Veterans protest at Leicester Clock Tower over Army cuts
Veterans protesting against Government plans to merge Army units rallied support from the public by holding a demonstration.
More than 100 shoppers signed a petition organised by supporters of the 9th/12 Royal Lancers, the headquarters of which are in South Wigston.
Ministry of Defence cost-cutting proposals would see the armoured unit merged with the Queen's Royal Lancers.
The demonstration, at Leicester Clock Tower on Saturday, was part of a national protest against wider plans put forward in a Strategic Defence and Security Review to reduce the size of the Army by 20,000 over the next few years.
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Protest organiser David Leadingham, who served with the 9th/12th Lancers, said: "We gathered more than 100 signatures in just three hours, which isn't bad going.
"These cuts are far too much. Apart from spelling the end of the last Leicestershire-based regiment, it will leave our country with a standing army of just 82,000 – barely enough to fill Wembley stadium.
"It's my belief that it will leave soldiers such as those serving their country in Afghanistan desperately overstretched and will mean more deaths.
"The soldiers are against the cuts but while they are serving they have no voice.
"That's why it's up to us, and the public, most of whom were shocked when we told them the scale of the cuts.
"People on the street were very supportive, which to us was very encouraging. "
Ex-servicemen Bob Miller, 70, from Leicester, was among those who signed the petition.
"The armed forces are something close to my heart and that's why I'm supporting this campaign," he said.
"I don't support the war in Afghanistan but I believe the Army needs to be able to do the job asked of it. The cuts go too far."
Another supporter, who did not want to be named, said: "I believe it is morally wrong of the Government to leave our soldiers in the lurch like this.
"I am against war but what message does this send our to the young men risking their lives overseas?"
Alan Taylor, 66, a former Royal Engineer, from Coalville, who served alongside the 9th/12th Lancers, said: "The cuts are ill thought out and premature.
"The Government believes it can make up the number by expanding the Territorial Army but I don't see how that's possible – it is struggling to recruit as it is.
"In any case, it makes no sense to me replacing highly-trained professional soldiers with a part-time army.
"As far as our military and Nato obligations go, we will be snookered.
"It's not about killing, it's about protecting our country, its values and its people."
Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth joined protesters at the Clock Tower to show his support.
He said: "Although I accept there need to be savings in manpower, I believe the Government is cutting too far and too fast in this area.
"These cuts to our armed forces are unfair and unnecessary.
"That's why I'm supporting this campaign and wanted to come along and talk to people to hear their views."