HUNDREDS of soldiers from across Hampshire and the south coast are being drafted in to provide security at the Olympics just months after returning from the Afghanistan front line.
The 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1PWRR) – nicknamed The Tigers – have been forced to cancel summer leave and will send more than 400 men to London this week.
About 100 members of 1PWRR were initially to be sent to the event – but yesterday it was confirmed that a further 300 soldiers, who were initially placed on standby, will now also go to the capital within a matter of days to help fill a drastic shortage in manpower caused by the G4 security shambles.
The news was revealed yesterday afternoon as G4 boss Nick Buckles, who is under growing pressure to quit because of the fiasco, apologised and said he would pay all costs incurred by the military – especially regiments like The Tigers where soldiers have been forced to cancel leave.
Mr Buckles, who earns £830,000 a year as head of the firm which is running the £284m contract to provide security at the Olympics, was grilled by a Government committee about its failure to provide enough security guards.
Describing his “deep disappointment” about the failings, Mr Buckles said he would consider paying bonuses to police and the Army and would be covering any accommodation costs.
So far nationally, some 17,500 soldiers have been brought in to help provide security and support in the capital for the duration of the Games which start next week.
That includes a further 3,500 announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond last week as the security shortage began to surface.
The Daily Echo understands that 20 Armoured Brigade – of which The Tigers are just one of five regiments – could end up providing about one tenth of that strength, with about 1,700 soldiers on notice to move.
For virtually all of The Tigers it has brought about a swift end to their extended leave, which they were awarded following a tough six months on the front line.
But it’s not all bad news.
A contingent of those being brought in to help have been told they will be stationed at Royal Horseguards Parade, where they will be leading security around the men’s and women’s beach volleyball.
One Tiger, who asked not to be named, said: “Everyone is looking forward to it – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the Olympics in London. Our biggest concern is that the weather is good enough to let the girls play volleyball in their bikinis!”
The first 100 soldiers, who will be leaving their barracks in Paderborn, Germany, tomorrow, will form part of the venue security force and had always been planned into helping at the Olympics.
A further 320 will find out later today or tomorrow if they are definitely needed – but sources say they expect them to be mobilised.
Once in London they will be staying at a temporary camp, known as a forward operating base, for the duration.
Speaking about the deployment, Tigers commander Lt Col James Coote said last night: ‘I have today received confirmation that much of the First Battalion will join our Second Battalion in London in the coming week to assist with providing security for the Olympic Games.
“Securing the United Kingdom is, of course, the Army’s core business and the officers and men of The Tigers will, I know, apply the same professional approach to this task as we did in Afghanistan earlier this year.
“We are working hard now to ensure that we are fully prepared for the very different challenges that we will face. I am absolutely confident that we will be ready.”