The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Harry opened Westminster Abbey s Field of Remembrance today.

Both planted crosses of remembrance to honour unknown soldiers from the first and second world wars.

The Duke of Edinburgh wore his Royal Navy day ceremonial uniform and an overcoat, Harry his Blues and Royals frock coat.

Harry reminisced about his time in Afghanistan with Liam Young, 29, a corporal in the Light Dragoons, whom he first met during a training course.

Diana Princess of Wales was colonel-in-chief of the Light Dragoons, and Mr Young said that the regiment would always hold a special place in

The British Army (Light Dragoons Blog News) is resistant to the idea of deploying thousands of troops on to UK streets in the event of a terrorist attack on home soil, despite the perceived increase in threat from groups such as Islamic State.

Although the army has drawn up detailed contingency plans, it is understood to be reluctant to follow the example of the French military, which sent 10,000 troops on to the streets of Paris and elsewhere around the country after the Charlie Hebdo attack1.

Plans for up to 5,100 troops to augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties were revealed in documents accidentally uploaded to the National Police Chief Council s (NPCC) website, according to a Mail on Sunday report2.

The plan was contained in the minutes of a closed session of the NPCC held on 22 April in a hotel in Leicester. The minutes were then inadvertently uploaded to the council s website.

While the Ministry of Defence has plans for backing up the police following major terrorist attacks, there is resistance to committing large numbers of troops for indefinite policing duties.

Part of the argument against is that the army, having been cut down from 102,000 to 82,000, is already overstretched and that if 5,000 troops were to be deployed to the streets, it would leave a significant hole in the number available for military duties.

There could also be a morale problem after the initial novelty of being posted to the streets begins to wear off, with the attendant boredom of guard duty day after day.

But the biggest single objection is that once troops are committed to the streets, it is hard to pull them back. It would require the security services to declare that the threat level had dropped sufficiently to allow them to return to barracks.

France initially deployed 10,000 troops, 7,000 of whom are to become a presence on the streets for the foreseeable future, the president, Fran ois Hollande, has announced. Italy, too, has deployed 5,000 troops on its streets.

David Cameron put the British Army (Light Dragoons Blog News) on standby after the Charlie Hebdo attack but in the end accepted the arguments against deployment. The issue has been discussed at meetings of Cobra, the government crisis group which brings ministers together with senior military and security staff.

The plan reportedly revealed in the leaked minutes is codenamed Operation Temperer and would see troops backing up the police in guarding potential targets while counter-terrorist officers and MI5 hunted for attackers.

The week after the Charlie Hebdo attack Cameron asked Britain s counter-terrorism police3 to continue working with the military on contingency plans for attacks by roving armed bands, citing not just the example of Paris but the multiple attacks in 2008 in Mumbai.

When Tony Blair was prime minister, he authorised the deployment of 450 troops in 2003 to help with security at Heathrow airport and elsewhere around London.

During the Northern Ireland Troubles the army deployed 21,000 troops.


  1. ^ after the Charlie Hebdo attack (
  2. ^ Mail on Sunday report (
  3. ^ Cameron asked Britain s counter-terrorism police (

The British Army would be the weakest field force of the four combatants at the First Battle of Ypres . In Britain there was a popular story that comparing the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France with the mass conscription European armies, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany had dismissed it as a contemptible little army . It was probably an effective piece of recruiting propaganda by the British, but in essence it was not untrue .

The British saw their role as maintaining dominance of the seas, and offering financial support, whilst providing a small highly trained army to supplement the French . In equipment and resources the British Army a career force of professionals took second place to the Royal Navy . Later in the war as recruits were put through their training, exasperated Non Commissioned Of cers (NCOs) watching civilians struggling to become soldiers would utter Thank Gawd we ve got a Navy .

The role of the pre-war British Army was primarily policing the empire and units were deployed throughout Britain s imperial possessions, however this meant that often forces at home were understrength . Indeed, in echoes of current moves in the early twenty- rst century, prior to the First World War, the army itself had been reduced by 16,000 men as a politically acceptable cost-cutting exercise . However, it was those understrength units stationed at home that were to form the basis of the expeditionary force (later known as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)) that was to be sent to France in 1914 .

The force was initially made up of six formed infantry divisions and a cavalry division, which would be created from existing brigades on mobilisation . To bring these formations up to war strength 60 per cent of their manpower were reservists . After the outbreak of war, units serving abroad were brought home to form additional Regular divisions .

Alongside the Regular Army, there was the Territorial Force (TF) of fourteen infantry divisions and fourteen Yeomanry brigades . The Territorials, as part-time volunteers, were often viewed with some suspicion by the Regular Army, as many of them had not seen active service . The Territorial Force s primary role was home defence and its members could only be sent overseas if they volunteered and only a small number of units had done so before the outbreak of war, but this soon changed .

During theearly weeks of the war, the BEF was to suffer heavy casualties and so individual TF units began to be sent to France in September 1914 (at the same time three TF divisions were sent to replace regular units overseas) . The first TF division did not, however, deploy to an active theatre of war until March 1915 . However, once in the frontline regular soldiers, though they were happy to tease them, were more than happy to be reinforced by Territorial soldiers .

Ri ’eman Henry Williamson of the London Ri ‘e Brigade (a Territorial formation) recalled that at Ypres in 1914: We were brigaded with regulars who wore balaclava helmets . The whole feeling was one of tremendous comradeship, and these old sweats who were survivors of Mons and the Aisne, they had no fear at all, and any apprehension we had of going in under re was soon got rid of in the trenches. (from Max Arthur, Forgotten Voices of the Great War) However, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, unlike the Germans, was prepared for a long war and realised that Britain would need a large army to see out the con ‘ict . He, too, did not hold the Territorials in high regard and therefore decided to raise a mass all-volunteer army (later dubbed Kitchener s Army), who would receive similar training to that of Regular Army units .

The men of the New Armies, as they were called, enlisted for four years or the duration of the war . Shortage of equipment and facilities meant that it would be many months before any of these new divisions deployed overseas . In the early months of 1914 Corporal Clarke of the Gordon Highlanders recalled that class still dominated the army and in Ypres while the men slept on ‘oors and in outhouses, the of cers slept in beds in the most af ‘uent houses in the town: The hell they were all about to enter was to virtually destroy that differential; when men are at their Maker s door and ‘ying shrapnel can open that door at any minute of the day, every day, there was to be a bond built up between the two. (from van Emden, The Soldier s War) Enthusiastic but untrained volunteers bolstered reserves, 51,647 enlisted in August 1914 and that figure rose to 174,901 by 5 September, just eight weeks prior to First Ypres .

While some 4,192 of the regular soldiers had more than fifteen years of experience, 46,291 had just under two years . The British Army elded just 4,000 gunners and seventy-six guns per division . Each infantry battalion contained just two machine guns .

The solitary Cavalry Division was comprised of only 9,000 men, twenty-four machine guns and the same number of light artillery pieces . The British could say that what they lacked in quantity they made up for in quality . Their NCOs and soldiers were highly trained .

As a result of their experiences in the war in South Africa, British infantry were very pro cient marksmen, capable of ring twenty aimed rounds per minute a rate that came to be known as the Mad Minute . The Royal Artillery also lagged behind the Germans and French in 1914 . Guns were still expected to provide infantry with close support in the frontline and the technique of indirect re was largely ignored .

It was the superiority of rifle fire that was considered decisive . There were fifty-four field artillery guns and eighteen Howitzers per division . There was no corps-level artillery control, no reserves in case of heavy losses, very little doctrine and there were not the appropriate numbers of staff or communications for effective artillery infantry cooperation .

Possibly the greatest defect was the lack of a High Explosive (HE) shells . Those that the gunners did have were few in number and hampered by a defective fuse, a problem which would not be fully resolved until 1916 . Ultimately, the lack of Treasury support meant that there was little the army could have done to rectify these problems before the war .

However, in the Mk I 18 pounder the British had an elegant and well-designed gun that would serve throughout the war .

It had a range of 7,000 yards but this was upped to between 9 and 11,000 yards in improved versions .

Such was the quality of the 18 pounder that it would eventually form the basis of the 25 pounder of the Second World War, which was eventually retired in the 1970s.

Read the original:
The History Press blog