Chindits 'must be added to forces'
A new Army unit which will use psychology and social media to help Britain "fight in the information age" should not be created at the expense of combat troops, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan has said.
The 77th Brigade will start life in April comprising 2,000 soldiers with propaganda, political activism and social media skills.
Modelled on the Chindits, a specialist unit which fought in Burma during the Second World War, the new unit's focus will be on "unconventional" non-lethal, non-military methods.
Colonel Richard Kemp said: "My view is that this should not be done at the expense of combat troops. Where are these 2,000 people going to come from?
"They are likely to come from savings made in combat troops. I think that's a mistake.
"I think the British forces have already been cut far too much in a very uncertain and increasingly dangerous world.
"I'm not suggesting this new unit is not needed - it is - but it should be added to the forces, not created out of savings found elsewhere."
The creation of the new unit is part of a major restructuring of the military under the Army 2020 plan, which will see the military scale down to around 82,000 regular troops in the next five years.
An Army spokesman said the brigade "is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare".
"It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent and it draws heavily on important lessons from our commitments to operations in Afghanistan amongst others," he said.
The brigade will be based at Hermitage, Berkshire, with detachments at other MoD sites, and will operate across the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, as well as training and working with other nations and across UK government departments.
It will comprise more than 40% of reserves as well as regulars from all three services and build on "the spirit of innovation and offensive spirit of the men and women" who served in the Chindits between 1942 and 1945.
In 1943 the elite guerilla unit deployed deep behind enemy lines to fight in Japanese-occupied Burma with a mission to disrupt communications and supply routes fuelling the Japanese war effort.
The Chindits were named after the Chinthe - fierce lion-like creatures that stood guard at every Burmese temple - and the 77th Brigade's cap badge will feature the mythical animal, according to reports.