Military chiefs want a drastic reduction in the size of the Royal Marines with one of its three main commando units axed completely – and up to 1,000 Royal Marines face the chop as a result.
Service chiefs met in London last week to find out ways of saving £1billion this year and £20billion over the next decade.
And with MPs and senior naval figures opposing selling off two amphibious assault ships, insisting they are “absolutely vital” sources say Whitehall wants to reduce the total front-line strength of the elite units from 7,000 to 6,000 in a bid to save the cash.
Johnny Mercer MP, a former officer in 29 Commando – Royal Artillery, said cutting the two ships would significantly limit Britain’s military options in the future.
Training a Royal Marine costs about £130,000 and is the most expensive form of basic training in the UK Armed Forces, taking 32 weeks at Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon. It is also the longest initial training package in any NATO country.
Labour MP John Spellar, who sits on the Commons defence committee, described the move as completely bonkers.
He said: “The Royal Marines are recognised by most other forces as world-beaters.”
“It is utterly extraordinary in these troubled times that any government would consider cutting their numbers.”
While it may save some cash sort term it has also been highlighted that getting rid of a 1000 “royals” may quickly lead to a shortfall in Britain’s special forces, an internal Ministry of Defence estimate has suggested.
Just under half of Britain’s special forces are taken from the Royal Marines and the cut would significantly restrict their recruiting pool.
The Royal Marines were founded on 28th October 1664 at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company in London and originally called the ‘Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of Foot’. They have recently celebrated their 353rd birthday.