Army 2020 unpicked

Now we’ve had a bit more time to look at what last week’s Army 202 statement means, lets take a bit of a look at some of the finer details.

Among the announcements, articles and suchlike, there was an accompanying brochure on the Army’s official website that received very little publicity, but details the Army 2020 cuts and restructuring in much more detail than I have seen anywhere else.

Of course, some of the most high profile cuts have come in the Infantry, with the loss of some famous names.

The Argylls are currently an Air Assault Battalion, based in Canterbury, so moving to Edinburgh as an incremental company will obviously arouse quite a few howls north of the border. It is a similar move to the manner in which the second Battalions of Guards Regiments were reduced to incremental company status in the early 1990’s.

The Following Infantry Battalions, and the traditions of some of their antecedent Regiments, will be lost:

Two threads seem to emerge – a reduction in armoured infantry in particular, and a cut in Germany-based units in preparation for the units that remain there being brought back to Britain in the forseeable future. Apart from one case the MOD has chosen to cut the junior Battalions of each Regiment, apart from in the case of the Green Howards, who are a relatively senior Battalion with the 3rd Bn (Duke of Wellington’s) being junior. It was obviously felt that a theatre reserve Battalion was not necessary and easier to cut in terms of operational tempo.

The following Armoured units are to merge:

  • 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments to merge; 1st RTR currently at Warminster and RAF Honington as CBRN, and 2nd RTR are currently at Tidworth as an Armoured Regiment.
  • Queens Royal Lancers and 9th/12th Royal Lancers to merge; QRL are currently at Catterick as a recconaissance Regiment, and 9/12 are currently in Germany as a reconaissance Regiment.

Obviously in terms of armour, the decision was to merge where there was commonality – reducing to a single Tank Regiment, for example, and creating a new Regiment of Lancers. Merging similar Regiments should cut down on overheads.

The loss of two Regiments from the Royal Artillery:

  • 39 Regiment RA. Known as the Welsh Gunners and recruiting from Wales, currently operate MLRS in Newcastle.
  • 40 Regiment RA. Known as the Lowland Gunners, recruiting from Lowland Scotland, currently operating the 105mm light gun.

These are two most junior Artillery Regiments, apart from 47 Regt RA who operate the UAV systems, which are presumably too important to cut what with UAV’s being a growth area for the future. Again, the MOD seems to have gone with cutting the most junior Regiments first.

Royal Engineers:

  • 24 Commando Regiment RE, currently based at RMB Chivenor near Barnstaple. Leaving 59 Independent Commando Squadron RE.
  • 25 Regiment RE, already disbanded.
  • 28 Regiment RE, an amphibious bridging unit currently based in Hameln in Germany.
  • 38 Regiment RE, based in Antrim.
  • 67 Works Group RE

The cutting of 24 Cdo RE suggests that it is not felt that a full Regiment will be needed to support 3 Cdo Bde in an expeditionary capacity, or at least not to the extent that another Engineer Regiment could not be attached to augment the independent Commando Squadron. The disbanding of 28 Regiment seems sensible, given that it was only ever intended to facilitate the withdrawl of the British Army of the Rhine from Germany in the face of the Warsaw Pact. With the withdrawl of British Forces from Germany, it would seem un-necessary to re-home them in the UK. The cutting of 38 Regiment seems to be part of the move to de-militarise Northern Ireland.

Royal Signals:

  • 7th Signal Regiment, ARRC, at Elmpt (old RAF Bruggen)

Probably not a surprising move given that the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps has relocated from Rheindalen to Innsworth recently, and with the withdrawl of the rest of the British Army from Germany.

Army Air Corps:

  • 1 Regiment AAC and 9 Regiment AAC to merge, both Lynx Wildcat Regiments.

Royal Logistics Corps:

  • 1 Logistics Support Regiment
  • 2 Logistics Support Regiment
  • 23 Pioneer Regiment; Oxford
  • 8 Regiment RLC; Catterick
  • 19 Combat Service Support Bn
  • 24 Regiment RLC; Germany


  • 101 Force Support Bn; a hybrid regular and TA unit


  • 5 Regiment RMP

I actually had trouble finding out much information about the RLC, REME and RMP units concerned. Any contributions would be gratefully received.

Looking at it, it does seem like a salami-slicing exercise. The promised dramatic reductions in Armour haven’t happened, and various Infantry Regiments were protected due to political concerns. Aside from a few cases more junior Regiments were cut, with the Army having its age-old concern with seniority above much else. It seems inaccurate to describe Army 2020 as a restructuring exercise. The Mike Jackson led cuts in the mid 2000’s at least dealt with the problems of arms plot and lots of tiny infantry Regiments.



Filed under Army, News, politics, Uncategorized

16 responses to “Army 2020 unpicked

  1. John Erickson

    I wonder how many of the cuts might be due to operational losses. I’d have to check for specific battalion, but I remember seeing the Mercians taking quite a few losses earlier this year.
    I hate to see the light infantry units go, not least because of my ties with the Canadian RHLI and their sisterhood to light infantry (though I believe their WW2 sister unit, the Somerset LI, are technically under The Rifles). And while you probably won’t find a Yank more mired in British regimental traditions, I must admit that my cold logic (which I let out occasionally for walkies) does wonder about the need for Rifles, Light Infantry, and Fusiliers in a modern army that doesn’t really differentiate much in their usage. Or as our Air Force boys tend to say, “One gropo (ground-pounder) is as good as the next.” (Have I mentioned that our Air Force doesn’t really like playing with the US Army? We should’ve kept them as the US Army Air Corps! 😉 )

    • James Daly

      I don’t think operational losses should have come into it that much John. I think they were taking into account more recruiting areas, recruiting patterns, the extent to which Battalions were undermanned and if they need to be made up from commonwealth volunteers.

  2. John Erickson

    By the by, an interesting bit of Falklands history, recently revealed by the US Navy:
    Forgive most of the comments – the people most likely to post are racist rednecks.

  3. x

    I feel sorry for Green Howards (19th Regiment of Foot). They have done for my county regiment too.

    Basically Force 2020 is 1 Armoured Div breathed over. The army love their tanks and MICVs.

    • James Daly

      It’s very hard on the Green Howards – a fine old name, and with two recent CGS’s too (Inge and Dannatt).

      • x

        It’s the political slant that annoys me. We are preserving Scottish regiments that struggle to reach their complement with native Scottish recruits to scrap three English regiments that are nearly at full establishment with English recruits; Green Howards, 2RRF, and our regiment.

        I feel a bit of fool for panicking about about the scrapping of 24 RE. But I am so used to the MoD making poor decisions.

        And I am surprised that giving all the fuss over Scottish infantry that the MoD managed to scrap a Scottish artillery regiment. Then again just as the rest of the world’s armies are going light it is perfectly in line with MoD contrary thinking to scrap a regiment of light guns……..

        • James Daly

          The Scottish thing is so infuriating. To think that Salmond and his bunch of synthetic, faux-Jocks are tearing apart not only our armed forces but so many Great British institutions… not so many years ago he would have found himself at her majesty’s pleasure.

          I’m still surprised at how light the cuts in armour were – considering, as you say, that this was supposed to be the Army moving away from Cold War and more towards COIN/war among the peoples. So we’ll scrap 5 infantry Battalions and only 2 Armoured Regiments? That makes sense!

          • John Erickson

            Well, you DO realise that making defence cuts is a tank-less job…..

          • x

            Everybody else is going light, mothballing tanks, and build amphibs. The country with no land borders and a long tradition of amphibious warfare is mothballing amphibs and investing in armour.

            I don’t say no land borders lightly. I know the “we are island don’t you know?” argument is perhaps a tad over done. But surely geography still sits as the driver for defence needs? Switzerland doesn’t have a navy, the Netherlands doesn’t have battalions of alpine troops. Historically didn’t we have the large navy and the Continentals the large field armies?

            War in the future will all be about who plants their flag first. A battalion of light infantry backed by fast air and NGS would take a brigade to move. A brigade takes a division to shift. A commando with lots of ATGW will be a better a formation to have than an armoured brigade arriving 3 or more months hence. Preferably a commado at sea, forward deployed, and ready to go.

            Not saying we don’t need an armoured formation. What should have happened is for the armour to be placed in one brigade; 1 xMBT regiment, 3 x armoured infantry battalions, 1 x cavalry, and artillery. Units would be assigned to the formation for approximately 5 years. And instead of spreading a training budget across 3 formations we just spend it on the one. We only use massed armour once a decade. One brigade would only be good for at best a week’s fighting. This arrangement would leave the rest of the Army to be sized to shove into ships and aeroplanes or to patrol the streets of foreign lands in MRAPs.

          • It is about time that Salmond was asked to explain why his neutral non-interventionist Scotland will have more infantry battalions than Scotland contributes to the British Army. The SNP have previously talked of restoring Scotland’s historic regiments without specifying what this means. Talking without giving specific details is what they do.
            I imagine that the answer will be that they would maintain or increase the number of cap badges by having several units, called battalions but little more than depot companies, that could just about muster one battalion for low intensity UN peacekeeping duties. A very expensive way to achieve that end.

            • James Daly

              This thing about ‘restoring Scotland’s historic Regiments’ is just a soundbite I think. If they want to go down that road, how about all of the Scottish Infantry Regiments that were in the order of precedence in 1945? Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Black Watch, Cameron Highlanders, Cameronians, Gordon Highlanders, Highland Light Infantry, Kings Own Scottish Borderers, Royal Scots, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Seaforth Highlanders – I make that 11 Infantry Regiments. Scotland and it’s recruiting patterns can’t support a 5 Battalion Regiment, let alone 11 Battalions. And the idea of bringing back the cap badges with incremental companies would be one of the biggest con tricks ever in military history. As you say, a very expensive way to achieve Salmond’s nefarious political ends, namely becoming King of Scotland one day.

              • x

                If Scotland spent 1% of its GDP on defence the bill would be about £950,000,000. An infantry battalion costs about £30million a year; somebody over TD worked this out. Our 9000 man deployment to Afghanistan costs the UK about £12million per day.

                (I did a longish post comparing NZ and Ireland defence expenditure to a possible Scottish orbat. The computer ate it and in a fit of pique I decided to take it is an omen……..)

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