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Rallying call of history as Light regiments unite





By Sean Rayment

(Filed: 29/10/2005)

A new regiment is to be created in the wake of the most controversial restructuring of the Army in the past 20 years.


The Rifles will be an amalgamation of four famous regiments: The Light Infantry, The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry, and The Royal Green Jackets.

Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the Chief of the General staff, and the Executive Committee of the Army board, approved the name during a meeting last Thursday, and providing that the name is given Royal Assent by the Queen, the new unit will be created in 2007.

The name has links back to the days of the Peninsular Wars in 1808 when the 95th of Foot, known as the Rifle Regiment, fired the opening shots of the campaign.

The soldiers were hand-picked from other infantry regiments, dressed in green and specialised in skirmishing and reconnaissance. They also fought at Waterloo, the Crimea War, and the Indian Mutiny, and in both world wars.

Bernard Cornwell based a series of his novels on the fictional character Richard Sharpe - a 2nd lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade, who is played by Sean Bean in the ongoing series of television dramas.

Details of the creation of The Rifles have been revealed in a memo from Lt Gen Robin Brims, the Colonel of The Light Infantry, to the hundreds of soldiers and officers who will serve in the new unit.

Gen Brims writes: "Our inspiration will be The Light Division. We aspire to the values of independent thought, action and leadership forwarded by Sir Gen Moore: self-discipline, fortitude and steadiness of heart. We want to be known for our fighting spirit and our strong sense of decency. We want to be at the forefront of military thinking."

He adds: "I believe this decision is both exciting and sad. All regiments have given up elements we hold dear. The title 'Light Infantry', proudly earned and determinedly, loyally upheld is a case in point. We shall not forget it, nor those who for generations have represented it. We have been exceedingly lucky."

The regiment's new cap badge will be the Light Infantry's bugle. It will not have "Colours" - flags depicting famous battles. Instead, their battle honours will be celebrated by a Maltese Cross inscribed with famous battles in each corner.

Not all former and serving members of The Light Infantry, however, are pleased with the new name.

A former Light Infantry officer said: "Presumably by not wanting to offend any of the regiments which will comprise The Rifles, the powers that be have chosen a vague, non-descriptive title for this large regiment. Who'd want to join 'The Rifles'?

"They say they take inspiration from Sir John Moore, so why not call it Moore's Rifles? At least people will ask about its origins. Or maybe go back to the old name of the Rifle Brigade. There's some history there."

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/30/nrifles30.xml
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