British Army decimated: Horror warning as UK could be powerless to deploy infantry

Military spending: Tanks still needed in British Army says general

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If troop numbers fall below a certain level, the British Army will no longer be deployable, nor could it justifiably call itself an army in the true sense, former officer Adrian Hill has said. Meanwhile Baron West of Spithead said the issue was a matter of concern among both retired and active military personnel.

The integrated review announced in March of this year by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will involve a major overhaul of Britain’s armed forces, with spending set to increase by £24billion over the course of the next four years.

However, increasingly the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will prioritise drones and cyber-warfare over personnel, with the number of fully trained people in the British Army being cut from 81,820 – the current strength of the regular armed forces, according to quarterly service personnel statistics – to 72,500 by 2025.

Mr Hill, an ex-paratrooper and officer in the Royal Engineers who is also a former British diplomat, told Express.co.uk: “Below a certain level of infantry, the British Army will no longer be deployable, and will become a ‘defence force’ akin to Finland or Botswana.”

Mr Hill, who served in Vietnam and Northern Ireland, said: “If the Army can’t form strong infantry battalions then it’s no longer capable of defeating another first division army.

Below a certain level of infantry, the British Army will no longer be deployable, and will become a ‘defence force’ akin to Finland or Botswana

Adrian Hill

“No soldier will disagree with you – British or American or Commonwealth.

“You can get away with smaller battalions if you have lots of them but they’re not ideal.

“In Cyprus, during the 60s the Canadian battalions were about a thousand and each one had an airborne reconnaissance company – so five companies, really big and very powerful.

“It’s the same argument as the debate about platoon size in Vietnam. 

“I got used to powerful units when in the combat zone with the American Army – you soon realise that it’s the only way to go to war.”

As for the current deployability of the British Army, Mr Hill said: “What’s deployable? One small battlegroup as tethered goats in Estonia, part of UN force in Cyrus, small numbers at Port Stanley Airfield but there should be the capacity to deploy an armoured division and at least one infantry division plus 16 Air Assault Brigade. That’s about 40,000.

“Back in the days of National Service the Army was about 400,000 strong with 100,000 in Germany. Add on the TA with another 120,000 as formed units.

“I think the Armed Forces should be three times larger, particularly the navy.”

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Baron West, who was First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff from 2002 to 2006, told Express.co.uk: “Now it is clear that the army is going to be coming down to 70,000-odd.

“And I think there’s a real danger of their numbers going down below that.

“I do think that’s a worry because I, I do believe that numbers in themselves, have a strength.

“It’s all very well saying everyone will be special forces but you can’t have 60,000 Special Forces, it doesn’t work.

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“So, therefore, the size of the army does matter and the problem is, the army isn’t really being used anywhere.

“But that’s always been an extraordinary thing as far as I’m concerned – the Treasury seems to work on the principle that if you’re not being used, then you’re not needed.

“But of course, the army, the navy and the Air Force are there as insurance policies.

“To my mind, they shouldn’t have to be used all the time, are they honestly say that means we can get rid of the army?

“I do believe that we are now in danger of going below a safe number.

“I’m very much a maritime man but you do have to have an army of a certain capability in the country. This defence army thing, I really can’t comment on I just don’t, I don’t really know what they’re getting.

“There is a real risk that the army is going to be sized where exactly are we able to deploy?

“There is every reason to be concerned that the army might be dropping down to a level, which is where it’s not going to be able to do the things that the British people think the army can do.

“It’s definitely a concern yes is definitely a concern retired military people and serving army people as well.”

Figures for those that are deployable, including those within the infantry, are not publicly available.

In accordance with the integrated review, the future structure will comprise two deployable manoeuvre Divisions (1st and 3rd UK Divisions) and one information manoeuvre and unconventional warfare Division (6th UK Division).

An MoD spokesman said: “As outlined in the Government’s Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper, we are designing a force that is more balanced, and more effectively matched to the threat, both now and for the future.”

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