Defence chiefs are looking at enlisting new “community-based” military reserves to support the country during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

A number are keen to find new ways to bolster homeland defence and civil assistance. They have been looking at the concept of “total defence” used by Switzerland and Scandinavian countries.

In Switzerland this involves mobilisation of swaths of the civilian population for annual exercises in defence and assistance in emergencies. In Norway and Denmark school leavers are offered special terms and training for national service.

The UK’s National Citizen Service for 16 and 17-year-olds, launched by David Cameron, is being considered for a revamp and expansion.

But experts have proposed Britain should look at a national reserve in the Integrated Review, which is due to be published in December.

Known as IR20, it is said to be the most comprehensive review of UK defence, security and foreign policy this century.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The global picture has changed. Our enemies have studied our vulnerabilities and adapted more quickly than us.”