The astonishing precision and overall grandeur of Britain’s armed forces on display during the Queen’s funeral was stirring and a joy to behold. They did their country proud. From the 142 young sailors who pulled the gun carriage to the pallbearers of the Grenadier Guards, the massed pipes and drums, the escorts, the buglers, the mounted cavalry and all the rest, they were, quite simply, magnificent.
But – and I hate to say this – do they flatter to deceive? The military knows how to put on a good show, and I have absolutely no doubt that, if required, like all of its members who preceded them, they would give their lives in the nation’s defence. As soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women), their professionalism and courage are beyond reproach.
What, though, of their political masters? Are they beyond reproach? The clear answer is, no. For the last 40 years, ever since the Falklands war – perhaps, even, since Suez – the story of Britain’s military capacity has been one of uninterrupted decline.