Don’t repeat our pre-war mistakes, warns ex-officer

HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing back into Portsmouth

PICTURE GALLERY: HMS Queen Elizabeth sails back into Portsmouth

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A RETIRED senior naval officer has warned that Britain is ill-equipped to deal with future conflicts because of defence cuts.

Commander John Muxworthy, the director of Portsmouth-based UK National Defence Association (UKNDA), said current events were similar to those in Britain in the pre-war 1930s.

And he compared Prime Minister David Cameron to then PM Neville Chamberlain who infamously failed to foresee the rise of Hitler.

As the armed forces are cut by the Strategic Defence and Security Review, Cdr Muxworthy believes the current wave of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East proves the folly of cutting money to the services.

He said: ‘Cameron is turning into Chamberlain. They are actually crippling us. I feel this is like when Churchill was warning Chamberlain about the dangers of reducing the armed forces. This is history repeating itself.

‘The last six conflicts we’ve been involved in, not one of them could have been foreseen. If the government can’t take a lesson from that, then I don’t know what they will take a lesson from.’

And in a letter published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, he called for HMS Ark Royal to be recommissioned and at least 30 Harriers to be retained, at least as a ‘stopgap’.

Another victim of the defence spending review, which aimed to plug a £38bn shortfall in MoD funding, is HMS Cumberland – due to be decommissioned next month – which recently played a crucial role in evacuations from Libya.

Cdr Muxworthy told The News: ‘It’s disgraceful and the feeling of anger amongst those in the military is growing every day. It’s not just the navy, but we don’t have a fleet any more, we have a small flotilla.

‘Cameron is sending us up the creek, and we quite literally won’t have a paddle. This isn’t about party politics, but something is going to happen that we won’t be fit to cope with – the fat is going to hit the fire and then who’s to blame? The blame will lie with the coalition government.’

The UKNDA is looking to put together a document, attempting to map out possible conflicts and flashpoints over the next decade.

‘No-one can foretell the future,’ Cdr Muxworthy said.

‘We want to put together an account of what we think will happen over the next five to 10 years. It is trying to second-guess the future but we’ve got to try and look at the potentialities and prepare for any contingencies.’