Fusiliers to protest outside Parliament
16 October 2012
Some 400 serving and former soldiers and officers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are to hold a picket outside the Palace of Westminster over plans to cut the regiment's 2nd Battalion, it has been reported.
The battalion was one of five earmarked for deletion as part of the Army 2020 plans announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond in July.
The planned protest coincides with a debate about defence cuts, and Conservative MP John Baron, a former officer in the Fusiliers, has put forward a motion opposing the scrapping of 2RRF.
The fusiliers claim that some Scottish regiments were spared in the Army 2020 plans in a bid to pacify Scots ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.
Former Regimental Sergeant Major Captain Joe Eastwood told The Daily Mail: "There is a lot of anger because we know the government did a deal to save the Jocks and to cut 2RRF.
"I am sure that serving soldiers will join us on the protest, but given the risks to their careers, the arrangements for their participation are under the radar.
"The MoD is threatening to use Section 69 of the 1955 Army Act. Pressure is being applied, with courts martial promised for those who defy orders. So some arrangements must remain cloak-and-dagger."
The fusiliers will be led by retired Colonel Brian Gorski during the 18 October protest, and there are plans to hand in a petitionto Downing Street calling for the battalion to be saved.
"There is a lot of sensitivity about this because 2RRF's disbandment was referred to the Prime Minister's office, and he gave it the final nod," said Gorski. "For these reasons there is great risk to soldiers if they attend.
"For the sake of their careers, my advice is they shouldn't appear on the march, but if they happen to be passing Parliament or going through Whitehall at the time that is up to them."
Brigadier David Paterson OBE, Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, wrote to Chief of the General Staff (CGS) General Sir Peter Wall in July saying he was "bitterly disappointed" with the cut and that his regiment was "amongst the strongest in raw manning and deployable strength" in the army.
"In selecting 2 RRF for disbandment and in creating a single battalion Fusilier Regiment we are not best serving defence, the army, the Queen's Division or the Regiment," he wrote. "If challenged or scrutinised by, for example the media, it cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option."
An Army spokesman said: "The armed forces are entitled to their beliefs provided their practice does not conflict with the services' values and standards.
"Although personnel are not precluded from activity which is potentially political in nature, they are not permitted to do so in uniform."