Tuesday 9 July 2013

Territorial Army Expansion: Interesting Details

A couple of years ago we commented that strategic expansion (and deployment !) of the TA was all well and good, but only if it were done properly, i.e. playing to the strengths of what reservists can do best. I wrote then:
 Medics, HGV drivers, helicopter pilots, civil engineers, linguists etc etc can be ideally placed to make tremendous and cost-effective contributions with relatively little purely military training. But not infantry. Why ? Because modern conflict requires that infantry be trained in formation, for manoeuvre warfare. This can't be done at weekends. The Army long ago realised that TA tank units made no sense, and the same is true of infantry.
If you are interested in detailed military stuff, take a look at this:  an almost complete new TA Order of Battle (the omission is rather obvious ...).

Unfortunately, numbers are not given, which limits the deductions we can make.  But here are some quick inferences:
  • Army Air Corps and REME both being enlarged.  Good
  • Sappers and transport units apparently being reduced.  Not so sure about that.
  • No new infantry units, so if numbers of bayonets are to be increased it will be by pumping up the existing regiments.  If you insist on doing so, this way makes sense: most line battallions are under strength now. 
  • Medical Corps essentially unchanged in every detail.  The reservist medics have performed brilliantly in theatre (pun intended) from 1991 onwards and it is no surprise nothing needs to be changed.
Forearmed ...
Finally, a really interesting one: the reservist Intelligence Corps is being doubled, from 2 to 4 battalions. Some of the increase comes from absorbing some Signals units which is logical, SIGINT being central to modern intelligence, as we well know from recent *ahem* revelations.   This is the way of 21st century warfare and a big increase in these resources looks like a smart move.  

Whether they can get the quantity and quality of personnel to carry out any of these plans is another matter ...



dearieme said...

If yer Prince William gives up his full-time job to do more royalling, it would be a very fine thing if he joined the territorials.

Elby the Beserk said...

"The Army long ago realised that TA tank units made no sense"

And it was this suggestion, by the Guardian, way back in the 1960s, that the TA Tank regiments should be disbanded that let my old man, at that time C-in-C of the 40/41st Royal Tank Regiment, to get up out of the seat he was in on the train into Manchester, chuck the Guardian out of the window, and never buy it again.

Nick Drew said...

oo-err ...

the Grauniad is like a stopped clock, tells the right time occasionally but only by accident

Demetrius said...

Just a minor matter, who are we expected to be fighting and where? History indicates what we have very rarely had the right answers to those questions when they arose.

Nick Drew said...

I know what you mean, Demetrius - when I first joined the army (70's) it certainly felt like we were planning to re-fight WW2: not much had changed since my father's day (including - in non-teeth arms - the '37-pattern webbing and Bren guns!)

but I have to say that, starting around 1979 (no coincidence) it felt a lot more like a genuine attempt to figure out how to fight the sovs in the last two decades of the 20thC (significantly driven by new US doctrine, it must be said)

by the time of Desert Storm the whole thing was really quite adroit; and the NATO-hybrid strategy hatched by Schwarzkopf's staff was pretty well-suited to the exact circumstances confronted

(it scared the hell out of the Russians, who'd always wondered whether NATO air-land doctrine was do-able)

Taff said...

Wandered round NATO a few years ago during a sponsored visit only to see a few East European colonels, majors etc - and wondered if I was in the wrong place.

In saying that the briefing we got was a fantastic insight into the amount of planning that goes into avoiding conflict.


Blue Eyes said...

I don't know what the answer is, I just hope they don't screw it up as "they" have with the Special Constabulary. An awful lot of good effort gone to waste, there. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Elby the Beserk said...


Indeed! I loved it when the old man was boss of the 40/41st. We kids got to go out in Centurion tanks on the ranges, and watch them firing as well. Huge fun for small boys! Add to that, we got one of his mess snooker tables for the price of delivery as nobody played snooker any more; we were the envy of all our friends having a full size table at home. Ah, the joys of a mis-spent youth - tanks and snooker!

Jan said...

I too went inside a tank (aged about 4) and can remember feeling a bit scared. (Dad in REME not sure how we had access to a tank unless it was being mended).

More recently (90s) my son was in TA Signals and did weekend exercises on Brecon Beacons but they all used their mobile phones as the equipment they had didn't work!! I hope it's better now.

He used to come home from weekends really tired and with a lot of dirty kit for mum to wash ie me but it was only playing really as the most he ever had to do was 2 weeks in the summer. He left before being drafted to Iraq/Afghanistan but one of his TA friends was killed recently (last year) in Afghanistan.

The reality of warfare hit home then.

Nick Drew said...

Taff - yes, NATO had (has?) a lot going for it, and the eastern eu nations were gagging to join. As noted here before, I suggest that the way that France was very effectively both inside (NATO) and outside (the standing command structure) is an interesting model for how UK could relate to EU

BE - you? bitter? industrial-grade lager, isn't it?

Elby - that's the right kind of mis-spent youth IMHO

Jan - yes that puts things into perspective: the last show I participated in was Gulf War 1 and I was OK with that - Kuwait was a genuinely aggrieved party - but I'm glad I never had to wrestle with my conscience over George W Bush's family feud with Iraq

TAInfantry said...

I think you will find that TA infantry sub-units have deployed whole to Iraq/Afghan and acquitted themselves very well.

There have also been hundreds (thousands?) of TA Infanteers deployed embedded within Regular Infantry battalions on both Telic and Herrick.

Things have moved on rapidly from the 70's and I am happy to enlighten you on request.

Nick Drew said...

TAInfantry - thanks for the input. Embedded, I well understand & know it can work well (see original 2011 post linked-to in the 1st line of this one), in infantry and other arms

but as formed units ? tell us more - in particular, for how long were they training as a unit before deployment in theatre ?

if the future of warfare is all Afghan-style ops, that's one thing. But if we ever again need to fight a mechanised war of manoeuvre (e.g. Granby), that is the scenario I had primarily in mind in this post and the earlier one when I said that infantry isn't the best use for reservists

James Higham said...

Fine advice and common sense about the TA and infantry but when one is dealing with decisionmakers who see them as cannon fodder anyway ...