A regional daily has launched a campaign to save a 300-year-old army battalion from being axed as part of defence cuts.
Staffordshire title The Sentinel has launched its Save Our Staffords campaign after the Ministry of Defence revealed last week that the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment would be disbanded.
The battalion, which is known as the Staffords, was formed at Lichfield in 1705 and is thought to be unique among infantry regiments because of its continuous identity with a single county.
But under government proposals, the unit would be withdrawn by October 2014 following its planned second tour of Afghanistan, after which it would be absorbed into the rest of the Mercian Regiment.
As well as it’s in-paper coverage, The Sentinel has launched a special website for its campaign with the domain name saveourstaffords.com.
The site carried the latest news about the campaign along with an online petition which has already been backed by hundreds of people.
Editor-in-chief Mike Sassi said: “It is such an important part of our history and heritage, we thought it would be a tragedy if the name died.
“We understand the need for cuts in the military and that services paid for by the public purse must prove their worth but we are just talking about the name here. It would seem a relatively simple thing to incorporate the name into whatever happens with the regiment.
“This is an incredibly fertile recruiting ground for the services. People are very proud to fight and die for Queen and country. It is a real shame not to give these people who sign up a local capbadge under which they can fight.
“We have been absolutely inundated with emails and letters from people serving with the regiment, their families and ex-members and their families who are desperate to tell us why we are doing the right thing. We have been genuinely taken aback and touched by people who feel so strongly about it.”
During its 300 years, soldiers from the battalion served in the West Indies, took part in battles against Napoleon’s armies in Flanders and Spain, played their role in Queen Victoria’s conflicts across the globe, were at the major battles of both World Wars, and have helped to defend the country since then – most recently with tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced the cutbacks last week, which include scrapping 16 other units and reducing the number of soldiers in the Army by 20,000 by 2018.
He said the changes were needed to modernise the Army and fill a “£38 billion black hole” he claimed the previous Labour administration had left at the MoD.
The Sentinel’s petition can be signed here.