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Review puts historic Welsh regiment's future in doubt; MP: 'SACRIFICE WOULD BE BID TO APPEASE SCOTTISH VOTERS'.

Byline: SAM MALONE

ONE of Wales' oldest army regiments could be abolished following a UK Government review of its armed forces, a Welsh MP who sits on the defence select committee has warned.

Madeleine Moon said it would be a "disaster" if the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDG) is lost.

The Bridgend MP said while no decision has been announced the language used in recent discussions by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond suggested he had already made his mind up to dismantle the regiment.

She added there was a belief among opposition MPs that the QDG was being sacrificed instead of a Scottish regiment in a bid to appease voters ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence.

"This is a matter of grave concern to the people of whom the Queen's Dragoon Guards has been their 'cap badge' regiment," she said.

"It will be a disaster if this regiment is lost especially when it seems the decision has been made to placate public opinion in Scotland ahead of the referendum."

Under UK Government plans the regular army is due be slashed from 100,000 troops to 82,000 - a plan known as "Future Force 2020" - the smallest size since the Boer War.

The idea is that the Territorial Army will make up the shortfall, taking an increasing role in frontline duties.

The TA would be expected to expand in number to 36,000 part-timers, What shape the army will take, in terms of which regiments survive and which are abolished, has been under review for the past few months. Defence officials have said no decision on the regiment has yet been taken.

It is understood an announcement is expected to be made some time next week.

The QDG, which is also known as The Welsh Cavalry, has recently returned from operations in Afghanistan, where its units were operating as forward reconnaissance, as part of 20th Armoured Brigade deployments in Helmand.

Based in Germany, the QDG recruits from Wales and the borders.

Should it be abolished, Mrs Moon said it will not just be the officers currently serving with the regiment who will be disappointed.

"Regiments recruit from local areas and that long-term local link is very important as it gives a huge sense of pride to the people who belong and have belonged to it," she said. "Outside of the military it perhaps doesn't matter a lot but it's about that sense of belonging along with a sense of tradition and history."

If the QDG is phased out, it will be the second time in seven years that changes have been made to Welsh regiments.

In 2005 there was uproar when former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon amalgamated the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Wales - forming the Royal Welsh Regiment.

The change brought an end to 303 years of Royal Welch Fusiliers history and 36 years of the Royal Regiment of Wales tradition.

In his first letter as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Owen Smith yesterday wrote to Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan urging the UK Government to reconsider any decision to abolish the QDG.

In it, he said: "I am extremely concerned at reports claiming that the Government is planning to abolish the Welsh Cavalry to accommodate cuts of 20,000 British troops announced earlier this week. I would urge you to make representations to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister, and ask them to think again.

"1st the Queen's Dragoon Guards is regarded as the most senior British frontline force. It would be a massive blow to Wales if we where to lose it as a result of Government cuts.

"The Government has backed down over its plans to abolish Scottish regiments, there is no reason why Wales' only regiment shouldn't be afforded the same protection."

An MoD spokesman said: "A review of the future structure of the army is ongoing and no conclusions have yet been reached.

"As General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, has stated previously, the army is confident it can meet its target of 82,000 by 2020.

"This is in line with the agreement between the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the General Staff for a gradual move towards the new army structure so operations are not adversely affected by necessary changes."

WELSH CAVALRY BOASTS LONG AND PROUD HISTORY THE 1st The Queen''s Dragoon Guards (QDG) is a cavalry regiment of the British Army.

Nicknamed The Welsh Cavalry, the regiment recruits from Wales, Herefordshire, and Shropshire.

It is the senior cavalry regiment and a senior regiment of the British Army.

The current regiment was formed in 1959 by the amalgamation of 1st King''s Dragoon Guards and the Queen''s Bays or 2nd Dragoon Guards.

In 1896 Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the 1st King's Dragoon Guards and allowed the regiment to wear the Austrian imperial coat of arms, which is still used as the regiment''s cap badge today.

Arguably the best known member in recent years was Captain Mark Phillips, one-time husband of Princess Anne.

The regiment celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in July 2009 with a ceremony at Cardiff Castle and a parade through the streets of the city - both were attended by the regiments Colonel-in-Chief The Prince of Wales.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 18, 2012
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