It is now time to abolish the Territorial Army (TA)

I have been a member of the TA for over 20 years but now I believe that it is time for the TA to go.  You may be shocked to read that from me but in light of the government’s announcements last week I believe it is time to reevaluate the relationship between the regular and reserve forces.

I am not advocating an end to part time military service or reserve units but I am calling for an end to the rather artificial separation of the full time and part time elements of the British Army.  Please remember, there have been volunteer soldiers and part time military units in Britain for centuries, the TA celebrated its centenary just a few years ago.

There were Trained Bands (or urban militia) in London from at least the 1640s and the Yeomanry (volunteer cavalry) in the shires from 1790s and other forms of part time soldiery from much earlier still.  The current TA is an evolution and a step towards greater integration of the full time and part time army.

I believe that the convergence should continue.

Almost all TA units have a close and formal relationship with units in the Regular Army, infantry regiments have TA battalions, Cavalry and Artillery have affiliated regular regiments too.  When you see footage of soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan it is likely that a couple of them will be members of the TA deployed alongside their regular counterparts.  The commission that hangs on the wall in my house is the same in all respects to the one that hangs in the home of a regular officer (except that mine has my name on it).  There is no separate Head of the Territorial Army, the chain of command in the same as the army as a whole.

In reality the TA is a concept, a state of mind, rather than a discreet entity.

TA soldier serving in Afghanistan

Over the last ten years our reserve forces have been deployed in all the major theatres of conflict and are seen as useful, credible and cost effective.  Yet the brand of the TA still brings with it the whiff of keen but amateurish or even slightly Walter Mitty.  This is far from the truth yet in the BBC’s reporting of the rebalancing of regular and reserve numbers they chose to use footage of half a dozen blokes marching up and down in an old wooden hall.  Slightly better than Dad’s Army, but only slightly.

The time has come to fully embrace the One-Army concept and only have one army, most of which is full time, a large part of which is part time.

3 responses to “It is now time to abolish the Territorial Army (TA)

  1. It's important to understand the origins and original purpose of the Territorial Units. The term 'Territorial' means just that – local defensive units that could be available on their own familiar territory if their territory was invaded. The purpose of the TA was never to go and fight in other countries but merely to defend their own families, communities, villages and towns in the unlikelihood of an invasion. Of course the invasion of the UK has not been a regular occurrence, hence those soldiers were not required 'Regularly'. It is only in recent times that our various corps, units and battalions seem to have become 'Guns for hire' to be utilised almost entirely, offensively abroad (for what ever purposes…) rather more than merely fulfilling a defensive measure/remit here at home. The question then: If the TA was to be disbanded and we were to find all of our forces abroad fighting (for what ever purposes…), who then would be expected to jump in to action to protect and defend our ancient villages and communities if we found ourselves invaded? Would one suggest that the public should be left to arm and protect themselves? And if so with what training and what arms?? Should we rely upon CSO's, and traffic wardens to fill that role perhaps? If all of our forces are abroad fighting then who would be left at home to look after everything in such an event? The territorial defence units of this country have been built-up organically and naturally over many hundreds of years by the ancient families of England, for it is they who are most familiar with their own communities and local geographical layout. And let it be said that having superior knowledge of your surroundings over an experienced invading soldier could give you the inexperienced soldier the upper hand! The fact is that local communities must have the right to protect their own territories. It must therefore be the decision and choice of those communities as to the future of their own local defence force in the unlikely but possible event of an attack. And one might well laugh at the BBC's 'Dad's Army' but that was after all only a light hearted comedy television show and not a precise description of all such outfits. May I suggest that during the 2nd World war, there were some extremely capable and very dangerous territorial fathers and husbands, mothers and wives operating when their communities and homes came under threat! I would suggest that such an adversary a lot more lethal and vicious than a young solider in a foreign land, bimbling around, not quite sure for what reason!

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