Army units face axe under defence cutbacks

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Entire infantry and armoured units will face the axe as a result of the Government’s programme of cuts to the armed forces, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has warned.

In a newspaper interview he said the planned scale of reductions could not be achieved without the loss of some units.

Under the plans set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Army is to be reduced from 102,000 soldiers to 82,000.

The Daily Telegraph also reported that units with large numbers of soldiers recruited from the Commonwealth would be particularly vulnerable.

Currently about one infantry soldier in 10 comes from outside the UK, although some units have significantly larger foreign contingents than others.

“The Army is getting smaller,” Mr Hammond said. “Clearly the Army can’t get smaller by 17 per cent without losing some units. I can’t say to you that there will be no loss of battalions in the infantry as we downsize the Army. We are looking at the options in the Army and the armoured corps.”

An MoD spokesman said: “A review of the future structure of the Army is ongoing and no conclusions have yet been reached.

“As General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, has stated previously, the Army is confident it can meet its target of 82,000 by 2020.

“This is in line with the agreement between the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the General Staff for a gradual move towards the new Army structure so operations are not adversely affected by necessary changes.”

Mr Hammond indicated that the units most likely to be abolished or merged included those which fail to recruit their full strength in the UK, and have to rely on soldiers from elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

His comments led to speculation that historic cap badges such as the Green Howards, part of the Yorkshire Regiment, could vanish.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: “Defence is about more than inputs, outputs and spreadsheets. It is also about people, tradition and pride.

“Philip Hammond seems either oblivious or uncaring about the historic ties that many communities have to Army units and vice versa. Savings have to be made and Army restructuring is required, but ministers must do so in way that makes our forces more efficient while respecting long-standing ties.”