Army chief’s call for citizen army ‘infuriated’ No10 as top general called in for ‘dressing down’

28 February 2024, 05:45 | Updated: 28 February 2024, 07:55

General Sir Patrick Sanders was given a dressing down for his remarks
General Sir Patrick Sanders was given a dressing down for his remarks. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

An army chief that called for a ‘citizen army’ to be trained to fight in future wars was given a ‘dressing down’ for his comments, it has been revealed.

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General Sir Patrick Sanders said last month that the UK’s army was ‘too small’ and that it would be necessary to call up the public to fight in the event of war breaking out.

It sparked a national debate about conscription, which Sir Patrick did not directly call for, but said that a 500,000-strong army would be necessary.

He was called into Admiral Sir Tony Radakin’s office for a ‘dressing down’ as a result as his comments left No10 ‘infuriated’, The Times reports.

Sir Tony told Sir Patrick that it was ‘unhelpful’ to have such a conversation in public.

British Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps,right, speaks to Chief of the General Staff General Patrick Sanders
British Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps,right, speaks to Chief of the General Staff General Patrick Sanders. Picture: Alamy
General Patrick Sanders called for a 'citizen army'
General Patrick Sanders called for a 'citizen army'. Picture: Alamy

He even went on to criticise the army chief in public, telling an audience at Chatham House on Tuesday that there are ‘no plans’ for what Sir Patrick called for and said his comments were ‘alarmist’.

“I worry the public debate that has played out over recent weeks risks becoming confused and some remarks are alarmist…Britain is secure,” Sir Tony told the audience.

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“We can always do better and we advise ministers on what more might need to be done in the future. But it is for politicians to decide how much resource is allocated and where and how this is balanced with wider demands of government,” he continued.

“Those are sensitive conversations. They are best done in private.

“We are not on the cusp of war with Russia. We are not about to be invaded.”

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. Picture: Alamy

Sir Patrick's comments were part of a wider call among senior officials in Europe to prepare for all-out war with Russia as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.

Admiral Rob Bauer said that although NATO and member governments are readying themselves for conflict with Vladimir Putin's regime, civilians must realise that they also have a role to play.

He told reporters that civilians would have to be mobilised in large numbers if war broke out, and governments would have to prepare for how to manage that process.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s civil defence minister warned citizens that they could soon be taking up arms, bringing an end to 210 years of peace, as the country prepares to join NATO.

He added that the idea that peace "is an immovable constant" is "conveniently close at hand."

But Mr Bohlin said that "taking comfort in this conclusion has become more dangerous than it has been for a very long time.

"There could be war in Sweden," he said.

"The world is facing a security outlook with greater risks than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

"Are you a private individual? Have you considered whether you have time to join a voluntary defence organisation? If not: get moving!"

His comments led to a surge in the number of military volunteers in Sweden.

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