Portsmouth to stage debate on future of the navy

SPEECH Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
SPEECH Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth for the first time to go on sea trials

Picture: Malcolm Wells (171030-0346)

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THE head of the Royal Navy will address leading defence thinkers at a conference held in Portsmouth next week.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope will give the keynote speech at The Navy is the Nation on Wednesday.

The one-off conference at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard will see some of the UK’s top historians and strategic thinkers come together for two days of discussions about Britain’s naval history and how its illustrious past can be used to state the case for a stronger Royal Navy.

The event comes after controversial cuts left the UK without aircraft carriers until 2020, and with a surface fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers.

Among the speakers on April 18 and 19 are critics of the government’s 2010 Strategic Defence Review, including Professor Andrew Lambert of King’s College London, and Professor Eric Grove of the University of Salford.

The conference has been organised by one of Prof Lambert’s former students, Simon Williams, 25, of Gains Road, Southsea, who said he was thrilled to land the First Sea Lord as a guest speaker.

‘He’ll be talking from a historical point of view, but he’s the head of the navy so he’s got a lot to say about how history has brought us up to today and where it’s going to take us in the future,’ he said.

Mr Williams believes focusing on naval history can help change political attitudes about the navy.

He said: ‘History is not written for history’s sake. It’s written to inform the present and the future.

‘The navy is key to our history and hopefully we are able to present how it should also aid us in the future.

‘The focus on land operations in Afghanistan has massively skewed public opinion on defence.

‘Britain is unlikely to be fighting wars like Afghanistan over and over again and it’s a perennial truth that Britain relies on the sea for economic prosperity. Every single major conflict has been defined by the sea and it’s myopic to look at Afghanistan and say this is how we are going to do defence in the future.’

Some £70 tickets are still available for the conference, sponsored by Seafarers UK.

Email williams2424@googlemail.com for information.