The UK Government’s decision to pull Royal Marines out of Arbroath and turn RM Condor into an army base has been described as “the best of a bad deal.”
In five to seven years’ time 45 Commando will move out of RM Condor during a phased handover which will see the base being used by an army regiment.
There had been increasing speculation that the Royal Marines would quit their Arbroath base during the government’s ongoing review of military bases and it was confirmed by Defence Secretary Liam Fox in the Commons on Monday.
The move by UK ministers will soon bring to an end a relationship with RM Condor that has lasted four decades since 45 Commando moved to Arbroath in 1971. They took over the base which had been vacated by the Fleet Air Arm.
The unit was originally moved to Arbroath to be closer to Norway, primarily for Arctic training to allow the UK to deal with the Soviet threat.
Arbroath councillor Donald Morrison said the loss of 45 Commando would be sad but he was glad the base would not close completely. That, he said, could have led to Arbroath suffering the same fate as Edzell after the Americans pulled out of the RAF base.
“It’s the best of a bad deal,” he said. “I think the people of Arbroath have a great deal of affection for 45 Commando and have got used to having their own brigade 45 Commando have been there so long they have become a part of Arbroath.
“The loss will be sad but it is phased and Condor will remain open. Arbroath has a long association with the armed forces and whoever comes to Arbroath will be welcomed with open arms.”
The marines of 45 Commando have been an integral part of the Arbroath economy and community, with many civilian jobs depending on the base. Many marines have met and married local women and have remained in the area after their discharge.TimeAlthough it is not known which regiment will move to Condor, local sources have intimated that it is being considered for the 5th Battalion, The Black Watch.
Arbroath councillor David Fairweather said, “At the end of the day if it is going to happen at least it is not going to happen immediately, which gives us time to pin down exactly what is happening.
“I would certainly welcome the fact it is going to be done over a five to seven-year period as the presence of 45 Commando plays a vital role in the local economy.
“At least the base at Condor is not going to be sitting empty and we will have to wait and see what the future holds in terms of its use.”
In 2003 the unit’s importance to the area was officially recognised when, shortly after they returned from service in Iraq, they paraded through the town centre after being granted the Freedom of Arbroath.
Former member of 45 Commando Paddy Quinlan, who is now chairman of the Arbroath branch of the Royal British Legion, said it would be a “sad day” when the unit finally severed ties with the town.
“I have lost count of the number of times there have been rumours that the base is to close and five to seven years is a long time in politics,” he said. “If it was to happen it would be unfortunate because the lads from RM Condor around here are a part of the community.
“I have no doubt there would be others coming in and the town itself wouldn’t feel it. It would just be a case of different faces and different attitudes around the place.
“From the marines’ point of view there has been a presence in Arbroath since 1971, with the navy having been in the area since 1939.”
45 Commando are now halfway through their fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan.