South Yorkshire relief as historical battalion is spared the axe

Pride: Members of Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment - formerly the Duke of Wellington's Regiment - on parade before their current deployment in Afghanistan. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire
Pride: Members of Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment - formerly the Duke of Wellington's Regiment - on parade before their current deployment in Afghanistan. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

DEFENCE Secretary Philip Hammond has spared a historic battalion which recruits from South Yorkshire from the axe despite huge cuts to the Army.

In total 17 units are being cut as the Ministry of Defence reduces the number of troops from more than 100,000 to 80,000.

But Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, formerly the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, will not be hit.

It had been feared that the battalion, which dates back to 1702, would be one of the casualties. Instead, 2 Yorks - formerly the Green Howards and which nowadays mainly recruits from North Yorkshire - is among the battalions to go.

Peter Holden, of the Sheffield Duke of Wellington’s Association which meets at the Farm Road club on the edge of the city centre, said: “It’s quite a relief, particularly with the unit currently serving in Afghanistan.”

But Mr Holden, who served in Northern Ireland, added: “It’s still a shame other units are going when the Army will still have a training role in Afghanistan in future years and may end up being sent to Syria.”

Matt Highton, originally from Rotherham and who now lives in Barnsley, said: “I served in the Duke of Wellington’s for 8 years and served in Northern Ireland and the Iraq war and duties for the Queen.

“My family have also served in the regiment. To disband it would have been a clear insult to the history it has built up and the great men and women that have served.”

But there was disappointment among former members of the Green Howards. There is a Sheffield branch of the Green Howards Association which still meets at the Penny Black pub in the city.

One member, Charlie Hill, aged 87, was a 19-year-old private with the Green Howards when he struggled ashore at Gold beach on D-Day in June 1944.

The retired park groundsman, of Gaunt Road, Gleadless, said it was ‘a very sad day’. “It’s a historic battalion and it means a lot to me,” he said. “Everybody is disappointed by the decision.”

* Third Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment - formerly the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment - has a long history dating back to 1702.

* It was originally the 33rd Regiment of Foot for its first century before being named after the Duke of Wellington, regimental colonel from 1806 to 1812, from the 19th Century.

* Its soldiers have fought in conflicts including the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic wars and Boer War, World Wars One and Two, the Korean War and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* ‘The Dukes’ was merged into the Yorkshire Regiment in 2006.