According to a former Chief of the General staff, the army is in danger of being reduced to a mere “gendarmerie”, as he says that the emphasis spending on “big ticket machinery” has led to a squeeze on manpower.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff from 2006-2009, said that: “any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappear” if forces are cut any further.
His comments come as HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy – currently undergoes sea trials in Scotland this summer before it completes its first voyage to its new home in Portsmouth in the autumn.
Work began on the giant ship back in 2009 and has cost over £3billion pounds. She has space for 40 aircraft, a displacement of over 70,000 tonnes, a capacity for 1600 sailors/marines, and an average top speed of around 30kts.
Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire last week, about his book Boots on the Ground: Britain and her army since 1945 he said: “The professional view and the widespread view is that an army by design, below the strength of what we currently have, would frankly reduce the army to nothing more than a *gendarmerie”.
“The Americans would give up on us as a useful ally. And frankly, any thought of Britain being taken seriously in the world after Brexit would disappear.”
“The problem comes – and we saw this in 2010 when the defence budget was reduced by seven per cent – that the Government, perhaps not unreasonably, decided to prioritise the big equipment programmes over manpower.”
“Where is most of the man power in the armed forces? It’s in the army. And that was what led to the army being reduced from 102,000 to 82,000. And now it’s been reduced to 79,000 at the present time.
“If that exercise was to be repeated and the priority was to go to big ticket equipment like aircraft carriers and fast jets, the squeeze would once again come on manpower.”
Asked whether he believed rumours that the army could be cut further, to 66,0000, he said: “I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen…Our military capability is really important combined with our soft power ability to have influence over the world. If it was to become a serious debating point of reducing to 65 or 66,000, I think we would need to resist that.”
Born in Chelmsford, Essex – General Lord Richard Dannatt attended Felsted School before attending the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS). He was commissioned into the Green Howards in 1971 and served in the 1st Battalion in Northern Ireland (where he was awarded the Military Cross). He then took an in-service degree at Durham University (Hatfield College) and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Economic History.
From 1994-6 he commanded 4th Armoured Brigade in Germany and Bosnia, then British forces in Kosovo. From 2001-2 he was Assistant Chief of the General Staff at the Ministry of Defence before taking command of Nato’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. In March 2005 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Land Command. He was Chief of the General Staff from August 2006 – 2009.
*A gendarmerie is a military component with jurisdiction in civil law enforcement. The term “gendarmerie” is derived from the medieval French expression gens d’armes, which translates to “armed men”.