Since the foundation of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment on the 9th September 1992, the Regiment has continued to maintain the best traditions of the past, whilst establishing a sound professional reputation in its new guise. The inherited traditions are explained in other parts of this Online Museum; this chapter illustrates the activities of the current Regiment.
The British Army has changed a great deal since 1992 and so have the threats to peace and security. In the 1990s, Northern Ireland continued to dominate the infantryman’s life and, afterwards and the Regiment played its part keeping the peace in the Balkans. However, in recent years, operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been critical in defining the character of the Regiment as it developed its considerable operational and war fighting capability. 2014 marked a shift away from these enduring operations to a wider Defence contingency role, as the Army 2020 plan has developed. The Army is to be capable of:
The Army has continued to change shape. Fortunately, whilst some Infantry battalions were disbanded and amalgamated again under Future Army Structures 2005, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment has retained its two regular battalions, though in common with other regiments, their size has been reduced, as they have taken over ‘Responsive’ (1 PWRR) and ‘Adaptive’ (2 PWRR) Force roles.
Meanwhile, significant changes have occurred in the Territorial Army (TA), renamed ‘Army Reserves’ in 2014. The Government’s Strategic Defence Review of 1998 reduced the size of the TA dramatically, particularly the Infantry where thirty-three battalions were cut to fifteen only. The impact for the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment was to merge the 5th and 6/7th Battalions to form the new 3rd Battalion whilst maintaining the cap-badge in the Rifle Companies at Portsmouth and London within The Royal Rifle Volunteers and The London Regiment respectively. For a while, the Portsmouth Company became part of the 3rd Battalion, which also gained a company based at Rochester. However, in 2014, following decisions made in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) of 2010 and the Defence White Paper of 2013, all Army Reserve infantry battalions had to reduce in size, so the Portsmouth Company was rebadged to the Army Air Corps in 2014. The SDSR also announced the British Army’s withdrawal from Germany by 2020 and a reduction in personnel, armour and artillery.
The new Army 2020 will have a new integrated structure of regulars and reserves and the reserve element will be proportionally higher than in the past; the Regular Army reduces to its new size of 82,000, whilst the Army Reserve rises to 30,000 trained soldiers – an integrated Army of about 112,000. Part of this integration has ‘paired’ 3 PWRR with the Woolwich based Infantry battalion (The 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment in 2014). The aim is to use Reservists routinely, rather than in just extreme circumstances. Despite a busy operational tempo, the Regiment has excelled in sporting competitions and mounted successful adventure training activities. The opportunities for long overseas battalion postings are now less likely in the modern Army. However, soldiers have had the experience of travelling abroad and the battalions have exercised in Kenya and Canada a number of times as well as Poland, Latvia, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.
HRH The Princess of Wales was appointed the first Colonel-in- Chief in 1992. She relinquished this appointment in 1996, having been a great source of pride and encouragement to the Regiment. She was held in great affection by all ranks and her visits to the battalions, and her presentation of the first set of new Colours to the 2nd Battalion in 1995, are particularly remembered. HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, formerly the Allied Colonel-in- Chief, was appointed sole Colonel-in-Chief in 1997, thus perpetuating the Regiment’s long and historic links with the Royal House of Denmark, which stretch back to 1689.
The modern Regiment is proud to have produced its first three star general, who is now retired from the Army – Lieutenant-General Sir Paul Newton, who commanded The 2nd Battalion and was Colonel of the Regiment from 2007 to 2010.