Illusions of Grandeur: 1962–6

  • C. J. Bartlett


The average life expectancy of each defence review since 1945 had been a mere two and a half years. This was far too short, given a usual gestation period for each new weapon of from two to four times that figure. But things were to get worse, not better, in the mid-1960s, with doubts and dissensions developing at almost every level of British defence policy, with strategy, fundamental weapons and administrative methods all being thrown into the melting pot. Denis Healey, Labour’s talented Minister of Defence from 1964, declared that he had inherited ‘a runaway train’ from the Conservatives, but in the next three years, despite several sudden applications of the brakes, the train was not brought under control. Finally it was hopefully diverted on to a new line altogether from January 1968. Recurrent economic crises and internal Labour divisions were ostensibly responsible for this erratic progress, but more fundamental was the accumulation of past mis­takes, misconceptions and misfortunes whose implications could no longer be avoided.Many observers were becoming persuaded that the post-war policy of piecemeal adjustments to meet Britain’s changing position in the world was no longer enough, and that even so drastic a transformation of policy as had occurred in 1957 had been less radical than it appeared on the surface.1


Nuclear Force Defence Policy Defence Spending Military Aircraft Defence Review 
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  1. 2.
    C. J. E. Harlow, The European Armaments Base (Institute for Strategic Studies, 1967) part 2, pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
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    D. Healey, House of Commons, 27 June 1967Google Scholar
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© C. J. Bartlett 1972

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  • C. J. Bartlett

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