First Sea Lord writes an open letter to the The Daily Telegraph


Earlier this month we reported how the The Daily Telegraph published an inaccurate and poorly researched article about the visit of a US Warship to Gibraltar

Well it turns out this is becoming a bit of a habit for them. I don’t know where they are getting their information from and what sources they are using but now the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Phillip Jones KCB ADC – the countries most senior sailor, has seen it appropriate today to publish an open letter challenging new claims from an article written by The Daily Telegraph’s defence editor – Con Coughlin.

In this article published a week ago Mr Coughlin, who studied modern history at Oxford, called the navy a ‘laughing stock’ as his so-called source that wasn’t named… (again) said that HMS Ocean had engine problems so was delayed in leaving for the Caribbean and that cuts to defence spending have also severely hampered Britain’s response to Hurricane Irma.

In terms of Gross Domestic Product the UK defence spending has slowly decreased from 2.85 percent of GDP in 2000 to around 2.4 percent by the end of 2018. However in actual financial terms that has meant an actual increase in spending from £28 billion in 2000 to a steady £44-£45 billion today. It is far more complicated to simply say there have been ‘cuts’.

Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph published this story on the front page. Credit: Neil Henderson‏/twitter

I would never oppose the right Mr Coughlin has to challenge the accountability of the armed forces. It is a fundamental principal in our social-democratic society that there is freedom of speech. But just as the armed forces have to be accountable so do the press; this made the front page of a national newspaper. But why… where is the story?

Of course the First Sea Lord has a duty to defend his Navy so you might think he will automatically deny the claims but read the letter written by the Chief of Naval Staff and decide for yourself.

HMS Ocean left Plymouth in August bound for the Mediterranean to serve as the flagship for the standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2). She was turned around and ordered to the Caribbean via Gibraltar after picking up supplies to help those victim of a terrible natural disaster.

I don’t know what Mr Coughlin has done to help? And I apologise if he has been busy but I would like him to think of the crew and their families who he has so insultingly undermined. While he benefits daily from the freedom bestowed upon him by the armed forces the crew are now facing an uncertain future; and any of them reading his article I have no doubt would have felt undervalued and not full of the pride and praise they deserve.

The headline to Mr Coughlin’s article was “Weakened Navy can now barely protect UK” but as you read this be in no doubt that men and women of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force work hard around the clock to ensure ignorant men like him have the protection they are so ungrateful for.

It could be that poor sales of its newspaper have forced The Daily Telegraph to publish stories that are less accurate and more exciting to read or perhaps a journalist that is only getting older has to create more of a reaction to stay in a job? I don’t know – all I do know is that this paper’s reputation is sinking – fast!