Ukraine war a ‘massive wakeup call’ for British Army, say veterans and experts
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The war in Ukraine should provide a “massive wake-up call” to how the government wants to fund Britain’s military, former soldiers and military historians have warned, amid criticism over its ability to defend the UK and its allies.
Rishi Sunak has come under fire from veterans and members of his own party after a US general said the army could no longer defend the UK. The army is currently 76,000 strong, but will shrink to 73,000 if downsizing plans continue. It is already half the size it was in 1990 and the smallest it has been since Napoleonic times.
Former soldier Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British army officer from 1988 to 2012, told The Independent: “We thought the artillery was in good condition, but that was before the Ukraine conflict, a lot of money had been spent. But after playing Star Wars [with focus on cyber and space security] the war in Ukraine showed that to be successful on the battlefield, you have to focus on it.
“Our own situation has become quite dark. When I joined the army in 1988 we had four divisions but I heard it was about 80 percent [less than that] now. Our greatest defense was the water around us, but being part of NATO means we can’t just sit back… I heard giving 14 tanks to Ukraine would be detrimental to our own forces when we hundreds ten years ago had. It should be a massive wake-up call.”
Historian Dr Simon Anglim said he had spoken to serving personnel who expressed “dissatisfaction” with the state of affairs, with the number of British Army tanks – for example – to be reduced from 800 in the Cold War to possibly as low as 148. .
“I think we’ve gotten to this point from a combination of underinvestment and decision makers with confused priorities,” he said.
“Our Challenger tanks are now being knocked out, as the Ukrainian military may be about to discover. Our Scimitar light tanks have been in service since the late 1960s.
“In my own opinion, the British Army needs to decide what it wants to be. Does it want to be a key part of NATO or a faster, lighter and globally operating one?
Another former British soldier, Nicholas Drummond, said: “A shortage of soldiers is no surprise given the reduction in personnel since 2010. Shortage in performance is about the army no longer having sufficient heavy armor assets to handle combined arms maneuvers in partnership with our key NATO allies Challenger 2, AS90 and Warrior were all supposed to be upgraded before 2010 but they didn’t happen.
The situation with the Ukraine war brought to the fore the need for reinforcement of the British army
(AFP via Getty Images)
“The loss of capability is the result of two things: The military being starved of cash for 42 years, and the military’s inability to spend the limited cash it does have in such a way as to deliver key programs.”
The feeling was felt to the top. Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defense Select Committee, said: “We must invest in cyber and space security as this is the new advance in the nature of conflict, but we must not do so at the expense of your land forces.
“Our army is simply too small. We cut down with 10,000 troops. I hope the defense review will look at these issues and reverse some of the cuts made a few years ago.”
A government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is clear that we must do whatever it takes to protect our people, which is why the UK has the largest defense budget in Europe and we have made the biggest investment in the UK defense industry since the Cold War . in 2020.
Tobias Ellwood was critical of the government’s direction
“We are ensuring our armed forces have the equipment and capability they need to meet the threats of tomorrow, including through a fully funded £242 billion 10-year equipment plan.”