Battalion to be shelved in Army review

Photos by Sgt Ian Forsyth RLC
Photos by Sgt Ian Forsyth RLC

Radical plans to restructure the Army will see Northumberland’s local regiment lose an entire battalion in two years’ time.

Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Second Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be axed in 2014, with the loss of 600 service personnel.

The First Battalion, made up of professional soldiers, will remain untouched, while the Fifth Battalion - which is Territorial Army and has a strong presence in the county - will benefit from a £1.8billion plan over the next 10 years to boost reserve forces.

The Government’s aim is to double the number of reservists by 2020, from 15,000 to 30,000, and fully integrate them into a ‘flexible’ fighting force. ‘High-readiness Reaction Forces’ will meet the Army’s contingency tasks and comprise an air assault brigade with two attack helicopter regiments and three armoured infantry brigades equipped with upgraded Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, Challenger tanks, and the new Scout vehicle.

The ‘Adaptable Forces’ will be based on a regional footprint and held at a lower state of readiness. They will be made up of seven infantry brigades, comprised of paired regular and reserve units. They will provide further capacity when required and be able to generate additional brigade-sized forces for longer-term operations.

But local MP Sir Alan Beith is pushing defence ministers to produce the evidence behind their decision to disband the 2nd Battalion and to explain how support for the Territorial Army will be provided. He said: “I am very concerned that, for the second time, a battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is being disbanded.

“The Fusiliers are a regiment with a very good recruiting record, but other regiments which are less successful and have to recruit from abroad are being retained.

“The North East has a very strong Territorial Army tradition and I am also asking Ministers how a build-up of reserve forces in our area is to be supported. In previous years they have had resources heavily cut.”