Veterans told: 'Give up the fight to save Staffords' name'
A COMMANDING officer was heckled as he told veterans to give up their fight to save the name of the Staffords.
Brigadier Andrew Williams OBE, Deputy Colonel of the Mercian Regiment, spoke at the annual Staffordshire Regimental Association reunion, held at Lichfield Social Club.
He told the veterans that they should accept the loss of the Staffords' name and instead embrace the remaining two battalions of the Mercian Regiment.
Describing the news that 3 Mercian (Staffords) was to be disbanded as a, "stunning body blow", Brigadier Williams, pictured, said: "It's very important that we support those soldiers as they move from 3rd battalion, to 1st and 2nd battalion.
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"The good news is our responsibility now is to support 1st and 2nd battalion. We have got to do what Staffordshire soldiers have always done and get on with it, make the best of it.
"If we fight it, the soldiers will not be supported. The Staffords have merged and we are the Mercian Regiment. The county regiment is now the Mercian Regiment."
Brigadier Williams said there was "no chance whatsoever" that the Staffords could be saved.
The battalion – which merged with the Cheshires and Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters to become 3 Mercian (Staffords) three years ago – is being scrapped as part of Government plans to cut 20,000 troops from the Army by 2018.
The unit will be disbanded, along with 16 others, by 2014.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to listen to protesters desperate to preserve the good name of the Staffords. The Government has also made it clear that the army will make the final decision.
It has previously been mooted that the second battalion could become 2 Mercian (Cheshires and Staffords), and that current Staffords should keep their famous Staffordshire knot cap badge.
However, Brigadier Williams appears to have poured cold water over that idea. In a previous letter to the Staffordshire Regimental Association, he said that he favoured removing all traces of previous regiments from battalion names.
That would mean the name of the Cheshire Regiment would also be lost.
But while some veterans listened to Brigadier Williams' words in respectful silence, others angrily heckled the regiment's deputy commander.
Speaking after the brigadier's speech, Norman Simpson, aged 77, of Wolstanton, who served with the North Staffordshire Regiment between 1954 and 1957, said: "He's only doing what he has been told to do.
"People are bothered about what is going to happen to the battle honours the regiment has won."
David "Dinky" Allen, aged 58, chairman of the regimental association's Burton branch, said: "Years ago, they tried to get rid of the Staffordshire Regiment and there was a lot of support to save it.
"This time, we are being told there's no chance to fight it. They should keep the name."
Clive "H" Hamilton, aged 45, of Burton, said: "The name is the important thing."