Operation Rescript

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Operation Rescript
Part of 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom
ObjectiveMaintain public order, assist public services and civilian authorities in tackling the Coronavirus outbreak.
Date23 March 2020 (2020-03-23)
Executed byUnited Kingdom United Kingdom

Operation Rescript is a military operation to assist the UK's efforts to tackle the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom.[1] A similar operation to address the coronavirus pandemic overseas is named Operation Broadshare.[1]


On 16 March 2020, amid an outbreak of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, reports began to emerge on plans for the military to assist in tackling it.[2] One such report from Sky News stated that 10,000 troops were being put on standby in the event the outbreak escalated with proposals made on how "cope with the breakdown of civil society".[3] Another report, from The Times, stated that Royal navy personnel could be made available to staff prisons, should large numbers of prison staff go sick.[4] The reports attracted concerns from many in the public, prompting Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to dismiss many of the "fictional" stories being reported in the media.[5] On 19 March 2020, a further 10,000 British military personnel were put on standby to form the COVID Support Force.[6] The names of two military operations to tackle the Coronavirus outbreak were reported as being Operation Rescript and Operation Broadshare — Rescript being focused within the United Kingdom, whilst Broadshare focused on activities overseas.[1]

COVID Support Force[edit]

On 19 March 2020, the Ministry of Defence announced the formation of the COVID Support Force as part of its measures to help tackle the Coronavirus outbreak.[7] The support force comprised 20,000 military personnel tasked with supporting public services, which included 150 military personnel being trained to drive oxygen tankers to support the National Health Service.[8] Scientists from Defence Science and Technology Laboratory also began supporting Public Health England.[7] Command and control of the COVID Support Force falls under Standing Joint Command, headed by Major General Charles Stickland.[7] The COVID Support Force includes 10 regional commands which are overseen from Aldershot.[9]

On 20 March 2020, The Telegraph reported General Sir Nick Carter had ordered the armed forces to prepare for a "six month operation".[10] Overseas exercises, including those in Canada and Kenya, were cancelled to free up personnel for the COVID Support Force.[11] The armed forces had previously been involved in repatriation flights of British and EU citizens in affected areas, such as China, Japan and Cuba.[11][12]

On 2 April 2020, an additional 3,000 reservist personnel joined the COVID Support Force.[13]


  • On 19 March 2020, the Royal Air Force began using Birmingham Airport to practise transferring Coronavirus patients to local hospitals via helicopter.[15][16]
  • On 21 March 2020, military planners began aiding the NHS in planning for a field hospital in East London.[17]
  • On 27 March 2020, Puma helicopters were stationed at Kinloss Barracks, which would operate alongside Chinook and Wildcat helicopters from RAF Leeming to provide assistance to the NHS in Scotland and Northern England. Three further bases, RAF Benson, RAF Odiham and RNAS Yeovilton would also come into operation, with Benson covering the Midlands and Odiham and Yeovilton covering Southern England.[22]


  1. ^ a b c "Coronavirus: Up to 20,000 troops on standby to help deal with COVID-19 outbreak". Sky News. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  2. ^ Sabbagh, Dan (16 March 2020). "Army likely to embed medics in NHS hospitals to help fight coronavirus". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Coronavirus: Thousands of armed forces staff could be put on standby over COVID-19 spread". Sky News. 16 March 2019. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  4. ^ Ford, Richard; Simpson, John (23 March 2020). "Navy standing by to support prisons if officers catch virus". The Times (73, 114). p. 2. ISSN 0140-0460.
  5. ^ "Defence Secretary warns over media hype relating to Coronavirus". UK Defence Journal. 17 March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  6. ^ "Coronavirus: 20,000 British Personnel At Higher Readiness". Forces.net. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Military stands up COVID Support Force". Gov.uk.
  8. ^ Warrell, Helen (18 March 2020). "UK armed forces prepare 20,000 troops to help in crisis". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Military COVID Support Force To Be Overseen From Aldershot". Forces.net. 20 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Defence Chief tells military to prepare for six-month operation whilst warning of threats from 'those who wish to undermine our way of life'". The Telegraph. 20 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Military Aid to Civil Authorities: The COVID Support Force". medium.com. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  12. ^ a b "RAF assist repatriation flight of British and EU citizens from Cuba". UK Defence Jorunal. 22 March 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Coronavirus: Up to 3,000 armed forces reservists to aid military response". BBC News. 2 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Headquarters Standing Joint Command (HQ SJC): Coordinating the military contribution to the UK's resilience operations". medium.com. 27 March 2020.
  15. ^ Irwin, David (20 March 2020). "Military helicopters training over airport amid Covid-19 crisis". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Military on more manoeuvres around Birmingham Airport to transport coronavirus patients". Solihull Observer. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  17. ^ Fisher, Lucy (25 March 2020). "Conference centre to be field hospital for 4,000 patients". The Times (73, 116). p. 8. ISSN 0140-0460.
  18. ^ "Military called in to fly Covid-19 patient to intensive care". shetnews.co.uk. 22 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Joint Helicopter Command (JHC): Enablers and multipliers of humanitarian aid and rescue". medium.com. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  20. ^ "COVID Support Force: the MOD's contribution to the coronavirus response". GOV.UK. 23 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Coronavirus: ExCeL Centre planned as NHS field hospital". BBC News. 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  22. ^ "New Measures To Support Battle Against Coronavirus In Scotland". raf.mod.uk. 27 March 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  23. ^ "Coronavirus: Pictures Show Military Personnel Helping To Build NHS Nightingale". forces.net. 28 March 2020.
  24. ^ "Coronavirus: Army Supports Glasgow SEC Centre's Conversion Into Temporary Hospital". forces.net. 31 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Military deploys 80 troops to help ambulance service cope with pressure of coronavirus crisis". Evening Standard. 1 April 2020.
  26. ^ "Culdrose helicopters join fight against virus in south-west". royalnavy.mod.uk. 1 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Leisure centres in Cumbria transformed into additional NHS bed capacity". News & Star. 1 April 2020.
  28. ^ "Army helicopters land at Leeds General Infirmary to help in the battle against coronavirus". Yorkshire Evening Post. 2 April 2020.