Privates on charade: how army spun Scots regiment

#1
Privates on charade: how army spun Scots regiment

ARTHUR MACMILLAN (amacmillan@scotlandonsunday.com)

ARMY commanders carefully briefed a hand-picked squad of soldiers to put a positive spin on the controversial scrapping of Scotland's historic infantry regiments.

Official guidance told officers and recruitment staff to enlist "polite, sparky and enthusiastic" soldiers to limit damaging publicity over the creation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland - a widely opposed move.

Those selected for a recruitment campaign for the so-called super regiment at Edinburgh Castle last year had to rehearse their "lines" and were tested on them.

Senior officers even went as far as to demand that when speaking to journalists they should not repeat the "party line" verbatim as this would immediately be noticed.

Last night, the revelations triggered anger from former soldiers, who accused the army of employing sinister tactics to avoid embarrassment caused by the merging of Scotland's six regiments.

Hamilton Scott, a former Black Watch sergeant with 22 years' experience, said: "It was beyond belief. The soldiers had to go through rehearsals to make sure they said the right thing. It was totally wrong but if the guys wanted a future in the British army they had to go along with it."

The Black Watch drew up a shortlist of six soldiers but only two were put forward.

Scott, 41, from Leven in Fife, who has now left the army, added: "They were mostly privates or junior NCOs, but one senior rank from the recruitment team was totally put up to it. He was against the merger but he was forced to toe the line."

The combination of the insurgency that has followed the battle to oust Saddam Hussein, troop casualties in the region and bitterness at home about the scrapping of the regiments, have been blamed for hitting recruitment.

The latest figures show the Royal Regiment of Scotland is heading for a shortfall of 600 soldiers.

Defence chiefs have striven to tackle the crisis with initiatives including advertising campaigns, offering "bounties" to soldiers who recruit their friends, expensive television advertising campaigns and more visits to Scottish schools.

However, documents obtained by Scotland on Sunday under freedom of information legislation reveal recruitment bosses' anxiety over the launch of the new regiment and the unveiling of the new cap badge.

Guidance issued by the Headquarters of 51 (Scottish) Brigade, based in Stirling, which is responsible for infantry recruitment, states: "This is the first opportunity that the press will have had to talk to uniformed soldiers about the new regiment.

"The need to give a good impression is of paramount importance. RRT (regimental recruiting teams) are therefore to exercise discretion when selecting soldiers to attend on the day.

"Soldiers must be able to express clearly and succinctly their hopes and aspirations for the new regiment. They must be polite, sparky and enthusiastic when spoken to.

"All must be familiar with lines to take, but never repeat party lines verbatim - failure to achieve this balance will be picked up on instantly. Troops will be queried during rehearsals."

Soldiers were told to say that the new regiment was the "way forward" for the army in the 21st century and that the scrapping of regiments such as the Black Watch would make "no difference", as it was just a name change and its traditions would continue.

However, Clive Fairweather, a former commanding officer of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and second in command of the SAS, said that the documents showed the army had resorted to manipulating soldiers.

He said: "I'd have a quiet word with the sergeant major to make sure that any renegades were doing something else that day, but it was never written down like this. You don't go telling soldiers what to say or how to say it.

"The best way is to let them get on with it, but this was a very specific set of circumstances and it sounds fairly sinister. The army is not naive but it seems to have caught a little bit of the operation of spin used by the government, which is a significant and regrettable change."

A former Black Watch major, who asked not be named, added: "When soldiers were sent down to the launch they were scared to say what they thought, and this proves why. The majority of them were against the changes but they were told to put up or shut up."

An army spokeswoman denied that soldiers were specifically told what to say, but were given guidance on how to answer questions from the media and given basic interview technique training.

She said: "Some of the soldiers were only 18 or 19 years old and had never spoken to journalists or had a microphone shoved in their face before. This was a very high-profile launch and we could not have people going up to speak who couldn't cope with that."
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1262922006
 
#2
The optimists will talk about the better career opportunities in the "Scottish Regiment", or the benefits to the operational plot etc etc...

The cynics will say it'll be easier to get "rid of the 4th or "5th" Bn in 5 or so years time at the next spending review than it will to fight the save the "x" battalion with 400 years of history...

Only time will tell.

How about making the army even smaller and put the extra cash into :

Social Security (Currently a meager 29% of govt spending) or

DFID ("lets buy the Iraqi's 800 shiny new police cars" while UK patients are being refused cancer treatments because they are too expensive)

ID Cards - go on it's only a few billion pounds. It'll stop all those foreign terrorists. (Home grown suicide bombers may be the exception... they'll already have one...)

I could go on....
 
#3
It's happened, so just go with it.

Soldiers have always been expected to say the right thing. This isn't a new or sinister development - the RSM is always lurking in the background.

The Royal Regiment of Scotland is now a fact. Go with it and it'll prosper. Talk it down from inside and it'll never get anywhere. The Fusiliers, the PWRR, the Royal Anglians, the Light Infantry etc, etc all had to go through with this sort of thing. They grasped it, made the most of it and became strong Regiments with a clear identity.

The Scottish Regiments are no different to any others. They at least got to retain Battalion names.

Stop whining and make it work. Who is helped by this sort of thing?
 
#4
Bollox
 
#5
BedIn is correct it is a fact of life. The Royal Regiment of Scotland is here to stay for another generation at least.

The time for crying is over, get on with it and help make it work.

The Scottish regiments have never been more special than any others. Many regiments have gone through this pain before and have emerged as stong regiments in their own right.

Do you wish the members of the new regiment well? Or will you be one of those will intend to back stab and run them down at every opportunity.

I am no fan of the AGC and think RMP should never have been included. However, the wider AGC is just a minor irritant to RMP. If the overal AGC disappeared I doubt the RMP (or the other constituent parts) would particularly notice or care.

However, the new Royal Regiment of Scotland must be made to work for its new members and to uphold the history of the Scottish infantry. There is no going back the damage has been done and the old regiments are no more.

If the Royal Regiment of Scotland fails as a concept, it will be used as part of the argument to get rid of all regiments and introduce and infantry corps.
 
#6
How am I speaking "bollox"? Regiments have been amalgamated throughout history. No problem in fighting it when it hangs in the balance, but once it happens you have to embrace it. Or do you wish to see Scotland's Infantry fail so that you can say "told you so"?

I remember hosting some old boys at a visit by the Regimental Association. At the dinner night I sat next to one who spent all night running down the Regiment I had joined as a poor, watered down version of the one he had joined (he had joined a forbear Regiment). What did he expect me to do? Agree? Leave?

A soldier from 5 Scots has just been killed in Afghanistan. The Royal Regiment of Scotland has already given in the best traditions of the British Infantry. Is anyone suggesting they are worth less than their forbears?

It has happened. It will not be undone. Embrace it and make it work for the sake of the forebear Regiments.
 
#7
Someone was saying to me the other day that it takes, on average, seven years for a soldier involved in an amalgamation to consider themselves say, Yorkshire Regiment as opposed to Green Howards, for example. I agree that old antecedent regiments can become equally effective when merged - my grandad was in the Durham Light Infantry and he mourned their passing very much. It doesn't make the Light Division in it's current form any less effective I'm sure?
 
#8
BedIn said:
How am I speaking "bollox"? ................
BedIin, I don't think he was saying bollox to you, but rather the newspaper article.
I could be wrong.
 
#9
I think with the current op tempo in the Infantry that people will very quickly accept their new cap-badges; a hard tour is a very bonding experience.

Lets not forget that on the whole the Scots Div/Royal Regiment of Scotland haven't changed hugely - just one "amalgamation". I'm Queen's Div and we increasingly moving between Regiments (I have) and it's no bad thing at all.
 
#10
One never stops mourning the loss of a loved one. Members of Scottish regiments regarded them as family. Those currently serving will eventually come to regard the new regiment with affection and give it absolute loyalty. A hard, successful, combat tour will work wonders for battalions of the new regiment (at least post-op').

Many former members of the pre-merger Scottish regiments continued, in retirement, to live their lives vicariously through their regiment. It was they who ran the various associations, organised reunions and generally kept the regiment in the public consciousness throughout the regimental recruiting area. They were invaluable resources for the regiment and valued members of the regimental family. Now, at least in the Royal Scots and KOSB, especially, I fear, in the KOSB, their raison d'etre is gone. It is a small minority of that group who will continue to voice their anger, resentment and regret that their beloved regiments were betrayed.

Scottish Regiments, unlike their contemporaries south of the border, are visible displays of national identity that's what makes them special! Most Scots know who their local regiment is, or at least they did prior to the confusing publicity surrounding the creation of RRS! It is now up to the new regiment to re-establish their profile and build up goodwill in their various battalion recruiting areas. They will and they'll be every bit as good as their antecedent regiments, though the old and bold, like me, will continue to mourn the loss of our regiments.
 
#11
Busterdog said:
One never stops mourning the loss of a loved one. Members of Scottish regiments regarded them as family. Those currently serving will eventually come to regard the new regiment with affection and give it absolute loyalty. A hard, successful, combat tour will work wonders for battalions of the new regiment (at least post-op').

Many former members of the pre-merger Scottish regiments continued, in retirement, to live their lives vicariously through their regiment. It was they who ran the various associations, organised reunions and generally kept the regiment in the public consciousness throughout the regimental recruiting area. They were invaluable resources for the regiment and valued members of the regimental family. Now, at least in the Royal Scots and KOSB, especially, I fear, in the KOSB, their raison d'etre is gone. It is a small minority of that group who will continue to voice their anger, resentment and regret that their beloved regiments were betrayed.

Scottish Regiments, unlike their contemporaries south of the border, are visible displays of national identity that's what makes them special! Most Scots know who their local regiment is, or at least they did prior to the confusing publicity surrounding the creation of RRS! It is now up to the new regiment to re-establish their profile and build up goodwill in their various battalion recruiting areas. They will and they'll be every bit as good as their antecedent regiments, though the old and bold, like me, will continue to mourn the loss of our regiments.
Good post Busterdog.

I still tend to think this new Regiment just should have been created and left to stand on it's own, creating it's own new history. The old Regiments allowed to sleep in peace.

It was mentioned a soldier in 5 SCOTS has been killed recently in Afghanistan. I'm quite sure the sentiment is not that a SCOT has been lost, but that an Argyll has been. It will take time to change that, but must happen for sake of this new Regiment's spirit and identity.
 
#12
BedIn

It's happened, so just go with it.
Why! Just because it has happened does that mean that it is right.

Blx.

Perhaps under a new governmen they might wish to return the Regiments. or because your big brother has declared that it has to be this way then they can't.

Blx again.

Just get on with it indeed.
 
#13
<<<Scottish Regiments, unlike their contemporaries south of the border, are visible displays of national identity that's what makes them special!>>>

And I never realised that being in the North Staffords I was in an English Regiment. There has always been too much made of the Scottishness of regiments. I think in the 60s there were more Gloucesterhire men in the Black Watch than Jocks. It's sad to see any regiment go but no one regiment (Including my own (N. Staffs)) is more important than any other and sa has been said at least the RRS Battalions are to retain their pre amalgamation titles.
 
#14
Redshaggydog - whinge all you want, it has happened. And it will not revert. We will never see the Gloucesters, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, The Queens, the Shropshire Light Infantry ever again. But they live on in their antecedent Regiments, who have in turn accepted the change and got on with it. It you think that moaning will bring back the independent Scottish Regiments then you are deluding yourself. Will a new government reinstate these regiments? Will they reinstate the Green Howards of the KORBR? No. And let us not forget that the Scottish Regiments had some pretty poor manning. The local population may well know them, but they weren't encouraging their sons to join them.

The change has happened. Fighting the new system will not be for the betterment of the RRS, and that would be a real shame.
 
#15
BedIn said:
And let us not forget that the Scottish Regiments had some pretty poor manning. The local population may well know them, but they weren't encouraging their sons to join them.
Think I was making this point in a topic about the amalgamations - thousands of people marching and protesting, but not encouraging their 19 year old relatives to join up.

If just one percent of the protestors had joined their local Scottish Regiment, those Regiments would have been saying "How can you amalgamate us? We're full up with soldiers!"
 
#16
Mr_Relaxed said:
.......................

If just one percent of the protestors had joined their local Scottish Regiment, those Regiments would have been saying "How can you amalgamate us? We're full up with soldiers!"
Manning was only an excuse. This was going to happen no matter what and had been planned for some time.

At what point have all Inf Regiments been consistently up to strenght?
 
#17
BedIn said:
And let us not forget that the Scottish Regiments had some pretty poor manning. The local population may well know them, but they weren't encouraging their sons to join them.
The Blackwatch was actually forced into holding a moritorium on recruitment prior to the amalgamation, a fact which was conveniently ignored by the spin doctors at the MOD when they claimed the regiments were undermanned.
 
#18
Say what you like, some of the worst recruited Regiments in the British Army were Scots Div. In Scotland there were a lot of Infantry Regiments for a relatively small population and per head capita less Jocks than English join the Infantry. The recruitment issue was in part due to better levels of education in Scotland - Jocks joining the Army wanted trades. The REMEs etc are full of Jocks. The Infantry was not.
 
#19
We all know that amalgamations and disbandments are sometimes necessary - if sad. The Scottish regiments were close to strength however and amalgamating them, as Mr Bridger said, is only to make it easier to strike battalions off the establishment at a later date - same as they did with the Royal Irish Rangers.

All of this at a time when the infantry is harder pressed than they have been since Korea.

The results will be more pressure on the TA and more leaving the regs prematurely.
 

Similar threads

Latest Threads

Top