British military drawing up plans for 500,000-strong 'citizen army' as top general warns UK 'stumbling into war'

25 January 2024, 00:10 | Updated: 25 January 2024, 00:32

The Army's chief has said Britain needs a 'citizen army'
The Army's chief has said Britain needs a 'citizen army'. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The British military is drawing up plans to build up a 500,000-strong 'citizen army' in the event of the UK going to war with Russia.

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General Sir Patrick Sanders, chief of the general staff, said in a speech on Wednesday that civilians will need training and equipping if Britain goes to war.

Sir Patrick has suggested the Army should have a larger army of 120,000 within three years, which should include regular soldiers, reserves and former military personnel who could be called upon, The Times reports.

But this would not be enough to win a war, he stressed, which are 'started by armies and won by civilians'.

He urged the Government to start thinking about how it would mobilise the nation in the event of war breaking out.

General Sir Patrick Sanders
General Sir Patrick Sanders. Picture: PA

Around half a million people in total would be needed, according to his estimations.

“We need an army designed to expand rapidly to enable the first echelon, resource the second echelon, and train and equip the citizen army that must follow," Sir Patrick said on Wednesday.

He went on: “We cannot afford to make the same mistake today.”

“We will not be immune and as the pre-war generation we must similarly prepare — and that is a whole-of-nation undertaking.

“Ukraine brutally illustrates that regular armies start wars; citizen armies win them. But we’ve been here before, and workforce alone does not create capability.”

Read More: PM's rebuke to Army chief who warned British conscripts may be needed for ‘citizen army’ to fight future war with Russia

Read More: War hero Ben McBean says Brits would need to be dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ if conscripted to fight in Russia

The General's comments have sparked a debate about whether conscription could ever be brought into force in the UK.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was forced to bat down any suggestion this would happen.

When asked about whether Mr Sunak could rule out conscription in future circumstances, his official spokesman insisted the service would remain voluntary moving forward.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

“There is no suggestion of that," the spokesman said.

“The government has no intention to follow through with that.

"The British military has a proud tradition of being a voluntary force. There are no plans to change that."

He added that "hypothetical scenarios" being presented over future conflicts were "not helpful".

Meanwhile, war hero Ben McBean, who lost an arm and a leg in Afghanistan, has said Brits would need to be dragged 'kicking and screaming' if called up to fight against Russia.

Conscription was labelled as "stupid" by McBean, who served in the Royal Marines.

He told The Sun: "It's not the same as back in the day, people aren't as patriotic.

"That mentality is gone and it is going to be hard to get it back. You would have to drag people in kicking and screaming to get them to conscript."