The head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, has suggested that the UK should prepare a “citizen army” to be ready for potential land warfare in the future. He stated that merely increasing reserve forces would not suffice and emphasized the growing threat from Russia. He also urged for the modernization and better equipping of the UK’s armed forces.
In his speech at an armoured vehicle conference, General Sanders did not advocate for compulsory military service but rather a voluntary enlistment in case of war. He stressed the need for the UK’s “pre-war generation” to be prepared for possible warfare, describing it as a “whole-of-nation undertaking”.
General Sanders has previously expressed concerns about the increasing likelihood of war and the UK’s unpreparedness. He has argued against recent reductions in the size of the Army, which now stands at approximately 73,000, down from around 100,000 in 2010. He suggested that the UK needs an army that can quickly expand to 120,000, including reserve and strategic reserve forces.
He also pointed out measures taken by countries such as Sweden and Finland to prepare their nations for potential conflict with Russia. Other senior Nato military commanders have echoed these sentiments, urging the alliance to prepare for possible conflict.
The UK government responded to General Sanders’ comments by stating that hypothetical scenarios of future conflict were unhelpful and dismissing the idea of conscription. However, one senior Conservative MP expressed concern that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may not fully appreciate the threat posed by Russia.
General Sanders warned against repeating the mistakes of 1914 when the UK failed to anticipate the escalations leading to World War One. Despite a 28% reduction in army size over the past 12 years, he noted that applications to join the Army were at their highest level in six years. General Sanders, who has been critical of cuts to troop numbers and military spending, will be succeeded as Chief of the General Staff in June by General Sir Roly Walker.