There was saying when I was a reporter that “names make news”. Sometimes, it’s not what’s happening but who it’s happening to that gets the readers’ attention. So, if one the Scottish infantry battalions is facing disbandment, the story gets more attention if it’s said that it's the Black Watch that’s threatened with the axe. So, I don’t know how seriously to take newspaper reports that the Black Watch will be on the chopping block come the next round of defence budget cuts. The same report also mentions the Parachute Regiment could get the chop.
I don’t know by what criteria the Black Watch has been singled out, if indeed it has been. Maybe it has the largest recruiting short-fall of the five battalions in the Royal Regiment of Scotland (RRoS). In the old days, the very old days, it used to be the most recently raised regiment which was disbanded as the army contracted in times of peace – that would put the 5th Battalion RRoS, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders top of the list. But at least the Argylls have kept their pre-First World War identity. With the exception of the Black Watch, all the other battalions of the regiment were created by a series of amalgamations which began in 1959.
I’m also a little baffled as to why the Parachute Regiment would be threatened, if it is. It’s been suggested that as they haven’t parachuted into action since Suez in 1956 that they’ve outlived their usefulness. What nonsense. The regiment has had its problems in the past but there’s no denying they are very committed soldiers and part of that comes from parachute training. It makes as much sense to suggest that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers should be disbanded because they don’t carry fusil muskets any more.
Civil servants have never understood the British Army. Once a regiment is disbanded, it’s gone for ever. It’s like social workers putting all the kids in a family in different care homes and then reuniting them seven years later and expecting “happy ever-after”. The problem is that many of the British generals today see themselves more as civil servants than soldiers. This is not a time to do anything rash. Before the Second World War, the infantry battalions were reduced to a couple of hundred men each, who used football rattles during training to simulate machineguns. There was just enough time to bring them back up to strength and equip them before Hitler invaded Poland. How Hitler would have loved the present day Ministry of Defence.