Territorials to fill in gaps as Army numbers cut to lowest level since the 19th century

Forces morale 'fragile' as Government reveals whole Infantry battalions will be scrapped

Morale among troops is “fragile”, the Defence Secretary admitted today as he set out plans to cut the Army to its smallest size since the 19th century.

Philip Hammond announced that five infantry battalions and 12 other units would be axed in moves to reduce the manpower of the regular Army from its current 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020.

The planned reductions, which are part of a drive to cut defence spending by more than £4bn, were condemned by MPs of all parties in angry Commons scenes. The Army will be split into two sections – a “reaction force” on standby for deployment to trouble-spots and an “adaptable force” to back it up.

The number of reservists will be boosted to compensate for the cutbacks and ministers are drawing up plans to approach major employers to release staff in the Territorial Army for longer periods. Mr Hammond admitted today that the planned redundancies and disappearance of historic battalions was having an impact on the spirits of servicemen and women.

“Morale is fragile. We have a lot of work to do to take our people through these big changes.” he said. “People never like change – change brings uncertainty.”

There were cries of “shame” from MPs as he announced that four infantry battalions – the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh – will disappear.

A fifth, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), will be turned into a “public duties company” carrying out ceremonial duties in Scotland. The Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the merger of the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments amalgamating.

There will also be reductions in the number of units in the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police.

Mr Hammond said: “These withdrawals and mergers, unwelcome as I know they will be in the units affected, are fair and balanced and have been carefully structured to minimise the impact of the regular manpower reduction and maximise the military effectiveness of the Army.”

Almost 7,000 redundancies have already been announced and they will be followed by about another 11,000 in two tranches over the next two years, with the result that some troops receive their redundancy notices as the Army pulls out of Afghanistan.

General Sir Peter Wall, the chief of the general staff, said the plans would make Britain’s forces “better integrated and fully adaptable”. But he admitted he wished the changes could take effect quicker, rather than hang over the Army for several years.

He said: “I believe that drawing this out over a period of four or five years is going to be wearing on our people,” adding that decisions on where to make the cuts had been based on the recruiting records and population trends in the areas affected.

The moves have already attracted heavy criticism at senior levels within the Army. In a leaked letter to Gen  Wall, a brigadier in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers protested that plans to axe one of its two battalions would not “best serve” the armed forces and “cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option”.

Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, said: “Let’s hope the next decade is a rather more peaceful decade that the last decade, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

The planned reductions are part of a drive to cut defence spending by more than £4bn.

Losing battle: Four battalions to go

2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh

Formed in: 2006

Based in: Tidworth, Wiltshire

The Royal Welsh Regiment in its present form was created six years ago from three former regiments, but the 2nd Battalion can trace its history as far back as Rorke’s Drift – a famous battle that took place during the 1879 Zulu War.

The unit will cease to exist after being merged with the 1st Battalion, in an effort to “strengthen the operational nature of the armed forces in Wales”, according to the Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies.

2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers

Formed in: 1968

Based in: Celle, Germany

Formed from by the amalgamation of four historic regiments, including the Lancashire Fusiliers, whose soldiers famously won 'six Victoria Crosses before breakfast' during the First World War Gallipoli landings in 1915.

More recently, a company from the 2nd Battalion fought the longest defensive battle since the Korean War in 2007 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments (merged)

Formed in: 1917

Based in: Tidworth, Wiltshire

The Royal Tank Regiment is the oldest tank unit in the world.

The 2nd Regiment famously broke through the German trenches at Cambrai, France, in 1917, during the First World War.

The government has justified the cuts to tanks by stressing the need for more diverse armoured divisions. Britain’s last tank battle was in 2003. Defending the move, the MoD said: “Modern armies require more than just tanks.”

5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland

Formed in: 2006

Based in: Canterbury, Kent

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion can trace its roots back to 1881, and fought major campaigns in both world wars.

The 5th Battalion will now be reduced to a public duties company to carry out ceremonial roles in Scotland. David Cameron was urged to cut more battalions from Scottish regiments, but was reportedly reluctant to do so to avoid handed a public relations coup to Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering