Amid intense opposition from ministers and the public alike, the MoD has confirmed that 42 Commando – one of three frontline Royal Marine units – is to be withdrawn from frontline battlefield duties. The unit, which is based at Bickleigh just outside Plymouth and has seen extensive combat in Afghanistan, will be streamlined with the loss of 200 personnel with the remainder being re-roled as a maritime security force primarily focused on defending surface vessels from attack by potentially hostile boarders such as pirates rather than continuous combat operations on shore alongside the Army and RAF.
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, told the Plymouth Herald;
As someone who has worked with Royal Marines at every stage of my career, most notably when commanding the Amphibious Task Group from RM Stonehouse, I know how vital their role is as the UK’s premier high readiness contingency force.
However, as First Sea Lord, I also know we must adapt to meet the challenges of a dangerous and uncertain world. The Government is investing in a new generation of ships, submarines and aircraft. As we introduce these capabilities into Service, we must ensure we have the right mix of skills across each of the Navy’s Fighting Arms to optimise how we use them, and the Commandant General and I have sought to find the right balance between sailors and marines in responding to this challenge.
The Royal Marines remain bound in to every part of the Royal Navy’s future, from conducting sophisticated operations from the sea, at a variety of scales and against a range of threats, using our new aircraft carriers as a base, to leading the service’s development of information warfare. They will continue to be as vital to the defence of the realm in the years ahead as they have been for the past 350.
The loss of 42 Commando leaves only 40 Commando and 45 Commando able to be deployed on battlefield operations in the future.