Britain's Incapable Shrinking Military

“Let’s pick a fight with Russia!”

As Andy Weir wrote in Artemis, “On a scale of one to ‘invade Russia in the winter”, how stupid is this plan?”.


Back in the days when Britannia ruled the waves, the English instituted the “Press Gang”. A naval ship would dock at some forlorn port, round up men (often starting in the bars), and abduct them to serve at His Majesty’s pleasure. Rather similar to what the Zelensky regime is now doing in the Ukraine. Nowadays, without press-ganging, England can’t find the manpower (sorry, transgendered person power) to fill the ranks.

Seems it is always tough to find people who want to risk their lives for their ruler’s dreams.


After the passage of an Act of Parliament in 1775, the Royal Navy was authorised to capture American ships on the high seas and impress their crews into the navy. The next to last grievance in the bill of particulars in the U.S. Declaration of Independence was:

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

Impressment of crews of merchant ships continued after the U.S. won its independence and became one of the causes of the War of 1812. Wikipedia says:

In the mid-1790s, the Royal Navy, short of manpower, began to board American merchant ships to seize American and British sailors from American vessels. Although the policy of impressment was supposed to reclaim only British subjects, the law of Britain and most other countries defined nationality by birth. However, American law allowed individuals who had been resident in the country for some time to adopt US citizenship. Therefore, many individuals were British by British law but American by American law. The confusion was compounded by the refusal of Jefferson and Madison to issue any official citizenship documents. Their position was that all persons serving on American ships were to be regarded as US citizens and so no further evidence was required. That stance was motivated by the advice of Albert Gallatin, who had calculated that half of the US deep-sea merchant seamen (9,000 men) were British subjects. Allowing the Royal Navy to reclaim those men would destroy both the US economy and the government’s vital customs revenue. Any sort of accommodation would jeopardize those men and so concords such as the proposed Monroe-Pinkney Treaty (1806) between the US and Britain were rejected by Jefferson.