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.