Axed regiment sees first 70 soldiers go

First published in News

THE first 70 soldiers to be made redundant as part of Ministry of Defence cuts at Bicester have been ann-ounced, and more are facing the axe.

Troops from 23 Pioneer Regiment, based at St David’s Barracks, will not all leave at once but are expected to go over the next six months.

The move comes four months after the 600-strong regiment, which has been based in Bicester in some form since 1941, was told it would be disbanded as part of Government cutbacks.

Soldiers were told in July the Pioneers’ name would cease to exist by October 2015, that its tasks would be picked up by other units, and troops faced redundancy.

An MoD spokesman said: At the moment 70 are facing redundancy and they are working through the six months’ notice period. They won’t all leave at once.

“There will be further redundancies coming in different tranches, but we haven’t had sight of that yet.”

The MoD said a further decision over what will happen to the Pioneers’ base, St David’s Barracks, and Army housing in Ambrosden, will be made towards the end of the year.

The base has no family quarters, but includes flats for single soldiers, a parade ground, offices and other regimental buildings.

Heather Wood, 32 from Bicester, was married to Warrant Officer Class 2 Charles Wood, who was killed aged 34 in an explosion in Afghanistan in December 2010.

She said: “I think this is very disappointing.

“For the families involved, it’s not just a job, they will have to rehouse themselves and start their lives again.

“I think this is particularly hard for troops who have gone out to Afghanistan and risked their lives.”

In June last year the Ministry of Defence launched a £30m scheme called the Community Covenant to help former servicemen and women after leaving the forces.So far it has backed 10 projects in Oxfordshire to help service personnel, costing around £390,000.

In a further bid to support soldiers facing redundancy, Oxfordshire County Council is organising a recruitment event at the Bicester Garrison Officers’ Mess in Ambrosden, on Friday, October 19, between 10am to noon.

Local employers who have vacancies now or are expecting to have jobs available in the future are being urged to go along and learn about the benefits of employing military leavers.

The event will also give soldiers who are planning to settle in Oxfordshire the opportunity to network with supporting organisations.

Bicester’s MP Sir Tony Baldry and Adrian Shooter, chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, will open the event, which has been jointly organised by the county council and Cherwell District Council, Bicester Vision, Bicester Chamber of Commerce and 23 Pioneer Regiment.

Chamber president Ben Jackson said: “The specific and general skills and abilities in those leaving the armed forces should mean they are potentially a great asset to any business. Employers looking to expand, or just even starting to think about it, should attend this event and see what they could tap into over the next two years.”

For more information or to register for the day call Helen Johnson at Oxfordshire County Council on 07775 025256 or email helenl.johnson@oxfordshire.gov.uk

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