NOT since I proudly joined up to serve the Royal Navy six decades ago has the world been as unstable as it is now.
The conflict in the Middle East has escalated from the Gaza Strip to neighbouring countries, Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago and China has threatened to attack Taiwan.
So it is understandable that people are alarmed by the news that Britain’s flagship £3.5billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will not be able to join Nato’s largest military exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War due to corrosion on a coupling on the starboard propeller shaft.
Although these sort of things happen, it is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the Royal Navy.
Especially after our other state-of-the art aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, had a starboard shaft (though unrelated) problem in September 2022 as it was on its way to another major training exercise.
The good news is that, unlike France , we do have two aircraft carriers. One is always ready to go.
When France’s Charles de Gaulle needed a refit in 2017, our Gallic neighbours were left without one for 18 months.
But the latest problem with our aircraft carriers resonates with the hollowing out of this nation’s proud Armed Services.
They have been starved of money ever since the Conservative and Lib-Dem coalition’s defence review in 2010, which cut the military by a third.
Since then the size of the Army has shrunk from 100,000 to 73,000 and there are plans to cut our Challenger tanks numbers.
We do not have enough F-35 fighter jets to deploy a full air group on the new aircraft carriers, and less than two years ago all of the RAF’s Typhoon jets were grounded due to issues with their ejector seats.
Our submarine service, which is vital to the defence of the nation because it operates our nuclear deterrent, is very stretched.
UK and US strike on Houthis was to ‘draw a line’ after Red Sea attacks.
A shortage of crew means submariners have to spend even longer out at sea and that leads more of them to consider leaving.
When Boris Johnson was Prime Minister he promised to “restore Britain’s position as the foremost naval power in Europe”.
Yet our Navy finds itself stretched across the globe, with no destroyer protecting the Falkland Islands even though Argentina has made noises about wishing to rule our overseas territory.
How can this be when Defence Secretary Grant Shapps warned last month that we are moving to a pre-war world, with the threat of World War Three a real one?
It is extraordinary that the current Government only plans to raise spending on our military to 2.5 per cent of GDP and cannot say when that will happen.
If war is imminent we need to spend the money now.
Our European partners are finally waking up to the need to dramatically increase their defence spending, with Poland and Germany taking action.
We need Russian president Vladimir Putin to get the message that he can’t invade any more countries like he has Ukraine.
By spending money beefing up our defence now, we can prevent a far more costly world war later.
No dictator wants to invade a country capable of defeating them on the battlefield.
The most important contribution being made by Britain at the moment is helping to keep world trade flowing.
Houthi rebels are firing deadly missiles at innocent, unarmed merchant sailors and it is our brave servicemen and women in the Red Sea standing up to them.
HMS Richmond, HMS Diamond, HMS Lancaster and a squadron of three mine-hunting vessels and support ship RFA Cardigan Bay are part of Operation Prosperity Guardian that aims to protect container ships passing through this key trade route.
No one should be in any doubt that the Houthis are well-armed with Iranian drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles which put innocent merchant seamen and our sailors in peril.
The morale of those on board our naval force in the Red Sea is high. They are incredibly well trained and highly motivated, adding to global security.
The same can be said for the pilots flying the Typhoon jets from Cyprus which have carried out raids to deplete Houthi capabilities.
Nothing makes you prouder than serving your country.
A quirk of MOD rules means that as a former head of my service I am automatically on the “active list”.
It is not likely that the Royal Navy would ever need to call on my services in times of war, but if they did, I would immediately take up my post, even at the age of 75.
Never underestimate the courage of this nation.
In World War Two Sir Walter Cowan famously shot at Nazi tanks in North Africa with his pistol at the age of 73.
What is letting this country down is not our servicemen and women, it is the politicians leading them.
We desperately need more ships, to replenish our supplies, increase military manpower, ensure up-to-date maintenance and modernise our equipment.
If that is done, we may avoid war.
Should the unthinkable occur, then if we don’t give our military the tools they need, we can’t expect them to get the job done.