Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting back home

The plan for the return of forces at home from Germany bases by 2020 is taking shape, with a first tranche of transfers announced today. The MOD estimates that the rebasing of troops from Germany will save some £250m a year, but they have also had to admit that without the latest, massive reductions in manpower, the transfer would not have been possible for lack of accommodation in the UK, which would have meant having to spend money (which was of course not available) to prepare bases. This was noted also by the Parliamentary Defence Committee in its SDSR report.
But with the regular Army now set to drop to 82.000 men by 2020, and with several RAF Bases having been vacated, the return of the army of the Rhine can finally be made a reality. It is also expected that bringing the forces currently based in Germany back to the UK will contribute around £650m per year to the UK economy, as wages are spent in the UK instead of in Germany.

The news announced are:

- 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (2 R ANGLIAN), currently resident in Cyprus, will not return to Trenchard Barracks, Celle, as originally planned. They will now move into RAF Cottersmore instead, in July 2012. The move will involve 620 service personnel and their families.

- 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (2 YORKS), also resident in Cyprus, will move into Elizabeth Barracks, Pirbright, in July 2013, rather than moving to Münster Station in Germany. The move will involve 620 service personnel and their families.

- 7 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), part of 102 Logistic Brigade, under Theatre Troops control, will move from Bielefeld in Germany to Cottesmore by Summer 2013. The transfer involves some 450 service personnel and their families. 

Cyprus is not being abandoned. Other resident battalions will periodically be based on the island, as normal, without reductions in the number of soldiers present.
These moves mean Waterbeach Barracks will be sold and Trenchard Barracks (Celle) and Münster Station will be handed back to the German authorities, enabling the HQ British Forces Germany to transfer from Rheindahlen to Bielefeld, and making possible the closure of Rheindahlen Military Complex from 2014/15.

- 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) will move from Waterbeach near Cambridge to Kinloss in the summer of 2012, and HQ 12 (Air Support) Engineer Group will move from Waterbeach to RAF Wittering in the summer of 2013.

25 Engineer Regiment  (Air Support) will be disbanded within 31 May 2012, with the loss of 43 Headquarters and Support Squadron. Its two Field Squadrons, (34 and 53) will be passed to 39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support) and move into RAF Wittering.
Unless further changes are announced, this effectively reverses a 2007 decision, which saw 25 ER formed detaching 2 squadrons from 39 ER, funnily enough.

39 Regiment should thus take on this look:

  • 10 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Kinloss
  • 48 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Kinloss
  • 34 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Wittering
  • 53 Field Squadron (Air Support) - RAF Wittering
  • 60 Headquarters and Support Squadron (Air Support).- RAF Kinloss
  • REME Workshop. - RAF Kinloss 
HQ 12 (Air Sp) Engr Gp should at that point (again, unless further reductions come) command the following force:

39 Engineer Regiment (Air Support)
71 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers)
73 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers)
Works Group Royal Engineers (Airfields)

Waterbeach Barracks will subsequently be closed by December 2013. The transfer of 39 Regiment and its expansion involve the move of some 930 Service personnel and their families to Kinloss, and 44 Service personnel and their families to Wittering.

The Royal Engineers also face the temporary loss of the M3 rigs, which are being put into extended readiness until 2015. The plan is to bring them back in full service after the Afghan effort is over, so 23 (Amphibious) Squadron of 28 Regiment RE should be safe, even with its main bit of kit being mothballed. It remains a bitter news, especially since the M3 was in action not later than 2003, ferrying elements of 3 Commando Brigade across the Shatt Al-Basrah waterway during Operation TELIC.  

- 43 Close Support Squadron RLC will move from Gütersloh in Germany to Abingdon in Oxfordshire to colocate with its parent regiment (12 Logistic Support Regiment) by the end of January 2012. This will affect around 120 Service personnel and their families.

This is likely the end of the "soft" announcements. Save for 25 Engineer Regiment, this Tranche of transfers was painless, but this is highly unlikely to continue, as it is expected that a good share of the battalions currently based in Germany won't be exactly transferred, but more disbanded. The next tranches are very likely to be a lot less pleasant announcements.

Apparently unchanged is the plan for Operation Borona, which is about getting 1 Signals Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade re-deployed from Germany to RAF Cosford, near Stafford, by 2014. 1 Signals Brigade HQ relocated in the UK from Germany in 2010, and is now co-located with HQ ARRC at Gloucester. 7, 16 and 22 Signals Regiments are to follow and move to Stafford.

The Royal Signals will change considerably:

- 7th Signal Regiment; it will disband by 31 July 2012 , following its commitment to supporting the IJC headquarters in Afghanistan.

- 209 Signals Squadron, part of 19 Light Brigade, in early 2013 as the brigade itself disbands

- 2nd Signals Brigade; it will disband around the end of 2012 as its role in supporting the Olympics comes to an end. The units currently in the brigade will move to be under command of the remaining two signal (1st and 11th) brigades, but the plan for the transfer and eventual disbandment of some of the regiments has not yet been completed.

- The Unified System Support Organisation (USSO) became 15th Signal Regiment (Information Support) in September.

- The one-star Signal Officer in Chief post will cease to exist in March 2012. Responsibilities for producing Command Support and EW doctrine and strategy, setting training requirements, designing the Corps’ structures, and integrating and trialling new equipment capabilities will move to HQ Land Forces under a ‘Capability Director’ (which will be, initially, the current one-star Signal Officer in Chief), and join up with similar functions supporting Intelligence, as well as taking on new tasks, including equipment requirement setting. As part of that process the Royal Signals have already taken the Command and Control Development Centre (C2DC) under command. A new post, the "RE Corps Colonel" will be created and he or she will be the head of the serving Corps, with specific responsibilities for ethos, support to recruiting, support to the Military Secretary and the APC, the retired Corps and the wider family, benevolence and operational support, heritage and the Museum. It will be the connection between the Capability Director within HQ Land and the RE force.

Interestingly, the Capability Directorate initiative seems to be cancelling a post, to create two in its place. Not exactly what i expected. Hopefully, it'll work well enough to justify the change.

Project AVANTI also delivered news:

As planned, the three UK regional divisional headquarters in Edinburgh, Shrewsbury and Aldershot will be replaced by a single 2-stars structure, the "Headquarters Support Command", to stand up in Aldershot.

The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot will begin operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot will disband.
HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th Division in Shrewsbury will both disband by April 2012, although some tasks will continue until at least August 2012 when HQ Support Command should be fully operational.
Despite the closure of HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh, the Army will retain a General Officer Commanding (GOC) Scotland with the minimum of staff, which maintains the level of senior representation in Scotland to oversee the rebasing changes.

In addition, the Army intends to relocate HQ 1 (UK) Armoured Division, currently based in Germany, to Scotland by 2020, which would take over the GOC Scotland role.

The ten regional brigade headquarters and HQ London District will begin restructuring in January 2012 which will be completed by 31 March 2013. The Project Avanti restructuring proposals should save £19m in terms of military and civilian post reductions.
When the SDSR was published, it was announced that at least two regional brigades HQ would be eliminated, but this was lately denied by the announcements last July, which stated:

Savings at the brigade level will now be made through structural changes to each of the ten regional Brigade HQ’s and to HQ London District, together with their supporting structures, rather than closing individual brigade HQ as identified in the SDSR.
 In theory, all 10 Regional Brigade HQs and London District should survive, even if with substantial differences. We will see.

In the meanwhile, minister Peter Luff has also delivered a speech to the Modern Infantry Conference and Exhibition at Bisley in Surrey. Not without elements of interests and good general points, but as too often happens with these speeches, he gives very little concrete indications about anything at all relating to the future of the British Army infantry formations.
At least, he confirms that later this month the first of a planned 35 Foxhound vehicles destined for training will arrive, with the first operational batch going in Afghanistan next year.

After the speech, he talked to reporters presents, and said that FRES SV will be "perfectly affordable" and that it fits the requirement for adaptability perfectly. It remains a fundamental part of the future army.

On the retention of Afghanistan UORs, he stressed that the UK will have to "make the most efficient use of the vehicles' left over that were developed as UORs, even though the downside of them 'becomes clear post-war, as they were procured for the war, not a war".

In the last few months, Mastiff was reportedly in first line for long-term confirmation, and there are expectations about Jackal as well, ever since officers of the Army announced that the Brigade Recce Regiments are set to have 2 Armoured Squadrons (with FRES) and one "Light" Squadron with wheeled patrol vehicles "open", to make it easier to relate with locals.
The description, and experience of the current shape of Recce Forces in Afghan ops, suggest that said vehicle will be the Jackal, eventually with a long term replacement in the better-protected Fire Support variant of the Foxhound.
Foxhound itself that is already considered Core, and not UOR, and for which there are expectations for at least another order, for further 200 vehicles.


  1. Hi Gabriele,
    And so it begins!
    I have just read the above on the MoD site.
    I agree the next news is unlikely to be so good.
    I have yet to workout what will be left in Germany, and if that is the start of the list for the disbandment’s.
    As you say, there is a lack of detail on both equipment and units. But it's remembrance Sunday this week, so I doubted that the very bad news would be announced before this important date in the military calender.

  2. Well, the transfer kind of began years ago. A good bit of stuff came home already, but the last big phase certainly is now starting.

    And yes. The next tranches are likely to involve some more bad news and see some battalions disappear.

    By the way, i was editing the post while your comment arrived.
    I added info that i found about the restructuring of the Royal Signals as well.

    Guess it? More cuts, of course.

  3. Hi Gabriele,
    As you say we will soon hear which battalions are to disappear.
    I think a lot depends if 2 & 3 PARA remain within 5 plus 2 brigade structure.
    They may join 1 PARA in the Special Forces support role. This would solve the problem of 16 AA Brigade, and it could then be renamed 16 Air Mobile.
    My list of the 6 to go are;
    1 GUARDS BN. (Maybe!)
    5 SCOTS (No shock there)
    PWRR and R ANG to merge to form a 3 BN Regt
    RRF and LANCS to merge to form a 3 BN Regt
    The UK based GURKHA BN (For political reasons)
    5 RIFLES
    If I have got 6 out of 6 to I get a prize?
    I am assuming that 20 battalions would be required for the MRB, 4 for 3 Cdo, 4 for 16 AA, and 1 for the Cyprus garrison. If the remaining Guards Bns are split between the MRB, then I can not see how 2 Bns could be tasked for ceremonial duties outside the 5 plus 2 brigade structure.

  4. I don't think 2 and 3 PARA will move aside and into the SFSG. And i would be surprised (and admittedly, saddened) by seeing the Coldstream Guards going as was suggested.

    For the rest, 5 SCOTS truly does feel like a goner. Rumors are that 3 out of 6 Scottish Battalions could go, actually, but personally i do think that it would be a bit too much. Especially with an independence referendum ahead.

    I also think that the 2 Gurkha battalions are safe. A bit politically sensitive, and 2 are already few... cutting it to one would be an invitation to cut the whole lot.

    The merges you suggest might be realistic instead. Some reorganization is definitely ahead. But we will have to see!

    Also, only 1 in 4 RM battalions is counted as Army.
    The 3 Commando units are Navy, and safe, and i think 1 Rifles is, too. It won't be changed. At least, i think it won't.

  5. Thanks for your comments Gabriele,
    (By the way, I am aware of the composition of 3 Cdo)
    If 2 & 3 PARA don’t get taken out of the brigade structure I fear a further 2 battalions will have to be cut. Making a total of eight. I assume that the 3 RM Cdo units of 3 Cdo are safe.
    As I see it there is not a lot of room for manoeuvre. I can’t see any regiment being cut by 2 battalions, and as there is only 12 infantry regiments plus the Guards, I can’t see where or how else the reduction in numbers can be achieved? Also, the army is trying to avoid if it can 1 or 2 battalion regiments.
    Of course, this it not always possible, for instance the Welsh and Irish regiments.
    I would be interested in your prediction, and reasons why certain battalions/regiments would be reduced.
    Of course what we would consider sensible and fair does not mean the MoD would!

  6. I think it might be optimistic to assume that there won't be regiments losing more than one battalion.

    5 SCOTS was reported as being pretty much dead, but 4 SCOTS, being a Warrior battalion and based in Germany, might be at serious risk as well. Besides, the Scots Guards are in Warrior themselves, so two scottish armoured infantry battalions might be hard to retain.

    Your proposals in terms of regiment merges do appear likely at first gaze, but i must admit i'm not quite prepared enough on their history and geographical connection to make a hypothesis about how it could work.

    5 Rifles, again on Warrior, i agree is a quite possible casualty as well.

    In the armoured infantry role that would leave:

    Scots Guards
    3 Yorks
    3 Mercian
    1 Battalion from the Regiment birthing from PWRR and Royal Anglian
    1 Battalion from the Regiment birthing from RRF and LANCS
    2nd Welsh

    For the planned 5 + 1 Training and Preparation structure.

    I think The Rifles could be asked to lose a second battalion, especially if the Scots lose two.

    That would make a cut of 6, if i've not lost myself.
    I really do hope it will be enough. If it is not enough, then the danger for the Coldstream might really start to get real, even if i can't quite imagine the British Army without them. And the eight... well. It probably would have to be PARA, but judging from the uproar that followed even just the very sensible proposal of cutting parachute training in itself, i still think it would be hard to say the very, very least.

    But what else could you cut then? Either another SCOTS, or another RIFLES.
    Irish and Welsh, i don't think you can politically make any smaller. Both regions have to be represented, after all.

    Not easy. Really not easy.
    And a damn unpleasant exercise, too.

  7. Hi Gabriele
    I was interested to read the article in the telegraph about possible cuts to the army.
    10 battalions to be cut from the infantry, didn’t shock me. But to hear 5 regiments from the RAC could go did. I assume they are thinking one from each multi role brigade, and again I assume that would be the MBT regiment in each brigade? I Suppose you could argue that as most of that regiments vehicles would be in storage so that would make sense to make those regiments TA units? Again, I am only guessing. But, I think we are still in the area of smoke and mirrors, and inter regiment bartering!


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