So, one of the “Highland” battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland may well be about to get the chop. Future British Government spending cuts on defence are expected to mean the RRoS will be reduced from five battalions to four. The speculation is that either the 4th Battalion (the old Highlanders) or the 5th Battalion (the old Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) are most likely to get the axe.
In the old days it would have been the Argylls that got the chop as the most “junior” unit. But the Argylls have powerful friends, so don’t rule out The Highlanders vanishing instead.
Let’s get beyond the imaginative bankruptcy that led to successor to three of the most storied Highland regiments, the Gordons, the Seaforths and the Camerons, being saddled with the uninspired moniker of The Highlanders.
Once a battalion is killed off, it can’t be brought back to life. The experience of the Argylls when it was reduced to company strength in the late 1960s and then rushed back to battalion level in 1971 serves as a stark warning. The unit was plagued with disciplinary problems for years afterwards and the rapid reconstitution must be considered a major factor in its woes.
The infantry has been cut too hard too many times in the past by clueless civil servants. I’d suggest that rather than disband a battalion, the RRoS should spread the redundancies across the existing five battalions. This will mean that one battalion will need to be supplemented by at least a company from another battalion for service in Afghanistan – but I thought the ability to do that was supposed to be one of the benefits of creating a super-regiment. Of course, I may be sadly out of touch and augmenting at company strength may already be common practise. I remember last time I was home, The Rifles paraded through Edinburgh following their return from a tough time in Afghanistan – but the guys marching in front of the news cameras were wearing Tam o’ Shanters, which suggests there were a number of RRoS guys attached to The Rifles. Anyway, retaining all five battalions may make the return to sanity, when it’s realised that we don’t have enough infantry soldiers as it is, a lot less painless and wasteful.
By the way, as far as The Highlanders name goes, maybe the Gordons should have bitten the bullet at the time of the amalgamation with the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) and the new unit could have become the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth, Camerons and Gordons). Or the unit called have been called The Highland Brigade. Maybe it’s a little confusing to label a battalion as a brigade but there is a precedent – the old 94th Foot, the Scotch Brigade. Folk could have called the 4th Battalion RRoS "The High-Bees".