Veterans' silent fight against Army cuts

Veterans of the Royal Regiment of Fusileers hold a vigil at Newcastle's war memorial. Photo: ITV

Army veterans and the families of serving soldiers have been protesting about proposed government cuts to the armed forces. They held a vigil at Newcastle's central war memorial, observing a two minute silence in honour of fallen comrades.

They believe plans to reduce the Army by 20,000 soldiers will damage Britain's security and ability to fight abroad. The changes would also see 17 units disappear, including the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusileers.

Veterans gathered at Newcastle's war memorial for a silent protest. Credit: ITV

Many of those protesting served in the regiment, which has close ties to the North East. The Royal Northumberland Fusileers was amalgamated into it in 1968, and the regiment continues to recruit heavily in the region.

The chairman of the Northumberland Fusileers' Association explained its significance:

By law, serving soldiers cannot protest, so family members have been demonstrating on their behalf.

Linda Stockley joined the protest on behalf of her son, a serving soldier. Credit: ITV

Linda Stockley's son is in the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusileers. He's preparing for his second tour of Afghanistan early next year, but faces uncertainty about his future.

"To know that there is potential for all this training to go to waste while the Army continues to recruit, it makes no sense. So the morale is very low because people aren't sure what is going to happen in their future."

– Linda Stockley, soldier's mother
Veterans have launched a petition against the plans. Credit: ITV

The Ministry of Defence says the cuts are necessary to reduce costs and help to reduce the deficit. It says the cuts have been respectful of regimental history, and will create a leaner but more efficient Army.

"Nobody takes any pleasure in making defence cuts but we inherited a very grave economic situation and a particular overspend in defence and in 2010 we had the strategic defence and security review which concluded that we had to delete certain platforms and we had to reduce our manpower."

– Nick Harvey MP, Armed Forces Minister