Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Options for Change

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Options for Change was a restructuring of the British Armed Forces in 1990 after the end of the Cold War.


Until this point, UK military strategy had been almost entirely focused on defending Western Europe against the Soviet Armed Forces, with the Royal Marines in Scandinavia, the Royal Air Force (RAF) in West Germany and over the North Sea, the Royal Navy in the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic, and the British Army in Germany.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in 1989, a Soviet invasion of Western Europe no longer seemed likely. While the restructuring was criticised by several British politicians, it was an exercise mirrored by governments in almost every major Western military power: the so-called peace dividend.

Total manpower was cut by approximately 18 per cent to around 255,000 (120,000 army; 60,000 navy; 75,000 air force).

Other casualties of the restructuring were the UK's nuclear civil defence organisations, the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation, and its field force, the Royal Observer Corps (a part-time volunteer branch of the RAF), both disbanded between September 1991 and December 1995.

British Army

  • Halving the troop strength in Germany by replacing the British Army of the Rhine with British Forces Germany in 1994.
  • Several British Army regiments amalgamated:
  • Infantry

  • The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) - one battalion
  • The Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons)
  • The Gordon Highlanders
  • The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) - two battalions
  • The Queen's Regiment
  • The Royal Hampshire Regiment
  • The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment - one battalion
  • The Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment
  • The Gloucestershire Regiment
  • The Royal Gurkha Rifles - 3 battalions (later reduced to two)
  • 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles
  • 6th Queen Elizabeth's Own Gurkha Rifles
  • 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles
  • 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles
  • The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment) - two general service battalions (later reduced to one)
  • The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th)
  • The Ulster Defence Regiment
  • In addition, seven regiments each lost a battalion:
  • Grenadier Guards
  • Coldstream Guards
  • Scots Guards
  • The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
  • The Royal Anglian Regiment
  • The Light Infantry
  • The Royal Green Jackets
  • The amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers into the Royal Scots Borderers (one battalion) and the Cheshire Regiment and Staffordshire Regiment into the Cheshire and Staffordshire Regiment (one battalion) was suspended in 1994.

    Household Cavalry

  • The Household Cavalry Regiment (each retained regimental identity)
  • The Life Guards
  • The Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons)
  • Royal Armoured Corps

  • The King's Royal Hussars
  • The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own)
  • 14th/20th King's Hussars
  • The Light Dragoons
  • 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary's Own)
  • 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
  • The Queen's Royal Hussars (Queen's Own and Royal Irish)
  • The Queen's Own Hussars
  • The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars
  • The Queen's Royal Lancers
  • 16th/5th Queen's Royal Lancers
  • 17th/21st Lancers
  • The Royal Dragoon Guards
  • 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
  • 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
  • 1st Royal Tank Regiment
  • 1st Royal Tank Regiment
  • 4th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 3rd Royal Tank Regiment
  • Services

  • Royal Logistic Corps
  • Royal Corps of Transport
  • Royal Army Ordnance Corps
  • Royal Pioneer Corps
  • Army Catering Corps
  • Postal and Courier Service, Royal Engineers
  • Adjutant General's Corps
  • Royal Army Educational Corps
  • Royal Army Pay Corps
  • Women's Royal Army Corps
  • Army Legal Corps
  • Corps of Royal Military Police
  • Military Provost Staff Corps
  • Royal Air Force

  • Closing RAF Wildenrath in April 1992 and RAF Gutersloh in March 1993, halving the number of RAF bases in Germany.
  • Withdrawing the F-4 Phantom II squadrons.
  • Cancelling the Brimstone air-to-surface missile project (later restarted).
  • A small reduction in Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.
  • Royal Navy

  • Cutting the number of frigates and destroyers from around 50 to 40.
  • On television

    A dramatisation of the effects that Options for Change had on the ordinary men and women serving in the armed forces came in the ITV series Soldier Soldier. The fictional infantry regiment portrayed in the series, the King's Fusiliers, was one of those selected for amalgamation. It showed the whole process of negotiation over traditions, embellishments, etc. between the two regiments involved, and the uncertainty that many of those serving felt for their jobs in the light of two separate battalions merging into one, with the resulting loss of manpower.


    Options for Change Wikipedia