The recent discussions around the G4S Olympic security scandal highlighted two jaw-dropping facts, writes historian Michael Wood.
The first was that Britain still has the fourth largest military budget in the world, behind the USA, China and Russia.
In these days of gloomy introspection about the decline of the UK's military might, it was to say the least, a surprise.
But the second was no less amazing - that the personnel of G4S, a private British security company, is four times larger than the British Army.
Chief executive Nick Buckles has outlined a potential loss of at least £30m on its £284m contract for the Olympics but it soon became apparent that this was a drop in the ocean. The company's revenue in 2011 was about £7.5bn - and is rising.
G4S has a primary listing on London Stock Exchange, a former home secretary as "group consultant", and operations in over 125 countries - not bad for a security firm founded in 2004 and based in Crawley.
This is a company whose previously accident-prone record - as Group 4 Securicor - in running prisons and providing military security, had been criticised in parliament and provoked global protests about its employment practices.
And now the cash-strapped and resource-starved British Army has had to provide thousands of troops for the Olympics to fill the gap left by the failures of a private army.