150 Gurkhas to go in army cuts

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The Gurkhas are to be among the first victims of the Army's redundancy programme with around 150 troops facing the axe, it was announced today.

The Ministry of Defence said that, in total, 1,000 soldiers and 1,600 Royal Navy personnel would lose their jobs in the first tranche of redundancies for the two services under the Strategic Defence and Security Review cuts.

In the Army alone it is expected that around half the redundancies will be compulsory.

The head of Army manning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, said that the 3,500-strong Brigade of Gurkhas was set to lose around 150 troops, including infantry, engineers, signallers, and logisticians.

He said the cuts were necessary following changes made to the Gurkhas' terms of service in 2008, placing them on the same footing as the rest of the Army.

As a result, Gurkhas can now serve for 22 years rather than the 15 to which they were previously restricted.

"We have already taken whatever measures we can to reduce the surplus that exists as a result of the policy change and have reduced the number of recruits coming from Nepal," Brig Nugee said.

"Even so, opportunities for promotion within the Brigade are being severely limited by the current situation.

"We are committed to a strong and vibrant Brigade of Gurkhas into the future and therefore must take action to ensure that, like the rest of the Army, their structures and manning are in the best possible shape by the end of this process."

Brig Nugee acknowledged that few Gurkhas were likely to go voluntarily.

"It is fair to say we would not expect that many to volunteer," he said.

The announcement comes after the RAF said last month that it was laying off 2,700 personnel in its first tranche of redundancies.

In all, the MoD has said the number of military personnel across all three services will be cut by 17,000 by April 2015, with around 11,000 coming through redundancies.

In all, 5,600 Royal Navy personnel and 5,000 Army personnel have been told their jobs are potentially at risk. Those chosen for redundancy in the Army will be informed on September 1 and in the Navy on September 30.

The infantry (apart from the Gurkhas), Royal Marines, Special Forces, the Army's bomb disposal experts, the Intelligence Corps and the Royal Army Medical Corps are all exempt from the current tranche of redundancies.

In the Army, around a quarter of the redundancies are expected to come from officers up to the rank of brigadier, with cuts ranging from artillery officers to signals NCO.

The Navy is cutting 121 officers up to the rank of captain from the warfare, engineering, medical and logistics branches on top of 1,011 junior ratings and 274 senior ratings from various branches. Fifteen of the Fleet Air Arm's 59 fixed-wing pilots will also go.

Commodore Paul Bennett, the head of Royal Navy manning, said around two thirds of the redundancies were a direct result of "capability reductions".

"We will have fewer ships and aircraft and so will need fewer people to operate them," he said.

Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said on the date the redundancy notices were issued, no personnel preparing for, deployed on, or returning from combat operations or on post-tour leave would be made compulsorily redundant.

"We have to ensure that our armed forces are best structured for the challenges they face both now and in the future," he said.

"That said, we would of course prefer not to have to make any of our personnel redundant but unfortunately we inherited a huge deficit in the defence budget from our predecessors in government."

Gurkha rights campaigner Peter Carroll, said today: "I can't understand how the Government can make this sort of decision at a time when we have the most amount of troops deployed abroad since the Second World War.

"There are 3,200 Gurkhas currently serving the UK, so in percentage terms this is a deep cut and will be a huge disruption to the older, highly trained Gurkhas who have been fighting for our country for hundreds of years."

Mr Carroll, who has worked on the Gurkha Justice Campaign since 2003 alongside actress Joanna Lumley, said: "It seems like a false economy to me that the same amount of Gurkhas that have just been made redundant will be replaced by 150 new recruits.

"Why make redundant the highly skilled troops who have fought for the country for years? It will be incredibly damaging to the careers and the futures of those who are made redundant."

He said: "The only good side is that the cuts are slightly better than we feared, for a while we thought they could decide to axe the whole Gurkha Brigade. To do so, however, would be to get rid of 200 years of history between our countries."