Dr Andrew Murrison is the Member of Parliament for South West Wiltshire and has served for thirty years as a regular and reservist, including as a medical officer in Iraq in 2003, and previously as a Shadow Defence Minister. His book ‘Tommy this, an’ Tommy that; the military covenant’ is published by Biteback.
The last government thought soldiers on the streets of London during the Olympics might strike a discordant note. Their concerns were misplaced. As London plays host to the world, our troops have been our very best ambassadors, smiling, smart and polite.
Among those bussed in at short notice are reservists, a genre that, being front and centre during ten years of expeditionary warfare, has turned its back irrevocably on a Cold War identity as Britain’s weekend warriors. But it’s a cadre in crisis with numbers plummeting and ageing. The TA officer corps in particular is in danger of approximating a Dad’s Army demographic.
Expansion and contraction has been the warp and weft of Britain’s military since the mid seventeenth century, a process determined electively at best but generally by events. Whilst the restructuring contained in the Government’s Army 2020 announcement last month is not unusual in the long history of our fighting forces, the wholesale elective recruitment of reservists at a time of relative peace and retrenchment is. Some have suggested Philip Hammond’s Army 2020 reforms will be as far reaching as those of his predecessors Edward Cardwell and Richard Haldane. That’s probably a bit over the top except in respect of the reserve element.