Battle to save Fusiliers is lost

Bury Times: Former soldiers from the second battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), gather prior to a march in Westminster last October. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire Former soldiers from the second battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF), gather prior to a march in Westminster last October. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

THE battle to save the Bury-based 2nd battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, has been lost.

The 2RRF will now be disbanded under Govern-ment plans to replace 20,000 regular soldiers with 30,000 reservists.

Former Fusiliers have paraded outside the gates of 10 Downing Street to coincide with the weekly meeting of the cabinet since February 2013 as part of the ‘Honour Guard’.

But they have now stopped their protest after the plans were given Royal Assent, with the Defence Reform Bill becoming the Defence Reform Act.

Dennis Laverick, who spent nine years in the Army with the Lancashire Fusiliers and 2RRF and runs the Fusiliers Association website, said: “There is nothing we can do now, but we will be proved right because they will not get enough recruits.

“They will go and do the job, because that is what Fusiliers do, but it is putting us at risk. We might not have enough people to fight in future battles.”

The campaign had seen the mother of murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby travel to London to add her family’s support.

In addition, retired Colonel Ian Brazier of 2RRF interrupted Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s speech at last year’s Conservative Party conference, and labelled him a “disgrace”.

The Government says scrapping the battalion will save £27.5 million a year.

However campaigners said that it is one of the best manned battalions in the army, and questioned whether reservists will be available to fill the void.

It will continue to function as one regular battalion and one reservist battalion, as part of the Army 2020 plan.

Bury North MP David Nuttall had opposed the plans, previously describing them as “short sighted”.

Former Fusilier captain John Baron, who is MP for Basildon and Billericay and led the campaign in Parliament, said: “The Honour Guard has been integral to our campaign to save 2RRF.

“It is a great testament to the passion felt by Fusiliers that it has been maintained for so long and in all weathers.

“Whilst deeply disappointed with the decision to axe 2RRF, we take comfort from the strength of the Regimental Association and the fact the Regiment will continue in 1RRF and 5RRF.”

Mr Nuttall added: “The Honour Guard has formed part of the wider campaign to persuade the Ministry of Defence to reverse its position to disband 2RRF.

“Since the announcement that 2RRF was to be cut in July 2012, the campaign has seen over 500 ex-Fusiliers march on Parliament in October 2012 and again in October 2013.

“There have been two back bench Parliamentary debates, as well as representations during Parliamentary debates, Prime Minister’s Questions and Defence questions.

“Outside Parliament, the regimental associations have organised their own campaigns, which have included petitions and articles in local newspapers.”

“However, in light of the fact that it seems the disbandment will unfortunately go ahead, a decision has been taken that the Honour Guard will cease.”

Timeline

  • July, 2012: Plans to axe the 2nd Battalion, a light role infantry battalion of the Army which has served in every major campaign since 1674, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, are announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
  • July, 2012: Campaigners take part in a silent demonstration against the plans at the cenotaph in St Peter’s Square, Manchester.
  • October, 2012: Hundreds of soldiers and ex-Fusiliers march on Whitehall in protest.
  • February, 2013: Former Fusiliers form the Honour Guard for the first time outside 10 Downing Street, to coincide with the weekly meeting of the cabinet.
  • September, 2013: Colonel Ian Brazier heckles Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester and labels Mr Hammond a “disgrace”.
  • October, 2013: 92 veterans and Fusilier family members including Lyn, the mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, travel to London for protest.
  • May 27, 2014: The Honour Guard stops.

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