The announcement that the government is creating four Ranger battalions as part of a Special Operations Brigade hammers another nail in the coffin of the Country Infantry Battalions. The idea of a Tier 2 Force is not new. As part of the post-9/11 Strategic Defence Review, we proposed a similar formation to support the Special Forces, but the Chief of the General Staff vetoed the idea because he believed it would mean the line infantry would be relegated to little more than garrison troops (he was a Royal Anglian).
Since then the county infantry battalions, which were the backbone of the British Army for two hundred years have been devastated by the last three Defence Reviews. Combined with the decision to dispose of our tracked armour (all Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and 79 Challenger tanks), this will limit Britain’s ability to move off roads and tracks in combat areas and will restrict the British Army to “security force” status, wholly dependent on the US military.
The decline and fall of the British Army since the First Gulf War is a tragic tale that is entering a new chapter. Whether this proves to be the denouement, or not depends on the attitudes of society and the state of the country’s finances after the Pandemic.