Two days ago the Sunday Times published a call by a British Army officer – a ‘serving General’ – for mutiny by the British army should Jeremy Corbyn become prime minister. This was extraordinary for two reasons. The first is that for anyone – a serving or former member of the military or even a civilian – to advocate mutiny by the armed forces is a criminal offence. The second is that by not disclosing the identity of this Army officer the Sunday Times is complicit in this offence. The authorities should now conduct investigations to identify the General and the CPS should then consider prosecutions.
(Apologies: this article is fairly rushed and was written from a sick bed. Also, there has been no opportunity to examine other responses to the Sunday Times article.)
The last time anyone tried to incite troops in the British Army to ‘mutiny’ was back in 1970. Thirteeen persons – known as the British Withdrawal From Northern Ireland Campaign 14 – were charged with conspiracy to incite disaffection, though none were convicted, thanks to public support for the 14. Prior to that there was a real mutiny at the end of World War Two when British soldiers in Cairo went on strike and refused to take orders until they were returned to Britain.
This is what the General had to say in the Sunday Times interview…
Referring to the possibility that a Corbyn-led Government might downgrade the military, scrapping Trident or pulling Britain out of NATO, he said: “The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security… Feelings are running very high within the armed forces. You would see a major break in convention with senior generals directly and publicly challenging Corbyn over vital important policy decisions such as Trident, pulling out of Nato and any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces. There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”
He wasn’t mincing his words. Furthermore, the General added that the military would take ‘direct action’ to ensure the Corbyn Government would not be able to carry out its mandate. Direct action usually means the use of violence (though not always) and in this context one can only assume that the military would take over key installations and organise a caretaker government until new elections can be called.
The Army Act 1955 defines mutiny as follows:
Mutiny means a combination between two or more persons subject to service law, or between persons two at least of whom are subject to service law—
- (a) to overthrow or resist lawful authority in Her Majesty’s forces or any forces co-operating therewith or in any part of any of the said forces,
- (b) to disobey such authority in such circumstances as to make the disobedience subversive of discipline, or with the object of avoiding any duty or service against, or in connection with operations against, the enemy, or
- (c) to impede the performance of any duty or service in Her Majesty’s forces or in any forces co-operating therewith or in any part of any of the said forces.
So who is this General? The Sunday Times article states that he served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and the 1990s. Assuming this ‘serving General’ was also of the rank of General while serving in N Ireland, according to Army lists there were four men who fit this description:
- Lieutenant General Sir Robert Richardson 1982–1985
- General Sir Robert Pascoe 1985–1988
- General Sir John Waters 1988–1990
- General Sir John Wilsey 1990–1993
- General Sir Roger Wheeler 1993–1996
- General Sir Rupert Smith 1996–1998
Of these, only one – Waters – is listed as serving in the province in both decades. However, if the ‘serving General’ was not a General during that period, that means it’s far more difficult for him to be identified as there are, currently, around 100 serving Generals.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman has subsequently cpofemned the statement by the General but has ruled out what it euphemistically calls ‘a leak inquiry’ on the grounds that it would be almost impossible to identify the culprit. In this particular case, it is not a ‘leak of information’ but a statement made in a major UK newspaper that amounts to criminal intent.
As for the Sunday Times, it may well argue that it cannot reveal or confirm the name of the General, as that would break the usual confidentiality rules. However, those rules normally apply in cases where the source is merely providing information. In this particular case the source has just broken the law and can be considered an ‘extremist’. And once the source has been identified, he should surely face arrest.
Consequently, if the Sunday Times refuses to disclose the name of the General, then it, too, could be subject to prosecution.
Many will no doubt argue that the statement issued by the General is mere grandstanding – a salvo – and that it is unlikely any such ‘coup’ or mutiny would take place. But that is irrelevant if it is accepted that a crime has taken place. Identifying the General could easily be done.
Indeed, it’s a sure bet the MoD already know, if not GCHQ.
Of course, this is not the first time British military officers attempted to overthrow a legitimate British Government. Here is a very brief summary…
Article including interview with Maj. Alexander Greenwood (2010) re conspiracy by General Sir Walter Walker, Lord Mountbatten and others… (The London Evening News gave Walker a front-page interview and asked him if he could imagine a situation in which the British Army could take over Britain. Walker responded, “Perhaps the country might choose rule by the gun in preference to anarchy,” although Walker always said he hated the idea of a military government in Britain.)
The following two items reference the 1974 ‘coup’ conspiracy (involving Sir James Goldmith, Ross McWhirter, Airey Neave, Lord Lucan, SAS founder David Stirling, John Aspinall and MI5 and others). The second item is interesting as it references a statement that Harold Wilson be declared a threat to national security – sounds familiar?