Ex-servicemen from the region are set to march on the Houses of Parliament next month, to protest at Government plans to disband a historic Northumberland battalion.
Former members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers will join with comrades from Lancashire, Warwickshire and London on October 18, to demonstrate the strength of feeling over moves to axe the 2nd Battalion (2RRF).
They argue that the decision was taken for political reasons only and is a betrayal of loyal soldiers who have died and risked their lives for their country.
Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review, 2RRF is one of nine regular Army battalions in line to be disbanded in 2014, with the loss of 600 service personnel.
The First Battalion, also 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, to act as an ‘adaptable’ support corps.
Major Chester Potts, chairman of the Fusiliers Association in Northumberland, is leading the campaign and has succeeded, with the help of MP John Baron, in securing a debate in the House of Commons on the day of the march.
“We will carry the message that the people of the North East are 100 per cent behind our soldiers and join us in our anger that our Fusiliers have been chosen for disbandment to save poorly-recruited battalions north of the border,” he said.
“We will also be there to canvas support during the planned debate in Parliament on the Fusilier issue.”
The debate was secured following a presentation to the Backbench Business Committee last Tuesday, with the help of Mary Glindon MP and Ian Liddell-Grainger MP. The application was supported by 13 MPs who, in most part, have constituency links with the Regiment.
Mr Baron said: “The debate is excellent news. We will be able to air all the issues, and then vote on the matter. There is a gross injustice in axing 2RRF.
“A letter from and meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence on August 14 has confirmed that 2RRF is the only infantry battalion to be cut for political rather than military reasons. Otherwise, more poorly-recruited Scottish battalions would have been axed, but this is not happening.
“Following the granting of a meeting between the Secretary of State and all interested MPs, this debate will maintain the pressure on the Government to think again. I urge all ex-Fusiliers to join us on October 18 at Parliament in order to make clear the strength of feeling on this issue.
“Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.”