A retired lieutenant colonel has jumped to the defence of the new Duke of Westminster after an article in the Daily Telegraph suggested he was behind a plan that had enraged Army reservists.
Lt Col Simon Hill hit back after the story suggested it was Hugh Grosvenor, 26, the seventh Duke of Westminster, who had initiated a move to relocate F Company, 7th Battalion the Rifles, and the Rifles Officers’ London Club from Davies Street in the heart of Mayfair.
The Telegraph claimed the decision to relocate the men from the Grosvenor-owned land to make way for a luxury hotel had ‘provoked outrage’ among serving members with one claiming it would have left the Duke’s father, Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, who died last August aged 64, ‘turning in his grave’.
Lt Col Hill, chairman of the Rifles Officers’ London Club, wrote in a letter to The Telegraph: “The redevelopment of the Army Reserve centre in Davies Street in London...was not initiated by the Duke of Westminster after his father’s death.
"The future of the building on this site has been considered several times in the last 30 years and the current redevelopment planned for nearly three – to the sixth Duke’s knowledge.
“To attribute it to financial motives on the part of the seventh Duke is to ignore his family’s support for the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre.
“Members of F Company have had several years to get used to the idea of moving and are more likely to be exercised by their re-subordination to the London Regiment and taking on the latter’s identity instead of that of The Rifles.
“It is true that this was not in the original Army 2020 plan but it should not be confused with being a consequence of the redevelopment.
“The current location is indeed historic, although it was already antiquated as a training centre under my command over a decade ago.”
There are strong ties between the Grosvenor family and the infantry regiments based in Davies Street, which began in 1889 when the first Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, leased the building to the Army on a generous rent deal.
The reservists were apparently nicknamed the ‘unofficial bodyguard’ to the Duke’s father, himself a military man, who rose to the rank of Major General in the Territorial Army and lived at the family seat of Eaton Hall, at Eccleston, near Chester.
A spokesperson for Grosvenor Britain and Ireland said: “The Army and Grosvenor are negotiating the sale of the lease for 52-56 Davies Street as part of the Army’s wider asset management plan and in order to relocate the 7 Rifles to modern, more appropriate accommodation. These negotiations have been ongoing for over two years.
“The future of this battalion would not be in doubt as a result of such a move and to suggest as much would be misleading.”