Examination of witnesses (Questions 2280 - 2299)
TUESDAY 21 JULY 1998
GCB, CBE, ADC GEN AND MR
2280. Do you think there will be some cultural
resistance to conversion?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) From whom?
2281. From people who have been fulfilling one
role and now find themselves being asked to fulfil a different
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) So far as the infantry
is concerned I should have thought that they would leap at the
chance of becoming armoured infantry or warrior battalions because
it is a more challenging role from the point of view of their
equipments. So far as the armoured reconnaissance and NBC regiments
are concerned, armoured reconnaissance is a challenging role.
We used until about five or six years ago to rotate armoured regiments
with armoured reconnaissance in order to keep up their skills
but I do not suppose they will have any difficulty with that.
So far as the NBC recce is concerned it is a challenging role
but one that is not particularly well known about because it is
relatively new. Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and that
is that, based on the experience both of the Gulf War in 1990
and of what we were looking to provide had we been asked to in
February this year, the one thing that we needed at short notice,
highly trained, was an NBC recce regiment.
2282. I do not think you would find anybody
taking a different view from that on this Committee.
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) From their point of view
I do not think there would be any difficulties.
2283. These are quite substantial changes though,
are they not, over a period of three years? You have described
a period of turbulence. One of the problems has been this June
for some members of this Committee is that there has been turbulence
since that day in July 1990 when the then Secretary of State announced
what was described as "options for change".
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Yes. The scale of this
is infinitely smaller even though I agree that there is going
to be turbulence for those that are involved, but I would reiterate
that our implementation plan will be using those units which were
arms plotting from Germany to the United Kingdom in any case,
so that we reduce the turbulence.
2284. You are forced into having some additional
personnel, 3,500. Have you decided exactly where they are going
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Yes, because that is how
we arrived at the figure. The majority will go into the second
line of communication in the form of logisticians and medics,
signallers. There will be obviously some add-back in regular manpower
at the NBC concentration to which I have just referred but the
main aim was to establish that second line of communication which
we do not have at the moment.
2285. So the front line second in command?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) No, because the line of
communication makes sure that the front line actually works. Perhaps
I could say that those who are between Split and Banja Luka would
regard themselves as very much in the front line.
Chairman: I was saying it ironically
because I always thought of the idea of focusing on the front
line as not being exclusive but seeing it as more important than
what came behind was either misrepresentation or naivety, so I
am pleased to see we are doing the things which should be done.
2286. Could I ask a question basically about
sustainability? The forces can move and have a very good reputation
in the Army for being able to move relatively quickly and fight
ferociously quickly, but there is an issue about how long it can
sustain this on a war footing. Has sustainability been improved
with the SDR?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) It will be, both from
the point of view of the line of communication that I have been
talking about, providing the people to do the task and the equipment
with which to do it, and also we are quite clear now on how long
an operation is to last which is to be a war fighting brigade
or a division as the White Paper described, for six months, and
we will have the stores and the sustainability to support that.
2287. Can I ask a quick question about armoured
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) At which you are an expert.
2288. Can you confirm that there are going to
be in the armoured reconnaissance regiments four squadrons each?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Three squadrons each.
2289. So you are going to have a divisional
armoured reconnaissance regiment in Germany with three squadrons?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Correct.
2290. Is that not leaving it a bit light on
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) If we found ourselves
deploying that whole division because of the training cycle that
I have mentioned, we might look, as we are doing and as has been
discussed earlier, at moving the tank squadron to support a particular
ORBAT for a particular reason, taking the reconnaissance regiment
that is at the same level of training in the UK to support that
divisional recce if we needed to. We do have two things which
we have to achieve with armoured reconnaissance, and they have
worked extremely hard as you know only too well from your own
regiment's experiences in the last couple of years, at the operations
other than war element of it and deploying a reconnaissance regiment
into a place like Bosnia. The aims of producing the additional
headquarters is to be better able to do that and to rotate the
regiments rather better than we have been able to until now in
order that they too have a better way of life and meet tasks such
as the OPFOR of BATUS which is something that a reconnaissance
regiment with three squadrons can do.
2291. But based on reconnaissance deployments
being at squadron level, you have actually increased the number
of armoured reconnaissance squadrons by zero.
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) We have not had the headquarters
in Bosnia to command and we have had to deploy those headquarters
as well and we also, as you know, deployed them without their
equipment into places like Northern Ireland. I do not think that
it will have a detrimental effect on the divisional reconnaissance
capability. What we are looking for is to be able to identify
tasks more clearly for each of the regiments rather than taking
pieces of them, which is what we have been doing for the last
2292. So there is going to be a net fall in
the number of people in the Royal Armoured Corps?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) No, there will not be.
There will be a considerable increase because the tank regiments
are going up to the full complement of 14 tanks.
2293. But the perception of people was that
we were having four armoured reconnaissance regiments, which would
be a net extra regiment. In fact all we are getting is a regimental
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) You are getting two things.
One is a regimental headquarters and the second is a regiment
that has a reconnaissance capability, which of course we do not
have at the moment.
2294. What is happening to the equipment of
the Queen's Own Yeomanry?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) There will be some retained
within the Territorial Army.
2295. So that the Queen's Own Yeomanry are going
to be adapted for armoured reconnaissance
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) When we have decided where
the yeomanry squadrons and regiments are going to be within the
TA, yes, but I cannot say that it will be that one because we
are in the process of consultation at the moment, as you know.
Mr Blunt: I must say this is a disagreeable
surprise because we had been led to believe
Mr Brazier: Not for all of us.
Mr Blunt: And I think, as an ex-reconnaissance
soldier, this is a pity, what you have done to armoured reconnaissance.
But let us move on to arms plotting.
Mr Brazier: Sorryjust a quick
point. Not everyone on this Committee shared the idea that it
was appropriate to keep an armoured reconnaissance regiment within
the Territorial Army.
2296. I appreciate that, but the point being
that an armoured reconnaissance regiment should be properly established
and of course because of the shortage of equipment you have decided
to establish it at three squadrons. Are you intending to maintain
the arms plot?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Yes.
2297. Was any consideration given to triple
posting through the armoured corps in the infantry?
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) Yes, consideration was
given to it and we decided to maintain the system that we have
at the moment.
2298. What is the cost of sustaining the arms
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) When it comes to moving
people you either have to move them as individuals or you move
them as units if they have a particular requirement to stay as
units. The cost as between the two, by the time you have moved
large numbers of people, either because they do not wish to stay
in Germany, Cyprus or Northern Ireland for more than a couple
of years in the case of Northern Ireland and Cyprus, longer of
course in Germany, or for career development reasons or for career
training reasons, the difference in the cost between the two is
not very great and I felt, and my Army Board colleagues agreed,
that it was much more important that we maintain the ethos that
we think is so vital to the armoured corps and to the infantry
which comes from the regimental system.
2299. I agree with that.
(General Sir Roger Wheeler) You might be interested
to know that the Light Dragoons are commanding a mixed battle
group in Bosnia at the moment which is just a demonstration, without
wishing to perpetuate the argument, of the value of the additional