SDSR 2015 – Great Britain’s Place in the World

Lets make no mistake, Great Britain is great, the clue is in the name after all.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is obviously uneducated, or French.

Great Britain

Without Great Britain the world would be a poorer place in every regard.

Lets just remind ourselves why…

We gave the world democracy, common law, the Bailey Bridge, tanks, gravity, the worlds most common second language, Led Zeppelin, fair play, queuing, the backhoe loader, metal bridges, modern economics, the industrial revolution and Hollywood villains.

The Beatles, Morris Dancing, penicillin, HP sauce, Top Gear, the World Wide Web (your welcome), One Direction, Carry On and Simon Cowell.

Tea drinking, chicken tikka masala, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, battered Mars Bars, the BBC, the mini (car, roundabout and skirt), the Spice Girls, Darwin, football, Marmite, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, ping pong, pubs, tea, sharp suits, Spitfires and the fact there are homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals in the armed forces and no one gives two shits.

With our friends and allies stood against the Nazis, invented the railway, sarcasm, MRI scanners, the screw propellor and a proper breakfast, been on the right side of the Napoleonic, First, Second and Cold War and gave the world steam power, the Mexeflote, Wallace and Gromit, roast beef dinners, the Dyson, Doctor Who, television, telephones, text messaging, GMT, electric motors, lawn mowers, spotted dick, sewage systems, the thermos flask, the jet engine, carbon fibre, the flushing toilet and polyester (just for the RAF), pencils, radar and the Bank of France (ha ha ha).

The correct method of holding an umbrella


The fighter aircraft, battleship, aircraft carrier, stun grenades, drill that doesn’t look ridiculous, the Pub Landlord, proper salutes, the torpedo, sonar, underwater knife fighters, the armoured vehicle boiling vessel (for the tea), Paralympic Games, independent air forces (yep, sorry about that one), the equal sign and gin and tonic.

Did I mention, tea


And you know what, we don’t constantly go on about how exceptional we are.

I am not actually a fan of the term ‘place in the world’ but it does serve as a reasonable place to start a conversation about what we stand for and who we are.

The UK is one of the worlds largest economies, has world class research, science, engineering, culture, finance and technology industry’s. European Geostrategy even ranked the UK the worlds only global soft super-power, above the USA. We occupy one the UN’s few permanent security council seats and have a disproportionate influence on world governance and business, technology and security standards.

Our military has an incredible reputation and most nations know that whilst we may seem a little soft on the outside we are not to be messed with. Trident, a conventional military force with genuine global reach and a range of capabilities honed in numerous conflicts means that despite recent problems it would be a very brave nation that took us on directly.

The UK, therefore, has a deep well of hard and soft power from which to draw.

There is an ongoing obsession with putting nations into league tables and any casual online search will reveal a plethora of indices but the bottom line is very simple, the UK is one of the worlds leading nations by any measure you care to use.

Recent events have given our world image a battering, everything from Iraq and Afghanistan to the current economic issues have reduced our status. The gradual sublimation of sovereign power to the EU, the overweening nanny state, a gradual loss of freedom from intrusive laws and obsession with political correctness has also resulted in a sort of national loss of self esteem and inability to think strategically.

Just as Turkey is caught between the East and West, the modern UK can sometimes appear to be caught between the US and Europe, unable to commit fully to either.

We should have no illusions about our relationships with the USA, Germany or France and others. Although we are allies and firm friends should not expect anything but self interest from them, to think otherwise is delusional.

We should not describe ourselves as a bridge to anything or anyone, we are more than that and have the ability to act as an important nation in our own right at the heart of global affairs.

The world is changing at a rapid pace and if Great Britain wants to be safe, prosperous and influential our outlook must be outward looking, in all the forms that this might take. We might be an island nation but we are as interconnected as any, reliant on a complex web of relationships, alliances and connections. If the existing policy aspiration is to reject ‘strategic shrinkage’ there has to be a recognition that one of the many levers of strategic power is hard power delivered by the armed forces and intelligence services.

Soft power is no power unless it has some hard power standing behind it.

An over reliance of soft power and influence will result eventually, in someone calling your bluff, realising, as the previous post, that you are all fur coat and no knickers.

There is no doubt there have been some serious strategic missteps recently, interventions in Libya and Iraq have undoubtedly made things worse for the UK and people of those nations and whilst our 13 year presence in Afghanistan is now complete there seems to still be some confusion what it actually achieved with a wide perception of failure.

And yet the Balkans and Sierra Leone are equally and undoubtedly better for our interventions.

To have a strong defence a strong treasury is needed, that much should be obvious. So for all the fine talk of global aspirations, connectivity and strategic outlooks it is economics that defines how much of that you can have. Think Defence readers are self selecting, I am pretty sure there would not be many takers for a proposition that said lets cut defence spending but when it comes to setting public spending defence does not generally come out as a high priority and yet lets be honest, the MoD has a large budget.

I think the fundamental problem for UK defence is the difference between aspiration and budgetary reality leads to a fundamental inability to prioritise funding; all three services get roughly equal budgetary treatment and capabilities within the services likewise.

There is nothing wrong with this, it is driven by the desire to maintain balance across a broad spectrum.

The reality of defence inflation, increasing personnel and equipment/support costs combined with static or declining budgets means the rhetoric about being the best or world class cannot by any logical deduction hold true if the insistence on broad spectrum remains.

You can make arguments for individual capabilities being easily the best in the world but as we have so few of them, their qualitative advantage becomes less and less pivotal in any engagement.

The end result is the salami slicing that has characterised every single defence review since the end of WWII and we are approaching the point where maintaining the critical mass across the full spectrum is impossible.

The slices will be so thin as to be ineffective at reducing cost whilst the leftovers will have an increasingly low level of utility and value for money.

In other words, business as usual has to be on the negotiating table.

Make no mistake, Great Britain is and will be a great nation of global significance but unless there is an increase in defence spending or a re-appraisal of the role and composition of the armed forces in the UK’s strategic outlook, maintaining that significance will be that much more difficult.

If we think there is an increase in defence spending on the horizon I would simply counter with two men better than I.

US Army General Gordon Sullivan said;

Hope is not a method

Or put another way

wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up first


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dave haine
dave haine
January 24, 2015 12:41 pm

I think the armed forces, and those civvies with an interest in defence need to engage more with the general public- So far it’s been left to journalists (who let’s be fair, tend not to specialise too much, unless it’s sells papers, or can be found in a waste bin).

The general public are interested, but really are only being told a limited story…

Kazuaki Shimazaki
Kazuaki Shimazaki
January 24, 2015 1:28 pm

>We stood alone against the Nazis for years

This one at least is pushing it. You guys joined the war in 1939, got chased out of France in 1940. In 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Looking merely at “big” facts … where were the “years” in this?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 24, 2015 1:57 pm

@KS – In fairness, thirteen months…during which we along with our Dominions and Colonies held the line on behalf of anybody who values freedom against possibly the most malignant regime known to mankind (against strong competition which includes Mussolini, Tojo, Stalin and Mao)…and made it possible for the West, in time, overcome that challenge…perhaps you would have preferred it if we hadn’t?

Leaving all hyperbole aside, I don’t think that’s a bad record…well worth remembering as we are about to commemorate the death the man held by many to be the Greatest Englishman.

As to the substantive article, I wish I’d said that…but I’m glad you did… :-)


January 24, 2015 2:04 pm

I don’t think we can claim to have invented gravity, it was always there.

January 24, 2015 2:35 pm

WiseApe is right, gravity was always there and was just discovered by the British.

It was invented by nature, however all the R and D credit goes to British apple trees.

January 24, 2015 2:53 pm

GNB the myth of the famous Low cartoon of ‘very well then alone’ for those 13 months is part of the ongoing make up of the UK political mindset but of course it is just that a myth.

In terms of alone, you correctly mention our Dominions and Colonies which are often forgotten.

The British Imperial system of the day was a global superpower, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and an Indian Empire which included not only today’s India but Pakistan and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and then throw in most of Africa and lots of Arabia.

Now that combined force was beaten on a regular basis by the Germans 39-42 but survived, but they did wipe Mussolini out of the war and stopped the Germans expanding beyond the European mainlind.

In the 13 months of ‘alone’ we sank most of the Italian Fleet, conquered the Italian Empire of the Horn of Africa which is now, Ethiopia and Somalia and Eritrea and Djibouti, we conquered Syria and Lebanon and re-occupied Iraq, and all but took Lybia before Romell arrived. Quite a lightening campaign for around a year.

January 24, 2015 3:07 pm

I’m sorry but, If I understand correctly, to the latest news, your army will be reduced to 60,000 troops ? Your government goes crazy !
The United Kingdom is a great nation, it needs a large army to maintain its political positions in the world.
Your MoD should stop to think with a calculator, the priority of a government is to ensure internal and external security of the country.
For our part, the budget of 31.4 billion should benefit of additional resources. Decisions will be announced next wednesday after a Defence Council at l’Elysée. The Ministry of Finance will therefore have to revise his priority according to the French Ministry of Defence, by stressing the need, after the terrorist attacks in France, to almost stop the reduction of troops.
It will perhaps even an acceleration of the delivery of military equipment in addition to maintains of one brigade.
I speak cautiously, because we are never sure of anything.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 24, 2015 3:34 pm


We are all probably all prisoners of our own national perspective and teaching of history. For example, while serving with the UN in former Yugoslavia, but in effect the British representative in a completely French HQ, I thought it would be fun to commiserate with my French colleagues and superiors on the anniversary of Waterloo, which we did with much jollity. However, I was dumbfounded to be offered a cake about a fortnight later by the Chef D’Etat Major with “Mers-el-Kébir” written on it in icing. I’d never even heard of it, far less known how wounding it was to the French.

Lesson learned.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 24, 2015 3:39 pm


Mers-el-kebir was on of the biggest cock ups of WW2 but blame falls on both sides. Cannot believe you had never heard of it.

January 24, 2015 3:45 pm

Did anyone see Paxman on The One Show last night? He has done a documentary on Churchill’s funeral. Unfortunately, he was unable to confirm that WC had stipulated that after his death his body should be transported to Oxfordshire from Waterloo station – because he knew De Gaulle would be there.

– I suspect the “60000” will turn out to be a scare story while the plummet to 82000 may be accelerated.

Imagine if whenever you wanted to talk about tanks, you had to type “panzerkampfwagen.”

January 24, 2015 3:45 pm

Broad spectrum capability is a world class asset in itself, even if you have to compromise slightly on accessory capabilities pay for it. If you narrow your own fighting capability you allow your enemies to fight you on their terms somewhat. By maintaining broad spectrum you maintain the ability to pick and choose the most effective way to engage your enemy. It also lessens your enemy’s ability to focus on your strength/weakness, as they have to maintain vigilence across the military spectrum. E.g. By maintaining both carrier strike, and attack submarine cruise missile strike capabilities, in the long term you force your enemies to spread their resources across defence in both those spectrums too. Or, if we came across an enemy with very good air defense capabilities (integrated SAM network for example), but relatively weak land forces, at the moment we have the ability to choose via our amphibious capability (assuming they have a coastline) and armoured forces to keep most of the fighting on the ground, and use SSN strikes to take out strategic targets. But if we got rid of our amphibious, SSN strike, or heavy armoured capabilities then that might not be possible.

Sometimes you need a hammer, a screwdriver and a pair of pliars to do a job. All 3 are vital.

But if you just have an amazing screwdriver and really good set of pliars, you’re simply not going to be able to complete it.

January 24, 2015 3:50 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb here – outsider looking in and all that….

…but I suspect if the general public ever really got hold of the story of FRES and the utter wastage behind it – there would be hell to pay as the public would ask the same question over and over, “How the f**k could the Generals waste billions, have f**k all to show for it whilst at the same time UK forces were using kit that was as about as much use a wet cardboard when it came to protecting them whilst working in certain areas….when better off the shelf kit was available….”

And for FRES, read the cretins in the RAF that failed over decades to deliver NIMROD whilst other kit was available and could do the job. Meanwhile the Royal Navy couldn’t get their act together so it takes decades to get a boat (T45) in the water, a boat that costs just short of a billion pounds a throw….

…..if that level of wastage was prevalent in the Police or Fire Services, Ministers and Chief Officers would be sacked at the very least.

Being a cynic, perhaps it’s a damn good thing for the Senior Brass at the MoD – uniformed and those in the grey suits – that the public doesn’t take a damn close look at what goes on.

Some of the learned commentators on this sight might argue from a point of being better informed, “Well, it’s about procurement you see…..”….

….my response as a taxpayer interested in defence…..make the cash you’ve got now work better, waste less and then come back for more.

And that leaves aside the idiotic decisions – as agreed to by Senior Brass – to keep their traps shut when the Mod enmeshed itself with PFI with all the long term costs and issues with service provision. How much was Main Building PFI again……

January 24, 2015 3:59 pm

APATS, can’t really say it was a cockup, more like the politics of fear going on at that time. The British feared the ships falling into German hands, which would go a long way towards reducing the force disparity at sea. If Bismark and Tripitz already had the RN running round like crazy, imagine 4 other ships like them.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 24, 2015 4:02 pm

@RT & apats “England’s Last War Against France” by Colin Smith is very good on Mers el Kebir…but I’d have thought it was a necessary evil as opposed to a cock-up…the early war triumphs described by above would have been a hell of a lot harder to achieve if the Germans had secured the French Fleet, and I am far from sure that French assurances that they would not were worth much, especially at that stage in the War. Post-war French efforts to convince everybody (especially themselves) that the Vichy Regime had little support have been far more successful than they deserved to be, although I think that wind has now definitely changed…


January 24, 2015 4:07 pm

‘if the Germans had secured the French Fleet, and I am far from sure that French assurances that they would not were worth much’

I’m pretty sure they scuttled the fleet later on in the war when the germans tried to seize their ships.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 24, 2015 4:08 pm


The cock up in mers el kebir was the manner that the surrender negotiations were handled. typical Imperialist arrogance where a different approach may well have seen those same ships fighting on our own side.
even in the last 10 years i have seen myself hindered by our old Imperialist outlook whilst trying to conduct ops abroad :(

January 24, 2015 4:24 pm

Since a long time we are no longer enemies, we will not go back to the Hundred Years War. If I come here sometimes say a word it is because you have always had an admirable behavior through the centuries, and you have saved France from Nazism. Thank you for this.

Bingo Bob
Bingo Bob
January 24, 2015 5:21 pm

The real problem with the successive defence reviews is the widening gap between political foreign policy rhetoric and naval and military capability. If we end up only needing an Army for territorial defence and contributions to multilateral forces in “police actions”, then 60k is still too big. Same is true of the Navy. If we aren’t going to buy enough F35s to make two air groups, why bother with two carriers to leave one in extended readiness? (I realise that we would probably find it impossible to sell one of them, because they are the proverbial “two-humped horse designed by a committee”). Why bother with two carriers if we only have enough “rest of the Navy” to escort one into contested space? Unless we are going to build substantially more T26s than seems likely then the notion of a 2-carrier Navy is nonsense. I am not going to exempt the RAF from “why do we bother?”, but on thinking of Eurofighter and F35 I just lose the will to live.

The baseline requirement for the forces is to support the nuclear deterrent and everything else is, in the eyes of the politicians, discretionary. Even so there is now an obsession with saving money by scrapping CASD or (heaven help us) missile delivery by the RAF (even though no such missile exists and would cost a bally fortune to procure). They are becoming convinced that the future is cyberwarfare and domestic surveillance, and that the money should go there first and anywhere else second. It’s idiotic, and when the Islamists have overrun Africa north of the Equator and Asia west of Delhi no doubt there will be a bit of a panic in the party HQs.

January 24, 2015 6:13 pm

@ Carickter – “Broad spectrum capability is a world class asset in itself, even if you have to compromise slightly on accessory capabilities pay for it. If you narrow your own fighting capability you allow your enemies to fight you on their terms somewhat. By maintaining broad spectrum you maintain the ability to pick and choose the most effective way to engage your enemy.”

True in itself. But that truth only applies to autonomous obligations for the UK’s defence, and contributory obligations for collective defence. We are talking about here elective war of both the autonomous and the contributory kind, and the simple fact is that we lack mass to make any form of power projection significant enough to achieve strategic effect.

2.0% of GDP in a ~£2 trillion economy does not permit broad spectrum capability with the depth to project power at any useful level.

January 24, 2015 6:25 pm

“In fairness, thirteen months…during which we along with our Dominions and Colonies held the line”
Umm, Greece and Yugoslavia?

“Great Britain is and will be a great nation of global significance but unless there is an increase in defence spending or a re-appraisal of the role and composition of the armed forces in the UK’s strategic outlook, maintaining that significance will be that much more difficult.”

The spending can hardly be blamed. The lack of political wisdom and the traditional incompetence and egoism of the British officer corps are much more to be blamed.

“2.0% of GDP in a ~£2 trillion economy does not permit broad spectrum capability with the depth to project power at any useful level.”
Not with THOSE officer corps, for sure.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 24, 2015 6:32 pm

@apats – At that time, I’d say there was more than enough Imperialist arrogance on both sides to make negotiations difficult, and it is only with the wisdom of hindsight that we can believe that if x or y had been said instead of z, the outcome would have been different…but from the British point of view it clearly could not have allowed any possibility that the Reich got the Fleet (unlikely but not impossible) OR that Vichy inclined Frenchmen could use them against us themselves once we had lifted the blockade and allowed them sea-room (in my view much more likely)…Admiral Darlan was after all Petain’s Deputy and did certainly consider waging an active war at sea against us in those early months…Vichy was at times within an ace of becoming an active Axis Ally…let’s try to remember that DeGaulle was a profoundly unpopular figure in France for much of the War, and that (as far as I can recall) when he founded the Free French more French Soldiers then in the UK went home than joined him.

@Topman – Indeed so, but the Allies were by then definitively winning the War and the politics had fundamentally changed for those who were Vichy fellow-travellers as opposed to enthusiasts…the 1969 documentary “the Sorrow and the Pity” by Marcel Ophuls is well worth seeing on the subject of French Collaboration, and just how close they came to signing up with the Reich…


January 24, 2015 6:46 pm


These lists of things we gave the world are always a laugh.
I particularly like Al Murray’s one about Greece

scientific method

THE Greeks have definitely done their bit.

Mind you they sat back and then did bugger all for 2000 year…. but at least they picked somewhere nice to do it.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 24, 2015 7:12 pm


I went to a normal school. After the Andrew fell out of relevance in 1805, they don’t appear to have made the curriculum.

The Andrew only make the headlines these days when either parking a ship on sandbanks just off Skye, or spending stupendously vast amounts of money on boats that we don’t need.


January 24, 2015 7:31 pm

@Bingobob you are right the difference between actual capabilities and the assumed capabilities of some of the political and military establishment is the problem.

The year of 40-41 was in the context of a Global Empire and in the context of a fully committed economy with mass conscription and a lot more than 2% being spent on defence. However some of the establishment thinks that is the ‘normal’ and the shrinkage ever since is the temporary exception.

They accept we can no longer invade and occupy Syria overthrow Assad and destroy ISIS unilaterally as we would have done in 1940 but they think we should be able to do ‘something’ and do not want to admit that the truth is if the contribution is a handful of fast jets it is marginal to the point of irrelevance in the context of the possible US contribution and a similar contribution could be provided by the Saudis, Turks or Egyptians.

Whether defence spending is 1.8 or 2% of a stagnating economy is not the point if we want to act as if we are still spending 5%. CASD and 4 boats is vital if we are assuming the target is Russia, if you want the ability to hit Iran or Argentina then a dumb bomb from a Tornado will still make a mess.

We tak as if we are needed as a major player in the Indian Ocean and further East but in the context of a 60,000 man Army when to India, China and even the Koreas 600,000 is more like it. We can deploy a single FF/DDG when India is proposing to be a 3 Carrier Fleet by the 2020’s and the Chinese will have an escort fleet in the 50’s.

January 24, 2015 7:47 pm

@RT, Sidi Bel Abbes being 37 mls inland from Mers el Kebir explains why your friends from the Legion had the Anglo-French history close to their ex-HQ close to their hearts.

January 24, 2015 8:04 pm

GNB – ref “DeGaulle was a profoundly unpopular figure in France for much of the War, and that when he founded the Free French more French Soldiers then in the UK went home than joined him” – now that can’t be true! Every Frenchman interviewed since 1945 who was old enough to fight in the war has pronounced with pride they were in the Resistance. Every one, I tell you.

WiseApe – ref Churchill’s final journey – I was told (by an Officer of the Royal Navy who assured us he had seen the documents) that the funeral arrangements were indeed in two parts, the first if de Gaulle had died first was a road procession to (I think) Paddington for a moderately direct rail journey to Woodstock, the second if de Gaulle survived Churchill involved a convoluted route including the river cortège to the station serving routes to Dorset and beyond, which required an extremely complicated rail route to get to the Oxford countryside. When asked why the route was contingent on the attendance of de Gaulle, with a characteristic mischievous twinkle in the eye Churchill responded that he thought it right the French President should salute his passing at Waterloo.

January 24, 2015 8:53 pm


I don’t think the allies were ‘definitively winning’ the war when the fleet was scuttled.

As above you suggested ‘Admiral Darlan was after all Petain’s Deputy and did certainly consider waging an active war at sea against us in those early months’ so hardly suggestive of a casual supporter of the Vichy regime. I don’t think it was unreasonable to suggest the French meant what they said.

January 24, 2015 10:01 pm

– Yes that’s the story. Let’s hope it’s true :-)

Are we really debating Mers El Kebir on TD’s topical post? Is it any wonder he despairs of us sometimes.

(Darlin was as good as his word but we were in no position to simply take his word. Tragic all round.)

January 25, 2015 12:03 am

…and the trouble with Xenophobia is it’s a Greek word. (Al Murray)

We also gave the world.. the economist John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes lucidly explained the Great Depression, and the way in which policies of austerity exacerbated and prolonged it. His description is likely to be just as apt for this slump.

The most vocal (and entertaining) proponent of Keynes nowadays in Paul Krugman, who blogs in a column for the New York Times.

Shame then that even Ben Bernancke, a student of the Great Depression, was unable to persuade Congress to fully act on a Keynesian prescription for recovery after the financial crash of 2008. It started well but was throttled by the (misplaced, if you believe Keynes) fear, in circles closer to the political centre, of Hyper-Inflation and Bond Vigilantism.
He did a bit better than over here at following Keynes though, and we (UK) have done better than most of Europe, broadly, despite having an overbearing exposure to Banking in our economy. For which you have to thank QE and the Governor of the Bank of England; six years later and neither any inflation, nor any rise in borrowing costs, in fact we can borrow money in the bond market at incredibly low rates and deflation, not hyperinflation, is close…which suggests there may be something in it.

The argument against Keynes is, as I understand it, increasingly threadbare. Specifically the arguments for virtuous austerity (cut public spending in a recession), or the evil of high Debt to GDP ratio (reduced economic growth over 80%, oops error in academic paper’s spreadsheet there) are sham.

The election winning soundbite “you cant spend your way out of debt” is a poisonous meme when applied to a national economy in recession. An economy is not a household budget: one man’s pound saved is another man’s income lost, so extra Government parsimony leads to exacerbation of business failures and unemployment. Debt denominated in your own currency is not a risk.

Note that both Keynes and Krugman are keen on Debt reduction and interest rates as a tool for inflation control when appropriate, ie: we come back through the looking glass and the economic picture returns to what we have learnt to consider normal.

So, if the foundation of Defence is a growing economy, the best outcome for SDSR 2015 will be a preceding General Election featuring the election of a Party that is economically literate, Keynesian, able to take a risk, and not ideologically wed to cutting the state back. Good luck with that, but probably a coalition and probably not with the Conservatives.

That will make me popular.

January 25, 2015 1:14 am

With the greatest respect, I gotta say that the ‘we stood alone’ thing makes me (reflexively) more than a little mad. Losing the Ashes mad. My sister squadron was taking delivery of some Sunderlands when war broke out. They were there from the beginning in Coastal Command and never left until it was over. Just hasn’t been true since at least the Boer War.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 25, 2015 1:52 am

@Topman – November 1942 – the Russians and Yanks were in – we were on the offensive in North Africa – Darlan had put distance both politically and physically between himself and Vichy; I’d stand by my original view that we were definitively winning and the political situation within which Darlan was operating had fundamentally changed…making any internal struggle he was facing between enthusiasm for Vichy and saving himself by ending the War on the winning side a great deal easier to resolve. :-)

– glad I didn’t say it then – got enough antagonists in these parts! :-)


January 25, 2015 6:10 am

@ TD – great post and I look forward to the rest of the series. It’s easy to get lost in the doom and gloom but it’s important to realise that even as our armed forces is being scaled back most on significant nations are scaling back even more. Russia and China are still increasing but both are coming up from a low base line with little if any military experience. Both are increasingly finding stronger economic headwinds as well so it’s unlikely there military build up will continue.

Broadlay in the current context I still feel we should try to maintain a broad spectrum of capabilities witha reduced number of platforms and strategic reserve.

The most likely scenario we will find our selves in are ops like Libya or ISIS in Iraq where numbers are not that important but capability is.

If we can maintain the 2% of GDP figure then I see no reason that we can’t continue to have a highly capable force now that our top brass has become more realistic.

If more cuts are required then I think we need to cut back on forces designed for sustainment. Only thr USA and the UK have the ability to commit large intervention forces almost anywhere in the world at Divisonal level. This is the type of hard power that gives us diplomatic muscle. Keeping 6,000 peace keepers on a permanent basis does less for us and it’s a task that other NATO members can perform (some times better than us) and it’s expensive. perhaps we should look at abandoning the sustainment force and enhancing the reaction force. Boosting our 30,000 one of commitment and reducing our sustainment of 6,000 to maybe 3,000.

January 25, 2015 7:38 am

I think Ant, in making the problem under discussion an overtly political issue, does us all a service. Under the current neo-liberal economic paradigm, defence spending, indeed public spending in general, is consigned to ever-shrinking budgets. There is a systemic reason why all this austerity has barely made a dent in the deficit. The only answer to this lies in a fundamental reimagining of capitalism itself of the same order of magnitude as occurred under Hayek and Friedman’s acolytes in the early 80s.

This is entirely possible, even likely, given that even the IMF (of all institutions!) is beginning to rumble about the damage such unprecedented inequality is doing to our economies. A recent study by the OECD recently said that, had the British economy been run like the French one (less inequality) it would be up to 20% bigger. All this has a direct bearing and, given that the British defence budget is discretionary and budget rather than needs based, may even be the deciding factor.

I also agree with Martin, above. I believe it was Admiral Fisher who said that the army should be a projectile shot by the navy. Given that the current paradigms of land combat seem to be in a considerable degree of flux, if we’re going to cut anything, we should cut the army, and if we’re going to cut the army, we should cut numbers. If we need a bigger army, it’ll be quicker to raise one than to build a new fleet or air force.

January 25, 2015 8:02 am

‘If we need a bigger army, it’ll be quicker to raise one than to build a new fleet or air force.’

The idea that raising an army is quicker than building a new fleet or airforce is flawed. It takes just as long to build an effective army (note the word effective) as it does to build an effective fleet or airforce. This has been shown throughout our own history and, yet is still strangely a common held belief that just conscripting people into uniform gets you a war winning army.

I could personally live with a smaller army if what was left was a well funded fully mechanised force of heavy, medium and light formations (including some reserve units).

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 25, 2015 8:42 am

Not all Keynes is good. We also gave the world Milton Keynes. Its just a pity that no one took it and we’re stuck with it.

January 25, 2015 10:51 am

@RT yes, one can go too far*.
@TFBWJ thanks I’ll go look at those. I agree for a society mired in such Socialist dogma, the French economy has done suspiciously well over the last 30yrs, and not nearly as poorly as ours in the first 5yrs of the slump considering Anglo-Saxon media considered it a basket case.
Was it the Soviet Ambassador to Paris who lamented only the French had made Communism work?

* Roundabouts, great British invention, for example, but Magic ones?

January 25, 2015 10:52 am

@ David Niven

I don’t think its fair to say that a fleet can be built as quickly as an army. In both world wars we turned a small provisional army into a multi million man conscript army in the space of a few years. The ships we had at the start or near start of the war were pretty much the ones we finished it with.

If we are to fight a major conwvtnional war that it will make little if any difference if we start with am army of 60,000, 82,000,105,000 or 150,000. All would be way to small and would have to be massively reinforced. It takes longer to build a single major warship than fight a world war.

January 25, 2015 11:14 am

Martin – there is a regular theme of how difficult RN ships are to build and why its reasonable to wait years for each hull to emerge as a warship. Even when the design is set and the ship is a repeat of a previous vessel. And yet I saw on the web a comment that the vast Maersk E-class container ships were in the water an average of 45 days from the laying of the keel? Indeed in WW2 (as a publicity stunt I suspect) the fastest build of a liberty ship was 4 days from keel laying to launch? There’s going to be more pipes and wiring and fire suppression and crewspace on a military platform, but they are a good deal smaller than the Maersk monster. So what is it that makes the task of building a warship for the RN take 50 times longer than the biggest cargo ship of 2006? (50 times as in 6 years not 6 weeks.)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 25, 2015 11:49 am

– I’m sure somebody will quickly correct me, but is it that the scale of the warship building effort needs to be in balance with the replacement rate required to maintain a Navy of a particular size…so if you expect to maintain a Navy of about thirty (+ or -) large hulls, you might be able to gear up to build ?two or three? in two years instead of one by adding extra shifts and labour to the existing yards and skilled labour force…but you don’t have the space or skilled men to suddenly decide to build ten. In the past we have had a larger base number of ships, supported by the yards and skills to maintain the required replacement rate…so could gear up from ten to thirty which would make a difference in a way that gearing up from one to two or three wouldn’t…

Essentially, it is logistically more possible to make a big navy even bigger than a small one into a big one.


January 25, 2015 12:00 pm

The worlds largest ( just ) container ship CSCL Globe had its first steel cut in Jan 2014 and delivered 19,200 TEU from China to Europe less than a year later. Its FIVE sister ships will all be completed this year. The worlds largest cruise liner the Allure of the Seas , 5400 passengers and 2400 crew took less than two years from first steel cut to maiden voyage with paying passengers. There is hope for the fast production of large numbers of basic warships if some compromises can be reached and a reduced level of effectiveness can be accepted. Unfortunately just not in British yards but there are plenty in Europe that can . If the RN refuse to compromise I am sure the Greeks,Italians,Spanish,Portuguese,Danish………..will pick up the slack.

January 25, 2015 12:10 pm

‘In both world wars we turned a small provisional army into a multi million man conscript army in the space of a few years’

Yes we did, and how many years and defeats did it take to turn that army into a war winning army? There is a difference between an army and an effective army. I’m not advocating increasing the army in any way and have stated a few times that I could live with a smaller well resourced army, but let’s not fall into the trap that throwing people into camouflage and a few weeks training gives you an effective army of any sort, it takes time, experience and blood to build effective armies.

January 25, 2015 12:13 pm

Indeed it is easier to ramp up production in existing facilities churning out several hulls a year who typically work a 8 hr day five days a week up to initially 12 hr days 6 days a week inc up skilling additional personal in the other 12 hours per day and then running at 2x 12 hrs days @6 days a week ( I am nice I gave them a day off :-) substantially increasing output. However with limited infrastructure and skill base this would be a much more difficult task such as reinstating MBT production in the UK , not impossible to do but as you probably would have to impact other core war production such as the manufacture’s at JCB/CATERPILLAR whose existing products would also be deemed war essential.

January 25, 2015 1:01 pm


British army in WW2 a lot less than good, partly because it was really a group of civilians in uniform. Widley commented on at the time by those in the know there is only so much you can ask of a western civilian given a rifle 12 weeks training and told to storm a machine gun post.

As the Germans said ‘ Tommy is no soldier’

January 25, 2015 1:03 pm

@ monkey, the comparison to cruise ships is closer than the one to container ships (complexity, and all that, including pulling the finger out and getting on with it); wiki says

” Allure of the Seas was laid on 2 December 2008 at the STX Europe shipyards in Turku, Finland, during a ceremony involving Royal Caribbean and STX representatives.[3] She was launched on 20 November 2009,[1] and outfitting continued through her departure from the yards. She left the Turku shipyard on 29 October 2010″
– 1 mth of ’08 + 11 of ’10, add the year between… 2 years

January 25, 2015 1:11 pm

In this argument NAB s the pro i for one is an amateur.

However I still don’t see how you can build 100,000 ton cruise ships from request for a design to first passenger in 3 years and at half a billion or less.

whereas a 7,500 ton frigate with a chunk of its kit being carried over form older designs.. Well how many year and how much cash and not a piece of plate cut….

January 25, 2015 2:41 pm

@ Chris – it’s true the built liberty ships in WW2 at ridiculous rates Langley because of factory forging but it still took them 3 years + to build a battleship or fleet carrier back then.

@ David Niven – true those army’s faced defeats but how long would it have taken to turn a small navy into a world class one. The German plan z had a 10 year build program just to catch up with Pre war Royal Navy numbers.

@ Ixion – The Germany army they were fighting in world war 2 did not have that much more training either yet they managed to take Europe in a matter of weeks. I think few of the UK’s issues at the start of world war 2 were due to amateur soldiers and more to do with amateur leadership. The German army had went from a small force of 100,000 in the mid 30’s as well. No one has fought a full scale war in 200 years with an all professional army. No one can afford to maintain a full scale army in peace time.

January 25, 2015 2:59 pm

How long would it take to build a 500,000 strong efficient army now? 10 years maybe 15? There is no easy way to build an efficient effective fighting force regardless of the service. Land warfare requires just as much skill and efficiency as any other. There is a reason we are one of a few nations that can travel thousands of miles to knock on someones door and give them a run for their money.

‘The German plan z had a 10 year build program just to catch up with Pre war Royal Navy numbers.’

Are you confusing numbers with effectiveness? It took years for the RN to effectively manage the U boats during WW2 and that was with help from the Canadians who managed to build a large fleet in a relatively short period of time.

January 25, 2015 3:53 pm

An interesting article on the Danish Iver Huitfeldt Frigates,

On page 7,

“Efficiency assembly measures formed the basis for the production set-up of the Danish frigate program and created a new benchmark for productivity in naval shipbuilding. The Danish frigates were assembled in 56 days followed by 146 days for outfitting, commissioning and trials. 700.000 hours was used to construct the vessel.”

I believe the blocks were built in a Lithuanian shipyard and assembled in Denmark.

Why is the MOD so attached to BAE.

January 25, 2015 4:32 pm

@ Tedgo

I’d say HMG favour BAES because HMG uses BAES as – at times – a mechanism to keep people employed and the ‘defence industrial’ base alive using taxpayers cash. BAES as a ‘national champion’ if you prefer especially as BAES have facilities in very marginal constituencies…..and BAES know it and thus take the chance to extract some serious cash from the taxpayers.

January 25, 2015 5:30 pm

SDSR 15 cannot be considered in British isolation. We need to think hard about our alliances, in particular NATO, and more specifically about how NATO responsibilities are carved up. I think we need a European sub group of Nato – most definitely not under an EU mandate but under a separate military sub structure, with an area of operations broadly 30deg west (Atlantic ridge?) to c60 deg east (Med, Africa, Gulf, GUIK gap and Eastern Atlantic). Basically, its providing a standing response to Russia becoming adventurous and an expeditionary element to defend our collective national interests in North Africa and and the ME. The US can and probably would contribute, but in a secondary, and deep reserve capacity allowing the US to fully shift to the Pacific. The key advantage of this is two fold, it means we can rule out deploying outside these zone, other than in a remote WW3 scenario and secondly we can collectively size our forces to mesh together and provide the right capabilities to cover our designated area. From our perspective, the only ‘outside area op’ would be the FI but we cannot and should not size our forces around a repeat of FI 82. Effective FI defence is the far better and cheaper option. Thus in an expeditionary sense, it could be fairly easy to add up to say 4 bridges or a couple of divisions collectively, but we only need to contributing a deployable brigade. Where we lack without the US is day one strike and long range air strike and that should be a key driver of SDSR 15 possibly. There are loads of FFs in ‘Nato East’ so if we and the French (and possibly the Italians) provide the carriers, others can stump up escort shortfalls.

January 25, 2015 6:03 pm

What are people’s opinion on the framework nation concept?

January 25, 2015 6:22 pm

France has desperately need of help in West Africa to counter the branch of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram, if not we could see the rebirth of a great Caliphate, stretching from Mauritania to Pakistan , it may seem ridiculous, but it is a hypothesis that is not excluded.
You might be a little help, your 3 Commando Brigade and your 16 Air Assault Brigade will be welcome.
Even though I know it will not happen.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
January 25, 2015 7:59 pm

The reason you can get a big containership built so quickly and operating is primarily because it is a big steel box, containing virtually nothing. The only heavily outfitted sections are the machinery space and the accommodation. For the latter, there’s no watertight or gas-tight subdivision, so running cabling and pipework through bulkheads is easier, even if you’re using SOLAS fire protection.

Cruise ships use SOLAS standards – and although naval fire protection has become harmonised with SOLAS, there’s a lot more in terms of redundancy, watertight subdivision etc because the philosophy has been different. Until recently, the philosophy for passenger ships was to keep the ship afloat long enough for people to get into the lifeboats etc. It is changing now and “safe return to port” chapters in SOLAS mean that more systems will require high reliability and redundancy to support hundreds or thousands of people at sea. That will increase costs, but it’s important to remember you’re still not comparing like with like. You’re not routinely carrying tons of explosive or similarly energetic materials, you’re not emitting RF energy at high powers and you’re not expecting to recover the ship and fight on in the event of damage. YOure just providing basic life support in terms of potable water, heat, lighting and power.

The Iver Huitfeldt is interesting. It appears to be primarily designed to civilian standards from the blurb – I’d be very interested to see what reversionary modes the ship systems have, particularly firefighting and electrical power. I’m struggling to believe manhour figures of 700000, even with the factors just discussed. T23s were typically taking between 2 and 3 million manhours, although I wouldn’t hold them up as a model of an efficient frigate design.

I suspect they may be talking about the manpower at Odense and excluding the subbed out steelwork, but even then it’s a suspiciously low figure and didn’t stop them going bust either.

January 25, 2015 9:03 pm

The Mersek Emma in port founds its rudder packing gland was leaking but they thought no worries they have a water tight bulkhead between that area and the main engine room. The space filled with water however and a cable gland passing sensor data through this bulkhead was incorrectly fitted with a gas type not a water type and the gland burst through with 10m of head into the engine room. The compartment began to flood but the engineers recovered the situation in the end. Definitely not military standard.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
January 25, 2015 9:25 pm

Thank you for your post. You have left out the self-supporting trouser introduced by Simpsons late of Piccadilly. Never the less a superb list.

On the question of army expansion there is a limit to training in lieu of experience and if we are to have an expanded army, where are all the SNCO’s and middle ranking officers to come from. This needs to be considered by those forming the plan. If there is one, which I doubt. Because one other Great British characteristic is muddling through and it will all be alright on the night.

Same with expanding the numbers of ships and boats, I am sure push come to shove we could build them faster than we could train crews. And as for fast jets and their pilots ….

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 25, 2015 10:00 pm

“I know we didn’t invent gravity”…indeed not, but Sir Isaac Newton did study it with such scientific intensity as to start inventing physics… :-)


January 26, 2015 3:28 am

@ MIckp – I would dearly love to see an European NATO capability that could deploy a couple of divisions with the UK having the framework that others could work around. So perhaps large countries like Britain, France and Germany would be expected to contribute a brigade and smaller countries like Denmark a battalion. Then we could focus more on C4 ISTAR and enablers with US support.

It seems like an easy and simple thing to do but one only has to look at the EU battle group plan to realize it’s unlikely to happen. Probably better to continue work on our coalition of the willing with countries like the Netherlands and Poland and aim for a Division sized force.

January 26, 2015 8:39 am

Martin, at the battle group level has been working perfectly, many countries taking the turn and making the investment, RE:
“one only has to look at the EU battle group plan to realize it’s unlikely to happen”

At the higher force aggregation level (the thrust of your comment?)

“” The UK, in accordance with the SHAPE Long Term Rotation Plan, has committed to provide HQ ARRC at readiness as a NATO force structure Joint Task Force HQ from July 2015-July 2016.”
– preceding that, Italy and Spain had to do it jointly, due to less capacity. Why those two…

“”the ARRC has worked closely with its fellow organisations, most notably NATO Rapid Deployable Corps (NRDC) Spain, NRDC Italy and Rapid Reaction Corps France”

And should the NATO framework not be applicable, you can go bilateral (quick) with

“an operational partnership between 16 Air Asslt Bde and 11th (FR) Parachute Brigade, ( to be) known as the Interim Joint Expeditionary Force, or I-CJEF. ” if the plans hold, operational next year. Admittedly bde size, with two bdes contributing, but the spearhead… With the spear to follow?

I have not seen much detail on the shape of the forces decided on in the NATO Wales summit, but the nature of this comment was to refute the evidence provided. Hopefully more discussion will follow.

January 26, 2015 8:47 am

Britain’s place in the world is not a given right, but a product of what the country is and our values, and these have changed significantly in the last 60 years. In the past for example we avoided the ‘bloody revolutions of Europe’ , a significant factor in this could be that while mainland Europe were toppling the old order, In Britain there was an evangelical revival largely seen through the Wesley Brothers, but also the likes of Wilberforce and Shaftsbury. Hence Britain had a common cultural set of beliefs based on Christianity, even if the majority of people didn’t practice the faith, they still adhered to a greater or lesser extent to its moral framework etc. Today we are in a very different place with multiple beliefs and world views, politically the country is more divided than ever and Scotland almost (and that debate isn’t going a way) left the Union. So is it really possible for Britain to have any significant place in the world when we are such a socially fragmented country?

Rocket Banana
January 26, 2015 8:58 am


We were once religious extremists hell bent on converting everyone to Christianity.

We are now an example to the world of a melting pot of civilizations, religions, creeds and beliefs operating under a single banner… in relative peace.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 26, 2015 10:08 am

@Simon “we were once religious extremists, hell-bent on converting everyone else to Christianity”…not really, as our sixteenth and seventeenth century excesses in this area were more about defining our own oddly Catholic version of Protestantism and then sustaining it against the Pope on one side and the Puritans on the other. Subsequently, although some missionaries did follow the flag, they were by no means greatly encouraged by the authorities and mostly hoped to lead people to salvation through good works, not coerce them into it by force…it was our Spanish predecessors in the imperial game who were much keener on that. Compare and contrast Latin America and the Philippines with the Raj by way of reference…and the extensive survival of Islam and traditional religions in Africa alongside a voluntary enthusiasm for an distinctly African Christianity much associated with Education, Health Provision and social improvement generally…

Otherwise, mostly agree…although as the reaction to Mr Pickles achingly polite and conciliatory letter indicates, there is definitely work to be done.


January 26, 2015 10:40 am

“So is it really possible for Britain to have any significant place in the world when we are such a socially fragmented country?”
I think so yes we can have a significant place in the World by those very differences , Europe and the UK has absorbed large numbers of diverse cultural groups in the last 70 years or so much as the US did in its growth years of encouraging the huddled masses to find a home there. By comparison the Nations of Africa , the Middle East and Asia have pretty much shut their borders to migrations from any group they cannot closely identify with and have developed an insular attitude to anyone outside of their ethnic and religious group even within their own Nation state (usually not within the ‘natural borders’ but those imposed on them from days of Empire, India should be as fragmented as the European borders but for our activities) . If we can continue copy the Chinese in their Sinification of the various groups that joined us and allow them to absorb ,as most do all ready, western culture and ways and we learn to tolerate those that wish to stick to their traditions , as we have with the Hassidic Jews for instance , but stress they do not impose it on others. Kublai Khan , the grandson of Genghis Khan (who at one time seriously considered, and experimented with, the complete depopulation of Chinese provinces to return the arable land to grassland for his herds ) was all but in name Chinese in the majority of his ways. Our differences can only make us stronger, what is pure metal without its alloying elements , a vastly inferior material to the final alloy.

January 26, 2015 11:09 am

Less of a challenge for China, with 91.6% Han Chinese (2010). UK’s largest ethnic group (white) accounted for 87.1% of population (2011).
– not that ethnicity is at the heart of the integration problem…

January 26, 2015 11:16 am

rec, Simon, Gloomy – I view that the UK stands on four pillars, those being the monarchy, the democratic government, the legal system and the church. They are intertwined and closely integrated, but they are identifiably distinct. This country came together something like 1000 years back because of monarchy – one ruler for the disparate lands (Mercia, Northumberland, Anglia, Wessex etc) under the one church that had established itself a century before which could provide devine authority to the monarchy. As a pair these pillars forged much of the nation state, but bad King John caused our Great Charter to be writ, defining the rules of law that are still determinable, then finally after Ollie Cromwell’s republic the idea of democracy, parliament and a constitutional monarch in a state governed and shaped by Christian principles emerged. Four pillars creating our modern western state. Take any one of these away and there would be a colossal lurch – society would be in turmoil. On the grounds that they have served our country well in the past, and have created one of the fairest and open nations, they should all be supported whether the individual is a monarchist or not, a Christian or not, law-abiding or not, or a believer in parliamentary democracy or not. Its a bit like not necessarily being an active supporter of Amazonian rainforest while instinctively knowing the forest’s survival is vital to the world’s wellbeing.

As for converting the world to Christanity? I’m not sure that was ever official policy, although in the 1200s the Crusades (upon which most Christian nations embarked) did try to protect and recover the religion’s cradle from the unbelievers. Like nearly all of our Middle-East campaigns the outcome was not an undeniable shining success; something between a draw and no lasting impact.

We have an open society; we welcome all comers who want to contribute to our future no matter what race or creed; we accept others may choose to practice their faith in their own way. But implicitly there is an understanding, a polite condition, that those that come here accept it is essentially a Christian and a democratic state, with its constitutional Monarch as head of state, and with a millennium of laws by which we live. In the same way the state respects the individual’s rights and freedoms to live as they desire (within the bounds of law), the individual is expected to respect the solid longstanding foundations of the nation, to defend them and uphold them. They are what made Britain great, in my opinion, and any who attack or seek to undermine any of the four are threatening all our futures.

The country is undeniably multi-cultural and accommodating. It serves us well to recognise the good in people no matter what background they may have, and to be fair and trusting throughout society. But throwing aside the values that made the country what it is in an effort to be seen to be more politically correct than anyone else would ultimately do no favours to any, save those that want the country to collapse into something quite unrecognisable.

January 26, 2015 11:20 am

Operation Shader (the air campaign again ISIL)

Even though the UK has only deployed 8 Tornado GR4s and 4 Reapers, the RAF has still carried out
the second largest number of strikes after the US, and five times as many as France eg

RAF – 500-600 missions flown and around 110 GR4 & Reaper strikes.

Armee de L’Air – 120 missions/sorties (as of Dec) of which “the majority were reconnaissance and
intelligence gathering missions”.

So even when the UK only deploys the minimum level of force and seemingly joins an operation
reluctantly, it still makes a contribution second only to the US.

The RAF does however have the advantage of RAF Akrotiri being closer to Iraq than the Gulf bases,
(especially Al Dhafra), and the fact the operation is supported by a new A330 Voyager.
The RAF Reapers (which are Gulf based) have contributed about a third of the strikes.

Weapons Releases (rough figures)

Tornado – at least 40 Paveway IVs and 43 Brimstone

Reaper – 37 Hellfire

January 26, 2015 11:31 am

Avg of 1.1 weapon releases per strike sounds quite surgical

January 26, 2015 11:34 am

Chris, sacking Constantinople hollowed it out, and with a deferred effect opened the door to Europe for the Turks. The Balkans became an everlasting mess.

RE. ” not an undeniable shining success; something between a draw and no lasting impact.”

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
January 26, 2015 12:42 pm

– Got my vote…furthermore, if we get the “assimilation at home” element right, we then have considerable reserves of soft power available to influence outcomes that matter to us, but are being decided elsewhere…

– hmmm – although the alternative view is that if the Byzantine Elite had properly understood the impact of Manzikert and actively worked to engage with the Latins (rather than treating them as barbarian schismatics who could be switched on and off like a tap) they might well have found themselves in a different place by 1204…perhaps it was their hubris that undid them, not our misguided enthusiasm…and certainly had Alexios V (Doukas) not deposed and executed Alexios IV (Angelos) the Sack of Constantinople, partition of the Empire, and establishment of independent Latin states in what had been core Imperial territory could all have been avoided…although I agree with you as to the outcome when it was… :-(


January 26, 2015 2:07 pm

The map under the heading “aftermath” here colours all the areas of Europe we could have done without in the last hundred years (except Bosnia that they had been too quick to loose, but the Turks took it anyway, later) I mean for all the trouble.

On another day, the map will show where the border of the area dominated by the huns used to run, relative to the rest of Ukraine… And where the current trouble there is (would not be on the Open Thread rather than here; as currently the activity is most intense where the front needs straightening. And that is a very bad sign, as it means digging in for the long term, rather than quickly snatching something that would be of symbolic or economic value).

January 27, 2015 10:16 pm

“Great Britain”

so called so as to avoid confusion with “Brittany” in France.

SDSR 2015

1 bay class will be sold to the RAN.

8 T26 to be ordered with a full spectrum of ASW capabilities and “fitted with”. A “potential” of further orders with a more balanced ASW/ASuW/ and enhanced AAW. Will not happen.

British army to be reduced to approximately 72-75000.

RAF Tornado to be scrapped by 2018.

Time to face up to reality.

Where, when, who, what do we defend????

January 28, 2015 7:50 am

“8 T26 to be ordered with a full spectrum of ASW capabilities and “fitted with”. A “potential” of further orders with a more balanced ASW/ASuW/ and enhanced AAW. Will not happen”

I am inclined to agree , but they will announce 8 with a real intent of 6 for when the cost overuns start to hit. In terms of future orders for vessels in this weight class that is at least to be considered in SDSR2020 if not the next so at least one Parliament away , so who knows. For them to run possibly two Carrier Battle Groups and they will let other up an coming Navies with all their new(ish) frigates/corvettes other posters point to as being cost effective solutions pick up the slack we leave.
P.S. The concurrence of the SDSR and an Election is to much of a conflict politically as defence is not a political football anymore but a punch bag, coup anyone just to mix it up ? :-)

January 28, 2015 7:51 am

One Bay class (renamed) is already gently rusting alongside at Woolloomooloo.

January 28, 2015 8:27 am

If there was any coherence to NATO out of area ops thinking, this would be the case ” run possibly two Carrier Battle Groups and they will let other up an coming Navies with all their new(ish) frigates/corvettes other posters point to as being cost effective solutions pick up the slack we leave.”

However, such ops are seen by some to turn NATO into the world’s policeman, and thereby become”bad” for cohesion. In that light the Interim joint intervention force is a very welcome development. Add a carrier, 3 amphibs, 4 AAW, 7 ASW and 11 presence frigates, before the umpteen frigates in the rest of NATO- Europe even get counted.

January 29, 2015 9:50 pm

Its all very well Camoron and Oddborne cutting numbers and capability, feeling smug whilst doing so, but if we wish to retain industrial capability (i.e., to make use of the high grade research and science that we enjoy and to have any chance of being able to ramp-up when needed) that capability needs to be sustained. Once degraded or lost it will take decades to regain – if at all. Skills and experience get lost.

Or we buy foreign.

Once switched off it cannot be switched on again.

January 29, 2015 10:39 pm

Hugh – as I noted on the Open Thread this morning, according to Gov’t figures (as best understood by myself) something like 65% of all Government spending is within Westminster and Whitehall. Only 35% goes out to more distant organisations and a fraction of that is spent outside the boundary of the public sector. Clearly the biggest savings would be a cull of central gov’t gophers as they eat so much of the available budget, but that would mean MPs losing some of their cohort, and that would be a drop in status that no MP would ever sanction. So number cutting must happen outside cosy Whitehall, where it doesn’t matter (to the Westminster club that is). And we do lose skills and resilience and basic capability because of it.

As for buying foreign, many years back I met a Colonel in post with MOD(PE); his apparent bias was to buy French equipment for the Army. The rumour of the day was that it was not because French kit was better than German or British or American, but because he really enjoyed the hospitality of the French companies. Fortunately this particular officer was moved on to other duties, but I was not surprised when I saw a program he was running a few years later had Thales as main contractor. It may have been a coincidence of course. British companies serving up pale imitations of dried-out BR sandwiches and weak instant coffee made even worse by UHT milk just couldn’t compete, I suppose.

Credit where its due; the French companies understood how to schmooze the customer and did so with style. But you have to question the rigour of the equipment selection process if personnel wellbeing had influence.

It does however illustrate that some officers in government have no real interest in the health of the nation’s industry and happily go out of their way to court non-UK suppliers.

January 30, 2015 7:12 am

Thanks Chris.

I would hazard a guess that the lion’s share of any contractor’s costs is down to the salaries of the staff involved. From my pay slip at least, it looks like the government get half of that back again before it reaches my bank account, not to mention VAT, fuel tax, etc.,

Any ‘contractions’ seem to result in the more ‘mature’ engineers taking early retirement, taking with them experience that cannot easily be replaced.

What a jaded person I have become. (And I didn’t even mention having to send Typhoons from Lossiemouth and Coningsby to intercept a Tu-95 approaching Dorset!)

January 30, 2015 10:18 am

Hugh – I once did sums on a monthly flow of income & spending and taking all taxes into consideration (those taken at source and those charged on spend) the Treasury took back something like 70% of the gross income. At the time I was grazing the lower edge of the 40% tax band.

I believe it was Iceland some time back that decided to reform its typically complex revenue system of tax bands and different rates and exemptions and benefits for all sorts of reasons. In place of all that, they abolished benefits for those with income, abolished exemptions, and set a universal income tax of (I think) 15% of all earnings above a generous (£10k?) zero tax threshold. The result was a dramatic increase in personal income, a vast saving in taxation administration leading to greater treasury wealth, and a system almost impossible to defraud/exploit. Keeping stuff simple pays big dividends.

Being a engineer, I would bet most that take retirement do not do so because they have no more interest in the work, rather that its financial lunacy to reject the redundancy/retirement terms. If businesses want to employ ‘grey-beards’ for their knowledge and practical know-how, many would be pleased to get stuck in again. Engineering is not so much a job as a state of mind.

As for there being no fast jets south-west of a line from Glasgow to the Thames estuary, I think that’s called ‘efficiency’. So that’s alright then.

January 31, 2015 4:35 pm

Lets not forget that occupied France was significantly divided.
The Vichy government capitulating to Germany.
Capitulation being seen by Churchill, as one step away from joining the Axis.
With what ?
The well commissioned French fleet stationed beyond continental Europe.

The British fleet, stretched to limits disabling the German North Sea/Atlantic fleet, would have been unable to simultaneously protect and hold the Straits of Gibraltar or the Mediterranean to Suez.
Had the ‘then’ Vichy fleet sailed as adversaries.
There was no option.
The French fleet had to be taken out of the equation, if occupied France/Europe were to be liberated.

The very nature of war—Hard choices.

January 31, 2015 5:04 pm

Small sample (too small) of what did the capital ships that were not “there” do afterwards:

” Incomplete Richelieu 19-23/6/1940 has passed to Dakar, 8/7/1940 she was damaged by torpedo bombers from British carrier Hermes. Artillery of this ship has played the important role in failure of British-French (Gaullist) attempt of capture of Dakar 23-25/9/1940. Thus two main guns have failed for technical reasons. Richelieu joined FNFL in December 1942. After transition of French forces to the party of Allies Richelieu 30/1/1943 departured to the USA for repair and modernization. Works proceeded till August and 20/11/1943 Richelieu become a part of British Home Fleet. In March, 1944 Richelieu arrived to the Far East and as a part of British squadron operated at coast of Indochina, returned to Toulon 11/2/1946. From January 1956 she served as gunnery training and accommodation hulk. Richelieu was finally stricken in January 1968 and sold for scrap.

Incomplete Jean Bart 19-22/6/1940 passed to Casablanca. There she was partially fetched to efficient condition. 1st main turret was prepared. To autumn of 1942 search radar was installed. By November, 1942, except bow main gun turret, ship had 5 twin 90mm/50 guns, 2 twin and 1 single 37mm MGs, 4 twin and 14 single 13.2mm MGs and 1 light MG. 8-10/11/1942 at landing of Allies at Casablanca battleship has shown resistance. During battle she was hard damaged by aircraft and gunfire of USN battleship Massachusetts (hits of three bombs and five or seven shells) and run aground by a stern. She was completed after war and became last completed battleship in the world. Jean Bart had started her first sea trials in January, 1949, commissioned in April 1950, received new AA armament in the winter 1951/52 and completely armed only in 1955. Jean Bart was used as fire support ship at Suez in 1956. “


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September 9, 2015 7:48 am

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El Sid
El Sid
September 9, 2015 10:57 am

Waterloo to Oxfordshire isn’t that difficult, it’s just a bit longer to go via :

On Keynes – it’s easy for politicians to use his name to justify extra spending in a recession (rather than say slowing spending on building an aircraft carrier), but that only works if they spend less in the good times, which they are incapable of doing. And Krugman may have won a Nobel Prize for trade theory but some of his thoughts on the general economy have been massively off, like forecasting austerity would lead to 4 million unemployed in the UK.

You may think cutting an army below 80k is a terrible idea – but we would say that it’s crazy to have a part-time aircraft carrier, with no plans to replace it, or planning to cut your main escort fleet to just 10. Things look different from a continental or maritime point of view.