Around 200 personnel are set to be ‘repurposed’ from the Royal Marines, which has the bulk of its bases in Devon.

RMB Chivenor could be faced by personnel cuts as the Government looks to 'repurpose' 200 Royal Marines.

The Royal Marines will be restructured to accommodate the growth of the Royal Navy, which will gain 400 personnel, more ships and new aircraft carriers following a review of its structure.

Chivenor is one of five bases in the South West which could be affected by the decision.

The base, which was visited by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon last month, is used by 24 Engineer Regiment, as well as Royal Engineers and the Commando Logistics Regiment.

The Government has said no Royal Marines will be made redundant, but transferred into the Royal Navy once 'roles have been identified'

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, said: "The Government is investing in a new generation of ships, submarines and aircraft. As we introduce these capabilities into Service, we must ensure we have the right mix of skills across each of the Navy's fighting arms to optimise how we use them, and the Commandant General and I have sought to find the right balance between sailors and marines in responding to this challenge.

"The Royal Marines remain bound in to every part of the Royal Navy's future, from conducting sophisticated operations from the sea, at a variety of scales and against a range of threats, using our new aircraft carriers as a base, to leading the Service's development of information warfare.

"They will continue to be as vital to the defence of the realm in the years ahead as they have been for the past 350.

'Floating white elephants'

Ex-Royal Marine and former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown said the move was a 'folly'.

"In an unpredictable age, we need forces that are fast, flexible and mobile. That's what the Royal Marines do at a world-class level," he said.

"To cut their numbers to fill a Naval manpower black hole is not just poor reward for their service over the last years, but a folly which plays fast and loose with the nation's defences.

"The Royal Marines are paying the price for the foolish decisions made in the last Strategic Defence Review, in which the Service Chiefs were allowed to hang on to their most prestigious equipment, even if they made little or no contribution to the nation's strategic long-term defence needs.

"We are now saddled with cuts to the Royal Marines to pay for sailors to man two huge aircraft carriers which many fear are little more than floating white elephants."

RMB Chivenor is threatened with the prospect of closure by 2027 as part of the Ministry of Defence's Better Defence Estate strategy.

However, during his visit, Mr Fallon said 'no final decisions' had been made on the base's closure.