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British Regimental System - 2004 Revisions

The Secretary of State for Defence announced in July 2004 a rebalancing of the Army designed to make it better able to meet the challenges and threats of the 21st century. The changes announced reflected the need both to complement our existing heavy and light weight capabilities with new medium weight forces. Reductions in the size of the infantry were possible because of the reduction in the requirement for permanently committed forces to support the Police Service of Northern Irelan; and the decision by the Army Board that the infantry arms plot — the mechanism by which units routinely moved location and changed role every few years — no longer represented the best way to deliver operational capability. In future, battalions would be fixed by role and largely by location.

This required finding a new means of providing variety of experience and posting for individuals to sustain the operational flexibility for which infantry units are rightly famed. In future, that would be provided through individual posting. The only means of doing that within the framework of the regimental structure is by having regiments of more than one battalion.

This was tempered with a recognition of the need to take account of regional and geographic representation. That is why for example, the Government looked to Scotland for only one reduction; and why the Royal Irish Regiment was exempted from consideration. The Army also considered the Gurkha battalions but concluded that, given the requirement to sustain the Brunei garrison and their excellent manning record, they should not face any reduction. It also took account of the ceremonial duties required of the five battalions of the Foot Guards. It concluded that these justified the status quo in relation to both the number and organisation of these battalions.

One battalion was taken from the Scottish Division. The Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers would merge. This and the other four battalions—including the Black Watch—would become part of a new large regiment, to be called the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The identities of the antecedent regiments would be preserved in a variety of ways, not least by including them prominently in the battalion titles of the new regiment. So, for example, the 1st Battalion the Royal Highland Fusiliers would become the Royal Highland Fusiliers (2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland).

One battalion was taken from the area west of the Pennines. The King's Own Royal Border Regiment, the King's Regiment and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment would amalgamate to form two new battalions within the new King's, Lancashire and Border Regiment. One battalion was taken from the Prince of Wales's Division in the south of England. This would be achieved by merging the antecedent components of the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment with, in the case of the Glosters, the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiment, which would then merge with the Light Infantry, and, in the case of the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment, with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. The fourth infantry battalion reduction was found by removing the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment from the infantry structure, and using its highly trained manpower as the core of a new, tri-service ranger unit.

The infantry would be organised into large regiments. The seven existing multi-battalion regiments would continue. In addition to the changes I have already announced, the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Wales would combine as the Royal Welsh. They would be known respectively as 1st Battalion the Royal Welsh (the Royal Welch Fusiliers) and 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh (the Royal Regiment of Wales). The Staffordshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment and the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters would combine as the Mercian Regiment, and be known as 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Cheshires), 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) and 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment (Staffords). And the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment and the Green Howards would come together to form the Yorkshire Regiment and be known as 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) and 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington's).

In implementing the new system the Army would ensure that the regimental traditions, heritages, cultures and local connections would live on in the new arrangements. Golden threads of identity would be preserved within any new uniform; for example, by the retention of accoutrements, such as the Black Watch hackle. The new battalions would continue to recruit in the areas of their original constituent elements. Regional recruiting would remain in the bedrock of the British infantry.

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Page last modified: 25-04-2013 17:44:05 ZULU