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Saturday, July 10, 2004

I did try to post this yesterday, but my internet connection's been gone until now, so apologies, but it's still an important point, that John Keegan raised in yesterday's Telegraph:
Why, then, does the Government contemplate - apparently so blithely - reducing yet further the number of regiments, the only really efficient instruments of power that it controls?
. . .
These are dangerous times, all the more so since the threat to national security is diffuse and inchoate. (. . .) In such circumstances, the preservation of our oldest and most reliable instruments of defence is essential. Tiny organisations such as the Royal Scots - Britain's oldest regiment, older than the Bank of England or most of our universities, only 500 strong but extraordinarily adaptable and worth whole armies of terrorists - should be recognised as national treasures. Once disbanded or even amalgamated, they cannot be recreated.
The Chancellor, arrogantly refusing to understand defence, will not be forgiven if, in the crisis that is certainly coming, his penny-pinching deprives the British of the protection of such regiments. They are the real communities - of patriotism, of commitment and of efficiency - that the Prime Minister says he so much admires.
Perhaps Mr Plastic Gangster can correct me here and there's some reason the non-expert defence observer myself doesn't know, but wouldn't it be simply wiser to maintain all regiments on a company-only level, rather than insisting on battalion-size units and then abolish or amalgamate historic regiments? I admit "A company, the Royal Scots" sounds slightly less impressive than "1st battalion, the Royal Scots", but really so much more, that the regiment itself would otherwise face the axe. I don't want to see the Army cut down any more than it is already, but I'd rather we changed the size of our historic regiments than abolish them in the futile battle against Gordon Brown's ego.
The only doubt to this policy that I have is the question, whether the ethos and the effectiveness of infantry units can be maintained if their regimental no longer is a manoeuvre unit, but instead their manoeuvre units are co-operatives of different regiments, and perhaps even different arms branches. On the other hand, if armour and mechanized infantry units permanently trained and lived together wouldn't that perhaps increase their inter-operational abilities?


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