News Article

ARMY 2020 MERGER OF 1 and 2 RTR

06 July 2012

The Secretary of State for Defence has announced the future structure of the Army, under the programme known as Army 2020.  This will see the Regular Army reduced to 82,000 and the Reserve increased to an employable strength of 30,000. Twenty three Regular units will be removed from the Army ORBAT as a consequence of the move to the new structure.   As far as the Royal Armoured Corps is concerned, there are to be two fewer units than there are at present, and the CGS has written to me to inform me that one of these reductions will be brought about by the merger of The First and The Second Royal Tank Regiments.  In addition to letting you know that this is to happen, my purpose in writing this letter is to describe how this came about, to tell you what I think it means for us, and to outline how we will approach this change.  I expect the contents of this letter to be widely disseminated amongst the members of the Regiment, both serving and retired.   Starting from first principles, I believe that it was not unreasonable of the Government to expect the Army to take a share of the public expenditure reductions necessitated by its debt crisis.   I would also observe that the Army has gone to considerable efforts to design a structure capable of generating a first class fighting force.   In its intention to make better use of the Reserve, and its emphasis on overseas engagement and capacity building, and on UK engagement and homeland resilience, Army 2020 has the potential to be an improvement upon today.   And in the Reaction Forces it will maintain robust formations capable of projecting force anywhere in the world and of fighting in the most demanding operations.    The Household Cavalry and RAC have been proportionately less hard hit than some elements of the Army, I suspect to the surprise of those commentators who have written us off.    There are to be three large armoured regiments, each equipped with 56 Main Battle Tanks, three armoured cavalry regiments, initially equipped with CVR(T) but in due course with SCOUT, three light cavalry regiments, each of which will be equipped with JACKAL and partnered with a Yeomanry Regiment, and a further Yeomanry Regiment to provide replacement crews for the armoured regiments.   This all adds up to a total of nine Regular regiments, four Yeomanry regiments in the Reserve, and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.       To bring about this structure, two Regular regiments will have to go.   How this is to be achieved has been the subject of a process which involved all the Cavalry Colonels and I, and the Army Command Group (ACG).  I consulted the Deputy Colonels Commandant and the Commanding Officers, and five former Colonels Commandant, before the process began.     My first suggestion was that the Regular element of the RAC should become either one or three large regiments.   I made this proposal because I felt, and continue to feel, that the structure of single battalion regiments on which most of the RAC is currently based is significantly harder to sustain than a large regiment approach.  It is, I believe, no coincidence that more officers and soldiers have sought to join the RTR and HCav than other units in the RAC.   Part of this is due to the breadth of the offer which our larger regiments have been able to make.   Sadly, though there was some support for this idea, it did not carry the day.  Instead, responding to a request to recommend an RAC that would be reduced by three Regular regiments, and using principles that have governed similar reductions in the past, a meeting of the RAC Colonels Commandant at which I was present recommended the amalgamation of 9th/12th Lancers and Queens Royal Lancers, the amalgamation of the Queens Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, and the merger of 1 and 2 RTR, in that order.  I argued against this recommendation, primarily on the grounds that it did not take sufficient account of amalgamations before those of 1992/93.     In the final event, the ACG decided to reduce the RAC by only two Regular regiments.  However, unfortunately, it also concluded that the most important principle that should apply in delivering this reduction was that the number of cap badges to be lost should be minimised.  As a result, it decided that the right thing to do was to merge 1 and 2 RTR and to amalgamate 9/12L and QRL.   As you would expect, I did not agree with this, and have made this clear to the chain of command.  RTR regiments have been amalgamated or disbanded in all three previous Reviews in the post war period.  This decision will make it four out of four.  In contrast, some regiments will survive untouched that have been amalgamated only once in the same period.   From World War strengths of over 45% of the RAC and HCav, and a current proportion of 18%, we will reduce to 11% once this reduction has happened.      This is very hard to take after all that the Regiment has done since its formation.  But as strongly as I disagree with the outcome, I believe equally strongly that the Army has the right to make these decisions as it sees fit, and to expect not only that we will follow orders, but that we will put our best foot forward as we do so.  So that is what The Royal Tank Regiment is going to do.       No date for the merger has yet been set.  It will not be before April 14 in order not to interfere with both Regiments’ operational commitments, but I would expect it to be complete by not later than 2016.  The RTR Council has decided that the merged Regiment will be called The Royal Tank Regiment and that we wish to be one of the armoured regiments in the Reaction Forces that are expected to be based around Salisbury Plain under Army 2020.    But the Army is only now starting to write the detailed plan on roles and basing, so we cannot yet be definitive about these things, (though I would be surprised if the RTR had an enduring home in Honington).  Nor is it clear what happens in the interim as we transition from our current state to our future state (other than our operational commitments, which are not expected to change).  For example, though I have seen nothing definitive in writing on the subject, it seems highly likely that A Squadron’s training support role in Warminster will end.  But whether this will be before or after the rest of 1 RTR has left Honington is not yet clear.       What we can say is that two further tranches of redundancy are expected to be required to deliver a properly structured Army of 82,000.  The Army Board’s intention is to do this across Arms and Corps, by rank, trade and length of service, and to take applicants over non-applicants wherever possible.   There will also be opportunities for transfer elsewhere in the RAC or wider Army, should people so wish.  In his letter to me, CGS says that being in a regiment selected for merger will not affect an individual’s likelihood of selection for redundancy: it will be important to demonstrate that this promise has been kept over the next couple of years.        I regret what is going to happen to the great institution that is the RTR.  I am also acutely aware that there will be continued uncertainty for individuals, even if the end-state for the Regiment is now significantly clearer.  Together with the Deputy Colonels Commandant and the Regimental Colonel, I will assist the Commanding Officers and the chain of command to work through all the detail over the coming months.  You can expect us to provide accurate information as and when we know it, and to be striving to ensure that this whole process is as painless as we can make it.   But I would expect you now to make the best of this going forward, as you always do.  Our aim must be to generate the strongest Regiment in the RAC, in all respects.   Fear Naught.  Major General Deverell Colonel Commandant Royal Tank Regiment 
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