Friday, 26 August 2011

The Regimental system – under threat from Tory defence cuts

The Regimental system – under threat from Tory defence cuts

Well trained, well-motivated, experienced, battle hardened – all reasons why there is little doubt that the British Army is the best in the world – if not THE best.
But without doubt the current Regimental system is also one of the key reasons that we continue to have an army to be proud of.

But that system is now under threat from proposed Tory defence cuts – talk of up to 8 out of 36 Infantry Battalions being scrapped.

Now here is the funny thing, the Army reduced from 40 to 36 Battalions in 2004 under a Labour Government. The Labour Government plan (that was backed by the Generals), and led to the formation of a number of super Infantry Regiments that were able to keep regional links. But the funny thing was that the Tories did not back the plan, the cutting of the Black Watch was the catalyst for a number of protests and led to Nicholas Soames the Tory Shadow Defence Minister to promise to reform the 4 lost Battalions and return to 40 Infantry regiments.

Anyone heard anything from Nicholas Soames in the last month? No, it is just another broken Tory promise. To make it even harder to swallow, the Scottish Battalion that is under threat is the Royal Regiment of Scotland that has inherited the traditions of the Black Watch. I hope those same Scottish Tory Gentry who led the protests in 2004, return to Westminster this year.

The Generals need to be strong, large Regiments are the answer- more flexable and gives Officer and Senior NCO’s the opportunities to train and operate in different theatres, building up their experience.

I joined the Royal Green Jackets in 1978, but we still took our traditions from the Rifle Regiments that merged into the RGJ in the early 60’s and each of the 3 battalions took a link to a particular Regiment. So those in 3 RGJ were proud to be descendants of the Rifle Brigade. But it was a sad day in 1992 when we were reduced to 2 Battalions (under a Tory Govt) but it was even more galling when the Tories under pressure saved Single Battalions of County regiments like the Cheshires.
Now the Rifles take the traditions of the Green Jackets, The Light Infantry and the West of England Regiments – keeping those traditions alive, keeping regional links but having the flexibility to move soldiers between units and benefit operationally from that movement.

But again we have Cameron under pressure, and leaving instructions that cap badges must not be lost, so it is Regiments like The Rifles, The Mercians, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scottish Regiments under threat. With other Regiments likely to be saved (including the Guards) because he just wants to save badges.

Cameron and his party lied both to the public and the Army in 2004, this time the Generals must be strong and stick to what they think is best operationally. In reality we cannot afford to fight in Afghanistan and be on call to operate in other theatres if we lose any battalions and definitely not 8. Maybe 2 is nearer the total we could afford to lose, but do not let the Tories just keep cap badges to save face!

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