The British Armed Forces are the official army of the United Kingdom whose main duty is to protect and defend the country, overseas British territories, and nations which depend on Her Majesty. The military is also active in providing humanitarian aid and is a strong advocate of peacekeeping actions. The British military has several different divisions and consists of the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Blue Water Navy, Royal Marines (infantry), and the British Army, with the Queen as Commander-in-Chief.
History of the British Armed Forces
Back in the times when powers were measured through the strength and endurance of an army, the British was certainly one of the best-equipped and best-trained militaries in the world. Looking back to World War I and II, credit has to be given to the brave British Army which contributed to Britain’s influence on the global political scene by winning major battles and dictating the course of post-war events. The strength of the British Armed Forces has brought Britain to the pedestal as one of the most influential political and economic power countries in the world.
In World War I, the British Armed Forces consisted of volunteers and were small in comparison to the French and German armies, with only 400,000 volunteer soldiers. The Royal Navy was formed during the First World War, in addition to the British infantry, cavalry, and Reserve troops. The initial patriotic spirit was put to the test when, after the Battle of Somme, the volunteer enrolment dropped significantly, leading Britain to recruit men by introducing the Military Service Act. The British women showed their engagement as well by enlisting as volunteers to serve, mostly as nurses.
The British Army showed discipline in the field battles which were preceded by individual training, squadron, battalion, brigade, battery training, and army manoeuvres throughout the year. The British Army was at first not prepared well for trench warfare in WWI which cost the army men power, but by 1918, they learned how to outmanoeuvre the enemy in trench warfare as well.
The British Army in WWI witnessed yet another revolutionary development, the tank. In order to cope with trench warfare, a strong vehicle which could ride over the muddy terrain was required which resulted in the first tanks. The British Army was the first to enter a battle with tanks, 40 of them when they crashed with the German enemy in the Battle of Somme. Still, the first tank experience remained a painful memory for the soldiers, since the tank failed to serve its purpose due to mechanical breakdowns and insufficient information on how to operate the vehicle. Moreover, the tank moved too slow and enabled the enemy to outmanoeuvre the confused British forces. Still, until the end of the war, the British manifested themselves as a strong army who can take the enemy down after all.
The beginning of the Second World War looked dim for the British Forces, which suffered defeat after defeat in the early years. Reorganisation and mandatory enrolment brought the army back on its feet with larger troops and better equipment. The British Army Forces became one of the hero armies which did not suffer a major defeat from 1943 onwards. The British Army grew to over 1 million men by the end of 1939 which would rise to 3 million by 1945. As opposed to WW I, the British had introduced a strategy to better allocate their men according to their skills in order to reduce men power waste through poor management.
The British Army participated in one of the turning-point events which changed the course of the war, the most popular battle of WW II, i.e. the Normandy invasion. This was a joined international attempt to drive out German forces and was a major success. The Allied Forces established a new front and contributed to the withdrawal of German forces from the most part of France. By the end of the war, the British Army casualties reached the number 383,700.
Britain in the Cold War
As the Cold War took off after WW II, Britain decided to develop its own independent nuclear weapons. The first British nuclear bomb, called the Hurricane, was detonated in 1952 off the west coast of Australia, in the Monte Bello Islands. In 1957, the British first successful hydrogen bomb was also detonated in Christmas Islands in the Pacific. These test bombings were the last British independent actions since it joined the USA in later test developments. The Cold War, luckily, never turned to a hot war, but the Ping-Pong battle between the USA and the Soviet Union influenced the entire world, including Britain. For around 40 years, the world was divided by the Iron Curtain, and Britain assumed the role of one of the biggest contributors to the development of the Western part of Europe.
Britain was a founding member of the NATO organisation (1949), and during the first 10 Cold War years, its role revolved around nuclear deterrence programmes. During the 1970s, the British military became NATO-oriented and concentrated on the fulfilment of its NATO obligations. The British Forces participated in minor conflicts related to the colonies, which culminated in the Falkland Islands war in 1982. The ten-week armed conflict saw the British fight Argentina for two of their territories in the South Atlantic. Argentina had to surrender after 74 days of battle and returned the territories to Britain.
British Forces and their Role in the War on Terror
As a member of NATO, the British Army pursues a global role in peacekeeping campaigns and promotions, as well as humanitarian missions. As a global power, the UK was engaged in a series of military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and nowadays it engages in military missions against ISIL, today’s most feared terrorism organisation which threatens world peace.
The Global War on Terrorism is an international military campaign which was established after September 11. Still, the name of the organisation seemed not to have picked up, as for example in Britain, when the government announced publicly to discontinue using the phrase in 2007. The main reason is that the British government regards the September 11 attack as a crime and not an act of war. Who would have known that what was called back then War on Terror would reach such proportions nowadays? Terrorist attacks keep the world shivering and jeopardize our hard acquired world peace, making no one feel safe anymore, no matter where they are. The sudden attacks cannot be predicted and keep reappearing when and where no one expects it.