A second regional daily has launched a campaign to save its local battalion from the axe as part of defence cuts.
The Manchester Evening News has launched its Save Our Fusiliers campaign after the government announced plans earlier this month to axe the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers by 2014.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition against the move which was set up by the MEN and it has gained support from MPs, veterans, families of soldiers and footballer Gary Neville – who used to live near the battallion’s Bury base.
The paper’s campaign mirrors the Save Our Staffords campaign set up by Staffordshire daily The Sentinel, which is fighting to save the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment.The battalion, which recruits from across Greater Manchester, can trace its roots back to the Bury-based Lancashire Fusiliers whose soldiers gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars and famously earned ‘six Victoria Crosses before breakfast’ in the Gallipoli landings of 1915.
And the paper says the battalion has sent local soldiers to fight in every conflict since 1688.
Defence reporter Paul Britton said: “It is a regiment that is well known and well loved and well respected in Greater Manchester and there are a lot of soldiers from our area that serve in it.
“It was formed in 1968 with the merger of four Fusilier regiments, one of which was the Lancashire Fusiliers who were based in Bury.
“Our campaign has been very well received, particularly in Bury and the council there has launched its own campaign.
“We are calling on the government to change its mind and save what is a historic part of the regiment.”
As part of the campaign, chief reporter Neal Keeling, himself fighting a battle with cancer, has told the story of his grandfather Private Alexander George Keeling, a Lancashire Fusilier who fought for his country.
Ann Annis, the mum of Fusilier Simon Annis who was killed in Afghanistan has also criticised the decision to axe the battalion.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced the cutbacks earlier this month, which include scrapping 16 other units and reducing the number of soldiers in the Army by 20,000 by 2018.