The Royal Navy’s Newest and Most Bitter Foe – The British Army

October 7th, 2010 in Current Events by Frank Chadwick

The fight which has recently exploded between the Royal Navy and the British Army over budget cuts has produced language which, had I read it in a political novel or techno-thriller, I would have dismissed as absurd. There is no way senior officers in either service would publicly speak of the other in those words. Surely not.

“This is appalling and should never have been allowed. We will not forgive and we will never forget,” a senior Naval officer said when it was disclosed that the Army had been secretly lobbying the government over their budget share using, it has been suggested, “black ops” assets.

“They must be smoking a crack pipe,” one senior Army officer responded, pointing to an alleged Navy proposal to scrap all of its amphibious warfare ships in order to keep two carriers in the force structure, eliminating the Royal Marines in the process.

The Navy responded by publicizing examples of Army waste, “such as their excess number of senior ranks, phantom headquarters that serve no purpose and spending £800 million on their next armoured vehicles with nothing to show for it,” according to a Defense Ministry insider.

I imagine folks in rival services think that sort of thing a lot, but you don’t expect to hear it said out loud. Certainly not by the British. Good heavens, man, what is the world coming to?

At the root of the dispute is the growing sense of panic in the British Armed Forces over the looming and draconian defense cuts which they face. I also believe that the heat of the internal dispute reflects the lack of light either service has been willing or able to cast so far on the genuine nature of Britain’s long-term defense needs and how best to meet them. When strategic vision fails, all you are left with are squalid little turf wars such as this.

About the Author: The major landmarks in Frank's historical interests range from ancient Persia through the Crimean War, World War II, and the modern U.S. Armed Forces, with a lot of stops in between. Frank is fascinated by the unusual, the overlooked, and the surprising. He is the New York Times number one best-selling author of the Desert Shield Fact Book (1991) and he is currently writing an historical novel on Alexander's conquest of Persia – from the Persian point of view.

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6 Responses to “The Royal Navy’s Newest and Most Bitter Foe – The British Army”

  1. mikiehorn said:

    Our armed forces faced a similar challenge in the years after Vietnam and the last years of the Carter Administration. Carter’s last defense budget had to be amended after the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

    As military budgets shrank after Vietnam – major weapons systems – such as the Army’s ill fated MBT-70 tank program were cut – as was the original B-1A bomber – and our own Marine Corps fought for survival under the protection of Gen Krulak (the Beast).

    When military budgets shrink – including next years budget – Cannibalism between the services is not uncommon. Currently, within the US Army – there is a pecking order for funding and a vying for lobbying position. The Active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve have their lobbying groups (AUSA, ROA, MOAA, etc) working full time jockeying for the shrinking budget money in front of and in closed Congressional Offices.

    There is no budget love lost between the National Guard Bureau and the Army Reserve during shrinking budget lobbying. While both are manned by citizen soldiers – the state militias have armories in every hamlet and city. Army Reserve soldiers are concentrated in and around university and large urban areas to fill the ranks of specialty support soldiers in the Medical, Intelligence other ‘hard skill’ fields. While this is a generalization – the major hubs of the reserve train in Fort Dix, NJ, Fort McCoy, Wi and Fort-Hunter-Liggett and Camp Parks, CA (where I’m employed). These areas are and have been represented by Congress critters who face a less than receptive attitude on defense by their political party leadership.

    The infighting interservice (Army, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force is (just as) vicious but usually doesn’t go public or is lost on the popular media.

    It is surprising that the Brits lost their stiff upper lip and went public over this for the first time in my memory.

  2. Michael,
    Thanks for joining the discussion. What you say is true, and interservice rivaly and scrabbles over budget funds are a fact of life. But the fights usually take place behind closed doors. What is interesting about the British fight is that it has erupted out the doors of the saloon and into the street, where the combatants are rolling around in the mud and gouging each other’s eyes for everyone to see.
    Bad show.

  3. Thomas said:

    I would wager that it is a tactic used by the military, the Royal Navy facebook page has been running ‘tell us why we need the navy’ things for weeks now. I would argue that they feel that if they can get the public to speak out in favour of the armed forces the gov with think twice about cutting the budget, after all quite a good number of people are still upset about reducing the number of regiments…

  4. The Royal Navy's Newest and Most Bitter Foe ? The British Army ……

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)

  5. Jezza67 said:

    Dear Sir

    We in the Antipodes are only vaguely aware of events in the Old Country except when cricket is involved. Our media is inward-focussed and the increasing US influence has obscured the relevance of the Old Dart to our affairs. The one phenomenon of which we are aware is the apparent Burgess-esque wave of youth crime and general abandonment of those very principles and ideals that made Great Britain the dominant world power for a century and a half.

    Nothing demonstrates this better than the capture and humiliation of 15 RN sailors by Iran in 2007. Can you imagine a nineteenth century tar crying on Al-Jazeera because his captors confiscated his iPod (or even allowing himself to be captured by some pirate on a jetski)? Or a female sailor wearing clothes deemed “appropriate” by the medieval clergy of a third-rate theocracy, parading for the enemy’s propoganda media? In the “Old Days”, such a provocation would have been met by a tidal wave of Royal Marine Commandoes, the skirl of bagpipes as blood-crazed, kilted Highlanders and the pants-browning cry of “Ayo Ghurkali!” filled the air. While every enemy installation within reach of the RN or RAF was reduced to a smouldering heap of martyred shacks and Fedayeen. In this writer’s opinion this whole fiasco started when the RN introduced the policy of naming warships after neutral topics such as cities and obscure adjectives (Astute, Aware).

    Back in the old days, Her Majesty’s warships were named for victorious Englishmen, great battles, Kings and Queens who furthered the empire and men of honour who did the same without request. Names such as Iron Duke, Warspite, Black Prince, Invincible and Dreadnought had enemies trembling from Singapore to Spitzbergen. The RN even captured a French ship-of-the-line, and sent her back into battle without even renaming her. Then, just to brown the Frogs off even more, the RN retained that name (Le Temeraire) for warships and establishments for another two hundred years. The old toast of “Death to the French and Confusion to our Enemies” seems to have been replaced by “Respect for the Ethnic Diversity of our Temporary Foes and Understanding of the Special Needs of the Crew of HMS Short Bus”.

    It’s no wonder that your cities are full of teens wearing hoods, they’re either evading Orwellian cameras or are too ashamed to risk being identified as British. Don’t get me started on Sharia courts for “ethnically-homogenous” parts of Britain or George Galloway as an MP. Sir Winston would have shot him purely on principle.

    I also refer to the proposed naming of Her Majesty’s newest Capital ship. Naming your flagship after a Cruise Liner is bad enough, but when that cruise liner is, herself, named for an in-bred, tax-dodging German whose sole achievement is staying alive long enough to keep her batshit-crazy son off the throne, the First Fleet Lord (or whatever he’s called these days) needs to have a cup of tea and a serious think about his priorities.

    A quick aside here to give mad props to Royal Son number two for playing matador to Exocet missiles in 1982. It’s a pity he isn’t likely to be King anytime soon.

    My old boss had an unbreakable dictum: “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions”. I have borne this in mind and now hold my own staff to this same rule. Unfortunately, in this case, I am unable to follow my own rule. Whereas Bismarck created the welfare state to bond the people of the newly-created Germany to their state, Great Britain seems to have allowed two generations of social workers, Teachers’ Union reps and Red-tinged, barely-elected local councillors to take the “State” out of “Welfare State” and plunge your nation into a terminal death-spiral. My only consolation is that modern travel is so cheap that it isn’t that hard to move to Australia. The resources boom created by China’s industrial growth has left many companies desperate for staff. So, anyone with any skills whatsoever is unlikely to make it 20 metres outside the airport terminal without being offered a job.

    My thanks for your tireless efforts with the magazine and if you ever find yourself in Adelaide, drop me a line and I’ll buy you a pint or take you on a tour of our fine wine regions.

    Kind Regards


    Todd Hill

  6. Todd,
    Since I like Australian wine and Australian beer, that’s an offer I may take you up on. I think after a couple glasses of either, we’ll have some pretty interesting and lively political discussions.

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