MP calls for historic battalion's return

By Juliette MaxamAN MP has vowed to continue fighting for an infantry battalion with historical links with Essex to be reinstated, despite no "official" support from Army chiefs.

By Juliette Maxam

AN MP has vowed to continue fighting for an infantry battalion with historical links with Essex to be reinstated, despite no "official" support from Army chiefs.

Colchester MP Bob Russell wants the Government to bring back the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment, which was disbanded in defence cutbacks 14 years ago.

The Royal Anglian Regiment, which currently has two battalions, recruits men and women from 10 counties in the east of England and has one of the best recruitment records in the Army.

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Under the latest Army shake-up announced by the Government, single battalion regiments will be grouped into regional regiments following the example of the Royal Anglians.

Mr Russell has suggested that since the Royal Anglian is such a successful regional regiment, the 3rd Battalion, which was originally formed from the Essex Regiment, should be brought back.

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Although there is support among the ranks of the Royal Anglians for the 3rd Battalion to be reinstated, the official line is that it is "inappropriate" to start thinking about bringing it back.

Regimental secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Dixon, said: "We are now a regiment of two well-recruited battalions, one that is proud of its past history and we remain determined to maintain the close links that we have with the counties that we recruit our officers and soldiers from.

"We understand that some restructuring of the Army is now necessary and this will see a reduction of four infantry battalions. In such a climate the reinstatement of the 3rd Battalion would obviously not be appropriate."

But Mr Russell said: "I recognise the official line of the Royal Anglians because clearly it would be inappropriate for any regiment of the British Army to argue for expansion when other regiments are facing difficult times.

"Equally, the Royal Anglians haven't asked me to stop my endeavours to promote the regiment, including the possible reinstatement at a later date of the 3rd Battalion.

"The 10 counties from which the Royal Anglians recruit have a combined population of seven million, which is more than Scotland. I believe that our region, and in particular our county of Essex, deserves to have a 3rd battalion."

Following a call by Mr Russell in the House of Commons for the 3rd Battalion to be reinstated, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said: "The Royal Anglian Regiment is the perfect example of a successful regional organisation that is multi-battalion and that can provide a degree of stability.

"It is a lesson to the rest of the Army in proper organisation and recruitment. That is one of the reasons whey the Army Board is so keen to establish a more consistent structure across the country. That is why Mr Russell is right to assert the interests of the Royal Anglians."

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