There have been a number of leaks and rumours recently regarding the impending cuts to the British Army. Naturally, with the Army faced with losing 20% of its manpower strength, the current structure of Regiments and Corps will be unsustainable with this smaller footing.
And with the British Army being as tribal as it is, there have been numerous articles, letters, meetings and the like lobbying to keep certain Regiments. No lobby group swings into action like an old-boys network when ‘the Regiment’ is under threat. This kind of layalty is very admirable, particularly when it fosters a closeness among serving soldiers, but it also makes decision making very uncomfortable, particularly when political considerations come into play.
An article on the BBC News website reported that a letter from the honorary Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers to the CGS had been leaked. Apparently draft plans appear to show the two Fusiliers Battalions being merged into one – obviously not a good move for any Regimental Colonel, the tribal elder. The CGS will probably have had letters from every Colonel of every Regiment no doubt. A further article in the Daily Telegraph reported that at least five infantry Battalions are to be cut, along with a third of the Royal Artillery and a third of the Royal Logistics Corps.
An article in the Guardian reported that a Battalion each of the Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Regiment of Scotland would be cut. Under the leaked document the Army’s troops would be reformed into three categories – spearhead (namely the Royal Marines and Paras); adapatable forces to take over from the spearhead, but taking 18 months to train for the specific theatre; and force troops, ie support units such as artillery, etc. Mergers have also been proposed within the Royal Armoured Corps, with the Queens Royal Lancers merging with the 9th/12th Lancers, and the 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments merging. The Parachute Regiment’s three Battalions will also be spared.
Finally, today’s Portsmouth News contained a report fearing for the future of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. The Tigers were only formed by a merger just over two decades ago, and as a two Battalion Regiment are vulnerable to either being cut and or merged. The News understands that there are proposals to merge the PWRR with the Royal Anglian Regiment and the Fusiliers to form an East of England Regiment. This would be the next step on from Mike Jackson’s Regimental reforms some years ago. Whilst it is sad that centures old traditions are being lost, the size of the Army and the recruiting patterns of todays Army do not support the old structure.
One would hope that the Government and the Ministry of Defence take into account recruiting patterns, capability and future developments when they are thinking about which Regiments to cut and which to merge, and not just quaking in the face of Alex Salmond’s predictable jibes. When we have to plug gaps in Scottish Regiments with Commonwealth volunteers, then it’s no wonder the downsizing is to be considered.
- Battalions with foreign bias face axe in Army cuts (telegraph.co.uk)
- Army cuts: Officer speaks of ‘bitter disappointment’ – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- It makes no military sense to cut troop numbers, warns brigadier (standard.co.uk)
- Military reels as infantry hit by cuts (thesun.co.uk)
- Army at war over axing of battalions (telegraph.co.uk)
- Army cuts revealed in leak (guardian.co.uk)
- Police and Army reel as cuts axe falls (thesun.co.uk)
- Senior army officer condemns plans to cut troop numbers, saying it is not a ‘sensible military option’ (independent.co.uk)
- Army cuts threaten historic regiments (express.co.uk)
- Slashing troop numbers ‘not sensible option’ says top officer (independent.co.uk)
- Hammond: Army Regiments facing Axe (dalyhistory.wordpress.com)
- Army chief told cutbacks are “not a sensible option” (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Army Cuts ‘Not Sensible’ Says Top Officer (news.sky.com)
- Top officer slams army cuts (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- British army’s top woman officer to quit (guardian.co.uk)