Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Clusters Last Stand

The government has pronounced on the reductions and the nature of it in the Army over the next few years.  At last we will be pulling out of Germany.  Why we remained there after 1990 or even after 1966 is one of those questions to which there is no rational answer, except that the politicians involved could not face some of the issues that needed attention.

These issues are less impelling now because the Army is that much smaller and the equipment to be repatriated is less and will not cause inconvenience on the scale that a larger force would entail.  One way round of keeping the Army away from those who do not want the troops around is to use “clusters” in areas where their presence is already substantial.

There will be a scattering of other locations although the decisions as to which will survive as bases and which will be either run down or abandoned will no doubt change according to what lobbying will be done and by whom.  What is striking is that they seem to be kept well away from the larger urban areas as far as possible.

The interesting question is that one lot who will remain to the last gasp is 20 Armoured Brigade whose HQ is at Sennelager a large training area that I recall all too well.  This is a mixed battle group that is active and therefore engaged in high levels of the relevant training.

These are noisy, troublesome to locals and need a lot of space.  It is possible that the government might in fact be looking to disband this formation and they are being lined up for the other cuts to come.  It might be that the government cannot make up its mind.  It might be that it has become a pawn in some of the sillier debates with the Scottish National Party.

On the BBC News the figure given for the remaining troops to leave was 15,000 which it was said would take months and years to accomplish.  I can recall a time when my particular lot had that number of troops with all the clobber and we reckoned to move the lot within an hour.

That was when Hackett was GOC and before he came to us, by one those things he had been Brigadier of the 20th Armoured Brigade.  The wheel turns.  What he would make of our present ideas of “strategy” is uncertain.  But he was sometimes of the opinion that in such matters politicians tended to make it up as they went along.

We will soon have an Army with limited capability, unsure as to its function, poorly equipped, badly housed and located as far as possible away from the population it is to defend.  In the meantime we are facing new and dangerous threats that the government cannot recognise and does not understand.

Here we go again.

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