The following is an excerpt of an article by Sam Baker. This features in our fifth print issue, available from the 15th September.
Find out how to get your own copy of the issue here.
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In 1945, after a hard-fought victory against the axis powers, the British military stood at a combined strength of 4,906,000. When the first Royal Marines stormed into Port Stanley to retake the British Falkland Islands, the UK armed forces had 327,000 active members. Now, while the UK is deployed worldwide with Typhoon jets in Estonia, British troops in Nigeria and type 45 destroyers in the Persian Gulf, the strength is down to only 146,500 active personnel.
Within the Army specifically, latest figures showed the force more than 7,000 troops short of the government’s target of 82,000. The number of boots on the ground has declined almost non-stop; since the 1950s, we’ve seen the UK military withdraw its presence from the nations of the old empire and in the face of aggressors we find ourselves leaning on the strength of our American allies.
Defence spending in recent years has often been reactionary, responding to shortcomings exposed in conflicts. For example, we spent millions on building vehicles which could withstand small arms fire and IEDs in Afghanistan in a counter insurgency role, but only just as we were leaving Afghanistan. Now the UK military looks back towards conventional warfare and arguably does not have the cash to reinvest in new technology for a nation versus nation war.
In a time where Brexit, the NHS and recovering from Austerity dominate the headlines, we are in danger of forgetting about defence spending until it is too late. I believe that defence spending should be increased and I will present the case by way of explaining the multiplier effect in military investment; that every bullet bought is not only helping the soldier on the ground, but the economy back home, our political interests abroad and the state of our nation.
The IPSOS MORI issue index January 19 found that, besides Brexit and the NHS, the biggest worries for British citizens were education, inequality, crime, immigration and housing. I propose to you an individual who has grown up in a poorer area of this country, with a lacklustre education and fewer job prospects. They might well turn to a life of crime, now disenfranchised with their country and its social infrastructure they begin to resent the system and the people around them.
A career in any of the armed forces as an enlisted man/woman often needs no qualifications, only someone of physical fitness and a desire to serve. In a foxhole or on the parade ground a soldier is a uniform, nobody cares if they had a private education or if they barely scraped GCSE English.
Service has been seen to elevate an individual and give them a sense of purpose that they couldn’t have found in the areas of few opportunities where they may have come from.
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Read the rest of this article in the print issue, information on which can be found HERE.
Photo by U.S. Army Europe on Flickr.