Files show bitter fight over cuts to Royal Navy

FIGHTER Sir Henry Leach
FIGHTER Sir Henry Leach
Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson. Pictute: LPhot Ioan Roberts

Defence secretary refuses Treasury demands for military cuts

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FORMER First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Henry Leach warned about the risks of cutting the Royal Navy a year before the Falklands invasion, newly-released papers have shown.

Previously unseen files released by the National Archives show how Margaret Thatcher became embroiled in a row with Sir Henry over her government’s planned defence cuts.

He said proposals would have meant cutting the navy’s anti-submarine warfare carriers by a third, halving the destroyer-frigate force, and abandoning its anti-air warfare capabilities altogether.

‘We are on the brink of an historic decision,’ wrote Sir Henry.

‘War seldom takes the expected form and a strong maritime capability provides flexibility for the unforeseen.

‘If you erode it to the extent envisaged I believe you will foreclose your future options and prejudice our national security.’

The secret files have been released under the 30 year release rule