Skip to content


Seem to be forgetting what the Royal Navy is for.

1) Control the seas

2) Put troops ashore exactly where needed then come and take them off again when necessary.


Two amphibious assault ships are to be mothballed under government plans to make up for a severe sailor shortage in what critics have described as “the beginning of the end for the Royal Marines”.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, has put forward proposals to retire HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark from active service, The Times can reveal.

Bad, bad, idea.

30 thoughts on “Sigh”

  1. A bit of an antiquated view of the purpose of the RN, isn’t it? We all know it’s now to give admirals jobs & defence contractors billions. Any sailoring going on is purely accidental.

  2. I thought the purpose of having a navy was to prevent invasions, but clearly not.

    to make up for a severe sailor shortage

    How severe?

    The intake for the navy and Royal Marines dropped by 22.1 per cent in the year to March compared with the previous year.

    LOL! Probably should’ve thought of that before going Woke. Oh well!

  3. One of the few things you actually need government (and some form of taxation) for is the defence of the realm.

    As usual, the asshats in Parliament and the MOD can’t even manage that basic task.

  4. Joe – Rishi Sunak is making Long Term Decisions For A Brighter Future (just don’t ask whose future).

    A Royal Navy spokeswoman said: “The Royal Marines Commando Force are highly-trained and highly-skilled and ready to be deployed globally. The landing platform ships continue to be part of the navy’s fleet and they have further amphibious capability through Bay-class ships.

    “The operational requirements of the Royal Navy are kept under constant review and the Ministry of Defence is committed to ensuring the navy has the capabilities it needs to meet current and future operational requirements.”

    Britain’s armed forces are still one of the most sophisticated and effective in the world at talking. If words were bullets, we’d be like the bloody Alamo.

    Whatever happens, we have got
    Grant Shapps
    And they have not.

  5. Johnny Mercer tweeted that this was bollocks. So?

    Remember this is the same Royal Navy that offered up our brand new (in RN terms) SSK fleet as a “savings measure” because nobody would be daft enough to cut that.

  6. Steve

    Superlatives fail me with this:

    Whatever happens, we have got
    Grant Shapps
    And they have not.

    I imagine Hamas are taking notes and probably thinking the White flag will be raised at the first shot fired!

  7. DEI doing it’s usual thing for reality: can we get 30% women *and* meet our recruitment targets? No? Well, one of those targets is going to have to go!

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    There’s some really deep analysis here from someone who is well informed and IIRC someone on here vouched for his bona fides on military subjects. It makes depressing reading:

    When you look at a photo of the Springtrain deployment of 1977-78 and realise that in one photo it shows more seagoing frigates, tankers and store ships than the Royal Navy and RFA have available right now in just one photo, you realise how grim things look. While it is easy for outsiders to blame the Politicians for taking decisions, they can only act on the options presented to them by the military. These options are drawn up by military officers and staffed through the military chain of command. That the RN feels it needs to pay ships off to solve people and financial issues should be seen, at its heart, as an outcome caused by the Royal Navy and its failure to sort its people management out and not a politically inspired choice of spite taken by Ministers. The decline and fall of the Royal Navy was ultimately caused by the Royal Navy personnel who developed and presented these options as credible. That we are in this position is due to plenty of good people doing the best they could with a bad hand, but we cannot evade the fact that this is self-inflicted harm caused by a failure to recruit and retain people – a problem that has not changed since 1945.

  9. The Royal Australian Navy seems to be in a similarly pittiful state. We got asked a few weeks ago to contribute one warship to patrolling the Red Sea and it seems we can’t, or won’t, even stump up that. For something that is in our interests. Keeping shipping lanes open and all that.

  10. BinD,

    But do we need the military of 1978? What are the threats to any bits of the UK? Most of the world is democracies and countries we trade with. The places doing war are a long way from us, like Ukraine, the middle east, Ethiopia.

    The biggest threats are small groups.

    This does seem like a bad decision for that reason. I don’t think we need big weapons like Euro fighter and aircraft carriers but being able to drop some blokes into a place and mess up a few terrorists is useful.

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    Looking round the world, I think we do if we want to continue trading and not giving in to the like of the Houthi. I’m not sure I won’t to rely on China to keep trade routes open.

    And I’ve just remembered, it was Jason who vouched for the author.

  12. Armed forces recruitment is run by Crapita.

    Unfortunately this means that any potential recruit speaks to a disparate bunch of call centre drones on temp contracts rather than to a retiring warrant officer or sergeant who might actually add some value.

    Only this government could spend so many billions to pay people to sit on their arses at home and then be surprised about a lack of candidates for the armed forces.

  13. VP – thank you, but my doggerel is of course inferior to Belloc’s.

    He did warn us:

    The story must not be neglected by any modern, who may think in error that the East has finally fallen before the West, that Islam is now enslaved – to our political and economic power at any rate if not to our philosophy. It is not so. Islam essentially survives, and Islam would not have survived had the Crusade made good its hold upon the essential point of Damascus. Islam survives. Its religion is intact; therefore its material strength may return. Our religion is in peril, and who can be confident in the continued skill, let alone the continued obedience, of those who make and work our machines? … There is with us a complete chaos in religious doctrine…We worship ourselves, we worship the nation; or we worship (some few of us) a particular economic arrangement believed to be the satisfaction of social justice…Islam has not suffered this spiritual decline; and in the contrast between [our religious chaos and Islam’s] religious certitudes still strong throughout the Mohammedan world lies our peril

    Which helps explain why nobody’s interested in joining the British identified armed forces.

    We worship […] a particular economic arrangement believed to be the satisfaction of social justice, and that is a miserable dead end doctrine which nobody will risk their life to defend.

    Nor should they. Think of the Royal Navy as the new Bud Light. It’s not that people are boycotting them, we’re just abandoning them to the fate they chose.

  14. I don’t know how old the ship is, in that Times photo, but the pic itself is old because I can clearly see my house, but no Spinnaker Tower – completed 2005.

  15. Having no real armed forces does at least reduce the ability of our f*ckwit politicians to get us into any more wars, though no doubt they’ll keep trying.

    On the other, the Falklanders had better learn Spanish.

  16. BiND,

    I know Sir Humphrey personally (served in the same RNR unit as him for a while) and would say he’s mostly – though not entirely – right on this one.

    The RN has been fighting the manpower battle for a long time, and having issues outside its control. For instance, they were meant to get an uplift of 3,000 in 2015 during that year’s defence review; that was scrubbed, because Cameron thought that preserving infantry cap badges was more important so moved the manpower to the Army, so we could keep more light infantry regiments (no mobility, no firepower, no battlefield utility) and the RN would have to “make do” with rather less people than the commitments it was being told to fulfil, required.

    So, there’s a 3,000-strong black hole that’s been marching through the RN’s manpower structure since then, which is part of what we’re seeing now.

    The fallout from the 2015 review was that – confronted with a Fleet that was “running hot” (wartime levels of thrashing ships and people) – and so was haemorrhaging people, especially experienced POs and Chiefs who were being ‘asked’ to do back-to-back optours and instead decided to quit… 1SL Zambellas invoked his right of access, turned up to the PM, and said “here is what you’re asking us to do; here is what we can do: take jobs off the ‘want’ pile until it’s no taller than the ‘can do’ pile.” and got RN tasking reduced to a manageable level. Toys went out of prams, ministerial teddies were flung, and this, of course, ended the expectation that he’d be the next CDS, and Zambellas was ushered out with haste… but greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his career for the Service.

    To point out that this is not new, and the RN has been providing the evidence of “we need more people to do what you’re tasking us to do”, I’d offer this comment from 2016 where we parked two ships to reduce the stress on RN manpower after Zambellas put the Navy above his advancement:-

    Well, they’re still in Commission, but yes, we’ve reduced our tasking – substantially – because we simply can’t do it with the people we have. We’ve also had our books poured over by outsiders, and they’ve confirmed we’re not special pleading: we are structurally under-funded and over tasked. And as a result, we took evidence upwards and said “we can’t do this. We can do a or b or c, but not a, b and c. Pick one. ps – this isn’t going to get better any time soon”. It was horrendous, it’s going to do very odd things to the RN, but it has probably saved the RN from imploding.

    But, rather than “fix the problem”, the politicians have reverted to “you need to do more with less”. Hence, we’re back where we were nearly a decade ago, looking for the least essential tasking to drop to avoid breaking the force.

    Add to that, savings measures, “capability holidays”, and “deferred procurements” for a decade from 2003 onwards, where to free up funds for urgent but short-lived (we’ll win and be out by next year, honest guv!) land operations in Iraq and especially Afghanistan, the Royal Navy (and the RAF too, but someone else can stand up for the crabs…) is carrying a huge backlog of OPDEFs, breakdowns and shortfalls that we didn’t buy spares and parts for in 2009… and now often can’t get spares and parts, because companies with no orders go out of business – which makes extending the life of older platforms increasingly difficult and expensive, since increasingly there’s no source for spares, and we didn’t even maintain the stocks we expected to need let alone make any provision for extensions of service.

    On top of that, it sank in that modern weapon systems make assaulting across a beach an exciting way to commit suicide (this was getting apparent in some wargaming nearly twenty years ago, and has become clearer and clearer since) – hence why the US Marine Corps has divested itself of that sort of “Sands of Iwo Jima” capability, and the Royal Marines are moving away from beach assault to the Fleet Commando Force construct (which they’ve been doing for several years)

    The expectation that the LPDs would go early, was being baked in back in 2017, because they were the least essential part of the force and scenarios where “land an understrength brigade of lightly-armed troops somewhere foreign” was critically useful were… very hard to come by. (Hence, the Royal Marines transitioning to the Fleet Commando Force model rather than being a very small amphibious assault force)

    The other expensive problem is that the LPDs deploy landing craft from their well deck to get troops and kit ashore, and those landing craft are also old, thoroughly worn out and very limited (slow and need very specific beaches to land and unload over); with no money being made available to replace them, having seen the three decades of mostly disaster the USMC have had in trying to improve ship-to-shore manoeuvre. (Their LCACs work, but are really, really expensive to buy and run, other projects have been… expensive and difficult for limited return)

    So, it’s a rather bigger cost to maintain the capability than “just keep Albion and Bulwark running for another few years”. (The USMC have spent decades and billions trying to find better alternatives, mostly without success).

  17. @Jason Lynch

    Interesting post.
    As a fully experienced armchair general (I’ve played a lot of CoD so am fully qualified as an expert in all things military), I’m wondering why assaulting a beach has to be so suicidal.

    Why not just carpet bomb the area thoroughly to disrupt the defences then storm ashore before they have chance to rebuild?
    A few thousand JDams on prepared defences should make a fair number of holes in said fortifications, especially with modern accuracy.
    I assumed this was why the Ukies were getting slaughtered in their offence earlier this year – attacking prepared defences without air power to carpet the area beforehand.


  18. I assumed this was why the Ukies were getting slaughtered in their offence earlier this year – attacking prepared defences without air power to carpet the area beforehand.

    At least as important is a battlefield of almost total surveillance. There is essentially no element of surprise possible from strategic design down to individual soldiers moving forward. The Russians knew exactly where Ukraine would attack and with what, and could concentrate assets accordingly. They hit massed forces before those got anywhere near the prepared defenses.

    The Ukrainians have even better surveillance which is how they are able to hold against superior numbers as well as they do. They don’t have any serious prepared defenses at the rear of Avdiivka but the Russians have been repeatedly slaughtered for their non-decisive gains.

    Amphibious landings against a near peer enemy will very likely be a disaster. Even outfits like the Houthis could pose a problem if they have sufficient drones.

  19. ‘The Royal Australian Navy seems to be in a similarly pittiful state.’

    Yeah Ltw. Still, we were able to scrape up six blokes. I understand they’ll go on the staff somewhere over there.

  20. Bloke in North Dorset


    On the point about back to back tours, I remember listening to a senior American retired admiral explain how deep and long lasting the problem becomes.

    I’m sure you’re aware of the problems, but for others who haven’t had to consider the issues, its not just the short term problem of losing senior staff, junior ranks and officers miss training courses and in an up or out system can miss promotion windows*. Dry docks are booked years in advance so vital preventative maintenance doesn’t get done. If junior officers are rotated in to different roles regularly it can mean inexperienced staff officers and admirals in years to come.

    * I think I’ve told this story on here before, but never mind. The Royal Signals operated up or out when I was serving and we had a case in Germany where the CO’s radio operator/driver (usually the best Cpl for obvious reasons) missed out on promotion. It turned out his Troop Commander (a young Lt) had been turning down his course applications because the he didn’t want to give the CO a less experienced operator/driver. At best that was a year’s delay in his promotion to Sgt with all the opportunity and financial costs.

  21. I’m sure there’s nothing at all to worry about, and comforted that the Defence Secretary will surely have had wise counsel from Michael Green, Corinne Stockheath and Sebastian Fox.

  22. PJF – At least as important is a battlefield of almost total surveillance. There is essentially no element of surprise possible from strategic design down to individual soldiers moving forward. The Russians knew exactly where Ukraine would attack and with what, and could concentrate assets accordingly. They hit massed forces before those got anywhere near the prepared defenses

    Spot on.

    But NB this is not an idiodyncrasy of the Ukraine war, it’s generic to modern war. Modern ISR + ubiquitous drones = the Western front 2.0

    That means Western militaries and their civilian leadership need to very urgently rethink their approach to war, but for whatever reasons (Net Zero is one) there’s no sign of that happening.

    Our technology, from the first tank to the latest tranche of F-35s, is supposed to allow us to break free of attritional warfare, but if the all seeing eye makes it impossible to form a big enough armoured fist, horrifically brutal slaughter is the outcome.

    We’re not currently set up for a drunken knife fight in a dirty alley behind a pub. It’s ridiculous to even imagine today’s Royal Navy or British Army winning in such conditions – we’d run out of weapons and men too quickly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *