Options for Change

Options for Change was a restructuring of the British Armed Forces in 1990 after the end of the Cold War.[1]

Until this point, UK military strategy had been almost entirely focused on defending Western Europe against the Soviet Armed Forces, with the Royal Marines in Scandinavia, the Royal Air Force (RAF) in West Germany and over the North Sea, the Royal Navy in the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic, and the British Army in Germany.[2]

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact occurring between 1989 and 1991, a Soviet invasion of Western Europe no longer seemed likely. While the restructuring was criticised by several British politicians, it was an exercise mirrored by governments in almost every major Western military power: the so-called peace dividend.[3]

Total manpower was cut by approximately 18 per cent to around 255,000 (120,000 army; 60,000 navy; 75,000 air force).[1]

Other casualties of the restructuring were the UK's nuclear civil defence organisations, the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation, and its field force, the Royal Observer Corps (a part-time volunteer branch of the RAF), both disbanded between September 1991 and December 1995.[4]

British Army


The amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers into the Royal Scots Borderers (one battalion) and the Cheshire Regiment and Staffordshire Regiment into the Cheshire and Staffordshire Regiment (one battalion) was suspended in 1994.

Household Cavalry

Royal Armoured Corps


Royal Air Force

Royal Navy

On television

A dramatisation of the effects that Options for Change had on the ordinary men and women serving in the armed forces came in the ITV series Soldier Soldier. The fictional infantry regiment portrayed in the series, the King's Fusiliers, was one of those selected for amalgamation. It showed the whole process of negotiation over traditions, embellishments, etc. between the two regiments involved, and the uncertainty that many of those serving felt for their jobs in the light of two separate battalions merging into one, with the resulting loss of manpower.

See also


  1. "Defence (Options for Change)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 25 July 1990. col. 468–486.
  2. Freedman, Lawrence (18 August 1999). The Politics of British Defence, 197997. Macmillan Press. ISBN 0-333746-67-8.
  3. Clements, Benedict J.; Schiff, Jerald Alan; Debaere, Peter; Davoodi, Hamid Reza (1 July 1999). Military Spending, the Peace Dividend, and Fiscal Adjustment. International Monetary Fund. ISBN 978-1-4518-9700-5.
  4. "End of the Long Lookout". The Herald. Glasgow. 29 December 1995. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  5. "RAF Timeline 199099". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
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