North West Wales

Fears for future of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards - The Welsh Cavalry

QDG forces talk to village elder in Afghanistan
Image caption 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guard have just returned from Afghanistan

There are fears a review of the army due to be published soon could threaten the future of one of the oldest regiments associated with Wales.

Former officers and a senior source in the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDG) have told BBC Wales they believe the name could disappear altogether.

Also known as The Welsh Cavalry, the regiment is regarded as the most senior British frontline force.

Defence officials said no decision on the regiment has yet been taken.

The QDG, based in Germany, has recently returned from operations in Afghanistan, where its units were operating as forward reconnaissance, as part of 20th Armoured Brigade deployments in Helmand.

It draws its troops from Wales and the borders, and is regarded as one of just three 'cap badge' regiments associated with Wales, alongside The Royal Welsh and The Welsh Guards.

But the future of British Army operations are currently under scrutiny, following a strategic review in 2010, and further UK government announcements under the so-called Future Force 2020 plan.

Under those plans, the UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed this week that the number of British troops will fall from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020.

Recommendations on how those plans will be implemented on the ground are now expected to be published over the next month.

It has led to widespread speculation that entire regiments could be swept away.

Fears for the QDG have been heightened because of what is viewed as system of precedence in the Royal Armoured Corps.

'Your turn next'

Traditionally, under that system, the regiments that have survived the longest unchanged are put in the firing line first to be amalgamated into other brigades.

Maj Howard Smith, who served with the QDG and remains a Territorial Army reserve officer, said it was simply a process of "your turn next".

"If this was a decision based on logic and sensible argument I would bow to it, but it is based on a premise from 50 years ago" said Maj Smith.

"It takes no account of the regional connections with Wales or the regional recruitment.

"If they are talking about chopping the Welsh regiments - it is not only a slap in the face for Wales, but it is also a slap in the face for the boys who have just been out in Afghanistan."

The possible threats to QDG has also sparked anger on the social networking site, Facebook, where supporters of the regiment are being urged to contact their MPs.

"The decision to scrap the QDG is in the politicians hands and we have a few days only to change their minds," wrote one concerned contributor.

However, the MoD has insisted that no final decisions have yet been taken.

"A review of the future structure of the Army is ongoing and no conclusions have yet been reached," said an MoD spokesperson.

"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."

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