Ex-Nato commander warns Brits aged up to 60 could serve in conscript army

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A former Nato commander has warned the UK might introduce a Finnish-style conscript army where men as old as 60 are told to fight in the event of war.

General Sir Richard Shirreff said the UK needs to ‘think carefully’ about conscripting hundreds of thousands of Brits to fight against Russia.

So far the UK, Estonia and Sweden have warned about the prospect of large-scale war,

Sir Patrick Sanders warned it would take a ‘whole-of-nation’ and ‘national mobilisation’ but stopped short of conscription.

But Sir Richard Shirreff warned Sky News conscription could be required and said: ‘I think General Sanders is absolutely right to be talking about a citizen volunteer army. I think now, against all the odds though, is the time to start thinking the unthinkable and really having to think quite carefully about conscription if we are to deliver the numbers needed.’

However Whitehall is looking at the prospect of training volunteers quickly similar to the model used with Ukrainian troops.

So what could potential conscription look like if Brits are called up to war?

What is Finnish-style conscription?

Sir Shireff believes it would look similar to the Finnish-style of conscription.

Sir Richard Shirreff warned the British Army’s size is too small to cope with war (Picture: Sky News)

He suggested British men might have to be conscripted into the Army Reserve.

These men would be trained and ready to mobilise for years further down the line with regular training.

This allows many countries around the world to maintain smaller standing armies which are cheaper to run.

Finland though has one of the largest conscription programmes in the world because of its border with Russia.

It has around 280,000 soldiers ready to fight and a standing army of 20,000.

Soldiers as old as 60 could potentially serve in the army (Picture: MOD)

Men take part in basic training and perform a short service period after they turn 18.

This is six months for nine months for specialists and a year for officers. Women can volunteer to do service but are not conscripted.

The service can be postponed due to reasons like work, study, or personal reasons, until the age of 28, but for other failures to report people are reported to the police.

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Conscripts in Finland are given bed, board and healthcare and receive between £5 and £11 a day in peacetime pay.

The state pays their rent and electricity bills while they serve and their families receive special benefits.

While rank and file soldiers serve until the age of 50, NCOs and officers serve until 60.

But because Finland has a population of 5.5million and the UK 67million, how this kind of conscription would work here remains to be seen.

Downing Street has ruled out conscription saying the Army would remain a voluntary service.

Who could be conscripted?

Soldiers would go through regular periods of training (Picture: Getty Images)

Adults male Brits could be conscripted to fight, according to Sir Richard Shirreff.

They would be expected to do a short-term bit of compulsory peace time service after being trained up.

Regular training would mean they would be ready for service for years to come in the long-term.

How would we know war is coming?

Russia spent weeks building up its forces around Ukraine, so a surprise attack is very unlikely.

What is more likely is Russia building up forces around the Baltic states like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

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This would give politicians a good amount of time to debate and come up with a course of action as to how best to defeat Russia.

Around 16,000 British troops and 1,000 armoured vehicles are due take part in large scale Nato rehearsals this year.

Exercise Steadfast Defender will take place in ten countries and is intended to simulate a Russian conflict. 

MORE : Map reveals all the countries where women are drafted for war

MORE : Conscription in the UK? Gen Z are too clever to touch it with a barge pole

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