From today's Sunday Times: THE Ministry of Defence is considering plans to merge the five regiments of Foot Guards as part of a far-reaching overhaul of the army announced last month by Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary. Major-General Sebastian Roberts, who is in overall command of the guards, has written to senior officers asking for their opinion on the suggested merger. The original proposal came from General Sir Mike Jackson, chief of the defence staff. The proposal to merge the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards into one super-regiment would be one of the biggest shake-ups in the 400-year history of the elite units. Their uniforms of scarlet tunics and bearskins and appearance at state occasions make them one of the most internationally recognisable symbols of Britain. The guards see themselves as serving the monarchy personally and the royal family is said to have a uniquely close relationship with the regiments. The Queen is colonel-in-chief of all five regiments, while three have another member of the royal family as colonel. Each of the regiments has its own cap badge and motto and has formed its own distinctive regional identity as well as winning battle honours from their service in conflicts around the world. In his letter, Roberts asks his colleagues to assess the implications of any merger for the monarchy and the fabric of the nation, and writes that the new five battalion-unit would be known as a large/large regiment. Roberts tells his officers: The chief . . . has written to urge us to consider the large/large regiment. What is the level of support for a move to a five-battalion Foot Guards regiment? he adds. Roberts says the guards regimental identity and individual cap badges could be difficult to maintain, even if retained nominally, because troops would be moved round frequently within the larger unit. One possibility would be for all five regiments to move into a new super-garrison from the separate barracks they now occupy. Roberts also questions the problems of future recruitment if the regiments were merged, although he accepts that there are no plans to cut numbers. The guards are some of the oldest units in the army. The Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Guards were all founded in the 17th century, while the other two date from the early 20th century. The regiments battle honours cover every major conflict of the past few centuries, including Waterloo and the Gulf. Nicholas Soames, the Tory defence spokesman and a former hussars officer, said the plan needed to be treated with particular sensitivity. I have nothing against the search for greater stability but these are the Queens household troops, part of the household division, which has ceremonial duties, and so any interference needs to be extremely carefully and throroughly thought out, he said. Consultation on the future of the army began after plans were announced in July for fundamental changes to the infantry as part of the governments defence review. Hoon said the reforms were meant to take account of the changed demands of modern warfare, in which technology plays a more important role than manpower. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: I am aware of Major-General Robertss letter. He has set out several options, one is that nothing changes at all and one is that they all merge into one regiment, but there are several other options in between. No decisions have been taken.