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Regimental Systems

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Jumbo_Wilson, Jan 17, 2003.

  1. Jumbo_Wilson

    Jumbo_Wilson Member

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    I've been looking at regimental systems and their uses and abuses. This is an extract from an essay and I'd like opinions from you guys.

    "If we look at the American Army, of which we saw a great deal in Italy, we can see all the advantages of the regimental system. In that army troops were regarded as interchangeable units in a kind of gigantic production line. Manufactured according to a common pattern - GI, Government Issue, they were regarded as freely interchangeable and replaceable. They seved with strangers and were commanded by strangers. They barely knew their company officers, while their generals seemed to regard their lives with the callous indifference that had characterised the British High Command in the First World War. Morale in American infantry units was low, desertion rates high and horror stories abounded.
    If we look at the German Army however, we can see the other side of the coin. The disadvantage of the British regimental system was it's inflexibility. The strong bonds within the regiment were built up at the cost of alienation from everyone else. We hated serving with other units. One of the few mutinies in the second world war occurred on the Salerno beaches when reinforcementswere told that they were being posted to units other than their own. Nothing of that kind happened in the Wehrmacht. There the unit of loyalty was, if anything, the division; but German troops seemed ready to serve at a moment's notice under any operational command. During the chaotic aftermath of allied attacks a few squads of infantry could reform around a couple of tanks and an SP Gun, commanded probably by an NCO, and fight as if they had trained together for years. Given long enough, and under similar pressures, we might have learned to do the same; but we had a very long way to go."

    A very anglo-centric opinion! I feel that Regimental systems also break down when it comes to armoured formations where that form of battlefield cohesion is harder to maintain.

    Any views? Any other countries which had equally strong regimental systems?

    Jumbo
     
  2. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Another tidbit that the Germans used not familiar with the US is units were formed by geographic areas. Meaning, a division was formed from men living in a certain part of the country. So you may be serving with your neighbor. As diverse as countries are, specifically the US, that would mean Texans serving together, Californians serving together and such. This has the advantage of not having to deal with diverse dialects or lifestyles.
     
  3. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Forgot to add the disadvantage.....if the division was wiped out, it would demoralize that geographic area. A huge loss indeed.
     
  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I think that is something that was looked at in the British divisions, perhaps Jumbo can confirm?

    Although we had such regiments as the Northampton Regt etc, I dont think they actually served in same brigade, maybe 2 battalions of same regiment could be seen in same division but then there would be another battalion of the same regt in another division or even another theatre such as the far east, this way whole regiment could not be devestated in one go. That right Jumbo?

    1ST Battalion, and 2nd battalion of a county regiment may have been in regulars at start of war, or maybe just first as regulars and 2nd as territorials with 3rd then allocated as training battalion and reinforcements, and so on..with even milita battalions being turned into aromour or recce battalions..

    Maybe a lesson learned after ww1 when whole towns joined up as PALS battalions from same areas and were wiped out with whole areas losing far too many men in one go...

    The Northampton regt in ww1 suffered such when a local rugby player was used to form the `Mobs' battalion or one of the Northampton battalions, which becuase of who he was attracted lots of local sports fans and business folk, who when suffering casualties hit the whole of one section of the community.

    The Uk, as Bish will confirm has recently amalgamated many of the shire battalions to form some strange sounding battalions and regiments....Something that always happens but more so in recent years...

    Norfolks and Anglians or previously Northamptonians and Lincolns as was...Getting very diluted these days...
     
  5. Bish OBE

    Bish OBE Member

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    There were several occasion in WW2 two were several Battalions from the same Regt served together. For example, about 6 or so battalions of the Royal Norfolks were all captured at Singapore.

    The old county Regts virtually disapeared back in the late 50s early 60s. The few that remained have no all gone.

    And as you say, they are getting more diluted. The Royal Anglian Regt covers 9 counties. Prior to 92, there were 3 Battalions, each one generally taking in guys from 3 of those counties, but this was not certain. Coming from Norfolk, i should have been in the 1st battalion, but ended up in the 3rd. When the 3rd was disbanded in 92, that ended totaly.

    But, even in WW2, County Regts could have guys from all over the country. So, though most were from a certain area, it was not all.
     
  6. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Didntknow that about the Norfolks at Singapore, that was not a good idea was it...

    Funny we should be on this, have been going round local graveyards lately...Well someones got to scare the senior citizens...

    And ive been amzed by the number of different cwg headstones I have discovered with different regiment names..

    Expected to find Northampton regts and militia etc and RAF whatever, but the number of Cheshires and whatever surprised me...

    Obviously transient battalions and untis due to most towns having a barracks of some sort during the war but its just surprising as to how many cwg headstones there are in a small town like this one, died in war not necesary overseas etc but lots of em....

    No norfolks yet but wont be surprised to find one or two..
     
  7. Stefan

    Stefan Cavalry Rupert

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    Little tidbit, the glosters are the only regt who through their whole existance only ever took men from glostershire. Bet you didn't know that.

    As for the regimental and divisional system, I think the British system is one of the best because of the fabled esperite de corps, people can become immensley loyal to their regt.s etc, people know their officers and men etc. The other thing is that in general British units were not split into units smaller than companies often when working with other units, so competition was not as much of an issue and actually I think many British soldiers had a lot of respect for the other units they served with. Incidentally in WW2 men did not necessairaly remain with their unit, my grandfather for example started in the Royal Sussex, then went into the Buffs (for most of his war) then was transferred to the royal fusileers and then to the Guards armoured. I am sure the same happened to many men though I think that they often (like my grandfather) remained loyal to their home regiment (the Buffs in this case).

    That sounds like a ramble but you get my idea.
     
  8. Military History Network

    Military History Network Registered Member

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    There are exceptions to the geographic cohesion 'norm', that 'Regimental System', in all countries, most often arising by the need to replace casualties. The US National Guard has long had a tradition of geographic unit affiliations. The NG unit which I'm most familiar with, the 1st Bn, 133rd Inf Regt, 34th Inf Div, left for WW II from northeastern Iowa, and fought from Tunisia to Trieste. The headquarters of that Battalion is still in northeastern Iowa.

    With replacement of casualties after more than 500 front-line days, and the rotation of personnel in almost four years of European service (Jan '42 - Oct '45), there were few Iowans left in the Division in '45. Almost all who survived had gone up the ranks or home.

    Today's American Army has three components - Active, Reserve, and National Guard. The Reserves and National Guard still adhere to geographic bases. While their senior officers tend to go where they're needed, or where they'll be groomed, the enlisted ranks of Reserves and Guard stay close to home. That old camaraderie still exists.

    While we read of Active Divisions - geographically homogenized - being deployed today, deployments are now more frequent for the Reserves and Guard. Today's Reservist or Guardsman typically has been deployed more times than his/her Active counterpart. Check it out, and start by looking at tenure in the three components. Geographic cohesion still works, even in America, and the evidence there is in today's Reserve and Guard.

    So beware - all generalities are false, even this one.
     
  9. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    This sounds more strict than it actually was. True, certain infantry divisions were formed from drafted men out of the 17 military districs (Wehrkreise), but later in war and because of heavy rotation of "core teams" to built up new divisions etc. this system was almost non-existing any more in the later course of the war.

    Cheers,
     
  10. sommecourt

    sommecourt Member

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    While this wasn't as common as in WW1, it did happen in WW2. The territorial battalions of the Queens Regiment had an entire Brigade in the 7th (Armoured) Division in NW Europe 44-45 and one in the 56th (London) Division in Italy for the same period.

    Incidentally, I have just started British WW2 ORBATs to my website at:

    http://battlefieldsww2.50megs.com/british_divisions_ww2.htm

    It's only just begun, and will no doubt take a while to complete!
     
  11. Bish OBE

    Bish OBE Member

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    No, not really. I had a great uncle amoungst them. Apparently, they walked off the boat and almost straight into the hands of the Japs.
     
  12. Jumbo_Wilson

    Jumbo_Wilson Member

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    Some good responses here guys based on Geography. I think that it transferred to some British Brigades and Divisions where commanders had strong personalites. I would like to hear more from US and Germans if they think that this description of their infantry is right - particularly the Americans.

    Also I often thought that Regimental systems were fine for Infantry but the greater the degree of mechanisation the less effective it became. True or false?

    Jumbo
     
  13. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Yes, You are correct and I should have added that. Thanks.
     
  14. Bish OBE

    Bish OBE Member

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    It would not have been a problem in WW2, as one a unit was mechanised, it would probably have stayed that way. But today it is a problem.
     
  15. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WWII Veteran

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    I cannot speak for Armoured Divisions but, certainly within Army Tank Brigades, the Regimental system was a cohesive force which served them well. For example, the Royal Armoured Corpa battalions carried on the traditions of the county regiments from which they were created. Although battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment did not have an allegiance to a particular location, wearing the "Fear Naught" badge created a strong bond.

    While the majority of the men came from the North, those of us from other parts of the UK and the South were equally proud to be serving in such a great tank regiment as the North Irish Horse.

    The Regimental System, with its flaws, is alive and well in Britain and the Commonwealth.
     
    Otto likes this.
  16. Stevin

    Stevin Ace

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    Hello Mr. Chester,

    Welcome to the forums! Hope to see you often here. You have a very nice website! Always good to be able to communicate with a veteran via these forums or through the net.

    I don't know much about the pro's and con's of the regimental system. I only know that the emphasize in Holland seems to lie with the Brigades...
     
  17. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WWII Veteran

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  18. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WWII Veteran

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    </font>[/QUOTE]Oops! I goofed - clicked on the wrong button.

    Thank you for the warm welcome, it is indeed appreciated.

    The Army Tank Brigades were essentially an extension of the Regimental System as the three fighting units were encouraged, in the interest of esprit de corps, to look upon the Brigade as being theirs - over and above just simply being a component.

    Not having been a part of an Armoured Division I cannot say for sure that the spirit ascended that high. However, regarding Infantry Divisions I do know that it did in those that 25th ATB supported, particularly the 1st Canadian and 4th Indian Divisions.
     

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