Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Patrick Benham-Crosswell: The Army skirts round its challenge of being feared not inclusive


Yesterday the BBC reported that the British Army is now “incapable of operating in a hostile air environment against an enemy who manoeuvres”, according to General Sir Richard Barrons in a memo sent to the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon. In effect, that means that were the British Army ever to deploy against Russia, China or even North Korea, it would have to rely upon Uncle Sam for air defence.

Embarrassing overseas, fatal if defending UK territory. The Army also lacks critical logistical and technical support. Given General Barrons’s last role was commanding the Joint Force command, we can assume that he knows what he is talking about. The MoD response is blithely to state that there is expansion planned and that last year’s defence review was backed by all the service chiefs.

The BBC also told us that Guardsman Ben Allen is now known as Guardsman Chloe Allen, and is remaining in the role of a combat infantryman. Guardsman Allen is undergoing hormone therapy but has not yet had surgery, so is actually still physically as male today as when joining the Scots Guards in 2012. This is hardly ground breaking and has nothing to do about the ability of women to perform as combat infantrymen. However, another General, Sir James Everard, is quoted saying “I’m delighted to have our first woman serving in a ground close combat unit. The British Army is really proving itself as an inclusive organisation where everyone is welcome and can thrive…

Inevitably, the latter story (person takes pills) has had much more coverage than the first (Army broken). This demonstrates two things; firstly, that the Army is in a deep, deep intellectual mire and, secondly, that defence journalism at the BBC (and elsewhere) has its priorities wrong and is failing to ask the right questions.

For a start, any service chief who did not agree with a defence review would have to resign. The fact that none has (in living memory) speaks volumes about the moral courage (or lack thereof) at senior levels in our diminished Army.

The Army’s acceptance of Cameron’s determination to put women in combat roles in the teeth of common sense, experience and the wishes of almost everyone who knows anything of infantry work is symbolic of an organisation that lacks the will to fight.

The fact that Guardsman Allen, who as yet is only administratively female, is being held up as the first woman in the infantry rather makes the point that Cameron’s folly was just that.

Yet the press is celebrating the UK having an inclusive Army rather than a feared one.

The British Army exists to defeat Her Majesty’s enemies, ideally by being so proficient that those enemies fear incurring its wrath or – if necessary, by closing with the enemy and killing him with a bayonet. Doing this requires training, equipment and logistics. It seems that these are lacking and the Army may not be fit for purpose. That is a story of national importance.

All is clearly not well in the Ministry of Defence. Mrs May needs to instruct Michael Fallon to ensure that the Army is focused on military effectiveness, not politically correctness. Unless UK defence policy is now to make our enemies die laughing.

(Image: Resolute Support Media)

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here. He is the Reform Parliamentary Candidate for Swansea West.

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