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GB News
GB News
6 Jan 2024


NextImg:Shapps tipped to retire assault ships as warning issued over navy crisis: 'End of Royal Marines'

Grant Shapps has been tipped to retire two assault ships as the UK’s sailor shortage threatens to plunge the armed forces into crisis.

The proposal put forward by the defence secretary aims to retire both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark from active service.

Retiring the warships would free up more than 200 sailors to crew new ships in Britain’s fleet.

However, critics have blasted the move as “the beginning of the end for the Royal Marines”.

Grant Shapps and HMS Albion

Shapps tipped to retire assault ships as warning issued over navy crisis: 'End of Royal Marines'

PA

A source familiar with the plans told The Times that it would weaken one of the force's central purposes, namely, storming beaches from the sea.

MoD figures have revealed the navy is the worst-performing of Britain’s armed forces for recruitment, having just 29,000 full-time recruits.

The shortage of sailors is also threatening to other ships in the fleet with the MoD also planning to decommission two older vessels, HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll this year.

According to The Times, the Royal Navy has been pushing for the vessels to be scrapped and Royal Marine numbers to be slashed.

HMS Albion

HMS Albion

PA

However, former defence secretary Ben Wallace repeatedly refused to cave to the proposals, claiming that sailors could be repurposed from shore-based roles.

An MoD source said that no decision had been made on the assault vessels but a senior naval source has claimed the final plans for the ships’ retirement are already on Rishi Sunak’s desk.

“If a decision is made on them, they would remain in a state of extended readiness,” the MoD source claimed.

The plans to retire the ships are especially damning given both had been expected to remain in service for at least another 6 years with HMS Bulwark recently undergoing an expensive refit.

HMS Bulwark

HMS Bulwark

PA

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said the plans to mothball the landing ships were the “loudest alarm yet about the depth of the Conservative recruitment crisis in our armed forces”.

“Laying up both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark would further hollow out our forces and raise serious concern over future operations for the Royal Marines,” he said.

Lord West of Spithead, a former first sea lord, added that the move to mothball the ships was “a terrible error”, adding: “This will dramatically reduce our ability to carry out complex amphibious operations.”

Should the ships be retired, as many as 250 sailors would be released to man the eight new Type 26 frigates entering service from 2028.