Spending cuts threaten historic South Yorkshire Army battalion

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment parade through Warminster, Wiltshire before deploying to Afghanistan in April. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire
Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment parade through Warminster, Wiltshire before deploying to Afghanistan in April. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday March 16, 2012. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire
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FEARS have been raised for the future of a 300-year-old Army unit which recruits heavily from South Yorkshire - as its members fight in Afghanistan.

Soldiers from third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment are currently deployed in Helmand Province and are not due to return until Autumn.

But north Nottinghamshire Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army Colonel who represents Newark, has said he has heard on the ‘well informed grapevine’ that the unit may be axed.

The battalion was formerly the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and dates back to 1702. Its soldiers have fought in conflicts from the American War of Independence to the Napoleonic and Boer Wars and modern conflicts.

The threat to the battalion has been criticised by veterans who meet regularly in Sheffield.

Veteran Pete Holden, a member of the Duke of Wellington’s Association whose members gather at the Farm Road Club, said: “I think it’s disgusting that the MOD can think of getting rid of a unit which is steeped in tradition - particularly when its members are putting their lives on the line at present.”

Mr Holden, aged 65, from Gleadless, who was with the Dukes for seven years from 1965 and served in Northern Ireland, added: “The cuts are being made after billions of pounds wasted by the MoD on procurement.

“Yet the Foreign Secretary has mentioned that troops may be sent to Syria and they will still be needed in Afghanistan for training local troops after the combat role ends.”

The Ministry of Defence said Mr Mercer’s comments were “speculation and no final decisions have been made”.