THE HISTORY OF THE LIGHT INFANTRY

THE ORIGINS OF THE LIGHT INFANTRY

FORMATION OF THE NEW REGIMENT

THE EARLY YEARS

THE YEARS OF CONSOLIDATION 1979-1989

OPTIONS FOR CHANGE AND AFTER

LIGHT INFANTRY DRESS REGULATIONS

THE REGIMENTS

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OPTIONS FOR CHANGE AND AFTER


The dramatic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe provoked a search for a rapid and conspicuous 'peace dividend'. In February 1990 the Secretary of State for Defence, former Somerset Light Infantry Officer and Member of Parliament for Bridgwater, Tom King, announced he had set in hand 'Options for Change' studies to address the size, shape and role of Britain's post-Cold War defence forces. The outcome of these studies was a significant reduction in the Infantry, and both regiments of the Light Division were required to reduce by one regular battalion. This unwelcome decision, which undermined the whole concept of the 'large regiment', was followed by the news that the Volunteers were to be subjected to similar scrutiny. During the 'Options' process massive campaigns were mounted in the counties from which the Regiment springs to prevent the loss or amalgamation of any of the Volunteer battalions. It was with some relief that, on 10th December 1991, it was announced that all four Volunteer battalions would remain, albeit reduced to three companies and, in the case of 5LI(V), one of the companies being from the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment (29th/45th).

Although naturally concerned about the likely outcome of the 'Options' studies, life in all battalions continued at the usual pace. A new Light Infantry Museum, in Peninsula Barracks, Winchester opened its doors to the public on 8th January 1990, and was formally opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra on 27th November 1991. For 1LI in Berlin, uncertainties about the size and duration of the allied garrison, the chance to meet both East German and Soviet units, and increasing restrictions on training were making life interesting. In January 1990 2LI deployed to South Armagh for an emergency tour; returning to Tidworth in May only to discover that the major UKMF exercise had been cancelled, to be replaced with a less exciting exercise on Salisbury Plain.

In February 1990 3LI moved from Weeton Camp to Minden to become a mechanized battalion with the new 'WARRIOR' infantry combat vehicle. However, any prospect of mechanized training was removed when the Battalion was tasked with the training of reinforcements for the Gulf War. In October 1990 the Salamanca Band deployed to the Gulf in their role as Medical Assistants. The Band remained in the Gulf throughout the war, three members being mentioned in dispatches for gallantry.

In January 1991 2LI moved to Washington State for Exercise 'TRUMPET DANCE', an exercise which was much enjoyed and an opportunity at last to conduct primary role training., All available 'WARRIOR' vehicles having been transferred to the Gulf, it was decided to bring forward the 3LI tour in Northern Ireland and the Battalion deployed to West Belfast in May 1991, returning in November to find that the full scale of 'WARRIOR' vehicles was still not available.

On 31st May 1991 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother presented new Colours to the three regular battalions at Tidworth. With the outcome of the 'Options' studies very much in mind, but yet to be announced, it was to be a particularly memorable regimental occasion, even though the 1LI presence was much reduced and 3LI could only spare a small party from operations in Northern Ireland. The much delayed return of 1LI finally took place in August 1991 when the Battalion moved into Kiwi Barracks, Bulford. As 1LI returned 2LI departed, having been sent to Northern Ireland for two months as short-term reinforcements.

It was decided that the reduction by one regular battalion should be achieved by the merger of the three existing battalions; 1LI would occupy the barracks currently occupied by 2LI and 3LI would renumber as 2LI and remain in Germany. The rundown to the revised manpower target continued throughout 1992 and hit 1LI, deployed in Belize from April to August 1992 and 2LI, on a six month tour in South Armagh, particularly hard. It was not to be until August 1992 that 3LI finally started their 'WARRIOR' training, two and a half years after arriving in Germany. On 25th February 1993 the three regular battalions merged to become two, a major reorganisation achieved with a smoothness and efficiency that does nothing but credit to the 'large regiment' concept.

After twenty-five years the Light Infantry was firmly established as a thoroughly professional regiment, rooted in the counties from which its predecessors sprang and from which, to this day, it still draws its fighting men. Emphasising this point, the volunteer Battalions now incorporate the County names, cementing the links with the past and identifying the Regiment to the area from which it recruits. As the 8th Battalion The Yorkshire Light Infantry changed its role to become a Reconnaissance Regiment under the operational control of the Director Royal Armoured Corps, the capbadge, the silver bugle, the green beret and the swift marching pace all serve to show the Regiments antecedents, and its ability to adhere in modern times to the concepts of forward thinking and adaptability espoused by General Sir John Moore in 1802.

THE REGIMENTS

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