Black Watch and Royal Scots are among ten regiments to be axed in cull of Army
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
Up to 10 of the Army's most famous regiments - including the illustrious Royal Scots and the Black Watch - are to be disbanded in the most radical post-war reorganisation of Britain's fighting forces.
More than 9,000 soldiers face redundancy following the withdrawal of troops from Northern Ireland, a process that must be completed by April 2005.
As well as the Royal Scots and the Black Watch, other regiments to be disbanded include the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire and one battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
At least one of the two battalions of Gurkhas will also be cut after senior officers decided that it would be politically unacceptable for British units to be disbanded while allowing two battalions of foreign troops to remain.
Defence chiefs have decided not to amalgamate units as an alternative to cuts and it is understood that all infantry units - including the Foot Guards and the Parachute Regiment - could lose battalions if they do not remain at full strength.
The Government will "sell" the policy to the public as part of the "Northern Ireland peace dividend" which will see troop levels in Ulster reduced from 14,500 to 5,000, according to a senior defence official.
Details of the cuts provoked disbelief and anger last night from MPs and former senior Army officers who said that cutting the strength of the infantry would add to the pressure on an already over-stretched Army.
Nicholas Soames, the shadow defence secretary, said: "This is an absolute disgrace. There are no circumstances that would merit a cut to the infantry at a time when the world has never seemed more dangerous."
Patrick Mercer, the Tory spokesman for homeland security and a former infantry commanding officer, said: "Any cuts in the manpower of the Army are sheer madness. Trying to dress it up as a peace dividend is hugely irresponsible and dishonest."
Maj Gen Peter Curry, a former Deputy Adjutant General, who retired last year, said: "If this is true then it is extremely unwise. The Army is going through a period of considerable overstretch and the infantry has never been more in demand. Whichever operation you look at in the recent past the infantry role has been fundamental."
It is understood that the cuts will be achieved by natural wastage and allowing soldiers to transfer to other units, providing vacancies are available. Otherwise troops will be made redundant.
Under the Joint Declaration signed by the British and Irish governments, withdrawal of soldiers from Ulster is supposed to begin by the end of 2003 and the first disbandment of regiments could start within 12 months.
A senior official employed by the Ministry of Defence said: "By April 2005 the process of normalisation in Ulster will be complete. That means that the Army will have a surplus of 8,000 troops whose only real role over the last 30 years was to serve in Ulster. That role has now come to an end. Sadly there is no other option than to disband those units. It would be nice to keep them but the Treasury will not allow us that luxury.
"The Royal Scots is a very fine regiment but, militarily, it is not a viable force because it is under strength. It can only deploy on operations if it is significantly reinforced by other units."
Infantry regiments should have about 650 troops when they are at full strength but many battalions, especially those in the Scottish Division, have consistently failed to achieve this. This means they can only be deployed on operations when they are reinforced by other regiments, a problem defence chiefs are determined to eradicate.
The Royal Scots, which was formed in 1633, is the Army's oldest regiment. In the past 10 years it has struggled to recruit and retain soldiers and has been forced to rely on volunteers from the Commonwealth.
The Black Watch, which describes itself as Scotland's "premier regiment", has served the British crown for over 250 years. Its Colonel-in-Chief from 1937 until her death last year was the Queen Mother, who lost a brother and a cousin during service with the regiment on the Western Front in the First World War.
The King's Own Scottish Borderers only just escaped from being amalgamated with the Royal Scots in the early 1990s but, like most Scottish regiments, has struggled to keep up numbers.
They will not be amalgamations but losses ie their titles will be removed from the orbat. Offrs and men will be transferred elsewhere
How very very sad. Once lost - these fine Regiments will be gone forever.
Still - it has been on the cards for sometime - poor recruiting and declining budgets. IMOH we are fast approaching the critical mass of being a warfighting Army - this will reduce our size to about 100,000. Go any lower and we will begin to be unviable.
Had the pleasure of doing my JNCO cadre with 1KOSB, and served alongside the Black Watch in West Berlin. Gobsmacked that these Regts with all their history will be 'wiped out'. It is all surreal. What is happening to the British Army? Where will it all end? A private company paid by the government in times of crisis?
And for those serving, more commitments, more time away.
AAply to Group 4..they will be running it next, with eddie stobarts doing the loggie work.
As for all the Inf battallions they will read like 4/11 btn of 101st airborne etc , etc, etc, or the British State National Guard
Who the bloody-hell is going to sort-out this mess?
It needs sorting PDQ, if things don't sort themselves out soon i'm going to have to do somthing which runs against every moral fibre in my body, i'll have to surrender all my dignity and become a politician!
America might-well bale us out of trouble before the Government do anything to help.
Then-again i might just be a sceptical anti-blairite neo-commie student who fails to see the good the El Presidenté Bush and 'Lootenant' Bliar are really doing this country.
(Ok...scrub the commie-bit)
Amalgamation/disbandment has been on the cards for the Black Watch for some time, it was only the Queen Mum that allowed them to exist beyond the Healey cuts of the 60's, Options for Change and SDR. Besides getting sacked from the Armd Inf role doesn't do you reason to exist much good.
As for the others, yes it is a very cynical move by the Govt, the only increase in the Orbat caused by the troubles in NI was the creation of the UDR/RIrish, so to say the the dissolving of 10 regular Bns is the peace dividend is, quite frankly, boll***s!
Ah! but think of the savings to be made by not having barracks for those 9/10 battallions? and all the infrastructure that goes with every barracks.
It won't affect how the Army works will it?
makes retention even easier twice as many wanting half as many ranks, less troops so therefore there MUST be a reduction in commitment then? maybe they could cut the Balkans, or Afghan, gulf, or anywhere else...
I know just use the UK for training regiments then all our HMF can be based on ops 24/7...
I read the article in the Sunday Telegraph and was not surprised to find this thread. A few points about the article;
1. The talk of a peace dividend in NI, whilst (possibly) true, is short sighted. I would expect the govt has heard of Iraq (having sent almost 40% of the army there in February!) and since the news has been reminding us of our increasing commitment to Iraq, it would seem stupid (at best) to cut the numbers of infantry. Throw into that the commitment of TA soldiers, and it becomes nothing less than lunacy!
2. If the units being disbanded are undermanned, how can the army be fully manned? If the units being cut can't recruit the required numbers (and the Scottish Regiments have long had this problem), then fine, amalgamate some more, but I fail to see how this will either improve the current shortfall in army numbers (bearing in mind point 1) or reduce the overstretch we are all so aware of.
3. Where was the governments point of view? Usually the government have a spokesman reject the report or say something **** like 'we are currently reviewing the situation and will make public our findings when they are complete' (or, in english, we will try and sneak this out as quietly as possible at a later date and hope no-one notices!) Nic Soames (Tory) got a few words in, but nowhere did the report say the govt had been approached etc.
So how much credibilty can we give this report? I know we (nearly) all hate this govt, but I think we need to wait for the govt to react to this report before we judge it.
The KOSB have always been a well recruited regiment, their recruiting methods were used as a template by several other regiments with some success. Postings have a lot to do with recruiting, the KOSB for example recently returned from Op Telic 2 are due to deploy to NI for an accompanied tour in early 2004. That's a tough sell for even the most silver tongued RRT commander. Could the proposed axing of so many Scottish Regiments (BW, RS, KOSB) be a subtle plot to emasculate Scotland?
I was suprised that Para Reg were mentioned I thought they were up to full strength, isn't that why they disbanded 2 Para's Gurkha Company recently.........flip side I suppose is that 4 Para are providing bodies for the upcoming tour to Iraq.
This seems just insane if the Army is undermanned and overstretched how can obliterating ten regiments help? I suspect that recruitment is poor partially because of the Options for Change cuts when what seemed to be a safe and secure career ceased to be so and retention can't be helped by excessive overseas deployments. this is the kind of thing that can make one have very strong second thoughts about the army as a career at any level because every reduction increases the chance of oneself ending up dead in some unexpected little war that we are becoming ever more unprepared for. You can only cut anything so far before in reaches a critical point beyond which the slightest nudge will break it.
8,000 men being freed up from Ulster should be welcomed as a way to reduce pressure and increase effectiveness rather than a way to cut costs and only a very foolish or reckless Government can believe that the present level of overstretch can be maintained without a major disaster.
All of the above is obvious to me as an ignorant civvy so how can the Government possibly think that further cuts in the Army are sustainable? More to the point: Where the hell is all the money going? We pay more tax than almost ever before and Brown has raided peoples pensions yet depite all the promises there is nothing to show for it. Schools'n'hospitals provide increasingly poor services and Council tax goes up by double figures because the authorities funding is cut.
Right according to the BBC 1 BN of the Irish guards is to be disbanded it only has 1 bn so will cease to exist! according to the Telegraph 1 Bn of the Royal Irish regiment will disband hmmm knowing that all 3 home service Bns are going anyway that would mean the remaining Bn is the 1st BN Royal Irish Regiment.
therefore NO Irish infantry regiments!!!! the cav have been amalgamated so their titles don't exist. Is this a bit of the good friday agreement that they haven't told us about the removal of the irish regiments of the British army !!!!!!!!