The UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) is urging the Government to rethink its decision to close RAF Cottesmore in Rutland.
The UKNDA, which is headed by Winston S Churchill (grandson of Britain’s World War II Prime Minister), is backing the “Save RAF Cottesmore” campaign, and is calling on the Secretary of State for Defence to keep the air base open pending a full review of Britain’s defence capabilities and requirements. Mr Churchill’s grandfather and namesake Sir Winston Churchill, before becoming Prime Minister, campaigned almost single-handedly throughout the 1930s to wake Britain up to the growing dangers to national security and in particular the vital need for effective air defence.
Since the recent announcement by the Ministry of Defence that Cottesmore would be closing, many senior figures from the UKNDA have given their endorsement to the “Save RAF Cottesmore” campaign, including the former Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Graydon GCB CBE, and the former UN commander in Bosnia, Colonel Bob Stewart DSO – both of whom are Vice-Presidents of the UKNDA.
Local campaigners in Rutland have launched a petition to the Prime Minister and have built up a network of over 10,000 supporters. They have held meetings with local MPs who share their concern about the impact that the closure of the base would have on the local economy and the damage that would be done to Britain’s air defence capability.
UKNDA Vice-President and former Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Sir Mike Graydon said: “The announcement of the closure of Cottesmore before a serious review of the nation’s defence requirements has been carried out is yet another example of the chronic under-funding of Britain’s Armed Forces.
“I wish the campaign well in attempting to raise this matter before an election. We should surely be hearing from our politicians now, not allow them to hide behind the Strategic Defence Review. Nor should we let them assume that defence cuts are inevitable. The UKNDA has been campaigning for this for quite some time and it is good to see the people of Rutland and surrounding areas making their voice heard too.”
Sir Mike’s expression of support for the campaigners was echoed by Col Bob Stewart, who said: “As the son and brother of RAF officers, and as someone who wanted to join the RAF myself from an early age – until it was discovered that I was colour-blind – I am deeply saddened to hear of plans to shut RAF Cottesmore. Strategically it does not make sense to concentrate all RAF resources in a dwindling number of bases. That increases our vulnerability to enemies that we may not even have a clue about right now.
“If we really have to thin out, then reluctantly we may have to accept that. But for goodness sake it makes sense to maintain as much flexibility as possible. Keep RAF Cottesmore please – we never know when we will need it again.”
The Government is expected to publish its Green Paper shortly, but its long-awaited Strategic Defence Review (SDR) – the first full review since 1998 – will take many months to complete. “In our view,” said UKNDA Deputy Chief Executive, Andy Smith, “it was inappropriate, short-sighted and just plain wrong for Ministers to take the decision to axe RAF Cottesmore in advance of this review. They have rushed into decisions that pre-empt the SDR and in so doing have shown that they are willing to allow the Treasury to dictate the nation’s defence policy.
“The allocation of funding for the Armed Forces should be based on a proper assessment of the threats that we currently face, or that we may face in the future, and of the capabilities needed to deter or counter these threats. We cannot let the SDR become merely a retrospective justification for decisions already taken by Ministers to cut the defence budget.”
The United Kingdom National Defence Association (UKNDA) was formed in 2007 to campaign in support of Britain's Armed Forces. Its President is Winston S. Churchill, former MP and war correspondent (and grandson of Britain's WWII Prime Minister) and its Patrons are three former Chiefs of the Defence Staff –Admiral The Lord Boyce, Marshal of the RAF The Lord Craig, and General The Lord Guthrie – as well as The Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP and The Rt Hon The Lord Owen. Tri-Service and politically independent, the UKNDA aims to ensure that Britain's fighting men and women are properly trained, equipped, sustained and cared for.