The time has arrived where we can do no more to save The Second Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
The Government is pressing on regardless with Army 2020, despite all the problems they are running into and the targets they are consistently failing to achieve.
Never has a regiment been so badly betrayed by a Secretary of State for Defence in order to further political aims. In fact, despite our reasoned argument and figures that show that the Fusiliers are one the best recruited regiments in the British Army. It appears that Mr Hammond has buried his head in the sand. At the very least he has been badly advised and it appears he sees the MOD as merely a spreadsheet to be adjusted at will, so that he can get his figures right.
What he fails to see is that there are real people behind these figures who have suffered because of this decision, and people, who unlike others, are and were prepared, to give their lives in the defence of this country.
We may have come second best in the campaign but I can assure you all, that we will be proved right in the medium to long-term and that the decision to axe the Second Fusiliers will be one that this Government will regret in the future.
It seems totally illogical, that in a world which is getting more and more dangerous by the day that they are choosing to dismantle one of the finest infantry battalions in the Army, with a record second to none.
I would now like to thank all of you who fought this campaign with such gusto and commitment.
Twice the Fusiliers marched on Parliament, not only winning the vote but morally winning the argument. The Government was also taken aback when two of our number infiltrated the Tory party conference in Manchester and interrupted Mr Hammond’s speech, thereby putting the debate on defence well and truly at a national level. The rear-guard for this action were the Fusiliers from Lancashire and Northumberland who were ‘lobbying’ the Tory party faithful all day outside the conference.
The petition and the letter campaign exceeded all our expectations. Many of you gathered thousands of signatures from our public who were only too willing to sign and show their support especially for our local lads. I know a lot of hard work went into this and many letters were received by the Government by you all outlining their miscalculation in selecting the Fusiliers for disbandment.
The honour guard made up from our London contingent which stood outside Number 10 in all weathers made sure that the hackle was visible to all those in power and outlined the fact that we were not going to go away.
Never has a regiment been so united in peacetime as it is now. Fusiliers from all of our four areas turned up to show the Government the strength of feeling that we all held over this crass decision. The associations were magnificent and the enthusiasm was outstanding.
To all those who took time off work and travelled from afar, I would like to thank you for your outstanding loyalty and contribution to the regiment. You have all proved again to be England’s finest.
I would also like to thank our local press for keeping us in the headlines.
I would also like to thank the Members of Parliament who did fight our cause and particularly some of our local MPs who know how important this regiment is to the North East.
Special mention should be made of the hard work that John Baron MP put into this campaign. John continues to press the Government on the defence issue and remains a thorn in their side. He continues to hold the moral high ground and will eventually be proved right.
Never did I think that we would have to get involved in a political battle as a regiment. Had our argument been wrong, then the campaign would never have started in the first place.
However, right was on our side and it was incumbent upon us all to fight for those who were not allowed to do so.
Fusiliers, you can all look back on the last two years with immense pride in what you achieved and all your hard work has not gone unnoticed.
You were, and are, a credit to your regiment.Our chairman received many messages of support from across the Armed Forces and admiration that we, as a regiment could muster so much support from across the board. This was reinforced by the fact that many ex-Armed Forces veterans wanted to join our protest against the cuts.
We fought against all the odds, and we knew that this time, we were up against it. However, you stepped into the breach willingly and gave it your all. No-one could ask more of you.
This episode has still to play out and we will see in the coming months and years where this will lead us in this uncertain world. There are certain things in life worth fighting for; our regiment represents integrity, loyalty, courage and self-sacrifice. Perhaps a political establishment, who reward these traits with redundancy, should take a good hard look at themselves the next time they turn up at a Remembrance Parade and ask themselves some very pertinent and soul-searching questions.
Major (Retd) Chester Potts TD,
Chairman, Fusiliers Association (Northumberland)