TA keeps calm and carries on in wake of cuts

The TA centre in Coldyhill Lane
The TA centre in Coldyhill Lane

Swingeing Army cuts have meant Scarborough’s last Army base has been in the line of fire for more than a decade.

But despite growing fears that it may one day close, the Territorial Army Centre in Coldyhill Lane has escaped the axe once more in the latest Government shake-up.

Military top brass are to close four TA barracks in Yorkshire in a £1.8 billion restructuring of the newly-named Army Reserves.

But Scarborough’s centre, home to the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, has survived the reforms, which will see the shrinking regular Army enhanced by an extra 13,000 part-time troops by 2018.

Former Scarborough TA major John Senior, who has been working hard to maintain a TA presence in the town, said: “I have been pressurising at various levels to get this decision, so I’m pleased personally that this has happened. I have been working behind the scenes to highlight how important the base is for a place like Scarborough.

“Because of the town’s unique location at the end of a 45-mile road, there is nowhere else nearby for young people in the area who want to experience a TA career, which often moves into a regular career. Many soldiers start life as a TA recruit.

“We would also lose the facility of a TA centre, which provides a lot of local support for various events and all sorts of training. All of that is done free of charge here in Scarborough and to lose that would have 
a big effect.”

Mr Senior, who established the armed forces support scheme Heroes Welcome in Scarborough in 1998, highlighted the ongoing dedication of the 4th Battalion and the town’s long history of association with the Army.

“Scarborough’s Armed Forces Day a few weeks ago was the biggest in the country. There was a huge turn-out and the TA was in support of that day. It would be very disturbing and worrying if we had lost the TA,” he said.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced the changes in a White Paper last week, which also included financial measures to help new recruits, their families and their Civvy Street employers.

The revamp will be the biggest the Territorials, which will be known as the Army Reserves, have seen since their formation in 1908.

The 35,000 fully-trained reservists across the three Armed Forces will be concentrated into 25 fewer bases, with 38 earmarked for closure and 13 being opened at new locations as the Government frees up funding for the major expansion of numbers.

Among those due to close are Duncombe Barracks in York and Belleview Barracks in Bradford, as well as the Territorial Army centres in Northallerton and Keighley.

Despite the survival of Scarborough’s centre, Mr Senior fears the battle is not yet won and has pledged to keep fighting to preserve the base.

He said: “It isn’t over, these things never are. We haven’t got to take it for granted.

“At the moment Scarborough has been preserved, but people in the area have to use it or lose it.

“If you join the reserves you are part of the regular Army and have full rates of pay. You become a fully trained soldier, the only difference is we do our work part time, while a regular soldier does it full time.

“You join a trade and learn all sorts of other man management skills. You can access it all through the Scarborough’s TA centre. I spent 25 years with them and my friends and colleagues are still there.

“If we lost the centre, the nearest would be in York, which is unworkable for most people in the area.

“We are a town in our own right and an important part of the North Yorkshire fabric and I’m delighted that the MoD has recognised that.”

Many a boot has marched through the doors of the TA centre on Coldyhill Lane in the past 50 years – however, it has been far from a walk in the park in the battle to keep it operational.

In 1998, under the Strategic Defence Review, the barracks of what was then known as the 4th/5th Battalion the Green Howards were earmarked for closure by the Government.

However the centre was saved by the Friends of A Company, which was formed by Army veterans and local residents, who opposed the move.

A petition was also launched, which resulted in 3,000 signatures being presented to 10 Downing Street.

“A number of us have been working hard to maintain a presence in Scarborough. It is something I have been involved with since we launched a huge campaign and managed to turn the Government’s decision around in 1998.

“Assurances were made that a base would remain in the town for 10 years. Now they are looking again at a massive reduction of the TA.”

The Scarborough unit includes troops who have served in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and Falklands veterans.

Mr Senior said: “It’s a great company of men and women, who all form a lasting bond. We have a saying – once a Green Howard, twice a citizen. That is most definitely the case.”