Army chief hits out at plan to cut troops to Napoleonic era levels
13th April 2022

British army chief demands plans to cut troop numbers to 73,000 – the smallest size since the Napoleonic era – are reversed after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

  • General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith criticised cuts to the number of army personnel
  • The army chief said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should give pause for thought
  • The 58-year-old said it’s altered what ‘defence and deterrence’ means in Europe
  • He added he wants to see more investment in other areas such as ‘cyber’ warfare

The head of the British army has demanded plans to cut the number of troops in the service to the lowest amount since the Napoleonic era be reversed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith said the war in eastern Europe should give the Government pause for thought and make it reconsider plans to cut the number of soldiers in the army to 73,000.

The Chief of the General Staff seemed to criticise the planned cuts which had been outlined as part of the defence review last year.

General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith has appeared to hit out at Government plans to cut the army to its smallest size since the Napoleonic era. He is pictured here at a memorial ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had announced the army would lose 9,000 soldiers by 2025 when this was implemented, taking the army to its smallest size for more than 200 years.

Sir Mark appeared to break with the tradition of serving armed forces chiefs not criticising decisions made by Government after making the remarks at the Policy Exchange think tank.

The 58-year-old said Putin’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine might mean the defence review should be looked at again, The Times reports.

He said: ‘I think our structure and the growing shopping list of potential outputs in the wake of the redefinition of European defence and deterrence, which I am sure Ukraine heralds, I think is going to demand more of the field force and I would like to see greater investment in a larger army.’

Sir Mark said the Russian invasion of Ukraine means cuts outlined by the Government should be looked at again. Pictured are two Russian soldiers in the ruins of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol

He added the number of soldiers the review suggested should be kept – 73,000 – was not a figure ‘predicated on most of the experimentation and analysis’ that the Army contributed.

‘But we also have to accept that in terms of building a wider, balanced force across not just the traditional environmental domains of land, sea and air, that we needed greater investment in the new, novel, man-made domains, particularly cyber,’ he said. 

He was joined at the event by Labour MP John Spellar, who agreed to war in Ukraine showed the latest defence review needed to be looked at again. 

Mr Spellar, who sits on the Commons defence committee, said he would like to see the size of the army stay the same in the meantime ‘rather than the Treasury-driven cuts which have been criticised right the way across the board’.

The cuts, which were outlined by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (left) last year, come as Vladimir Putin (right) increases his aggression in eastern Europe 

Sir Mark, who unsuccessfully interviewed for the role head of the armed forces, made the remarks ahead of his departure from his role as head of the army in June. 

He is set to be replaced by General Sir Patrick Sanders who has experience in charge of cyber, special forces and military intelligence.

Speaking after he was announced as his successor, Sir Patrick said he was ‘deeply honoured’ to be taking over at ‘such a pivotal time for the future of the British Army’.   

He said: ‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder that the world is becoming increasingly dangerous and uncertain with war on land coming to Europe for the first time in decades.

‘The British Army will play its part in defending the UK and our allies as we have for centuries.’

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