Gurkhas future safeguarded

Contributed by editor on Dec 16, 2004 - 04:56 PM


The Folkestone based 1st Royal Gurkha Rifles have not been included in a series of mergers and battalion reductions announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in a statement to Parliament today(16 December).

Despite fears that the Gurkhas were amongst those facing cuts, the announcement appears to safeguard the future of the batallion.

Under the changes, the Army will be reduced from 40 infantry battalions to 36.

The Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers will merge, and with four other battalions, including the Black Watch, become The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The King's Own Royal Border Regiment, the King's Regiment and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment will amalgamate to form two new battalions within the new King's Lancashire and Border Regiment.

Components of the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment will merge with, in the case of the Gloucesters, the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiment, which will then merge with the Light Infantry.

Mr Hoon claimed that reductions in heavy armour, heavy artillery and the infantry would be accompanied by an increase in specialists, which would bring a more balanced force organised around two armoured brigades, three mechanised brigades and a light and an air assault brigade.

Liberal Democrat spokesman for Folkestone and Hythe Peter Carroll welcomed the safeguarding of the Gurkha forces in the UK.

"The Gurkha's are a special part of our Army, and I am delighted this has been recognised today. They have a fantastic reputation stretching back centuries. They have a special place in the hearts and minds of the British people.

"As the huge local support for the recent campaign for citizenship rights for ex-Gurkhas has shown, Folkestone is proud to be their home and base."