Royal Marines 40 Commando with Javelin, Exercise Noble Mariner pre Op Herrick deployment (Crown Copyright, 2007)

Home of 40 Commando Saved from Closure

MOD Reveals Five Military Bases Will No Longer Be Shut Down

Norton Manor Camp (RM Norton Manor) – the home of 40 Commando, Royal Marines – will no longer be closed as part of the MOD’s Defence Estate Optimisation Programme.  Four other military facilities in the UK will also be saved.

In 2016, the Government announced that Norton Manor would close by 2028, but in a statement to Parliament Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood, revealed that Norton Manor Camp would remain operational, along with Royal Marines Condor Airfield near Arbroath, Royal Marines Chivenor in Devon MOD Woodbridge (Rock Barracks) in Suffolk, and RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire.

Located near Norton Fitzwarren, 2 miles (3.2 km) north-west of Taunton, Somerset, Norton Manor Camp has been home to 40 Commando, Royal Marines, since 1983.

Other military facilities earmarked for closure will now by phased out on a longer timescale than originally planned. Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Venning Barracks, RAF Henlow, Chilwell Station, RAF Halton and HMS Sultan, the home of the Defence School of Marine Engineering and the Royal Naval Air Engineering and Survival School will now close several years later than originally stated.

In his statement to Parliament, Mr Ellwood said, “These decisions have not been taken lightly but after months of rigorous analysis, and they reflect a clear-eyed assessment of the rapidly changing threats facing our nations.”

Mr Ellwood gave no explanation for these changes, but as part of his statement he acknowledged that “The world is getting more dangerous and complex, and threats are increasing and diversifying. We now live in a multipolar world with competing powers and diverging views on how the world should look.”

It would seem that the MOD has realised that the benefits of some of its current facilities extend beyond the cost-cutting and rationalisation that has shaken the Armed Forces to their core in the last few years. Over two years ago, the MOD announced that it would close 91 sites across the UK.

£1.5 bn Defence Estate Investment

The Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Nia Griffith, questioned whether such widespread closures, by undermining local ties and military heritage, would affect recruitment.

Mr Ellwood also confirmed that close to £1.5 bn would be invested in the MOD estate over the next five years. As well as creating regional clusters to bring people and capabilities closer to their training estates in new centres of specialism, Mr Ellwood also highlighted the benefits tor military families to find work, establish roots and provide more stable schooling for their children.

Conditions in Barracks Worse Than the Frontline

Poor conditions at British Army bases have recently been highlighted when soldiers based in Aldershot made complaints to the BBC in February.

One soldier said that conditions at Keogh Barracks, Aldershot, were “worse than those on the frontline.” Another soldier said “I’ve never had a hot shower in my block.” Heating was also a problem, with rooms being described as “freezing.”

Soldiers saw poor conditions such as these leading to low morale and an increased drop out rate.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Commons Defence Select Committee, Mr Ellwood made a candid admission that the MoD “needs more money” to keep up repairs.

A 2017 Armed Forces Continuous Attitude Survey showed a 4% decline in satisfaction with the overall stands of Service accommodation, with less than half (49%) of military personnel expressing satisfaction with their housing.

The MOD’s estate has grown so large that it now accounts for 2% of the UK’s land mass, presenting considerable management challenges.

Source: Hansard

Image: 40 Commando, Royal Marines, training with the Javelin missile system on Exercise Noble Mariner prior to deploying to Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK (Crown Copyright, 2007).