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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

‘Disappointment’ as Mercian unit disbanded in shake-up

An officer with the Mercians – the infantry regiment adopted by the towns of Congleton and Sandbach – has said he is “deeply disappointed” with the news that the 2nd Mercian Battalion will be disbanded.

The Mercian Regiment – the Cheshire, Worcesters and Foresters, and Staffords – is an infantry regiment of the British Army, formed from five of the counties that made up the ancient kingdom of Mercia.

Created in September 2007, the regiment was an amalgamation of three regiments that existed for more than 300 years.

The Mercians were given the Freedom of Cheshire East in May 2010, and of Sandbach in 2014.

But the Government this week announced that the 2nd Mercians will be amalgamated with its battalion to form a new Boxer-mounted battalion, the Boxer being a multi-role armoured fighting vehicle.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace issued the news saying that the army’s increased “deployability and technological advantage” meant that “greater effect can be delivered by fewer people” and said he had taken the decision to reduce the size of the army from today’s current strength of 76,500 trade trained personnel to 72,500 by 2025.

The army has not been at its established strength of 82,000 since the middle of the last decade, he said.

The changes will not require redundancies and there would be no loss of cap badges, he added.

He said: “The new structures will require fewer units. Therefore the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment will be amalgamated with their battalion to form the new Boxer-mounted battalion.

Lt Col James Green, of the Mercian Regiment, told the Chronicle he was “deeply disappointed” by the news.

He said: “I think we can all agree it is vital that our armed forces must change to be able respond to new threats. For the army, the review has concluded that we need fewer infantry battalions.

“We are deeply disappointed that 2 Mercian has been selected to be disbanded. The battalion was formed in 2007 but can trace its history back to 1689.

“In that short time, it has served with distinction on operations in Afghanistan (three tours), and in Cyprus.

“Fortunately, all of the soldiers and officers currently serving with us will keep their jobs but be moved into other roles.”

Minister Mr Wallace said the army as whole would be reorganised, saying: “To administer the new infantry we will reorganise the regiments to sit in four infantry divisions.

“Each will comprise a more balanced number of battalions and give the men and women serving in them a wider range of choices and opportunities in pursuing their careers and specialties.

“In order to ensure that there is a balanced allocation of recruits we will introduce intelligent recruiting for the infantry and each division of infantry will initially feed the four new Ranger battalions.”

The British Army will reorganise into seven brigade combat teams, two heavy, one deep strike, one air manoeuvre, and two light, plus a combat aviation brigade.

An army special operations brigade will be built around the four battalions of a new Ranger Regiment, seeded from the Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, and the 4th Battalion The Rifles.

Mr Wallace said: “This increased funding offers defence an exciting opportunity to turn our current forces into credible ones, modernising for the threats of the 2020s and beyond, and contributing to national prosperity in the process.

“It marks a shift from mass mobilisation to information age speed, readiness and relevance for confronting the threats of the future.

“The notion of war and peace as binary states has given way to a continuum of conflict, requiring us to prepare our forces for more persistent global engagement and constant campaigning – moving seamlessly from operating to war fighting, if that is required.”

The Mercians have visited Congleton several times. In 2010, a Mercian shop opened in Capitol Walk, Congleton, the only one to sell official First Battalion Mercian Regiment clothing. It followed a parade through the town centre, followed by the presentation of campaign medals.

The town also ran a Jiffy bag scheme to send home comforts to soldiers in Afghanistan.

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