Tag Archives: British Ranger Regiment

Queen’s new Rangers Low Crawling to a Reality

In 1999, there were six regiments in the “Scottish Division” — the Royal Scots, the Royal Highland Fusiliers (RHF), the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB), the Black Watch, The Highlanders, and the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. These were all amalgamated, reduced, blended with several Lowland units, and eventually labeled as the *seven-battalion (*five active, two reserve) Royal Regiment of Scotland by 2006. However, this has been whittled down over the years, but we’ll get to that. 

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced that The First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS), will be recast as the initial backbone of the British Army’s new Ranger Regiment, a force which will ultimately have four battalions when fleshed out. These will eventually be made up of the transferred 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2 PWRR); the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS); and the 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 RIFLES).

The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) march down the Royal Mile after accepting the Freedom of the city of Edinburgh on behalf of the Regiment. Sadly, the unit will lose its “Scottishness” when it becomes a Ranger unit. Photo by Mark Owens/HQScot. MOD/Crown copyright

Two of the Royal Regiment of Scotland’s other roughly 500-man battalions will continue to be based in Scotland, for now at least, with 2 SCOTS staying in Edinburgh and 3 SCOTS staying in Inverness until 2029 before moving to Leuchars – forming an integral part of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade. The Highlanders (4 SCOTS) are based in England at Bourlon Barracks as part of Catterick Garrison. This means, instead of the seven Scottish battalions that the RRS was founded with, it will be down to just three active, plus an independent company branded as a battalion (the famed Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, 5 SCOTS, was long ago cut down to company strength – branded the Balaklava Company in recognition to its “Thin Red Line” days – used for ceremonial duties in Scotland.) 6 SCOTS and 7 SCOTS are reserve units. However, the regiment will still have at least 10 bands left over after 1 SCOTS converts to the Rangers. 

Speaking of the Rangers, it is envisioned they would be a quick-deploying special operations-ish group, seemingly falling shy of SAS and about the same level as the Paras only without the chutes or the RM Commandos but without the amphibious skillset. Each battalion will consist of just 250 men– less than half the size of a U.S. Green Beret battalion/British Para battalion or a third the size of a battalion of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment. The smaller force will be chosen from the current soldiers after an eight-week, two-part assessment then undergoes a further eight months of additional training before the unit is rated ready. 

The British Army has also in the past week unveiled the cap badge of The Ranger Regiment, a Peregrine Falcon clasping a Ranger scroll. The badge will be worn on a gun-metal beret, augmented by the shoulder flash of the old WWII Special Service Brigade, two Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives:

The Ranger Regiment is very proud of its new cap badge which takes inspiration and spirit from the Peregrine Falcon; fast, agile and fiercely loyal to its partner, it operates around the world in all environments including deserts, mountains and cities. It has been designed to demonstrate a new capability for the Army.

It follows a long history of birds being used as emblems and logos around the world. Peregrine derives from the medieval Latin word ‘peregrinus’ which means wanderer. It is the most geographically dispersed bird of prey and can be found on every continent, less Antarctica. The Peregrine Falcon is also the fastest bird on the planet, with a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour.

While many regiments have a cloth badge for officers and a metal badge for soldiers, everyone serving in the Ranger Regiment will wear a metal badge, irrespective of rank.

Of course, the badge is already drawing flak due to the fact that it looks a whole lot like the Osprey badge worn by the Rhodies of the old Selous Scouts, the controversial and oft-smeared Rhodesian Army irregulars that did all sorts of nastiness during the Bush Wars in the late 1970s.

Ranger Falcon. vs Rhodie Osprey

And the beat goes on…

The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

British Army Future: Fewer Soldiers, but adding Rangers

With General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith billing it as the “right solution for the Army” the latest recast of the British military will include the “Future Soldier” program that is “more agile, more integrated and more expeditionary – ready for the next challenge, not the last.”

Among the cuts will be dropping the Army’s official desired active strength from 82,040 today to 72,500 by 2025 (excluding 2,900 Gurkhas, whose numbers, if anything, are expected to increase). However, with historic lows in recruiting and retention (after all who wants to spend all of the 20s and 30s in an endless repeat of forever wars in the Sandbox while London bathes in wokeness?) current actual strength is only about 76,500 personnel (sans Gurkhas), so the slice is not that deep.

For a historical perspective, the strength of the 1991 Gulf War/Ulster-era British Army was 295,000– down from 700,000 at the time of Suez and the typical 1980s Cold War strength of 325,000. This dropped to below 200,000 in 2006 and under 100,000 a decade later. 

The latest integrated defense review, “Defence in a Competitive Age” terms Russia as “the greatest nuclear, conventional military and sub-threshold threat to European security,” and China as “by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today.” As such, it sets aside a fresh £23bn for new Army vehicles (Ajax, Boxer and, Challenger III), long-range rocket systems, drones, electronic warfare, and cyber capabilities.

As far as unit changes:

The Infantry will be restructured into four divisions. These divisions will comprise a balanced number of battalions offering the full range of infantry roles. No cap badges will be deleted nor any redundancies required.

A new Ranger Regiment will be the vanguard of this expeditionary posture as part of an Army Special Operations Brigade. This Regiment’s four all-arms units will be aligned with the new Divisions of Infantry and initially seeded from the current Specialised Infantry Battalions: 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS and 4 RIFLES. They will be able to operate in complex, high-threat environments, taking on some tasks traditionally done by Special Forces. This work will involve deterring adversaries and contributing to collective deterrence by training, advising and, if necessary, accompanying partners. The Army will establish this Regiment in August and invest over £120m over the next four years in equipping it.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy will keep both of their brand-new F-35 Lightning Carriers, although the numbers of actual F-35s to be acquired will only allow for one FAA/RAF air wing with the U.S. Marine Corps backfilling the British flattops with Devil F-35Bs. However, the number of legitimate surface escorts and attack submarines will continue to atrophy.

And the beat goes on…