Army bandsmen total will be halved to 1,100

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Indy Politics
THE number of Army bandsmen will halve as part of the reorganisation to increase the number of combat troops, Archie Hamilton, the Armed Forces minister, said yesterday.

In wartime, bandsmen become stretcher-bearers and medical assistants, and this role remains unchanged. But the reduction in numbers within the Army manpower ceiling of 119,000 will help achieve the aim of more 'teeth' and less 'tail'.

The number of bandsmen will fall from 2,000 to 1,100 and there will be fewer but larger bands - 29 instead of 63. But the 'state bands' of the Household Division and of the Royal Artillery will be unaffected.

A central musical authority would be established to 'help ensure the improvement and future maintenance of musical standards throughout the Army', Mr Hamilton said.

There were 63 military bands, some attached to infantry battalions and Royal Armoured Corps regiments. Many have fewer than 20 musicians and these, Mr Hamilton said yesterday, were 'not musically viable and have proved to be difficult to recruit'.

The bands of individual infantry battalions and cavalry regiments will be amalgamated into one or two for each infantry division and four for the Royal Armoured Corps (the Royal Tank Regiment and the cavalry). All the new bands will have either 35 or 49 musicians.

The Scottish division, for example, will retain two bands, so Scottish regiments will still have pipes available for ceremonial occasions.

Of the infantry, only the Parachute Regiment - a large regiment of three battalions - will keep its own band. The new Royal Logistic Corps, to be formed on 1 April, and the Adjutant General's Corps will have one band each. The Gurkhas will lose their band and will have music provided by the Light Division.

The Options for Change defence review, announced in July 1990, envisaged cuts from the Army's 1990 manpower total of 156,000 to 116,000 by 1995. On 3 February, Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, announced that the total would be held at 119,000, an increase of 3,000, and that a further 2,000 troops would be transferred to combat duties. Some of these will come from the regimental bands.

(Photograph omitted)