providing intelligence, technical & medical support to an ally assisting those innocent. Aggression tends to attract enmity. Pursuing truth through justice, peace & friendship helps prevent us from being a target for attack.

  5. Peter
    November 10, 2018

    We have not properly addressed how to fight the war on domestic terror throughout the West. The latest example was the attack in Melbourne Australia. I think this is a more pressing issue than a conventional war.

    A more ruthless but clandestine approach is probably needed.

  6. Anonymous
    November 10, 2018

    If we’re staying in the EU the vassalage of our country will make an army pointless.

  7. Anonymous
    November 10, 2018

    In a large conflict troops form a tripwire function. High tech and WMD takes over after that.

  8. Duncan
    November 10, 2018

    Who’s the enemy John? Merkel’s holding hands with Putin, literally. Putin’s got Germany where he wants them. So who’s the physical enemy?

    We need to know who the enemy is before we can construct the necessary response

    You’re a politician of some standing with significant connections across government so if anyone knows the current direction of threat you do

    I believe Russia under Putin (though the leader can change and therefore the nature of the threat can change according to the change in leader) represents zero military threat to the UK and its people. It does represent a significant para-military though I believe China and indeed the British state itself represents a threat to me and my family.

    Suffice to say I don’t feel safe in my own country. This PM is increasingly authoritarian in her style. I find her disturbing to say the least. Add onto that what might happen should Marxist Labour gain power and we are facing a future very much defined by a reduction in personal liberty, freedoms and being subject to authoritarian intervention

    It is fair to say that I am now nervous every time I post on this site. That level of paranoia as been deliberately stoked by the authorities to impose self-censorship and the Tories refusal to stand up for our freedoms and right to express our views reveals a dark future for us all

    1. Hope
      November 10, 2018

      As Trump pointed out- May and 26 EU cowards scared to point out- Germany is reliant on Russian gas, over 50 percent! Stand together in solidarity when Russia poisons citizens on our island! Is that not an act of war?

      Yet all the 27 others fawn to Merkel to ask her permission to fart!

      1. Fuddy Duddy
        November 11, 2018

        Is putting sanctions on Russia/Iran /Cuba etc. not an act of war and the UK goes along with them. That the EU is trying to get round this is a good sign.

        If the USA were subject to sanctions you can bet that it would consider it an act of war and would get their forces deployed pretty quick.

    2. Anonymous
      November 10, 2018

      Hence I post anonymously.

      I know for a fact that my postings of rather ordinary views would imperil my employment.

      We no longer have free speech in this country.

    3. Mitchel
      November 10, 2018

      Correct.The UK is an irrelevance to Russia-the main weapons they employ against us-or rather our elite-are ridicule and sarcasm.Likewise western Europe generally-they have never shown much interest at any stage in their long history-in advancing beyong the Elbe-the mediaeval boundary between the Catholic/Germanic world and the Orthodox/Slavic world.Since being crushed by the Germans in the 1870 war,France has always wanted Russia onside,as M Macron has recently indicated and M Hollande before him and General de Gaulle in the mid 60s when he withdrew France from NATO.Although Russia’s natural partner is,of course,Germany.

      Once we have been cast off from the EU-or perhaps reduced to a voiceless vassal within -Russia may over time seek to establish a protectorate over the EU as Peter the Great did over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth(another territorially vast,multi-national,dysfunctional,oligarchic quasi-empire) after they had destroyed the influence on central Europe of then great power,Sweden,in 1715.

      1. Mitchel
        November 10, 2018

        There is a fascinating document-the Durnovo Memorandum-which,although little known, I have seen described as the most prescient document in history.This was a memo presented to Tsar Nicholas II in early 1914 by his former Interior Minister,Pyotr Durnovo,arguing that the alliance with France had no upside for Russia and would be disastrous(and spelling out in detail the consequences) given France’s desire for revenge against Germany and that Russia should remain close to Germany-and equally avoid any commitment to Britain which,unlike Germany, was an imperial competitor.

        If only…….!

        The text is google-able if anyone is interested.

    4. Fuddy Duddy
      November 11, 2018

      Duncan – yes, what would be the profit for Russia to attack the UK? Is there anything here they want more than real estate, education for their children, football clubs etc. which they have already?

  9. Alan Jutson
    November 10, 2018

    Agree absolutely that our armed forces are too small.
    Not only are we unlikely to be able to fight a larger battle as you outline, but battle fatigue sets in if even a small scale conflict is undertaken for a lengthy period of time given the present size of our armed services

    I know its an old chestnut, but how about introducing National service again, so we have at least some basic, but already trained reserves should the need arise.

    Spin off benefit may be that some youths may learn a bit of discipline, self control, and pride, and if was made mandatory for all those under 30 who wanted to emigrate to our Country, it may also help long-term integration, and at the same time give them a flavour of our historic past and traditions.

    Never know it may also have a spin off of slowing down some immigration.

    1. Anonymous
      November 10, 2018

      I’m actually quite glad that we have a tiny army and a dwindling police force.

      This is the one thing that makes me optimistic that we are not heading for an Orwellian state. Otherwise, with what little resources they have, the police enforce thought crime above all others – imagine how this would be with full funding !

  10. Pete Else
    November 10, 2018

    How much better off the world would be if Britain had not had entangling alliances and had remained out of the First World War. Millions of dead and injured saved. No Second World War. Possibly no Soviet Union.

    The NATO alliance has absolutely nothing to do with keeping the peace in Europe any more. It is about giving cover and legitimacy to Washington and it’s puppets wars of aggression. For a long time now our armed forces have been used for anything but the defence of the British Isles. If they were brought back from illegal and pointless wars to do their proper job, dispense with the vanity projects like aircraft carriers and their ludicrous F35s. This would save more than enough to provide comprehensive defence of these islands without any need of America and stop us being involved in the appalling litany of crimes we are currently committing.

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018

      Pete Else

      “How much better off the world would be if Britain had not had entangling alliances and had remained out of the First World War.”

      The Great War was supposed to be a war end all wars. Commendable intent but messed up by the french who’s insistence that the treaty of Versailles reduce Germany to a wasteland, caused ideal conditions for Hitler’s rise to power and consequently WW2.

      1. forthurst
        November 10, 2018

        We were not a party to the first Franco-Prussian war so why should we be a party to the second? Why was it a matter of great import to us what language was spoken in Alsace-Lorraine? What was the influence of the banking system in Germany under the Weimar republic in causing the widespread hardship? What influence did the Comintern and the large number Communists and so-called Socialists have on destabilising Germany? Did the Bolshevik Empire have any military ambitions in Europe?

        1. Mitchel
          November 12, 2018

          Actually the German Commmunists believed that had their revolution been successful they,not Russia,would be leading the communist world-after all communism was only supposed to be applicable to a society that was already heavily industrialised.

          The Soviets had no military ambition for Europe after the Polish war(which was connected to the Russian Civil War)in the early 1920s.

    2. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Pete Else said: “How much better off the world would be if Britain had not had entangling alliances and had remained out of the First World War.”

      And you know this how?

      Have you recently escaped from an alternative universe? If it’s just your speculation rather than any agreed fact, then the direct consequence of no UK (and then USA) help in WW1 would have been the conquest of Europe by Germany. Unlike today. Oh . . . . . .

    3. Mitchel
      November 10, 2018

      I see it reported last week that despite Trump’s doubling down in Afghanistan and the UK following like a lapdog,you cannot go more than 100 miles in any direction without encountering the Taliban.

  11. Steve
    November 10, 2018

    “if we ever need defence equipment quickly and we won’t have the firms, the skills or knowledge to produce it at home”

    Such was the plan.

    In my opinion those responsible for dumbing down this country should, where they are still alive, be imprisoned.

    Too many resources that we need today no longer exist as a consequence of treachery by successive corrupt and anti-British governments.

    It could now be too late to reverse the damage, so maybe the only thing left is to locate those responsible and bang ’em up.

    1. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Steve, Sink state schools are for the plebs. Our lords and masters send their children to private schools.

  12. Sakara Gold
    November 10, 2018

    Actually, the real damage to the British industrial base was done by Thatcher and the ERM fiasco. One could argue that Cameron and Osborne finished the job with the malign 2010 SDSR, which destroyed the navy, halved the number of armoured regiments in the army and reduced the RAF to 33,000 men and about 150 combat aircraft, the lowest number since 1918.

    It gets worse. The MoD in futile attempts to save money has ensured that only about 35 Typhoons are airworthy on any one day (planes are still being cannibalised for spare parts), the Tornado bomber force is now dependent on 40 year old pilots as we no longer train people to fly them, the majority of the frigate and destroyer fleet is laid up due to manpower shortages and cannot challenge Russian squadrons running the Channel, the estate at the Royal Dockyard at Devonport is crumbling away – and the army is short of about 8500 soldiers . The MoD’s response has been to authorise women in active combat roles….however Whitehall has made sure that we have more major generals than tanks in the army, more admirals than ships in the navy and more squadron leaders than active Typhoons.

    One cannot escape the conclusion that decades of incompetence, corruption and mismanagement by the MoD, equipment purchase overspends and the politicians have so hollowed out our armed forces that it is restricting our diplomacy and our ability to influence events in areas of British interest.

    If we wish to be independent of the EU we need to be able to defend our homeland. To repair the damage to our armed forces will take money, time and commitment. Should a major conflict break out in the meantime, to quote the vernacular, we would be stuffed.

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018

      Sakara Gold

      “Actually, the real damage to the British industrial base was done by Thatcher”

      I don’t think it’s fair to blame it all on the late Mrs Thatcher. After all she took on the marxist unions, and was far more patriotic than some others I can think of.

      Wilson was the first in post war years to write Britain off, when he declared there was no future in manufacturing.

      Heath took us into the EEC.

      Blair took us into two illegal wars, corrupted the civil service, took away our freedoms, marginalised us in our own country, lied to parliament and the nation – his list is endless. A thorough ‘pirate’ by any reckoning.

      Major – do not underestimate the joker. We are largely in the current crisis because this bugger agreed to Maastricht. They say the quiet one’s are the worst.

      Fact is Sakara they’re all guilty, and I’ve yet to see any elected government even attempt to reverse the damage done by the previous.

      Inversely, I’ve seen plenty lie through their teeth in their campaign manifestos. Blair’s being a shining example.

      It’s a toss-up really as to whether Theresa May goes down with more infamy than the king of miscreants – Tony Blair.

      Reply The decline of industry was relentless under Conservative and Labour and Labour/Liberal admins in the 1970s, when removal of all tariff barriers on EU industrial goods added to the decline of UK industry

      1. Steve
        November 10, 2018

        Reply to reply.

        Thank you for pointing out detail Mr Redwood. Appreciated.

    2. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Sakara Gold said: “the real damage to the British industrial base was done by Thatcher“.

      False. UK gross value added (GVA) in manufacturing rose from c£85bn in 1960 to c£155bn in 2001 (source ONS) all at 2007 prices. The rise between 1980 to 1989, under Mrs Thatcher, was the most marked of the lot (from c£115bn to c£150bn). The three most prominent declines were in the early 1970s, the late 1970s, and the early 1990s. All figures read off a graph, not a spreadsheet.

      However, in 1980, 25% of all jobs were in manufacturing, but by 2010 this had dropped to 8.2%. Hence the stupidity of big business and their political lackeys whinging about how they “could not get the staff”. There has been a running surplus of redundant engineers, technicians, and craft trained people available with minimal re-training.

    3. Fuddy Duddy
      November 11, 2018

      Sakara Gold – ‘…we need to be able to defend our homeland.’ Against what? I’d really like to know.

  13. Fedupsoutherner
    November 10, 2018

    We have given everything to the EU. We may as well have surrendered all those years ago. We will not be a sovereign state in a few years. The EU has such a hold over us even now that it is obvious we will never be free from its clutches. How very clever of those at the top table and what a wonderful existence for many of them at our expense.

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018


      “We have given everything to the EU”

      Well I haven’t. I’ve always lived my life on the fringes of EU law and influence.

      I only buy British, American or Japanese. Even if I can’t afford it at the time I just save up until I can.

      Accordingly I am not in debt, and I only have quality in my house.

      If I get hit with a fine for breaching any EU derived law I don’t give in easily.

      I always do my best to ‘Anglicise’ all aspects of my life. I often get labelled a little Englander, which I take as a compliment.

      1. Fedupsoutherner
        November 10, 2018

        Steve, when I say we I mean the collective governments or the establishment. Not the likes of you and I.

        1. Steve
          November 10, 2018


          Yes I know. I refer to the fact that governments tend to live in their own world, and as such do not represent those who live in the real one.

  14. Dave Andrews
    November 10, 2018

    One wonders at times whether the country of today would be worth fighting for. It seems full of Lord Haw-haws. I get the impression that many would accept tyranny with little resistance – many seem to clamour for it!
    Since the Falklands War, the worthiness of British expeditions has declined, with the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan best described as “Tony’s War”. Little wonder that so many come back with severe mental stress, having killed people they really had no business to interfere with.
    Not to take away anything at all from the brave men and women who answered their country’s call.

  15. Denis Cooper
    November 10, 2018

    Off-topic again:

    The Telegraph website has an article by Juliet Samuel with this headline:

    “We could not be further from a Brexit deal, so let the Irish border showdown begin”

    As I am too mean to subscribe to the Telegraph I can only read the first eleven lines, plus the revealing words on the large billboard used as an illustration:



    which is enough to tell us what all this is really about, and it’s not about preventing a return to the bad old days of British soldiers stopping Irish farmers moving their cows from one field to another …

    Because I cannot read the article I don’t know whether her aforementioned “showdown” would be the one I recommended nearly a year ago:

    1. The UK government to make a unilateral public declaration that it intends to make no changes whatsoever at the Irish land border, and for the foreseeable future both people and goods can continue to flow into Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic across that border with no more impediments than exist now.

    2. The UK government to publicly tell the Irish government and the EU that it is up to them what they do on their side of the border, as there is nothing in Article 50 TEU or anywhere else in the EU treaties saying that a member state which withdraws must take responsibility for sorting out problems that its withdrawal may cause to the EU and its continuing member states, or for preventing them from behaving stupidly.

    3. But as a good neighbour and friendly power the UK government to helpfully offer to pass and rigorously enforce new domestic legislation to prohibit the carriage across that border into the Republic and the EU Single Market of any goods which the EU and/or Irish authorities would regard as contraband, with de minimus exemptions as may be agreed, so relieving the authorities on the other side of any new need to check the goods imported from Northern Ireland for compliance with EU rules.

    4. The UK government to inform the EU that for the time being it intends to default to the terms of the existing WTO trade treaties, including the Trade Facilitation Agreement, to which the UK on the one hand, and the EU and all its other member states on the other hand, are already contracting parties, and it only wishes to discuss technical and practical arrangements for continuing our two way trade with minimum disruption.

    1. Hope
      November 10, 2018

      Dennis, the obvious omission is that Your plan fails to keep the UK in the EU.

      1. Denis Cooper
        November 10, 2018

        Precisely! 🙂

    2. forthurst
      November 10, 2018

      If we leave the EU, the last thing we need is a huge bureaucracy overseeing all producers to ensure that all produce exported to Ireland conforms with the EU’s half-baked Single Market rules; would there be criminal sanctions? Who would be the final arbiter of whether a product conformed, the ECJ? Its up to businesses to ensure that what they sell abroad conforms with the recipient country’s product standards.

      1. Denis Cooper
        November 12, 2018

        forthurst, surely you realise that we have that kind of huge bureaucracy already, but it operates all the time to enforce EU law across the whole of the UK economy – production, sales, imports, exports, the lot – rather than just checking the goods destined for carriage across the border into the Irish Republic and EU Single Market to be helpful to our neighbours. Yes, there would be both civil and criminal sanctions, as now, but only relating to the 0.1% of UK GDP exported across the border rather than to 100% of UK GDP. And of course it would be the EU’s supreme court which made the final judgement whether a product in that 0.1% of UK GDP conformed to EU law, just as it now makes that decision for all products in the UK. So which would you prefer, to put up with the minor nuisance of applying government controls just to the trickle of goods exported across the Irish land border, or to have Theresa May successfully keeping the whole of the UK and its economy under EU law forever because she refuses to see any other solution to the fictional Irish border problem?

    3. Denis Cooper
      November 10, 2018

      This should also be noted, from yesterday:

      “Furthermore, Mr Varadkar said that a new element arising was the concern that, if Britain remained in a customs union after Brexit, it would somehow not be subject to the same trade rules or standards for goods.

      “I have to say I share that concern,” Mr Varadkar told RTÉ.”

      The UK remaining under the rules of the EU Customs Union would not be enough, we would also have to stay under the rules of the EU Single Market.

  16. Mark B
    November 10, 2018

    Good morning.

    We have always had a small army but, traditionally, being an island nation, we had to rely on our ‘Wooden Walls’ of the Royal Navy, and laterly, the RAF for our defence.

    Our current army is not large enough to fight a major war against a substantial hostile power.

    And what hostile power would that be ? Would it be Russia, China or the USA as President Macron has stated. Can’t see either of those three invading soon.

    The nature and type of warfare has changed. It is moving from the battlespace into both cyber and outerspace. We are heavily dependent on communications and automation, so there is no need to bomb major cities.

    We need, post BREXIT if it does ever happen, a new foreign policy.From such we can identify what threats to both our home nation are and that of our dependencies e.g. the Falklands.

    We need to beef up the RN and the RFA. Not with big, expensive and worthless ships, but a good mixture of of craft that can do a mix of jobs. We also need maritime patrol aircraft. Something that the Tories got rid of, along with our anti-submarine capability. A national disgrace.

    And finally. I do not want to see our armed forces used to protect French interests in Africa. Let them psy for it. Our MP’s might be dumb enough not to see what they are up to, but we are a bit more aware.

  17. Newmania
    November 10, 2018

    Like babies we have no sense of scale .After the second world war we were no longer a Super power and yet when Suez showed that to be true the ruling class were devastated .
    As JR rightly points out an inverted telescope was applied to our prospects in both wars and we get the daily hilarity of our politicians striking poses on foreign issues to which we are an irrelevance , like the Skibareen Eagle. The utter lack of interest the US has in our neurotic fawning is all too clear
    We are currently engaged in the “easiest negotiations ever” waving our silly fists at an economy on which we are entirely reliant, eight times our size with predictable results
    Never mind , the order was given, the Charge of the Light Brigade cannot be stopped , we only need some modern Tennyson to eulogise the carnage as glorious failure,
    This country has become a bad joke and more and more of us are laughing our …

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018


      “The utter lack of interest the US has in our neurotic fawning is all too clear”

      Ignoring the fact that the US has not won a single war without the British.

      “waving our silly fists at an economy on which we are entirely reliant”

      Precisely why we voted leave – to restore our independence. Quite a few bigger than us thought our fists were silly, Napoleon, Hitler etc. The franco german EU knows what we’re capable of achieving. Why else do you think they’re terrified of our independence.

      1. Newmania
        November 10, 2018

        Well there was the war of independence of course , and the war with Mexico ?
        Meanwhile in toy town a clear majority want nothing to do with this absurd posturing.It has almost nothing to do with the promises made at the time of the referendum

        1. NickC
          November 10, 2018

          Newmania, What, you mean the promises to implement our choice in full and immediately?

          1. Newmania
            November 11, 2018

            There is no “we” to which you and I belong and the Leave side promised , amongst other things
            The easiest negotiations ever
            An outright boost to the exchequer
            No trading problems
            Better access to housing
            Higher wages

            The majority are now against the whole thing realising Many have realised that on the crucial issues of money and services , they were lied to. Anti-immigrant rabble rousing was also important of course but not if it involved any personal cost
            Those who care about our constitutional position have long had their own Party which has never seriously disturbed mainstream politics for all its passionate support in a minority

          2. NickC
            November 11, 2018

            Newmania, The promise to implement our choice in full and immediately was in the government’s white propaganda booklet and was applicable to both the Remain option and the Leave option. If that does not include you then you obviously did not vote.

            Leaving the EU is easy. Unfortunately the current government doesn’t want to, so has made a pig’s ear of it. I never thought the EU would be reasonable, nor give us a good trade deal. And I have said so repeatedly here on JR’s blog, and elsewhere, starting in 2003.

            You are in no position to claim that the majority are now against leaving the EU. Your claim is just a guess. Only an identical repeat of the 2016 Referendum could say that. And once we have a repeat, then precedence says we can have a third. Where does it stop?

    2. Anonymous
      November 10, 2018

      Hey. I’m quite happy with us going full-in EU.

      What I cannot stand is the pretence that we are a great power and that whichever way we vote we get mass immigration and knife crime.

      Scrapping Parliament would be a good second best to Leaving the EU.

      My plan B is to give you Corbyn by doing nothing at all.

    3. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Newmania, We are not “entirely reliant” on the EU economy. Only c12% (2018 Pink Book for 2017) of UK GDP is derived from exports to the EU. And there is no indication that will suddenly drop to 0% post Brexit either.

      The only basis for your extreme Remain sneering is that you must think we are not capable of being independent. Never mind “easiest negotiations”, I would not have negotiated our independence with the EU at all.

      But then I would not have capitulated to the Art50 process either. Dozens of treaties have been abrogated in the last 70 years – for heavens sake it only took about half a year to split the Czech Republic from Slovakia. There is no excuse for being unaware of how vindictive the EU is.

  18. rose
    November 10, 2018

    I commend what you have said, and what Peter Gardner adds.

    “We need above all to ensure that home defence is strong” cannot be over emphasised.

    I have been alarmed by Tobias Ellwood sounding as if we should be the world’s policeman. He may wish us to be, emotionally, but we weren’t even able to do that in the eighties. Let us at least defend our own shores and fishing grounds, and help to keep the trade routes safe.

  19. nigelR
    November 10, 2018

    We should stay more at home and mind our own business instead of involving ourselves in foreign conflicts. We should also tone down the arms exports to disreputable regimes.

  20. Everhopeful
    November 10, 2018

    Might have been better if govts had not imposed draconian cuts on the army since the early 1990s ( maybe before? Maybe always? Charge of the Light Brigade?). Where I live used to be a garrison town. All military housing sold off for a song. Parcels of land all over area ditto.Lovely park gone for housing at rock bottom price and beautiful historic garrison complete with church sold for housing. Terrible destruction of a neighbourhood and what a way to treat those who were willing to die for us!
    Who’d even want to join the army now ?

  21. The PrangWizard
    November 10, 2018

    It’s inevitable and understandable that most attention is given to the Army given the numbers involved and the casualties, but the outcome of WW1 would have been different if we had not had control of the seas. We had a massive Navy which Germany could not match. The same situation existed in WW2. The USA learned that lesson, hence their dominance today.

    Today we are weak all round indeed but we need a much bigger Navy which is weak, notwithstanding the our building of two big carriers where it is totally dependent on the USA for the aircraft and much more besides, which is no way for a country to conduct itself. We do not have enough support vessels for them and we have almost no ability to defend our overseas territories and our sea routes, let alone our own shores.

    We cannot be sure that the USA will wish to assist and re-supply us, us and we should not assume they will should difficulties arise. Here again we are unhealthily happy to make ourselves subservient to foreign powers. They could easily regard our problems as local conflicts in which they have no interests at risk; after all they did not rush to our side over the Falklands and so-called friends, such as France were unreliable. If we argue we should not get involved in overseas conflicts why would the USA argue the same.

    It is vital we build our Navy and Air Forces and missile defences, the highest tech is all very well but numbers still count and we must get on with the cheaper ships. If we had Navy and Air Forces that people had confidence in there wouldn’t be a recruitment crisis.

    1. The PrangWizard
      November 10, 2018

      correction: final sentence, penultimate paragraph – ‘not’ argue the same.

  22. walter
    November 10, 2018

    Now we send our people to Afghanistan to risk their lives and they get limbs blown off or worse, Then a few month later the person who planted the IED turns up here in the back of a lorry telling a sob story that gets them a free life on us. Then their family is welcomed for the same. And as they go around our country planning to blow even more of us to bits, they relax knowing they’ll NEVER be sent back, money for nothing will continue to flow from our pockets to theirs and all their healthcare is on us while WE have to wait for them to have multi-appointment times visits with free translators. Well done UK govt.

  23. Mick
    November 10, 2018

    Off topic
    Just been watching the bias Eu bbc and them trying to hype up the resignation of jo Johnson as if he is some sort of hero of the remoaners, then having grieve on spouting his bile about another referendum/people’s vote, when I voted in 2016 it was to leave the Eu with all the conscious of my choice, and I didn’t vote knowing because a few remoaners didn’t like the outcome of the democratic vote we would vote until the remoaners got the result that they wanted, if all these remoaners cannot come to terms with us leaving then tough pack your bags and go live in your beloved Europe bye bye you’ll not be missed, we the true patriots of this country will make it even greater without your help

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018

      well said !

  24. Martyn G
    November 10, 2018

    I do not for a moment consider that Mrs May (and many others in power) have any real concern for the safety and security of our borders or seas. Elements of the Royal Navy have already been subsumed into the so-called EU Navy, about which little is ever said, even though its HQ is in England. Unlikely perhaps, but if Macron gets his way and Chequers goes ahead, it might be that other parts of our defence forces will also be subsumed into a EU Army over which we would have no control.
    En passant, why is it that no one brings up the topic of NATO having a single fuel concept – Diesel? The concept includes phasing our petrol driven vehicles, about which the government seems unaware, otherwise why did set out demonize diesel engines, leading to the ruination of Jaguar-Landrover in the process? (if interested, one can search for and read full details of the NATO single fuel concept).

  25. Andy
    November 10, 2018

    Here’s a thought. If we wasted less time and money on military hardware designed to kill people in other countries, then we could spend more time and money helping people here.

    Islaoted Brexit Britain is an irrelevance anyway. Who, seriously, is going to fear our aircraft-less leaky aircraft carrier?

    Along with pensions, defence is the biggest waste of my taxes. A pointless effort to recreate a glorious past which never real existed.

    1. Steve
      November 10, 2018


      “Islaoted Brexit Britain is an irrelevance anyway. Who, seriously, is going to fear our aircraft-less leaky aircraft carrier ? ”

      We’ll dance and fire cakes at the enemy, you know the kind of stuff liberals like yourself think makes us a strong nation.

    2. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Andy, Why do you suppose that the UK will be “islaoted”? The people of the UK have connections all across the world. Yes, if you lift your eyes from the northwest corner of the eurasian continent, there is a whole world out there. Ok, I know you haven’t the wit, imagination or courage of the Elizabethans who turned their backs on the fringes of Europe and encompassed the globe, but we do. Why do you suppose we cannot be independent? Why should we not have self determination? What can your EU ideology do for us that we cannot do for ourselves, or with our friends? You have no answers, only whiny bile.

  26. Bob
    November 10, 2018

    Why is it that Asia Bibi and her family whose lives are under threat by a large religious group is denied refuge in Britain?

    Reply I do not know what has happened . The Home Office does not usually make public comments on individual cases.

    1. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Bob, The BBC has only recently taken up reporting this case. Christian groups have been highlighting the persecution of Christians particularly in the Middle East and other Muslim countries for years.

    2. Iago
      November 10, 2018

      This government (and the opposition) go where they have calculated the votes are. They see a loss of votes if they admit this desperate family.

  27. Mike Wilson
    November 10, 2018

    We ought only to concern ourselves about the defence of this island. We are never going off to the continent again to save the world. If Russian tanks rolled across Poland and into Germany what are we going to do about it? Nothing. We no longer have the capability. Accept the fact we are no longer a world power – why would we want to be? – and just concentrate on defence.

    Maintain a nuclear deterrent and enough of a navy, airforce and army to repel any invaders. Other than that, use the armed forces to do something useful at home.

  28. Jumeirah
    November 10, 2018

    We don’t need to participate in foreign wars and all consuming Near East/ Middle East conflicts and neither do we need NATO any longer. What we DO need is to gear up and invest (properly invest)#and develop a seriously strong, well-armed well resourced Naval, Air and Military force and enhanced counter cyber warfare facilities to protect our island and Gibraltar. We don’t need Cypress and all these other ‘off shore’ bases – what happens elsewhere is no longer our concern. FEAR of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea amongst others is ‘Politicians Folly’ together with this HOPELESS, pathetic phrase and which is always churned out before we launch ourselves into another conflict (unprepared, under- resourced with no ‘end game plan) which is ‘ protecting our National interest’. Hordes of Chinese and Russians running all over the place is fatuous. The threat from Iran (nuclear) is a joke and can be quashed in months by sanctions and previously was. SO WHY do we need bases in Bahrain or personnel out there or indeed anywhere outside our ‘National interests’. Those out there need to sell oil otherwise they are dead in the water and they know it. It’s their wars not ours. We need to concentrate on trade not ‘foreign adventures’ safe in the knowledge of Fortress GB behind us if push comes to shove.

  29. Andy
    November 10, 2018

    So, Mr Redwood, this morning Jo Johnson has said that your Brexit falls “spectacularly short” of what leave voters were promised.

    He said the current plan appears to be “irrevocably stupid” – the biggest mistake since WW2. He compared it to Suez.

    A loyal Tory MP who will, no doubt, now be slandered by Brexiteers. Meanwhile The Guardian has an interesting interview with Anna Soubry who speaks about the death threats she has received from Brexit voters.

    How do you think your Brexit is going?

    Reply I agree with Mr J that the May proposal is not Brexit and is worse than being in the EU. I look forward to just leaving in March next year as Parliament has legislated to do, which will be great. How would you like to spend the £39bn we will save?

    1. NickC
      November 10, 2018

      Andy, I have been telling you that the Chequers plan falls spectacularly short of what Leave voters were promised, since July. But then you always were a bit slow on the uptake.

    2. margaret howard
      November 10, 2018

      Reply to Reply

      You keep banging on a bout the £39b. You know it’s a red herring.

      1. NickC
        November 10, 2018

        Margaret Howard, If £39bn is merely a red herring, and not a stupendous amount of money, can you ensure that you and your Remain friends dig deep in your pockets and pay it off for us? There’s a good girl.

  30. margaret howard
    November 10, 2018

    In this nuclear age an army is about as useful as building walls around our cities. America has shown in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they will destroy the enemy with nuclear weapons so all we can hope for is that their nuclear forces are matched by those of the rest of us.


    1. Oggy
      November 10, 2018

      Just exactly who do you think the UK’s enemies are ?
      NATO has kept the peace in Europe since 1945 not the EU, saying we should get in an arms race with the USA or anyone else is total bollocks.

      I’m glad you signed off with ‘MAD’.

      1. margaret howard
        November 11, 2018


        And there has been an arms race between Russia and the US since WW2.

        But with hindsight you are right about the necessity of an arms race with the US. They will blow us all to kingdom come if their cold war with Russia turns hot. Or China becomes too powerful for them. We are just small fry in the middle.

  31. Iago
    November 10, 2018

    Every time I go through airport security, I realise that we are at war or rather, to be more accurate, that war is being waged against us – we do not fight back. Mrs May and the other ministers refuse to identify who is doing this; we are told we are fighting “terror”, a feeling, or “extremism”, a very broad idea. So, to be realistic, our armed forces can do very little. The one invincible weapon that we have, the truth, this government is too cowardly to use.

  32. Norman
    November 10, 2018

    All things being equal, there ought to be a sensible balance between defence of the realm on the one hand, and strategic alliances (as per NATO) on the other. It would also be irresponsible to neglect counter-intelligence and cyber-warfare – specially relevant in thwarting terrorism.
    As an influential world power, to abdicate from proportionate responsibility in these matters really would make us ‘Little Englanders’. Hopefully, a successful Brexit would provide the potential to think straight again – something which seems to have been appallingly lacking in recent decades.

  33. Rien Huizer
    November 10, 2018

    Mr Redwood,

    You raise many inretsting points. Canada and the European NATO members are completel;y dependent og the US to wage war (maybe the UK could invade, say, Ireland and conquer it, but that would be about all the UK could achieve as an aggressor. Even the excellen Royal Marines (interopreable with their Dutch colleagues) .are not equipped to do heavily opposed landings.

    Air superiority is a US monopoly, as is strategic warfare. There is not viable role for small states, except maybe small scale conflict. The good thing is that Russia cannot invade the UK without US consent, or vice versa.

    The thing we’ve had since WWII is NATO and it would be a good thing if that would be the only framework for European defense effort. With that there would be complete defense material uniformity (not necessarily sourced from the US of course), but a trade agreement between EU and US specifically for defense procurement could boost effectiveness (as an interested taxpayer I am unhappy with all those national things but with US extravangance (1 bn USD for a single squadron of F35s) due to monopolistic and extremely risk averse practices, some competition would make sense.

  34. Ron Olden
    November 11, 2018

    Rarely in history has the UK, (or before it, England), had the capacity, to wage war on the continent.

    It’s an impossible and pointless task. Maintaining a force capable of doing so, decade after decade, would be impossible.

    On the tiny number of occasions when we’ve managed to mount successful operations on the continent, it’s usually been with enormous backing from allies, or, in earlier times, by paying mercenaries.

    On the occasions of the Napoleonic Wars, we won after the opposition had been seriously weakened in disastrous earlier campaigns, by big powers coming at it from all directions.

    In the case of Henry 5th and all that, the opposition was useless to start off with. But even that success required an exceptional leader and still didn’t last long.

    The UK has never sought to be a continental player, and as an Island off the coast of the continental mainland must never do so.

    All we need to do is to be able to defend ourselves from invasion and maintain our trade access to the world.

    Who cares if Russia occupies Central Europe? That’s Russia’s and the EUs problem. Italy on its own has an economy bigger than Russia. So if the EU can’t defend itself, it deserves to lose.

    It’s not even clear whether it would have made any difference to us if Germany had won the First World War against France.

    On balance. I think we were right to do what we did. But it’s still not a cut and dried case.

    And if you go into war on the continent with a German State and its allies which have been preparing for it for years it’s no good complaining that you lose hundreds of thousands of men.

    You have to throw men forward, otherwise it’s pointless being there. What did politicians expect the Generals to do? Dig into a trench and live there for the rest of eternity?

    The conduct of war went through a profound revolution between 1914 and 1918. The British army, like all other armies, began the war using outdated tactics. These were progressively replaced by cutting-edge methods incorporating the latest technology, including artillery, air power, machine-guns, gas, and tanks.

    By 1918 Haig’s forces had evolved a war-winning weapons-system that enabled them to defeat the German Army in battles such as at Amiens in August that year. As for casualties, win or lose, Western Front battles were bound to be costly in human life.

    A French commander, General Mangin, rightly remarked, ‘whatever you do, you lose a lot of men’.

    A hundred years earlier, Wellington said:- ‘Nothing, except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won’.

    The way to avoid losses like this is for politicians not to cause wars in the first place. Sitting around moaning that it wasn’t as easy as they assumed, or the the Generals weren’t miracle workers is disreputable.

    This ‘lions led by donkeys’ slander was convenient myth for politicians to peddle after the war ended.

    The politicians themselves of course didn’t count themselves amongst the ‘donkeys’.

    The ‘donkeys’ they identified were the Generals who had been given an impossible task but who nevertheless, in the end, achieved victory, albeit with enormous cost.

    Following which the politicians managed to wreck the whole thing again within 20 years.

    Knowing what we know now, the case for declaring war on Germany in 1939 was stronger, but was it so clear the time?

    More recently, what possible gain have we achieved for ourselves, or for anyone else by overthrowing Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi, plunging the Middle East into chaos and facilitating the growth of terrorism?

  35. Martin
    November 11, 2018

    BBC2 begins a three-part series on the Foreign Office next Thursday. 9pm+

  36. margaret howard
    November 11, 2018

    I agree.

Comments are closed.