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Ministers could bring back 3 Mercian in Army shake-up

By Pete Madeley | Staffordshire | Politics | Published:

The Government is to consider bringing back the disbanded 3 Mercian battalion as part of a push to bolster Army numbers.

A huge crowd gathered the 'last hurrah' service for the 3 Mercian Regiment at Lichfield Cathedral in 2014

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed the move after he was pressed on the issue by Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy.

Speaking at Defence Questions this week, Conservative MP Mr Lefroy said the overall size of Britain's armed forces must not be allowed to fall below its current level, which in terms of the Army stands at 82,000 troops.

He added: "We must go higher – possibly to see the return of 3 Mercian – and certainly not lower.”

The famous battalion disbanded in June 2014 as part of budget cuts brought in by the Army 2020 defence review.

Mr Williamson said: “I would very much like to reintroduce the Staffordshire Regiment as part of any changes, and that is something I would like to look at going forward – I may have some more battles to win before I get to that stage.

"However, I take on board my honourable friend’s comments, and I am very conscious of the important role that the armed forces – especially the Royal Signals – play in Stafford, of how they are so involved in the local community and of how important the money we spend on our armed forces is to the economic prosperity of Stafford and Staffordshire.”

Mr Lefroy later told the Express & Star: “The first role of any Government is to defend its citizens and so it is vital that the overall size of the armed forces is maintained and looks at opportunities for growth.

"MOD Stafford is one of the most significant army bases in the country and plays an important role in Stafford itself.

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"I am encouraged by the Defence Secretary’s positive statements and recognition of the contribution people from Staffordshire make to the defence of our country.”

South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson, who succeeded Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary in November, is embroiled in a battle to preserve military numbers as part of a defence spending review.

The findings are expected to be announced imminently.

Any moves to bring back disbanded battalions are likely to be welcomed by military personnel, who fear the Treasury could demand further cuts to their numbers.

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Last weekend Mr Lefroy attended the laying-up of the colours of 3 Mercian in Lichfield Cathedral.

The battalion was previously known as The Staffordshire Regiment and recruited soldiers from the West Midlands region, with its headquarters in Lichfield.

The majority of the 250 men from the battalion were fed into the 1st or 2nd Battalions.

In the parade its flags and standards were carried through Lichfield and laid up at a service at the city's cathedral.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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