County is urged to back Fusilier fight

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County councillors have been urged to join the fight to save a battalion with strong historic links to Northumberland from being axed.

Northumberland County Council’s Labour group has appointed a Veterans Champion, Coun Dave Ledger, who tabled a motion for yesterday’s meeting of the full council calling for support for the campaign to stop the battalion from being disbanded as part of the Government’s Strategic Defence Review.

In July 2012, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would reduce the number of regular soldiers from 100,000 to 80,000 by the year 2020.

One of its targets was the Second Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, even though it remains one of the Army’s top recruiters and is extremely well-manned.

It currently has a light role and is able to deploy quickly, with recent operations in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But its 600 personnel now face being laid off or redeployed to other regiments.

Coun Ledger said: ‘We hope this motion will attract support from across the political spectrum and it’s our chance to show that the proposed abolition of the battalion is a cut too far.

“It’s clear that our conventional forces will face an ever-increasing workload and while our troops are able to operate with maximum efficiency in most situations, they need to be able to plan for further contingencies.

“That’s why it’s important that the council sends a clear message of support to the regiment.”

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed in 1968 by the amalgamation of several regiments including the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and it has close ties with the county.

The fusilier regiments can trace their heritage back to the reign of King James II in 1685.

Northumberland had its own regiment which was merged with four others into the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1968.

The regiment currently has two battalions and a TA battalion – the Fifth – based in Alnwick, Durham, Newcastle and Ashington.

Under the review, the TA would have an enhanced role in support of the regular Army.

Protesters will march on Parliament later this month.