THE Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment has emerged unscathed from the latest round of defence cutbacks.
Its two regular battalions avoided merger and the Territorial Army volunteer unit is set to be expanded.
East Lancashire hero Sergeant Rick Clement and local MPs Jack Straw and Andrew Stephenson welcomed the decision by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond which secures the current regiment’s future for at least a decade.
There had been fears that at least one of its battalions could be axed under the proposals unveiled in the Commons yesterday.
The regiment, formed in 2005 in an amalgamation involving the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment which traditionally recruited in East Lancashire and two other units, has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years.
The restructuring reduces the strength of the regular army by 20,000 from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020 scrapping four infantry battalions and two sections in the Armoured Corps.
Territorial Army reservists will double to 30,000 with the weekend soldiers boosted by an extra £1.8 billion investment.
A senior military source said the Duke of Lancaster’s was safe in its current form for at least ten years and the TA battalion would expand and twin with the regular units to prepare its weekend soldiers for front line-duty.
Sgt Clement, originally from Chatburn in the Ribble Valley who lost both legs in Afghanistan, said: “I am very pleased and relieved that the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment has been saved in its current two battalion form.
"We have had enough change in recent years with the merger of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, the King’s Regiment and the King’s Own Royal Borderers into the Duke of Lancaster’s.
“We have done our bit. Whenever you change the regimental structure, the traditions of the regiments get a bit cloudy. We now are now rebuilding those with people who have joined the Duke of Lancaster’s directly.
“I am really pleased that the TA battalion will be expanded to work closely with the regulars.”
Pendle Tory MP Mr Stephenson said: “I have been fighting hard to save the Duke of Lancaster’s in its current form, therefore I am very heartened. It means that the regiment is now safe for the forseeable future.”
Blackburn Labour MP Mr Straw said: “I am very relieved that the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment has been saved in its current composition.”
He added: “This is a tribute to the regiment’s effectiveness.”
The four infantry battalions to disappear include the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, both of which recruit in Lancashire.