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Gurkhas bear the brunt as more armed forces redundancies announced

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 24, 2014

The band of the Brigade of Gurkhas performing at the Royal Bath & West Show in 2009. Hundreds from the regiment, many of whom are based in Wiltshire, will lose their jobs after more armed forces redundancies were announced

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Hundreds of soldiers across the West are to lose their jobs in what ministers said would be the final round of armed forces redundancies, announced yesterday.

Nationally, up to 1,425 members of the Army, 70 medical and dental officers from the RAF, with another ten from the Royal Navy are to go as the regular Army is cut from 102,000 soldiers to just 82,000.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the number of redundancies had been kept to an "absolute minimum", thanks to transfers within regiments.

The Gurkhas within the British Army would be hit particularly hard, with many of them based in Wiltshire. Around 350 redundancies would come from the Brigade of Gurkhas, including 246 from the Royal Gurkha Rifles, 71 from the Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment and 28 from the Queen's Gurkha Engineers.

The transformation of the British Army planned to the year 2020 will see hundreds of soldiers in Wiltshire made redundant, but will end with thousands more being based in the county – when regiments currently based in Germany return to England to be based at a super-garrison on Salisbury Plain.

The last round of cuts to the Army sparked a political debate in Parliament yesterday.

"For the men and women of our Armed Forces, I know that this has been a painful process but completion of this final tranche will mark a turning point," said Mr Hammond in a Commons statement.

"With the bulk of our troops back from Afghanistan by the end of this year and coming back from Germany over the next four years, they will be able to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from belonging to Armed Forces that have put a period of change and restructuring behind them and are focused on building their skills and capabilities for the future."

While the services had been instructed to maximise the number of voluntary redundancies, Mr Hammond acknowledged there were likely to be fewer than in previous rounds – in part because of a low historic rate of volunteers among the Gurkhas.

For Labour, shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker accused the Government of letting down the forces.

"Labour is clear about the need to reconfigure our Armed Forces after withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of a presence in Germany. But we would never do anything that would leave Britain's security under threat," he said.

"The Government is letting down our Armed Forces and their families, and taking risks with our nation's safety."

Mr Hammond said: "You observe we have the smallest Army for a number of years when we have completed this restructuring, but we might also remind ourselves we still have the fourth largest defence budget in the world and on any fair and objective assessment the second most capable expeditionary armed force capability after the United States anywhere in the world."

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