EADT bids to save Royal Anglians

By Juliette MaxamTHE East Anglian Daily Times is launching today a campaign to save the Royal Anglian Regiment, which is under threat of being scrapped and merged into one large "super regiment".

By Juliette Maxam

THE East Anglian Daily Times is launching today a campaign to save the Royal Anglian Regiment, which is under threat of being scrapped and merged into one large "super regiment".

The historic regiment could face the axe in the Government's reorganisation of the army, which is due to be announced before Christmas.

Minsters want to cut the infantry by four battalions and create larger regiments with at least two battalions each.

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The EADT has learned that following the furore in Scotland over possible cuts to Scottish regiments, including the Black Watch, the Queen's Division – which incorporates the Royal Anglian Regiment – has been told to come up with proposals for a possible loss of a battalion and restructuring of the division.

A number of options have been drawn up by the division, which also includes the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

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It is understood the favoured plan is to scrap all three regiments and merge them into a new super-regiment of five battalions, which would be named after the existing regiments.

The Queen's Division has refused to suggest which battalion should be axed and the regimental colonels have been unwilling to associate themselves with the process because they considered the timescale to be too short, the EADT has been told.

Now the East Anglian Daily Times is launching an appeal to save the Royal Anglian Regiment, which has historical links with our region stretching back 300 years.

The regiment has one of the best records for recruitment and retention in the whole country and was described by Defence Minister Geoff Hoon in Parliament this summer as "the perfect example of a successful regional organisation" and "a lesson to the rest of the Army in proper organisation and recruitment".

It was originally formed 40 years ago when county regiments such as the Essex and Suffolk were amalgamated into four regular and three territorial battalions, but successive cutbacks have seen it pared down to just two 650-soldier regular battalions.

Next year the 1st battalion, which is nicknamed "the Vikings" and is based in Pirbright in Surrey, is due to be deployed to Iraq.

The 2nd battalion, nicknamed "the Poachers", are currently based in Ballykelly while on a two-year tour of Northern Ireland. Soldiers from the battalion have seen recent service in the Gulf and Afghanistan.

The EADT is urging readers to sign our petition calling on Mr Hoon to leave the Royal Anglian Regiment intact and not to scrap one of its battalions or to merge it into a super-regiment with the rest of the Queen's Division.

The campaign already has cross-party support of the region's MPs, who have reacted angrily to the threat to the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Simon Burns, Conservative MP for Chelmsford West, said: "If it were to be abolished and merged into a larger geographical area, it would be absolutely disgraceful because the whole history of the regiments is that they have been based on local areas where the local community can identify with them.

"Over the years with past mergers regiment areas have got bigger. At least with the Royal Anglian Regiment there's still a local connection."

Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, added it would be "appalling" if the regiment was scrapped and claimed it would be the result of political rather than military reasons.

"They are themselves the remnants of proud county regiments. If the Royal Anglians were to be removed, it would be the further loss of identifiable army connection in those counties," he said.

"What we need is a mass campaign right across the counties in the Royal Anglian recruitment area and for MPs to stand shoulder to shoulder to stop the further downgrading of the Royal Anglian Regiment. I hope newspapers across those counties will follow your lead."

Alan Hurst, Labour MP for Braintree, gave his support to the EADT campaign. "I very much support the regiment. Mergers have been going on for 50 years or more. We have reached the end. We should preserve some of those regiments and this is one of them," he added.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, where the Royal Anglian Regiment has its regimental headquarters, said: "In many ways we define this part of the country by things like our regiment and it provides a strong sense of identity for us in East Anglia.

"This is more than just about changing a cap badge, this about the identity of the area."

n Did you or your family serve in the Royal Anglian Regiment? We would like to hear your memories of life in the regiment and support for our campaign.

Send then by e-mail to essexnewsdesk@eadt.co.uk or by post to Juliette Maxam, East Anglian Daily Times, Fairfax House, Causton Road, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1RJ.


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