Sunday, 2 July 2017

‘ThinpinstripedLine2 – he's back and this time the stripes just got a whole lot thinner’

The ThinPinstripedLine blog began back in 2011 as a private blog, written in the authors spare time, and with the aim of trying to provide an alternate source of views and opinions on defence and foreign policy issues, predominantly written from the perspective of trying to understand whether there was a deeper rationale behind many of the defence stories appearing in the news. It was, and remains, the bugbear of the author that defence journalism is often fairly sensational, built on easy to write stories, often on the premise of ‘the MOD has cocked up, now whats the story about again’? In mid 2014, circumstances meant that it was no longer possible to continue writing the blog and it was suggested to Humphrey that it may be a good time to call it a day. Despite three years passing, the site has continued to attract hits and comments, and people have made clear that they miss it. Humphrey always wanted to restart the site, but circumstances meant that this has not been possible until now. 

In writing this blog, Humphrey has tried to bring an alternate set of views, that perhaps question the received wisdom that the MOD is inept, that all civil servants are useless and that the higher echelons of the armed forces and Whitehall are fundamentally out of their depth. Instead, it has tried to argue that many decisions happen for often good reasons, that the UK is far more significant than perhaps its detractors like to give it credit for, and that things happen for a good reason.

To help establish some basic credibility, Humphrey has had a diverse background in the MOD which has included working at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of defence issues. He has been fortunate enough to travel across the world to all major UK military bases, and worked on many of the major operational & policy issues affecting Defence in PJHQ, Front Line Commands and Whitehall. Humphrey also spent nearly 20 years serving as a Commissioned Officer in the Reserves, and is a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts as well as other operational tours. Like many of his generation, he is as familiar with being shelled as he is with staffing a submission. To avoid any doubt though, Humphrey now does not work for, and has no current professional connection to, the UK Ministry of Defence or the British Armed Forces. This blog does not represent any official view on defence policy, nor does it purport to speak on behalf of the MOD. It is purely the collected thoughts of a private individual. 

What will the blog cover?
One only has to look at the enormous range of issues affecting the world over the last 3 years to realise that the strategic situation facing the UK and her allies is astonishingly complex and not easily solved. The key challenge facing the UK is how to simultaneously manage to contain and influence Russian behaviour as a significant conventional challenge, requiring long neglected conventional military skills, whilst sustaining influence in NATO against a backdrop of Brexit, and also fighting a long term campaign in the Middle East whilst trying to sustain a global presence across a range of theatres. This is being done against the backdrop of enormous financial and manpower pressures, and the difficult of balancing the needs to deliver capability today against the long term rewards of capability tomorrow. This is not an easy operational environment to operate in at the best of times!

Over the next few months the aim of the blog will be to try to explore some of these themes in more depth and try to add some context to the work already out there. In no particular order, the sort of articles that will hopefully be written (depending on workload and current events) include
• Analysis of the 2015 SDSR and its prospects for the future
• Assessment on the role of the British Defence Staffs across the world
• The challenges facing the Royal Navy over the next year or two
• The UK in the Middle East and HMS JUFAIR.
• CVF and RN carrier airpower resurgent
• Gibraltar and why a frigate should not be based there.

This is a very short list and it will be driven by events – many older PSL articles were drafted in response to newspaper or media stories, and so Humphrey will try to be as responsive as possible to developments in Defence. Generally the aim will be to put 2-4 articles up per month depending on what is going on, and how busy the real world keeps Humphrey!
Finally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to make contact with Humphrey – over the years many of the readers of this blog have become good friends, and its always nice to reach out and hear from readers!

Thanks and its great to be back!


  1. You were surely missed. Hard enough to learn about US Defense, UK has seemed almost impossible without you. Welcome back.

  2. Looking forward to your return.

  3. Look forward to your advises

  4. Welcome back. Looking forward to your always well thought through comments. Any thoughts on retaining HMS Clyde - perhaps based at Gibraltar ?? All best.

  5. Oh lovely, thank you Humphrey thou hast been missed

  6. Thank you for your interesting and informative posts. They provide a vital perspective that is never seen in such a succinct and accessible form. An army may have once marched on it's stomach, but now seems to march on it's budget.