WITH a pint of beer and a salute, the final curtain fell on the history of the 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.
Hundreds of troops gathered at the The Kings Head pub, in Lichfield, on Saturday to say goodbye to the battalion, which was formerly The Staffordshire Regiment, and before that the 38th (Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot, which was originally formed in 1705.
However, as the unit takes its place in the history books, it does not mean that Burton will be left without a ‘local’ battalion.
The 250 men from the 3rd Battalions are being fed into the 1st or 2nd Battalions.
Major Jim Faux, battalion second in command, said: “It marks the end of the battalion but also the start of the new Mercian regiment.
“We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the people of the Midlands and it is fitting we ended in Lichfield.
“This is where we started and this is where we will end.
“People now need to see this as not losing a regiment, but becoming part of any bigger one.
“The people of Burton are a proud part of our history and that is something that will never change.”
The 250 soldiers spent the week marching through towns across the Midlands, including a visit to Burton which saw hundreds of people line the streets to show their appreciation for the troops.
The march also marked 3rd Mercians’ return from operations overseas in Afghanistan.
Since its formation in 2007, the regiment has spent more than two-and-a-half years on operations in Afghanistan.
Captain Martyn Fulford said: “Saturday was the last day that the battalion will exist because we are being disbanded.
“The soldiers are going to the 1st and 2nd battalion, which are all Midlands infantry.
“Although they are cutting the third battalion we are still keeping the local ties.”
The Government announced in 2012 that the regiment would lose one of its battalions as part of a programme of cuts.
The move prompted an outcry among politicians and military veterans who were worried that the move would mean the regiment would lose its historic links with the Staffordshire area.
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths and Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant, who represents Barton under Needwood and Alrewas, joined forces with several other MPs in making an impassioned plea to Prime Minister David Cameron to make sure that the links would not be forgotten.
The colonel of the Mercian Regiment, Major General Andrew Sharpe, later revealed in a letter that the ‘golden thread’ would be maintained — linking the Staffords with ‘the history, the family ties, the sense of belonging and the ‘tribal markings’..... the intimate links with our roots, the county ties, the local-boys-fighting-together ethos and, crucially, the support that we get from our local communities and from our veterans and regimental associations.’
Commanding Officer Lt Col Chris Davies said: “Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions will have the name of the Staffords in their title.
“This is not the death of the old Staffords.
“It is the birth of two new ones, each with Staffordshire soldiers in them.”