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Present Organisation Of The Infantry

Volume 282: debated on Thursday 11 May 1967

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

The Brigade of Guards:

  • 1st and 2nd Battalions, Grenadier Guards.
  • 1st and 2nd Battalions, Coldstream Guards.
  • 1st and 2nd Battalions, Scots Guards.
  • 1st Battalion, Irish Guards.
  • 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards.

The Lowland Brigade:

  • The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)

The Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment).

  • The King's Own Scottish Borderers.
  • The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

The Queen's Regiment:

  • 1st Battalion, The Queen's Regiment (Queen's Surreys).
  • 2nd Battalion, The Queen's Regiment (Queen's Own Buffs).
  • 3rd Battalion, The Queen's Regiment (Royal Sussex).
  • 4th Battalion, The Queen's Regiment (Middlesex).

The Lancastrian Brigade:

  • The King's Own Royal Border Regiment.
  • The King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool).
  • The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers).
  • The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire).

The Fusilier Brigade:

  • The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
  • The Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers.
  • The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).
  • The Lancashire Fusiliers.

The Royal Anglian Regiment:

  • 1st (Norfolk and Suffolk) Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.
  • 2nd (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire) Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.
  • 3rd (16th/44th Foot) Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.
  • 4th (Leicestershire) Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment.

The Wessex Brigade:

  • The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.
  • The Gloucestershire Regiment.
  • The Royal Hampshire Regiment.
  • The Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (Berkshire and Wiltshire).

The Light Infantry Brigade:

  • The Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry.
  • The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
  • The King's Shropshire Light Infantry.
  • The Durham Light Infantry.

The Yorkshire Brigade:

  • The Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire.
  • The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment).
  • The Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding).
  • The York and Lancaster Regiment.

The Mercian Brigade:

  • The Cheshire Regiment.
  • The Worcestershire Regiment.
  • The Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's).
  • The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire Derbyshire Regiment).

The Welsh Brigade:

  • The Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
  • The South Wales Borderers.
  • The Welsh Regiment.

North Irish Brigade:

  • The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
  • The Royal Ulster Rifles.
  • The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's).

The Highland Brigade:

  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).
  • Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons).
  • The Gordon Highlanders.
  • The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's).

The Parachute Regiment:

  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, The Parachute Regiment.

The Royal Green Jackets:

  • 1st Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets (43rd and 52nd).
  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets (The King's Royal Rifle Corps).
  • 3rd Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets (The Rifle Brigade).

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating this Statement. He will of course appreciate that we cannot give our approval to these proposals until we have heard a great deal more about the details and the reasons for them. I think it is only nine years since a very thorough reorganisation of the Infantry was carried out, and it seems to many of us that the new system established in 1958, with the large regiments, has hardly had time yet to settle down and get working, and there are many people who are most anxious that nothing should now be done which might upset the operational efficiency of the Infantry.

May I ask the noble Lord to say what is the main reason for this change now? Is it simply in order to achieve greater flexibility? I think we agree that under this new set-up it seems likely that it will be much simpler and easier to transfer officers and men from one unit to another; but, after all, in two world wars, under much more difficult conditions, the regimental identities were preserved because the value of the regimental spirit was always recognised. Or is t he reason for taking this action that it will be much easier in future for the Government to make cuts, to disband units by detaching them from one of these new large Divisions, than it would be under the present system? If so, under what principle are these reductions to be made? Are they going to be made in accordance with our commitments, or are they going to be made to fit some financial ceiling which has no relation to our military commitments?

In particular, may I ask the noble Lord to confirm what I think was probably implicit in his Statement. He mentioned the Scottish Division, which will consist of the Lowland Brigade and the Highland Brigade—and these, of course, have already been agreed upon. Can he confirm that the Highland Brigade and the Lowland Brigade will each continue to consist of the present four regiments, the Black Watch, the Gordon Highlanders, the Queen's Own Highlanders, and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and the four Lowland regiments in the Lowland Brigade, and that there will be no interference with their identity, their uniform or their regimental organisation? Further, will the Government bear in mind that the amalgamations which have already taken place among Highland regiments are really as much as can possibly be afforded, and that any further reductions in the future would very gravely damage recruiting in an area where the ratio of recruitment to the population is probably higher than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, I think the reasons for this reorganisation are, as I have indicated, that the Brigade system as it is at present constituted—a system of Infantry Brigades—does not solve the problem of the inequality between recruiting in regions. I agree with the noble Earl that Scotland is a special case; indeed, that has been taken account of in this reorganisation. But we have to minimise the effect of these variations in recruitment by making the organisations larger and therefore covering a wider region of the country.

Secondly, it is, as the noble Earl suggested, and I confirm, much easier to move officers and soldiers between one battalion and another if the two battalions concerned are part of a single organisation. Experience in the functioning of the present system has shown that larger groups are needed. So far as flexibility in the size of the Infantry as a whole is concerned, this will make it easier to alter the number of battalions in the Order of Battle, not only to reduce the number but, if necessary, to increase it. With regard to the reductions and the increases I think I can assure the noble Earl that these decisions will be taken on the basis of a whole complex of factors, including the Defence expenditure and the commitments that we have to carry out.

So far as the Scottish Division is concerned, the future of the regiments, as in the case of all the other Divisions that are being formed, is that certainly for a time the Brigade cap badges and other insignia, and the identity of regiments, will be retained. But it is possible that when this system has settled down there may be some move towards a more divisional esprit de corps, which might even be reflected in Divisional cap badges.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that we have not yet sufficient details to decide on the general principle which has been enunciated in regard to the new Divisional organisations. I wish to make one point, however, and that is that I believe the new organisation, so far as it affects Wales, will be totally unacceptable to Wales. There are English Divisions; there is, as we have just heard—and I am very glad of it—a Scottish Division, but there is no Welsh Division. I am quite sure that my fellow-countrymen will not put up with that, and I am most surprised to hear it from the lips of a former member of the South Wales Borderers. It there can be a Guards Brigade turning into a Guards Division, why cannot there be a Welsh Brigade turning into a Welsh Division? Is it not a fact that the noble Lord's Regiment, the South Wales Borderers, my Regiment, the Welsh Regiment, and the Royal Welch Fusiliers have some of the finest recruiting statistics in the islands?

My Lords, you can well imagine that I am predisposed to sympathise with anything that has to do with the susceptibilities of Wales and especially with the future of Welsh infantry regiments. But I fear that in this case the facts of life must take precedence over whatever affiliations I or the noble Lord may have had in the past. There are, after all, only three Line Regiments in Wales. They may indeed be the most distinguished Line Regiments in the British Army, but there are only three of them, and this would make too small a unit. To have kept the Welsh Brigade, even as a Welsh Division, in being would have created a precedent that all other Brigades would have wanted to follow. The noble Lord will realise that the analogy of the Brigade of Guards, or Guards Division, is not complete, because there arc many more battalions in the Household Brigade, in the Foot Guards, than in the Welsh Brigade, which has only three of the best Regiments in the British Army.

My Lords, surely if the Government wished they could raise at least one more battalion in Wales. May I stress once more to the noble Lord, and ask him to look into this question of the national identity of the Welsh Brigade. Surely to a Welshman I need not stress that. I am sure I have his support. I would ask him to use his undoubted charm on his colleagues.

My Lords, I will of course take note of what the noble Lord has said, and I can assure him that I will represent his views to my colleagues. The question of whether we can raise another battalion in Wales is in no doubt. As he says, we have one of the best recruiting records in the whole Army, matched only, I think, by the Scottish Division, as it will be, but the question of raising another battalion is outside the frame of reference of this reorganisation.

My Lords, may I make one remark which is meant to be helpful. I do not know whether the noble Lord realises that in the Highlands—talking about my own Seaforth, Cameron and Queens' Own Highlanders, Black Watch, Gordons, and Argylles—people do not join the Army, they join the Regiment. This has always been the case in the Highlands. I think it is worth remembering that you could very seriously affect recruiting at some future time when you needed it.

My Lords, being a member of a war-like tribe my self, I know only too well that our countrymen tend to join infantry regiments and not the Army. My own view of this reorganisation is that within the requirements of reorganisation, which are imperative if the Army is to function efficiently over the next 10 or 15 years, we have done our best to preserve what is good in the regimental tradition.

My Lords, the noble Lord spoke about the changes making the training of recruits more rapid. Long experience has shown that there is a great psychological difference between people of the Highlands and people of the Lowlands, and a great deal of time will be saved if the training of Highland recruits is carried out in one place and the training of Lowland recruits in another unit. There is a great deal of time and expense to be saved in that way, and I would ask Her Majesty's Government to keep that in mind in training recruits.

Yes, my Lords, of course we will keep that in mind. There is a need here for economies and rationalisation, but within that need we will, of course, bear that sort of consideration in mind.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether the Statement means that the name of every infantry regiment of the British Army will disappear from the Army List?

No, my Lords, that is not so. The regiments will retain their names and identities. The only difference will be that, instead of being parts of infantry brigades, they will become integral parts of infantry divisions of the names I have mentioned.

My Lords, this is obviously a subject which will be of great interest for some months to come. In view of the fact that we are in the midst of the Water (Scotland) Bill, if we continue discussion on the Statement I will be in grave difficulty with my Scottish friends who wish to speak and then depart North for the Whitsun holiday. May I suggest that we now move back to the Bill?