Royal Anglians safe despite cuts

THE Royal Anglian Regiment has escaped massive army cutbacks – just weeks after a major campaign was launched by the East Anglian Daily Times to save it.

THE Royal Anglian Regiment has escaped massive army cutbacks - just weeks after a major campaign was launched by the East Anglian Daily Times to save it.

Defence Minister Geoff Hoon has left the Royal Anglian Regiment intact but axed four infantry battalions from and merged Scottish and English single battalion regiments into super-regiments.

Nearly 1,000 EADT readers signed a petition calling on Mr Hoon not to scrap one of the Royal Anglian battalions or merge the regiment into a super-regiment. Last week Braintree MP Alan Hurst handed it over to Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram at the Ministry of Defence.

Our campaign, launched two-and-a-half weeks ago, received support from the region's MPs, former and serving soldiers, D-day veterans, relatives of Royal Anglians and former war correspondent and independent MP Martin Bell.

Yesterday Lieutenant Colonel Peter Dixon, regimental secretary of the Royal Anglian Regiment thanked the EADT for our campaign.

He said: “As ever, the Royal Anglians have led by example. We went through our own reorganisation in 1964 when our “super-regiment” was formed from the antecedent, county regiments of East Anglia.

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“The benefits and successes of such a structure have been recognised today in the announcement that other single-battalion regiments are to be merged into larger regiments.

“We are pleased that we are not to experience any further changes and that we have retained our two battalions and our title.

“We are very grateful for the support we have received during the last few weeks from Members of Parliament, the local media and the general public.”

Captain Alex Biggs, Royal Anglian Regiment regimental careers officer, said: “We are absolutely delighted we are going to remain as we are and continue hopefully to make East Anglia and the East Midlands proud as the local infantry regiment and continue to operate as we have done.”

Jo Bristowe, of Halesworth, whose son serves in the Royal Anglian Regiment, collected about 200 signatures.

She said yesterday: “We're all as pleased as punch it's gone that way and that they have chosen the ones they did.”

Tracey Kelly, of Leiston, signed the petition in memory of her brother, Dean Scarlett, who served in the regiment for 12 years and died last year. When she heard the Royal Anglians were safe, she said: “I think it's brilliant. It's fantastic news.”

Former soldier Andrew Thomas, who saw service in Northern Ireland and Bosnia with the Royal Anglians, said yesterday: “I'm over the moon. It's really good for the region of East Anglia.”

The region's MPs were also pleased that the Royal Anglian Regiment was not a victim of the cuts.

Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns said: “I would like to congratulate the East Anglian Daily Times on its magnificent campaign to save the Royal Anglian Regiment. Its efforts, with its timely petition, was an important contribution to the fight to stop the Government from cutting back on the Regiment.

“I am extremely pleased that the Royal Anglian Regiment has emerged unscathed from the latest rounds of defence cuts. However, I am disturbed that the cuts will generally undermine the army at a time when the Government is expecting them to carry out more peace-keeping duties around the world.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell spoke in support of the regiment in the House of Commons.

North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin: “I am delighted for the Royal Anglians and I congratulate the East Anglian Daily Times on a splendid campaign.

“However, we must remember the big picture - the Government is cutting the size of the Army while it remains over-stretched and this is Labour taking risks with our defence and the lives of our servicemen and women, including all who serve with the Royal Anglians.”

Former war reporter and independent MP Martin Bell, who did his national service with the Suffolk Regiment, said: “I am delighted that both battalions have survived.

“They have a strong tradition in East Anglia. They are well recruited. When they were formed, the idea was it would be a big regiment. It could not have gone down to one battalion.

“I feel sorry for the Scots and the Lancastrians, but to me it is extraordinary the Army is being asked to take part in these expeditionary wars with fewer and fewer people.”

The EADT launched the campaign after we received information that the Queen's Division, which includes the Royal Anglians, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment and Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, that generals had been told to come up at short notice with a plan to restructure the division and lose a battalion.

The division's chief's preferred option was to merge all three regiments into a super-regiment of five battalions, but they would not say which battalion should face the axe.

The Royal Anglian Regiment, which was formed in 1964 from county regiments including the Essex and Suffolks, has one of the best recruitment and retention records in the country.

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