In the previous article, about Force Structure, i've noticed the apparent change in the plan for the formationg of Hybrid Engineer Regiments, and documented the ongoing war for the survival of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment.
Another bad decision of the rounds of cuts of the year 2011 might be reversed soon, according to what Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment has written to the RTR community: the wide area, under-armor CBRN reconnaissance capability of the Army, sacrificed with the early withdrawal of the FUCHS vehicle and the net loss of 319 Army posts in the CBRN specialisation, as all residual capability in this area was moved out of the green army and into the RAF Regiment. In total, the loss of the 9 armored vehicles and of all the army personnel in the role was only estimate to save £129 million over a period of 10 years.
|The Fuchs was hurried into service for Operation Granby in 1991|
As often happened in the modern history of the british armed forces, a strategic shock came soon afterwards, reminding everyone of just how stupid the decision just took was. The crisis in Syria, with the use of chemical weapons, accelerated the rethink already going on within the MOD, and added new urgency to the restoration of the wide area CBRN surveillance capability. I talked about it at lenght in June.
Lieutenant-General Christopher Michael Deverell MBE wrote last month about the ongoing planning for the resurrection of such capability, while providing an update on the plans for the merging of 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments into a single Type 56 tank formation as part of the Army 2020 restructuring:
A message from the Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment
My main purpose in writing this message is to cover a number of issues that arise as a result of the amalgamation of our two Regiments. The RTR Council has been looking at these issues, significantly assisted by members of all ranks from both Regiments.The amalgamation issue that will affect serving members of the Regiment in the most immediate way is dress. So I am pleased to be able to say that the Commanding Officers and Regimental Colonel have agreed on the key aspects of the new Dress Regulations to be adopted on amalgamation, the details of which will be promulgated separately. Suffice to say that black will continue to feature highly.The Council has determined that there are a number of amalgamation issues on which it is not yet possible to reach decisions, in which the status quo will therefore continue for the time being. For example, we have not yet been engaged by the Army or the RAC in substantive discussions about Recruiting Areas – so for the time being we would expect to continue to recruit from the same areas of the country that 1 and 2 RTR recruited from. In similar vein, we have not yet formed a view on the distribution of tasks between Regimental Headquarters in Bovington, and the new Regiment in Tidworth. I will report back on these, and other important issues such as the future of the Tank magazine, and of the Association, when I am in a position so to do. But I am now able to let you know what the Council has decided on Squadron names, and on the degree of Scottishness we should seek to maintain, topics that I know will mean a good deal to many of you.
The Council accepts that some of our antecedent Regiments have a tradition of using letters, rather than names, to describe sub-units. However, with the benefit of our considerable experience, and time served in both Regiments, we believe that Squadron names strengthen sub-unit identity in a positive way and that the ability to name our Squadrons offers the Regiment a significant brand advantage over others. We conclude that the advantages of using names, rather than letters, for all our sub-units outweigh the loss of some historical precedent.We have therefore decided that, upon amalgamation, the three armoured squadrons in the Royal Tank Regiment will be known as AJAX, BADGER, and CYCLOPS. Command and Reconnaissance Squadron will be known as DREADNAUGHT, and Headquarters Squadron will be known as EGYPT. Should there be a future CBRN Area Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AS&R) Squadron, it will be known as FALCON. These particular names have been chosen because they represent a connection all the way back to the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps in World War 1, as well as to more recent regimental history. As far as our Scottish heritage is concerned, the Council is proud of this tradition and recognises the benefit it confers in helping us to differentiate ourselves from others. We would not wish it to dominate, but we see it as a net contributor to recruitment. For so long as it is practicable so to do, we would wish to maintain this historical association. We will achieve this by retaining the Pipes and Drums, by painting ‘Chinese Eyes’ on our tanks, and by applying whatever other aspects of Scottishness that the Commanding Officer of the day so authorises. The practicality of this approach will next be reviewed after the referendum on Scottish independence.
Finally, I should take this opportunity to say something about the formation of the CBRN AS&R squadron. As I write this message, there is a strong possibility that the RTR will be invited to generate an additional squadron to meet this task, over and above our Type 56 Armoured Regiment role. But the Defence Board has not yet made a final decision, so the task may yet fail to materialise, or (less likely) could be given to some other unit to perform. I have been involved in a host of high levels discussions about this task, both as your Colonel Commandant and as a member of the Army Command Group. My position throughout has been that the Army and Defence need an AS&R capability, that the RTR has demonstrated the ability to provide it, and that we stand ready to do so again. My one proviso has been to say that it would not be sensible to double-hat this capability with that of an armoured sub-unit: it needs to be a squadron in its own right. Hopefully, we will know the outcome on this issue within the next few months.Fear Naught.Lt Gen C M Deverell MBE 15 November 2013
Restoring the AS&R capability of the armed forces would be a massively welcome move, which would remedy to one of many very questionable, hurried decisions that were taken in 2010 and 2011. Let's hope in good news, for once.