In a symbol of our ever tightening Defence relationship with France, a senior selection of politicians and military officers addressed students from The Collège des Hautes Etudes Militaires (CHEM).
The event came ahead of a major UK/France summit next week which will bring together a number of Ministers from both sides of the Channel. Our two nation’s armed forces will then take part in a large scale Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) exercise in the UK in April, before marking the centenary of the battle of the Somme in July.
As another mark of how our armed forces work hand in hand, we welcome a French general into our senior ranks. A senior French officer will also become deputy commander of our 1st UK division as our own Colonel Nick Nottingham takes up a similar role in the French Army as Deputy Commander of EMF 1 (État-major de force), the French equivalent of 1 Division. Not since the Great War has there been such an exchange.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Minister for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton and Chief of the Air Staff Sir Andrew Pulford all spoke to the students.
Areas covered by the speakers included the importance of continuing to deepen our bilateral relationship with France through the historic Lancaster House agreement, signed in 2010; our continued joint efforts in the fight to degrade and destroy Daesh; and the plans set out by the UK government in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
The CHEM is the highest course within the French military education system and is a French course that teaches, at a high level, officers about politics, operations and future preparedness.
As a mark of our close relationship with France, each academic year the course visits the UK to learn about UK defence and our approach to international affairs.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
2016 will not just be a chance for reflection but an opportunity to turn our entente cordiale into an entente profonde. At a time when the threats we face are growing in scale, complexity and diversity, there has never been a greater need for us to leverage our combined influence to galvanise the international community.
A century on from the action we took together to preserve the freedom we hold dear, we’re ramping up our relationship to fight the forces ranged against us.