The Desert Rats, Britain’s most famous tank unit, will soon lose its tanks as part of the Coalition Government’s sweeping cuts.
Under the plans, the Army’s 7th Armoured Brigade head-quarters, currently based in Hohne in Germany, will return to the UK and become a part of the new infantry brigade based at Chigwell in Nottinghamshire.
The Ministry of Defence said that it was reducing heavy armoury by 40% and re-rolling units to face more modern threats, and confirmed that it has decided to cut short 20,000 posts in the British Army.
It was announced that the new infantry unit will be equipped with a range of protected wheeled reconnaissance mobility vehicles, like the Jackal patrol car, but no tanks will be used in the future.
However, an army spokesman said “the 7th Brigade including their Desert Rats insignia will remain in the Army’s order of battle as an adaptable force brigade”.
Defence sources say the changes are a part of a strategic shift in the Army’s planning, announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010, to reduce the number of heavy tanks, and focus more on lighter and manoeuvrable forces.
Commenting on the loss of tanks, Major General Patrick Cordingley, a former commander of the Desert Rats, said: “The change would dismay veterans and the general public. It is extremely sad that the 7th Armoured is losing its armour.”
The Desert Rats won fame in North Africa under General Bernard Montgomery, with victories in battles including El Alamein, and fought against Iraqi forces in both first and second Gulf wars.
Details have also emerged another unit, the 4th Merchandised Brigade known as the Black Rats, would shortly follow the Desert Rats, and could loose its role as a tank force and become part of the infantry.