Ex-MP backs bid to save regiment

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A FORMER local MP is backing claims that a regiment which recruits heavily from the Wigan area should not be axed as it is one of the most popular battalions in the Army.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is one of five infantry units which the Ministry of Defence has selected to be axed as part of a move to cut the Army by 20,000 by 2014.

However, campaigners battling to save the historic regiment say it is one of the most successful in the Army, with a pattern of strong recruitment over the past few years and very few places.

They say the closure is wrong when other front-line units are running significantly under capacity, and are demanding the Government reveal exactly how the decision to axe the Fusiliers was made. The criticism is supported by former Makerfield MP Sir Ian McCartney, who said: “What the campaigners are trying to say is that the regiment is popular and viable, and should not be put under threat. That is all true, especially because the Olympics have proved we need personnel in situations close to home as well as for serving on the front line in far-off places.

“The North West, and Wigan in particular, is an area which has an outstanding history of quality recruits, which has been proven over the years with the significant numbers of military medals and citations for courage, including a large number of VCs.

“There’s a lot of concern among families and people who are already in active service about the redundancies which are being made.”

Veterans’ charities also called on the Government to release specific figures about the cutbacks which are being made amid fears support organisations will be left struggling to cope with a sudden influx of veterans, many with complex disabilities and needs.

Des White, chairman of the Wigan Borough Veterans Council, said: “We are still on tenterhooks waiting for the official figures from the Government. Currently around 17 per cent of the Army is made up of people from this area, and we need the MoD to release the figures which will let us see exactly what is going to happen.”