Part-time troops to fill sandbags and bolster flood defences under Army shake-up

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there was a ‘real appetite’ to use reservists for civil defence

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

Part-time troops will fill sandbags and reinforce flood barriers under a planned shake-up of the Army.

“Homeland resilience” will switch from the Regular force to the Reserve under the “Future Soldier” programme revealed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the Commons.

The scheme involves closing 33 Army locations, ranging from barracks to local cadet stations, while plans to axe other bases have been scrapped or delayed.

The wide-ranging project announced to Parliament will tackle the “antiquated nature of much of our equipment”, according to Field Commander Lieutenant General Ralph Woodisse.

Addressing the move to use reservists for civil defence, he said: “I think there’s a real appetite to do this.”

Members of the Army help with the rescue effort after Storm Desmond in Carlisle


Getty Images)

He added: “For more general duties support, I think the Reserve is ready and willing.”

The Army’s head of strategy, Brigadier John Clark, said the overhaul would make the Army “fit for the future”.

Former Scots Guards officer Mr Wallace told reporters that on a recent visit to troops and their equipment, he found it “was entirely the same armoured brigade as I stood amongst in 1991”.

He added: “It really reminded me how far behind our Armed Forces – certainly our Land Forces – have fallen and I was determined that we modernised.

“Yes does that mean we have fewer soldiers but it also means that we will have an honest Armed Forces – an Armed Forces that does what it says on the side of the tin rather than boasts about having lots of people and actually equipment that is 20 years out of date, which is to some extent what we have had for far too long.

“We will have a modernised fleet, it will have a modern soldier and I think it will be really quite exciting.”

But he admitted the “troubled” Ajax programme for armoured fighting vehicles was “demoralising” for troops due to use them. The scheme has been hit by delays and complaints about noise and vibration.

Mr Wallace said: “We have to explore what fixes there are for it but as you know it’s a troubled programme and I am pretty determined that we either fix it or are honest about its shortcomings and see what we have to do to mitigate that.”

The proportion of the Army based in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be sustained or increased by 2025 under the plans, using £3.35bn from the Defence Estate Optimisation budget and £1.2 billion of Army investment in remaining sites.

Kinloss and Leuchars barracks in Scotland will be boosted, with increased numbers of soldiers in Wales and a greater proportion of the Army workforce in Northern Ireland.

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