Welsh troops face axe in Army cutbacks
HUNDREDS of Welsh heroes who have served out in Afghanistan will lose their jobs under drastic cuts to the Army.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed that 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh will be axed under the Army 2020 plans and the 39th Regiment Royal Artillery withdrawn, which heavily recruits from Wales.
The 640-strong battalion based in Tidworth in Wiltshire will be merged with 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, which is serving in Afghanistan.
But campaigners have won their battle to save 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (the Welsh Cavalry).
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Mr Hammond said a new Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron, would probably be in place at St Athan in South Wales by 2018.
The Ministry of Defence is cutting the size of the Army from 102,000 to 82,000 soldiers by 2020, leading to the loss of 17 major units. Reservists will double to 30,000.
A Swansea mum of a soldier serving with 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, who did not wish to be named, said she was stunned at the news.
She said: "Why just disband something that works so well? I just do not understand it — they are a serving battalion and they are a good battalion.
"It seems to me that the Government is cutting our defence when we need it most. We have lost three soldiers in Afghanistan recently — two of those were Welsh Guards. Our boys are still at risk."
She added: "What are these soldiers going to do — is someone going to find them jobs?" Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Webb, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, of Penllergaer, in a statement from Afghanistan said: "The true impact of this on the whole regiment has yet to be fully worked through, but it is likely this will have a highly significant impact on the 1st Battalion."
He said that along with the Colonel of the regiment and commanding officer of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, he would "do everything in their power to make sure the changes are managed as sensitively and as carefully as possible".
Owen Smith MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, said: "Retaining the cap badge of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards is a hollow victory for Wales when we see six hundred jobs going from a battalion of the historic Royal Welsh."
Llanelli MP Nia Griffith added: "I am very concerned at the likely job losses from the abolition of the second battalion of the Royal Welsh. The reduction in recruitment will mean even fewer opportunities for our young people, who are already struggling to find work."
But Cheryl Gillan, Secretary of State for Wales, said she was pleased "Wales remains firmly at the heart of the British Armed Forces."
Mr Hammond added: "After inheriting a massive overspend from the last government, we have had to make tough decisions to implement our vision of a formidable, adaptable and flexible armed forces."