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British Regiments

Discussion in 'Military Training, Doctrine, and Planning' started by yan taylor, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Hi, I hope this is the right thread for this question. I was trying to work out how the British army organized there infantry Regiments, like the 1/4 Essex, dose this mean the 4th Company of the 1st Battalion the Essex infantry Regiment ?.
    Thanks Yan.
     
  2. gst121

    gst121 Member

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  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Actually I think it is the 1st Battalion of the 4th Essex Regiment. In the English army the battalions when deployed were generally refered to by their regimental name.
     
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  4. gst121

    gst121 Member

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    Yep Belasar you're right. I looked at it a little more and realized that it is Battalion/Regiment.
     
  5. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Thanks guys, I thought it may of been company, but I dont think they give a term to anything smaller then a Battalion.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Your welcome, glad we could help.
     
  7. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Just to add to the confusion, 1/4 usually meant first-line 4th battalion. It's not unusual to see '2/4th' etc, which would have been a reserve bn originally.
    It was rare for more than one bn of any particular regiment to be part of the same formation at a given time. And there was always at least one depot battalion at home to provide replacements.
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Just like English humor, tou know they said something funny, you just not quite sure what:) They like to keep the colonials guessing!
     
  9. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    Ah, but we revel in our uniqueness! :p
     
  10. sommecourt

    sommecourt Member

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    That's not exactly true, especially in the case of British Territorial Divisions. There were whole Brigades of battalions from the same regiment in 1939. Few of these saw active service or survived through to 1945 but some regiments like the Queen's had entire Brigades on active service in NWE and Italy.

    (
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The British system is somewhat archaic in its nature. A particular regiment can have multiple battalions raised within it. The regimental name by WW 2 is an honorific only. The units raised are battalion in size. So, you have a regimental name and then each battalion is sequentially (more or less) numbered as it is raised with that regimental title. The Royal Tank Regiment ran to over 100 battalions by 1945 for example.
    Making things more difficult is that a regiment doesn't necessarily have all of its battalions in the same arm of serivce. It is possible for regiment to have infantry, antiaircraft, antitank, even armored battalions within its mix as the British were not adverse to converting units to various purposes as the war progressed and needs changed.
     
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  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One other peculiarity is that in some cases "regiment" is used for a unit comparable to a battalion. The most common example is former cavalry regiments converted to tanks or armoured cars. It gets a bit confusing; as TA mentioned, the Royal Tank Regiment formed a number of battalions, thus for example a unit called 4th RTR was not the 4th of several Royal Tank Regiments but rather the 4th battalion of the one and only Royal Tank Regiment. However an ex-cavalry regiment, say the 7th Hussars, was the same size and composition as a RTR battalion. There were also the Yeomanry, originally the mounted arm of the Territorial Army, also converted to armour. Thus an armoured brigade might comprise:

    4th RTR (battalion)
    7th Hussars (regiment)
    County of London Yeomanry (regiment)

    all of which were the same size unit.
     
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  13. MDay1961

    MDay1961 recruit

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    I'd like to add to this discussion. The British Regimental System is highly confusing.
    Take for instance the First Battalion, The King's Royal Rifle Corps (1/KRRC). If you
    happened to run across a reference to it while reading an account of military history
    you might be confused -- it's a battalion sized formation, yet it's referred to as a
    regiment, and it's regimental title is known as a "Corps"... you might be further
    confused when you're informed that this Corps is part of "The Rifle Brigade", but
    they might have been serving as part of the 61st Infantry Brigade, a part of the
    6th Armoured Division. Basically, remember that whatever the designation,
    Regiment, Corps, Brigade, the unit is battalion sized, and it's raised as part of
    an honorary, non-operational Regimental entity that may be styled or titled
    Regiment, Brigade or Corps. Not to be confused with actual operational Brigades
    or Corps which control troops in battle.

    btw the original question regarding the "1/4 Essex" I believe refers to the
    raising of "duplicate" battalions during World War I, so that "1/4" in this case
    is the first duplicate battalion of the 4th Battalion, The Essex Regiment. There
    were also second and third line duplicate of the 4th Battalion, The Essex
    Regiment, so they were titled 2/4 Essex, 3/4 Essex and so on. Very confusing.
     
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  14. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    Although there are obviously some anomalies, in general where it is hard to decipher things, the rank of the CO is one of the best 'tells', as above the rank of Major it was rare to find someone for long in a post which was inappropriate for his rank after some of the worst episodes of ww1;

    Lt Col (Lieutenant Colonel) commanded a Battalion sized group.
    Col (Colonel) commanded usually in name only and was generally an administrative post in a regiment with more than one battalion
    Brig (Brigadier General (one star equivalent)) was almost never in charge of even a large Regimental group, but of a combined arms and services grouping of several battalions and Regiments similar to a Soviet Regiment, but smaller than a typical US Brigade.

    In modern times it has been more typical to refer to armour, engineers and artillery as Regiments, with infantry as Battalions, although the ceremonial/administrative Regiment still exists for most Infantry Batallions. It is best explained, in particular during wartime and most particularly during ww1, as an administrative base for raising new units, while giving them the traditions and connections of the parent Regiment, which may have been a battalion or two only during peacetime.

    Combined arms Brigades are and have been usually comprised of an Infantry Battalion or two, and a cavalry battalion or two, with a usual 3 unit minimum and 4 unit maximum, depending on the missions expected. It is not unheard of to have a completely infantry Brigade, which could potentially have 3 or 4 Battalions from the same administrative Regiment (especially early ww2), but since the impact of armour became recognised after 1940 it was rare to have solely infantry brigades in the front line. The Germans dealt with that issue somewhat differently, mostly by incorporating assault gun tanks into their infantry units, but the end result was the same - Infantry units of Battalion or 2 Battalion size are about the largest grouping of same 'Regiment' infantry men that can be found together on the battlefield.

    Notwithstanding that, the Napoleonic and pre-Napoleonic Regimental peacetime administrative or solely traditional structure is still maintained, despite the obvious confusion it brings to historical research. :)
     
  15. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    Did all nations during WW2 use Brigades in there various types of forces ?, I allways thought a Brigade was like a minature Corps, just a unit name to mean a group of sub units combined into a fighting force, but I have found that some nations used independent Brigades, like the Germans,
    Independent Army Panzer Brigades:
    100th Panzer Brigade (captured French Tanks)
    101st Panzer Brigade (33 x Panthers & 11 x Jagdpanzer IVs)
    102nd Panzer Brigade (36 x Pz Mk IVs)
    103rd Panzer Brigade (14 x Pz Mk IVs & 14 Jagdpanthers)
    105th Panzer Brigade (36 x Pz Mk IVs)
    106th Panzer Brigade (36 x Panthers IVs & 11 x Jagdpanzer IVs)
    107th Panzer Brigade (36 x Panthers IVs & 11 x Jagdpanzer IVs)
    108th Panzer Brigade (36 x Panthers IVs & 11 x Jagdpanzer IVs)
    109th Panzer Brigade ( four companies of Panthers)
    110th Panzer Brigade ( four companies of Panthers)
    111th Panzer Brigade (45 x Panthers, 45 x Pz Mk IVs & 10 x Stug IIIs)
    112th Panzer Brigade (45 x Panthers, 46 x Pz Mk IVs & 10 x Stug IIIs)
    113th Panzer Brigade (45 x Panthers, 45 x Pz Mk IVs & 10 x Stug IIIs)
    150th Panzer Brigade (Equipped with captured U.S. Tanks and 5 x Panthers made to look like M10s and used in the Battle of the Bulge)

    I have had a look at the Russian Tank Brigades but they seemed to change every year or so.
     
  16. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The term "Brigade" doesn't have the same meaning for all. It usually means something larger than a regiment but smaller than a division, but ....

    Just some exaples off the top of my head.

    Red Army: After the disbandment of the Mecanized and Tank divisions armour was organized in "brigades" (IIRC correctly usually a three or four batallion organization 3 tank and one infantry) that were in turn assembled into corps. So the division level was skipped for post-1942 armour though tank corps were not that much larger than panzer divisions and light on artillery. They also had naval infantry, parachute, and some infantry independent brigades.

    Commonwealth: the Brigade not the regiment was the standard sub divisional organization but they closely resembled other countries regiments. In the desert they often operated independently and had large artillery attachments and some like the Army Tank brigades of infantry tanks were army level assets. Foreign units like the Free French and Poles were brigades during the desert campaigns but later upgraded to divisions as more manpowwer was made available.

    Germany: Initially it retained the old WW1 definition of brigades being two regiment organizations, sometimes, like the early panzer that had a panzer brigade of two two batallions regiments, subordinated to a division. Late war brigades were anything larger than a regiment, besides the panzers "one off" organizations like SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (later renamed to 1st SS Panzer) and Grossdeutchland were called brigades at one time, the Fuhrer Begleit and Fuhrer Grenadier were brigades during the bulge offensive as was Ramke at El alamein. The panzer brigades were inspired by the soviet organization but proved a failure in combat.

    France: They often callled a regiment a demi-brigade but IIRC had very few independent brigades.

    Rumania: mountain units were initially called brigades not divisions.

    Italy: IIRC dropped the brigade designation when it went to the 3 regiment organization (early WW1 divisions had two brigades of two regiments) but in fact the WW2 binary (two regiment) divisions would be called brigades in other armies.
     
  17. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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  18. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Infantry
    Unless you are steeped in British Military History, all the above can very confusing. So just dealing with the "normal INFANTRY Regiment in WW2" Infantry Regiments were originally numbered as they were raised but Army reforms in 1870 (approx) redesignated them to the Counties to encourage recruitment eg the 22st of Foot became the Cheshire Regiment (somtimes the Regiments like to refer to themselves by their Order of Foot - especially if the number is low!!).

    It was usual for there to be only 2 Battalions - 1st and 2nd Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment with one normally serving overseas in the Empire and the other at Home in Britain.

    At time of serious war and particularly during World War One the number of Battalions for each Regiment would be increased astronomically and the Cheshire Regiment in World War 1 increased to 15 Battalions.
    The increase was so large that some such as the Essex Regiment spawned a second Battalion - giving rise to 1/4th Battalion and 2/4th Battalion Essex Regiment.

    So the Basic Unit is the Battalion and not the Regiment.

    Brigades normally consist of 3 Infantry Battalions (plus other units) but could be drawn from any Regiment - thus 144 Brigade at Dunkirk was composed of 2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 8th Battalion Worcestershire regiment and 5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.

    The Battalions in an Infantry Brigade normally stick together but under combat stress can be reassigned! Division is more nebulous and can be formed and reformed during the campaign but usually consists of 3 Infantry Brigades plus Corp Troops, Royal Artillery, Anti-tank, Machine Gunners, etc etc.

    Then there are the anomalies such as the Rifle Brigade which is not a Brigade at all but a Regiment. The Guards, I am sure everyone knows about.

    Cavalry
    These were proper Regiments in the American sense but following World War One, there were clearly too many and in the 1920s a lot were amalgamated eg 4th Dragoon Guards and 7th Dragoon Guards became the 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards by the time of WW2 and swopped their horses for tanks.


    Artillery
    The Royal Artillery Regiment is usually numbered and is the same creature more or less as a US Regiment. The Royal Artillery subdivides into Batteries and (equivalent to Companies).
    A previous Post has talked about the Yeomanry and whilst some Yeomanry Regiments were converted to Tanks, others became Anti-Tank Units and joined the Royal Artillery, often gaining RA number eg Worcester Yeomanry became 53rd Royal Artillery Anti Tank Regiment (but are often still referred to as the Worcester Yeomanry).

    Then there are the RHA - Royal Horse Artillery, who having Gee-gees considered themselves a cut above the normal RA.

    Probably still confused - the more I write the more complex it becomes so I am stopping here. Hope it helps a bit when reading up on any battles involving British Units.
     
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  19. yan taylor

    yan taylor Member

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    My Father served in WW2 in the Royal Artillery, when the war ended he stayed in the army and was stationed in Warrington at Golborne Barracks (I hope I have spelt it right) were he was a Warrent Officer class two, he left the army in 1958, but all I know it was a AA Unit, can any one help me with finding which Regiment this was. Maybe it was the South Lancs, I am not sure.
    Regards Ian.
     
  20. scipio

    scipio Member

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    [h=1]Infantry[/h]Hi just realised that the South Lancashire Regiment is aprefect example of Infantry Battalion numbering system:

    In 1914/18 it was increased from

    1[SUP]st[/SUP] and 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Battalions who were allregular (full time) soldiers
    to which a Trainingbatallion – 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] Battalion was added

    Then came the Territorial Army Battalions (composed of TA iepart timers such as the National Guard but increasing conscripts as the Warprogressed)

    1/4[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalion, 2/4[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalion, 3/4[SUP]th[/SUP]Battalion

    1/5[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalion, 2/5[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalion, 3/5[SUP]th[/SUP]Battalion

    6[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalion and all the way to 18[SUP]th[/SUP]Battalion

    Of course the British Army in WW1 was the vastly larger than in WW2 and most of theseBattalions disappeared but would retain for example the 1/4[SUP]th[/SUP]Battalion number even if all the other 4[SUP]th[/SUP] Battalions haddisappeared.

    By the wa,y I see that these were grouped at various stagesinto no less than 9 different Divisions.

    THE POINT is that for the Infantry you should look for theBattalion not the Regiment.

    [h=1]Cavalry[/h]You live and learn – I should have given the full title tothe Dragoon Guards which is 4[SUP]th[/SUP]/7[SUP]th[/SUP] Royal Dragoon Guards.So the clue to their amalgamation is the (th) in both numbers.

    [h=1]Artillery[/h]The numbering system is a bit more logical in the RoyalArtillery.

    For AA and these would be massive guns a typical Brigade egat Dunkirk

    1[SUP]st[/SUP] Anti-Aircraft Brigade was composed of:
    1[SUP]st[/SUP] Anti-Aircraft Regiment
    6[SUP]th [/SUP]Anti-Aircraft Regiment
    85[SUP]th[/SUP] Anti-Aircraft Regiment

    Infantry Battalions would sometimes have an AA Platoon butthis would only be a truck loaded with a couple of Bren guns.

    [h=1]Your father[/h]So getting back to your father – I would have thought thatas a WOII in the RA, he would be unlikely to be in the South Lancs, an Infantry Regiment. Also it isvery unlikely that following the severe reduction in Army units after WW2, heserved in the same Regiment throughout the period.

    You need his Army number if you can get it and you need hisService Record.

    It is still possible to obtain both by downloading formsfrom the MoD on line

    http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/ServiceRecords/MakingARequestForInformationHeldOnThePersonnelRecordsOfDeceasedServicePersonnel.htm

    Its free to close kin but as his child you will probablyneed to pay £30 and be very patient – its taking them about 9 months to processreplies.

     

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