Despite earlier complaints by Ministry of Defence media staff that speculation about closures had been distressing families and putting lives at risk by distracting soldiers on operations, there has been increasing discussion about Army units being cut more quickly than previously expected. The Daily Telegraph now reports that:
Entire Army battalions and regiments are to be disbanded on their return from Afghanistan, a memo sent to officers discloses.
Army chiefs are said to be furious that the Government has reneged on a deal to keep numbers in place
An extra 5,000 soldiers face losing their jobs in addition to the 7,000 redundancies already announced, the document shows.
The letter appears to contradict assurances to Parliament that no more soldiers would be sacked before the end of the Afghan campaign, planned for January 2015.
Army chiefs are said to be furious that the Government has reneged on a deal to keep the numbers in place. A senior Army source they had a “big problem” with the decision, which has caused friction with ministers.
In his letter to all commanding officers, which has been obtained by The Daily Telegraph, Gen Peter Wall says he regrets the “sobering” impact this will have on soldiers and their families, and the “uncertainties” it will cause.
Revealing an about-turn in the Strategic Defence and Security Defence review, the Chief of the General Staff says the resources available mean “some significant changes to the original SDSR provision for the Army, including significant cuts”.
Gen Wall writes: “Regular Army manpower will be cut more steeply, with an additional reduction of 5,000 over and above the 7,000 already in progress as a result of the SDSR. This takes the Army to around 90,000 by 2015. The additional manpower cuts are now being scoped but will inevitably require a further redundancy programme.
“Although the detailed planning is not yet complete we must assume that these reductions will require the further removal of formed battalions and regiments from the force structure, including the combat arm.”
Gen Wall’s warning is the latest in a string of leaks involving the Ministry of Defence. It comes weeks after David Cameron told commanders to stop questioning the Government’s military commitments, saying: “You do the fighting, I’ll do the talking”.
Gen Wall’s letter was written after Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, announced last week that Army numbers were to be reduced to about 82,000 — but not until 2020. This involves an additional fall of 11,000 soldiers on top of the 7,000 planned in the defence review last year.
The savings will help pay for £3 billion of extra equipment and a rise in Territorial Army numbers to 30,000.
In his statement to the Commons, after a three-month review of the SDSR, Dr Fox did not mention the date of the future reduction but his advisers said no further cuts would be made before 2015.
Mr Cameron has also given assurances that no further troops face losing their jobs when they return from action.
Senior Army sources have suggested that Dr Fox did not give Parliament the full facts.
A source said: “When the numbers came out, we said to the ministers do you realise this means whole units will have to go? All we got was blank looks.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “No one who is preparing for or is deployed on operations will be made redundant unless they volunteer. Only those who have returned from operations and have taken all their leave will be considered.”
- Source article, by Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent, Daily Telegraph - Entire Army battalions to be disbanded, memo discloses
- BritishForcesNews (video) - Leaked letter warns Army battalions and regiments to vanish in cuts
Other media sources have speculated on the identity of the units to be disbanded or withdrawn from the Regular Army. We emphasize that these reports are not based on any actual plans, but appear to be logical enough predictions (if not necessarily correct) based on factors such as the seniority of infantry battalions within their regiments, or what is described as "regional sensitivity" reasons.
- Sunday Express - Coldstream Guards face axe
- Scotland on Sunday - Argylls in line to become TA reserve unit
- Mirror - British Army's oldest regiment The Coldstream Guards faces the axe under Government defence cuts
- Daily Mail - Historic battalions 'will be wiped out' as Army plans another 5,000 redundancies
- Guardian - Army chief warns of 'sobering' impact of further defence cuts