Files show bitter fight over cuts to Royal Navy

FIGHTER Sir Henry Leach
FIGHTER Sir Henry Leach
A Merlin helicopter from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose has been training with HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth Naval Base as part of her Rotary Wing Trials

Helicopter puts flight deck crew through its paces

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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