UK

Killed soldiers' parents protest over MoD cuts to Army

Protesters in Newcastle
Image caption Some 50 protesters gathered at Old Eldon Square in Newcastle

Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are protesting against planned cuts to the British army.

Demonstrations are being held at 61 war memorials around the UK, including the Cenotaph in London and in cities including Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff.

The action was organised earlier this month by Dee Edwards, of the Protest Against MoD Cuts group.

Ministers say plans to cut Army personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 follow previous overspends on defence.

BBC Radio Manchester reporter Pav Bhatti said some 50 men and women had gathered in the city's St Peter's Square. Our correspondent said the mood was sombre as young and old gathered together, exchanging greetings and stories.

BBC Newcastle's Francesca Williams said a similar number had gathered at Old Eldon Square - many of them veterans wearing their medals.

Steve Hildrew, who served with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said he was participating in the protest "to support the lads".

"We're all family and we've got to show solidarity. We're not going to lie down and take it," he told the BBC.

Ahead of the demonstrations, Ms Edwards described the MoD's plans as "completely wrong".

"What happens to all of these thousands of people when they are made redundant - how many more ex-soldiers are going to end up on the streets?"

She said the protests had been organised for 11:00 BST - the same time as Armistice Day is marked - "to remember all the soldiers' lives who have been lost and to think about all the ones that could die in action in the future".

Under the plans the Army will be about half the size it was during the Cold War era - it had more than 163,000 troops in 1978.

On Monday, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said no-one in the government took pleasure in the cuts.

But he added: "We inherited a very grave economic situation and a particular overspend in defence and in 2010 we had the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which concluded that we had to delete certain platforms and we had to reduce our manpower and the announcements that we have just seen of the specific battalions to be disbanded are just working through in detail what was announced two years ago in that review."

Four infantry battalions are to disappear, the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh.

A fifth infantry battalion, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), will become a single company to carry out public duties in Scotland.

The Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the mergers of the Queen's Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Royal Tank Regiments.

The Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police will also be affected.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the new-look Army would be a "forward-looking, modern fighting machine".

The restructuring was drawn up under a plan by Lt Gen Nick Carter, and referred to as Army 2020.

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