'Desert Rats' lose tanks in Army shake-up

 

The "Desert Rats" are to lose their tanks in a shake-up of the UK's shrinking Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

Most famous for victories in crucial Second World War battles such as El Alamein, the 7th Armoured Brigade is to become part of an infantry brigade.

The change - described as "immensely sad" by one former commander - forms part of the speeded-up withdrawal of British troops from Germany announced yesterday.

An MoD spokesman said the famous rodent insignia would be kept when the brigade moves to Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, but the brigade will not keep its tank capacity.

"7 Brigade, including their 'Desert Rat' insignia, will remain in the Army's order of battle as an adaptable force brigade based in Chilwell," he said.

"As announced in the SDSR (Strategic Defence and Security Review), we are reducing our heavy armour by 40% and re-rolling units to face more modern threats.

"That is why the Desert Rats will in the future be an infantry brigade equipped with a range of protected mobility vehicles."

Major General Patrick Cordingley, a former commander of the Desert Rats, told The Daily Telegraph, which reported the change: "It is immensely sad.

"Like the British public, I am extremely sad that they are losing their armoured role.

"These are units whose history you would have thought might have spared them from this."

But, while he agreed that "there will be some regrets", the chairman of the Desert Rats Association, Rod Scott, said he did not believe the change was very significant.

"When people think of the Desert Rats, they do think of tanks but that was never even 50% of it," he said - adding that the Armed Forces had always been reconfigured over the years.

The 7th Armoured Brigade was disbanded after the Second World War but reformed shortly afterwards - taking on the nickname and insignia when the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded in 1958.

For a short period leading up to 1981 it was re-named "Task Force Alpha".

It had a prominent role in the 2003 Iraq war.

PA

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