The Last Taboo. Royal Corps of Infantry.

#1
Thought I'd throw in a few thoughts about the current Cap Badge / Arms plot system.  There're obviously 2 different issues here, but they are inextricably linked so I'll merge them and consider whether the future is the RCI and static units (1 (Armd) Bn RCI etc).  I'll mainly talk about problems and possible changes.  I'm not a staff officer who's studied this and this is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis, but a simplified conversation starter.

1.  The Arms plot.

Regt is unusable for at least 2 months for admin (prep, HO/TO, establishment, leave) and much longer for re training (over a year for armour).

Enormous financial cost:  movement of mil kit, personal kit, families, retraining costs, loss of benefit of previous training etc etc.

Disruption for both singlies and pads.  Retention, divorce rates etc.  This is probably my biggest issue with the whole thing.

2.  The Capbadge.

Regimental 'integrity' is, increasingly, a myth.  Troops train together (except the lucky few - paras and Household Div).  Non capbadge COs and OCs are common.  A unit is almost certainly below peacetime manning,  so any op deployment invloves very large nos of other capbadge reinforcements (makes a nonsense of the strong unit identity required for fighting thing?).

Enormously limits choice of postings.  Detrimental effect on retention and career.

Means that troops are forced in to a role to which they may not be suited (fat armoured knackers in to the LI role?  Strong NCOs without the speed of thought / spacial awareness (??) to be good Warrior Comds?).

The current competitive tribal recruiting (in which success requires black market teams) is an appalling waste of resources and is terrible practice in terms of presenting an approachable common image, getting the right recruit to the right job blah blah.

3.  The Future.  A move to fixed role / fixed location RCI units.

Could we cure the retention problem in one go by trickle posting?  I think so and up to strength units would certainly outweigh any loss of united spirit in operational capability terms.

Interestingly the Corps often use specialist badges to breed unit pride (para / cdo / ATO).  The inf do it to a certain extent with things like Warrior gunnery badges, but this system could be extended to unclude arctic, jungle inf units (this specialist unit thing is currently a myth I know).  I think mech Bns might suffer a bit here, although some people might love a badge sporting a stylised Saxon, you never know.

(On the other hand, while anyone from a Corps whould claim that their units have just as much Regimental / family identity as an Inf Bn (RHA particularly keen on this claim), it is utter b o l l o c k s.  Ask someone from the AGC who has served with both).

Cpl X would now have the option of requesting a move from 5 (Armd) RCI, Germany to 3 (Mech) RCI, Catterick.  He is not doing well in the Armd role and this allow him to save his marriage.  Cpl Y is from 5 (Armd) RCI's Cambrian Patrol team and feels that he wants to be LI in a Para Bn.  They're currently getting a lot of deployements, but he's single and clearly well suited.  Cpl Z of 9 (Jungle) RCI has minor, but ongoing tendonitis which is limiting his ability to go exercise and, ultimately, his career.  He is to be posted to 5 (Armd) RCI.  And so on.

All of HM's Inf Bns are manned and ready to fight on varying degrees of notice.  OK maybe I've gone too far now!

That'll do for the moment I think.  I'll be interested to read the official / studied version.
 
#2
ref note 2: AI units are bolstered by AIMI & if still short of numbers ( common now so not's let get on about recruiting or retention)
when that particular Unit is deployed they are yet again bolstered by the unit that is in it's training cycle ie; 1 x Coy attached to the LATF

Also to add to this is the black acconomy ie; those which are posted  ??? to bolster recruiting teams (County reg mainly)
But they are still held on strength giving a false impression of manning in a Unit, thats unless we deploy with figure 11's or 12's with the respective names wrote onto them.
The Capbadge is a die hard thing & always will be remember Regimentated.

However ref: all your other questions well its well above our pay grade :mad:
 
#3
Well, the larger Corps have been amalgamated resonably successfully?  Eg RAOC, RCT, etc! And they were all very attached to their capbadges as well as full of old gits.  Just check out the Kiwis and the Aussies - they have amalgamated along different lines.  The thing is, it doesn't matter to those of us at the coal face - what it does do is cut down the amount of RHQs kicking around the place, and that isn't a bad thing is it!  Imagine 40 odd less "puzzle palaces"...... :'(
 
#4
There is some merit in the idea.  The one major downside is that it will much much easier for Prudent Gordon and his pals to trim off the odd Battalion the next time their sums don't add up.

As a PBI I have not got a lot of time for RHQ but at least there is someone prepared to yell foul.  
 
#5
When the bullets are flying and there is some serious infantry work to be done I would prefer to have under my command soldiers that I may have trained, promoted and served with over a number of years.  Do not be hasty in discarding 'tradition' as something without a place in a modern defence force.  Every infantry battalion is different in ethos and thinks it is the best - no bad thing at all as healthy rivalry between units is positive.

Cutting the large regiments in 1992 was easy - who would miss the 3rd Bn.  Don't let the bean counters in with a chance of doing it again and don't think that cutting the heart out of the infantry regiments will achieve anything.

Take this as 'I disagree' with this thesis.
 

Glad_its_all_over

ADC
Book Reviewer
#6
When the bullets are flying and there is some serious infantry work to be done I would prefer to have under my command soldiers that I may have trained, promoted and served with over a number of years.
I don't think this suggestion would necessarily prevent that being the case. As I understood the Hairy One's thesis, moves would be trickled - if tour length was set to five years, say, with voluntary extension allowed, no more than 20% of the unit would have less than four years' experience in role. As far as I recall, a large proportion of infantry soldiers serve for less than five years altogether, anyway - perhaps a bit of stability might encourage them to serve longer?
 
#7
Lightbob maybe if a Bn is good well trained and motivated then the numbers of people wanting to post out would be low and the numbers wanting to post in would be high. But if poorly led,trained and motivation is low the rates wanting to leave would be a good indicator to the CO and the Powers that be that something is wrong.
Possibly a solution is make it easier to post between regiments and cut the emotional blackmail used when someone asks to go to a job they feel is more suited to their abilities. Yes loyalty to the regiment is important but is it the be all and end all.
 
#8
yes it is the be all & end all what we have is unique.
we are different from other armys around the globe
& we are as a fighting force still the best ( why do the yanks ask for us all the time )
our ethos in Units is the best we work together & will always strive to be the best at what we do ( no matter what the cap badge.
We are the best at what we do in role we fear no man or foe.
our best assets are the ones that support us in our given task  ;D
 
#9
It's good to hear such an upbeat and dedicated tone - which I thoroughly agree with.

Re 'why do the Yanks ask for us all the time?':

Because we go along with almost everything they say and help justify assorted crusades by adding 'European' support.  We could be an Army entirely consisting of 20 floppies and a T54 and still get asked for!
 
#10
Agreed the British Army is the best at what it can do. And the regimental system is probably making a hell of a difference. But for example a guardsman in a warrior bn in Germany thats about to post to London to do public duties for 2 years wants to stay an armoured infantryman as opposed to being a chocolate soldier. Would it not be better if he could easily post to another Bn as opposed to having to return to UK do maybe 6mths of pubic duties and sign off because he's pissed off. I'm not advocating as radical approach as a corps of infantry. But maybe a bit more flexibility yes the regiment is important but is retaining a good experienced soldier any less so?
 
#12
Much good, thoughtful, JCSC type debate going on here, and regarding the 'numbers game' and any number of hypothetical man-management issues, a Corps of Infantry is the perfect, flexible, enlightened answer to all our problems....
BUT-
Field Marshall Inge attacked this issue head on when he was Comd BAOR, many years ago. As a ruthless supercomputer-brain, he had little time for sentimentality or spin. His assessment ultimately, was grounded in the reality that men fight for intangibles...brotherhood, tribe, 'betterness' - the 'bonds of mateship'. A British Battalion, with all it entails, has thus been considered worth 5 'corps counterparts', a la US Army, Australians, etc. Indeed, our Infantrys esprit de corps and combat effectiveness is the envy of the world.

The problems we all know too well are caused by one thing only - underfunding. Sacrificing our heritage in the hope of discovering a panacea will only be to our
detriment.
I will remain a xxxxshire until the day I die!
 
#13
Well, I think it's fair to say that he has a much bigger brain than I do, but I think that's missing the point.  You must try and fit the organisation to its environment.  

We are not expecting to go and fight a long, casualty heavy, morale sapping war in the near future - the environment where this esprit de corps is perhaps most crucial.  What we do expect to do is a lot of low level ops resulting in increasingly severe overstretch.  It is more important in our current environment to aid retention and boost numbers than it is to have the ultimate in close knit organisations.  

Regardless of that, the intangibles in a unit will very quickly be formed in transition to war, regardless of prior unit.  Also since a lot of our inf cap badges are made up of troops from all over the country (guards, LI, RRF, Paras, RGJ etc etc) the loyalty-to-people-from-the-same-area argument no longer holds any water.  

Our soldiers also contribute to the 'environment': these are now people with 'higher' expectations than their predecessors who want a say in what they do and where they go - just as Offrs do.  

I was fairly neutral on this issue, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's essential to modernise -maybe to divs as suggested, although this would simply be an effort to make the pill slightly easier to swallow.  (Yes, I would be as gutted as the next man to see my capbadge vanish)!

Intangibles are all very well, but you just can't touch the bastards..
 
#14
"We are not expecting to go and fight a long, casualty heavy, morale sapping war in the near future "

We weren't in 1914 and 1939 either. Anyway.

I've been Int Corps for nearly 8 years now. My loyalty, however, will always be to my old Regiment. I've worn my old headdress on Balkans tours when it wasn't prudent to wear the slimecap, and every man I saw from the Division, never mind the Regiment, came over to talk to me. Which got very embarrasing having to explain it, but what the Hell; it was great anyway. THAT is the family feeling you get from a Regiment, and the "RCI" would never be the same. If they form the RCI I'll sign off, and I'm not even an Infanteer now. I'd do it because something was gone from my life.

Long live the R*F!
 
#15
I'm interested to note that you prefer your RAF beret to yout I Corps one.  I must make a note that there is a life form lower than the RAF!!!

More seriously (and I'm now wondering whether there's an H, W or R missing from your Regt - not that any of these might be mine you understand).  1914 an interesting example.  OK, the BEF consisted of people in a Regt system, but they were mostly dead by early 1915 when the TA and civis took over (SERIOUS NOTE:  THIS IS IN NO WAY A SLIGHT.  ALL OF THE ABOVE HAVE MY ULTIMATE RESPECT).  What I'm saying is that long term, in built Regt identity did not win WW1.  

Re WWII; you are simply wrong to quote it; we saw it coming and had a long build up to the war 'proper'.
 
#16
RAF beret? Nope. Not me.

My great-grandfather went to France with the BEF in 1914, with a TA Bn of the *LI  :) work it out. They were expecting it to be over by Xmas 1914.

OK, WW2 wasn't a surprise by 1939, you're quite right there and I was over-simplifying. However, by 1939 we were just getting there with rearming because we'd let it all run down. Why? We didn't expect a long, high-casualty war. Then we got one.

Call me Mr Cynical, but we've been caught out too many times. There will ALWAYS be another war. The world has not changed. I'd say ask the Romans about that, but you can't. They turned their Army into a peacekeeping force and then got wiped out.
 
#17
SS, might be able to help from the Roman perspective.  Basically, we were as hard as nails and didn't use the capbadge system, although we did have big ******* off pole things with eagles on.  Can't say it made much difference to fighting spirit though.  Generally a much better strategy than getting all worked up about intangibles was to only fight less developed peoples equiped with useless weapons (later copied by the British Empire).  It was really only a matter of having plenty of troops around to stag on and polish the BFO poles with the eagles on.  A lesson from history perhaps?

Anyway,  ask away mate.
 
#18
I hear what everyone's saying about the ' diluted' extremes of operations these days as oppose to total wars of annihilation...but the more I think about it, the more I feel my original point is reinforced. Leadership, motivation, operational focus are arguably harder in ambiguous, shifting, low-level ops other than war than they are with an obvious external threat such as the German or Soviet war machines. Getting the boys to stag on in Bos/Kos/SL/Cyprus (no, it's not fun for resident Inf Bns) is arguably tougher in these terms, than it would be to get teams to gel in straightforward war. I don't believe anyone has proved how things would be better with one less layer of unit cohesion, loyalty and identity. Our problem remains one of resources...we don't have enough soldiers. reorganising them into YET ANOTHER SHAPELESS, BORING CORPS will not square this circle.
 
#19
Heresy.  Next you will be expecting us to wear olive drab combats and to get rid of our armoured forces altogether.  Look what has happened to the Canadian Army where morale remains incredibly low post similar reforms.

People generally choose to join a particular Regiment because they wish to be identified with a particular "gang" (let's face it, that's all we are after all).  Or because their father / brothers served there.  That in itself instills a pride which is immeasurable.  (Yes Chewy, another intangible).

The Regimental system also goes well beyond that at work and plays an intricate part in family life, another consideration for not getting rid of it.  Just think of the various Regimental aid societies who provide for those in the Regiments who are in need.  What would happen to them?  What happens when we next goto war?  What happens on a patch of almost strangers?  The emotional support provided by wives to each other again is something unquantifiable, with many friendships having been built up over years.  No Army welfare service could hope to match it.

But here's another way of skinning this particular fearsome cat.  How about permanently battle-grouping?  We do it in our training and LATF periods as none of us can fight alone in a high intensity conflict, the same is mostly true in lower intensity ops.  How about therefore establishing permanent battle groups within Brigades?  This would allow for example an inf regiment to have an affiliated armoured, mech or light role battle group, which contain companies of its cap-badge.  There would remain the similar promotion opportunities for both soldiers and officers as there would be no requirement for cuts.  These groups would allow for trickle postings between sub-units (I submit that a sub-unit is the smallest detachment we should go down to for the sake of regimental cohesion and identity).  It would solve the requirements of those unsuitable for certain roles and would maintain the regimental system.  It would also certainly improve our all-arms awareness and heighten our level training (see that of permanenlty in-role units such as the Paras and Commandos).  This would also breed Battle-group identity, again vital for warfighting, which after all, until things change in the President's mind, is what we are ultimately about.  Cannot as yet see a massive down side, what do you all think?

Like others, I joined my Regiment because I wanted to be part of that particular family.  I am loath to even begin considering being part of an amorphous RCI.  But that's just me.
 
#20
God Man! It's just so crazy it might work!
The Boche do something similar with many advantages. The only problems I see would be a lack of flexibility when a need arises for light role battlegroups for a specific operation (CW/Jungle/Mountain/PK etc). This would tie a fixed number of Bns with tied AI/Mech/LR etc coys, and the remainder as 'buckshee' LR inf, which I fear could lead to a feeling of '2-tierism', which arms-plotting helps to defeat.
Again, I think the core problem is one of insufficient training time for BGs to be as slick as they should...which is due to too much work for too few troops. The sad fact is that that with current generic threat levels as they are, the govt is willing to accept our forces in their current sorry state of skills (compared with the R1 ready for war baseline).
 

Similar threads

Top