Infantry of the British Army

Recruitment and training


Traditionally, regiments that form the combat arms of the British Army (cavalry and infantry) recruit from specific areas of the country. Infantry regiments had been assigned specific areas from which they would recruit from by the mid eighteenth century. These were formalised under the Cardwell Reforms that began in the 1860s. Under this scheme, single battalion infantry regiments were amalgamated into two battalion regiments, then assigned to a depot and associated recruiting area (which would usually correspond to all or part of a county). The recruiting area (usually) would then become part of the regiment's title. It was this that gave rise to the concept of the "county regiment", with the local infantry regiment becoming part of the fabric of its local area.

Over time, regiments have been amalgamated further, which has led to recruiting areas of individual regiments increasing in size. Often, these amalgamations have been between regiments whose recruiting areas border each other. However, there have been occasions where regiments of a similar type, but from widely different areas, have been amalgamated. Two modern examples have been the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (amalgamated from the county regiments of Northumberland, Warwickshire, City of London and Lancashire, all of which were regiments of fusiliers) and The Light Infantry (amalgamated from the county regiments of Cornwall, Somerset, Shropshire, South Yorkshire and Durham, all of which were regiments of light infantry).

Since September 2007, when the most recent reforms were completed, the infantry has consisted of 18 separate regiments. The five regiments of foot guards recruit from their respective home nations (with the exception of the Coldstream Guards, which recruits from the counties through which the regiment marched between Coldstream and London). Scotland, Ireland and Wales each have a single regiment of line infantry from which they recruit (though the battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland recruit from the areas they recruited from when they were separate regiments), while England has seven line infantry and rifles regiments. The Parachute Regiment recruits nationally, while the Royal Gurkha Rifles recruits most of its serving personnel from Nepal, and the Royal Gibraltar Regiment recruits from the UK and Commonwealth nations

Before the Second World War, infantry recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m) tall. They initially enlisted for seven years with the colours and a further five years with the reserve. They trained at their own regimental depot.[1]


Unlike the other trades in the army, which have separate units for basic training and specialised training, new recruits into the infantry undergo a single course at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick. This course, called the "Combat Infantryman's Course" (CIC), lasts 26 weeks as standard and teaches recruits both the basics of soldiering (Phase 1 training) and the specifics of soldiering in the infantry (Phase 2 training). On completion of the CIC, the newly qualified infantry soldier will then be posted to his battalion.[2]

For some infantry units, the CIC is longer, due to specific additional requirements for individual regiments:

  • The Foot Guards CIC has an additional two-week enhanced drill course.
  • The Parachute Regiment CIC has an additional two-week Pre-Parachute Selection (PPS) course.
  • The Brigade of Gurkhas CIC combines the Common Military Syllabus with the CIC, together with courses on British culture and the English Language. The Gurkha CIC lasts 37 weeks.

New officers conduct their Phase 1 training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Phase 2 training for officers, which is encompassed by the Platoon Commander's Battle Course, is run at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon in Wales. It is here that leadership and tactics are taught to new platoon commanders. New NCOs and Warrant Officers are also sent on courses at Brecon when they come up for promotion. This encompasses Phase 3 training. Phase 3 training is also undertaken at the Support Weapons School at Warminster, where new officers, NCOs and soldiers are trained in the use of support weapons (mortars, anti-tank weapons) and in communications.

Territorial Infantrymen undertake preliminary training at Regional Training Centres prior to attending a two-week CIC(TA) at Catterick.

Headquarters Infantry

Headquarters Infantry, which is located at Waterloo Lines on Imber Road in Warminster, is responsible for recruiting, manning and training policy of the Infantry.[3]

Divisions of infantry

The majority of the infantry in the British Army is divided for administrative purposes into four divisions. These are not the same as the ready and regenerative divisions (see below), but are based on either the geographical recruiting areas of the regiments, or the type of regiments:

A further division, the Light Division, grouped together The Light Infantry and The Royal Green Jackets until they were amalgamated to form The Rifles in 2007, while the Prince of Wales' Division merged with the Scottish Division in 2017 to become The Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division.

Regular army

Guards DivisionScottish, Welsh and Irish DivisionKing's DivisionQueen's Division
Grenadier Guards
The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment
(King's, Lancashire and Border)

The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
(Queen's and Royal Hampshires)

Coldstream Guards
The Royal Welsh
The Yorkshire Regiment
(14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot)

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
Scots Guards
The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling),
83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment)

The Mercian Regiment (Cheshires,
Worcesters and Foresters, and Staffords)

The Royal Anglian Regiment
Irish Guards
The Royal Gibraltar Regiment
Welsh Guards

There are further infantry units in the army that are not grouped in the various divisions:

Army Reserve

Types of infantry


Within the British Army, there are six main types of infantry:

  • Armoured Infantry - armoured infantry are equipped with the Warrior armoured personnel carrier, a tracked vehicle that can deploy over all terrain.
  • Mechanised Infantry - mechanised infantry (or "protected mobility infantry) are equipped with wheeled armoured vehicles for transporting troops. This is divided into "heavy protected mobility infantry" (with large vehicles such as Mastiff), and "light protected mobility infantry" (with smaller vehicles such as Foxhound).
  • Light Infantry - light infantry are not equipped with armoured vehicles; such units may specialise in jungle and/or arctic warfare
  • Air Assault Infantry - air assault infantry are trained to be deployed using helicopters, parachute or aircraft.
  • Specialised Infantry - infantry configured to undertake training, mentoring and assistance to indigenous forces in partner nations.
  • Public duties - infantry on public duties are essentially light infantry units undertaking primarily ceremonial tasks.


The infantry is traditionally divided into three types:

  • Foot Guards - foot guards are those infantry regiments that were formed specifically to provide close guard to the King. Soldiers in the guards were usually the best trained and equipped members of the infantry. However, they would fight in the same way as ordinary regiments.
  • Line Infantry - line infantry refers to those regiments that historically fought in linear formations, unlike light troops, who fought in loose order. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw expansion of the roles of the infantry. To this end, the companies stationed on each flank of an infantry battalion were specialist units, with a company of light infantry trained as skirmishers to operate independently on the battlefield, and a company of grenadiers, who were usually the biggest and strongest men in the battalion, operating as the lead assault troops.
  • Light Infantry/Rifles - in the late eighteenth century, the development of the Baker rifle led to the commissioning by the British Army of regiments specially trained to use the new weapon. These regiments would operate as skirmishers and sharpshooters on the edges of the field of battle. These regiments wore green rather than red tunics to enable them to blend in more with the environment, thus giving them the nickname "green jackets".

The tactical distinctions between infantry regiments disappeared in the late nineteenth century, but remain in tradition. In the order of precedence, the five regiments of foot guards are ranked above the ten regiments of traditional line infantry, who are ranked above the two remaining regiments of rifles.

Divisions and brigades

Battalions are attached permanently (semi-permanently for light role battalions) to formations. As of the planned Army 2020 (Refine) postings:


  1. Foot guards battalions will periodically rotate between the heavy protected mobility, light protected mobility and light infantry/public duties roles
  2. Battalions from the King's Division and Queen's Division will periodically rotate to serve as resident battalions in Cyprus
  3. Army reserve battalions are 'paired' with regular battalions
  4. Two battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles rotate postings to Brunei every three years
  5. Reinforced company sized unit for public duties
  6. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment's primary role is the territorial defence of Gibraltar - as such, it is not available for deployment as a whole battalion overseas, although it has provided individuals for a variety of operational taskings in a number of conflict zones


Brigade system, large regiments, disbandings and amalgamations

Following the end of the Second World War, reductions in the size of the infantry led to the amalgamation of the existing regimental depots, together with their operational battalions, into geographically based infantry depots, each designated by a letter of the alphabet from A to O (not including I). In 1948, upon the further reduction of line infantry and rifle regiments to a single battalion, the 14 infantry depots were renamed as geographical brigades (with the exception of Depot J, which was the brigade for those regiments designated as "light infantry", and Depot O, which was for the two regiments of rifles[4] ). These brigades assumed the administrative functions from the individual regimental depots, essentially forming what amounted to a multi-battalion regiment. This was taken a stage further following the 1957 Defence White Paper, when each brigade adopted a single cap badge that would be worn by all of the regiments under its administration. This led to discussions within the government regarding the flexibility of the infantry under the then present regimental system, as well as the difficulty of potentially making reductions to the size of the army owing to the emotive nature of the amalgamation of regiments into single battalions. This led to the concept of the "large regiment", which would use the existing brigades as the basis of new, multi-battalion infantry regiments, amalgamating the existing single-battalion regiments en masse, with each of them becoming a battalion of the new formation.[5] This process had to a certain degree begun in the East Anglian and Green Jackets Brigades, which had redesignated the regiments they were responsible for from their old names to numbered designations.[6] These two became the first large regiments as the Royal Anglian Regiment and Royal Green Jackets in 1964 and 1966 respectively.[7][8] Four further large regiments (The Queen's Regiment, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Royal Irish Rangers and Light Infantry) were formed between 1966 and 1968, before the process was halted - the brigade system was abolished, with instead all of the remaining infantry regiments grouped into six administrative divisions.

The amalgamations into large regiments coincided with a planned reduction in the size of the infantry - the intention was that the junior battalion of each large regiment or brigade (prior to the implementation of the divisional structure) would be removed, whether by amalgamation or disbanding. This saw plans for the creation of four new single battalion infantry regiments:

At the same time, three more single battalion regiments elected to disband rather than amalgamate:

Three of the regimental amalgamations, two of the regimental disbandments, plus another three of the planned disbandings of large regiment battalions, took place between 1968 and 1970. However, the 1970 General Election saw a change of administration, with the new Conservative government electing to review the plans. The outcome of this saw the planned amalgamation of the Gloucestershire Regiment and Royal Hampshire Regiment rescinded, together with plans to disband another four infantry battalions completely. Instead, six battalions were reduced in size to a single company:

  • 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards (2nd Battalion Company)[9]
  • 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment (Minden Company)[10]
  • 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Balaclava Company)[11]
  • 4th Battalion, Queen's Regiment (Albuhera Company)[12]
  • 4th Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment (Tiger Company)[13]
  • 3rd Battalion, Royal Green Jackets (R Company)[14]

The battalions of the Scots Guards, Royal Hampshire Regiment, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and Royal Green Jackets were subsequently reconstituted.

Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003)

HM Treasury asked for major cuts in the strength of the infantry in 2003, with at least ten battalions to be disbanded. This proved so unacceptable that, in November 2003, there was consideration to instead reducing each battalion to two rifle companies (with the third to come from the TA).[15] By March 2004, ECAB had shown that the maximum number of battalions it was possible to cut was four. This was finally officially announced as part of the army re-organisation. The arms plot system would be abolished; instead, individual battalions would be given fixed roles. To ensure that officers and men could continue to gain the variety of skills that the arms plot provided, the restructuring would also see a series of amalgamations of the remaining single battalion infantry regiments into large regiments. In addition, the regular army will lose four battalions. The roles are divided up as follows:

  • Armoured Infantry - 8 battalions (including Land Warfare Training Battalion)
  • Mechanised Infantry - 3 battalions
  • Light Role Infantry (including public duties and Gurkhas) - 20 battalions
  • Air Assault Infantry - 4 battalions
  • Commando Infantry - 1 battalion
  • Territorial Army Infantry - 14 battalions

The reorganisation was a hybrid of the systems used to organise the regular infantry in Australia and Canada. Australia's regular infantry encompasses eight battalions in a single large regiment, the Royal Australian Regiment - this system is the one undertaken by the Scottish Division and the Light Division. Canada's regular infantry has three regiments, each of three battalions, which is how the King's Division and the Prince of Wales' Division will be restructured (albeit with one regiment of three battalions and one of two battalions each).

In addition to the army's infantry battalions, there are three further battalion-sized commando infantry units, which are part of the Royal Marines, as well as eight field squadrons (each larger than an infantry company) of the RAF Regiment, who have responsibility for the ground defence of air assets and are under the control of the Royal Air Force.

The majority of infantry battalions are attached to one of the deployable brigades. However, there are a number of formations that exist to administer those infantry battalions that are not assigned to deployable brigades, but are instead available for independent deployment on roulement tours.

Guards Division

Each battalion in the five single battalion regiments of the Guards Division has a fixed role:

Two battalions will be assigned as general light role battalions, with the other two assigned to public duties. These battalions will periodically rotate roles and postings.

Scottish Division

The six battalions of the Scottish Division have amalgamated into a single five battalion regiment to be called the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

King's Division

The six battalions of the King's Division have amalgamated into two regiments;

Prince of Wales's Division

The original seven battalions of the Prince of Wales's Division have been reduced to five with the transfer of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment to the Light Division. The five remaining battalions will amalgamate into two regiments;

Queen's Division

The three existing large regiments of the Queen's Division remain unaffected by the restructuring.

Light Division

The four current battalions of the Light Division in two regiments were augmented by two battalions from the Prince of Wales's Division in 2005. These two were amalgamated into a single battalion and then amalgamated with Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets to form a new five battalion regiment, called The Rifles. On its formation, the Light Division was abolished.[16]

  • Armoured Infantry (5 RIFLES) - 1
  • Light Role (2 RIFLES, 3 RIFLES) - 2
  • Mechanised Infantry (4 RIFLES) - 1
  • Commando (1 RIFLES) - 1

Other infantry regiments

  • The single regular battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment is unamalgamated to "retain an infantry footprint in Northern Ireland".
    • Air Assault/Light Role (1 R IRISH) - 1
  • The Royal Gurkha Rifles is unaffected by the restructuring. However, the UK based battalion has been integrated more fully with the rest of the infantry and trained in the air assault role.
    • Air Assault/Light Role (2 RGR) - 1
    • Light Role (1 RGR) - 1
  • One battalion of the Parachute Regiment is the core of the "special forces support battalion", no longer part of the Infantry order of battle. The other three operate in the Airborne role.
    • Airborne/Light Role (2 PARA, 3 PARA, 4 PARA) - 3

Territorial Army

With the exception of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, every line infantry regiment has at least one TA battalion (the Royal Regiment of Scotland and The Rifles have two). The Guards Division has The London Regiment as an affiliated TA battalion.

Strategic Defence and Security Review (2010)/Army 2020

Following the 2010 General Election, the new government instituted a new defence review. The ultimate conclusion of this process was to reduce the size of the British Army from approximately 102,000 to approximately 82,000 by 2020. The detail of the process was subsequently announced as Army 2020 in July 2012. As part of this, the infantry was reduced in size from 36 regular battalions to 31. Of the five to be withdrawn, two were armoured infantry units, two general light infantry and one a specialist air assault infantry battalion. The withdrawal of two armoured infantry battalions is to bring this into line with the planned future operational structure, intended to see three "armoured infantry brigades", each with a pair of infantry battalions, forming the core of the Army's "reaction forces". These two battalions, along with the two light infantry battalions, will be disbanded and their personnel distributed among the remaining battalions of each regiment. The air assault battalion will be reduced to company strength, with the intention that it is assigned as a permanent public duties unit in Scotland.

The affected regiments were:

  • Royal Regiment of Scotland
    • The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland - Reduced to an incremental company and assigned to public duties in Scotland.
  • Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
    • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers - Disbanded and personnel redistributed to 1st Battalion.
  • Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot)
    • 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot) (Green Howards) - Disbanded and personnel redistributed to 1st and 3rd Battalions. 3 YORKS will eventually be renamed as 1 YORKS. 1 YORKS will eventually be renumbered as 2 YORKS.[17]
  • Mercian Regiment
    • 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Staffords) - Disbanded and personnel redistributed to 1st and 2nd Battalions.
  • Royal Welsh
    • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Welsh (Royal Regiment of Wales) - Disbanded and personnel redistributed to 1st Battalion.

In addition, the Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment) was transferred to the administration of the Prince of Wales' Division.

Army 2020 Refine

Under a further review called Army 2020 Refine, the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards and the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland will be equipped with Mechanised Infantry Vehicles and form the core of the first Strike Brigade under the Reaction Force. Five infantry battalions will undertake the new specialist infantry role; these units will provide an increased contribution to countering terrorism and building stability overseas, and will number around 300 personnel. Four of these battalions, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland; 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment; 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment; and 4th Battalion, The Rifles, will be existing battalions, while the fifth will be formed as a new battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles [18][19][20]

Guards Division

  • Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry (1 SG) - 1
  • Light Role Infantry (1 COLDM GDS, 1 IG) - 2
  • Light Role/Public Duties (1 GREN GDS, 1 WG) - 2
  • Public Duties (2 GREN GDS, 2 COLDM GDS, 2 SG)α
  • Army Reserve (LONDON) - 1

All five battalions will periodically rotate roles

Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division

  • Armoured Infantry (1 R WELSH) - 1
  • Heavy Protected Mobility Infantry (4 SCOTS) - 1
  • Light Protected Mobility Infantry (3 SCOTS, 1 R IRISH) - 2
  • Light Role Infantry (2 SCOTS) - 1
  • Specialised Training Infantry (1 SCOTS) - 1
  • Public Duties - (5 SCOTS)α
  • Army Reserve - (6 SCOTS, 7 SCOTS, 3 R WELSH, 2 R IRISH) - 4

King's Division

  • Armoured Infantry (1 YORKS, 1 MERCIAN) - 2
  • Light Protected Mobility Infantry (2 YORKS) - 1
  • Light Role Infantry (1 LANCS, 2 MERCIAN) - 2
  • Specialised Training Infantry (2 LANCS) - 1
  • Army Reserve (4 LANCS, 4 YORKS, 4 MERCIAN) - 3

Queen's Division

  • Armoured Infantry (1 PWRR, 1 RRF) - 2
  • Light Protected Mobility Infantry (2 R ANGLIAN) - 1
  • Light Role Infantry (1 R ANGLIAN) - 1
  • Light Role Infantry (Home Defence) (1 RG) - 1
  • Specialised Training Infantry (2 PWRR) - 1
  • Army Reserve (3 PWRR, 4 PWRR, 5 RRF, 3 R ANGLIAN) - 4

The Rifles

  • Armoured Infantry (5 RIFLES) - 1
  • Light Protected Mobility Infantry (3 RIFLES) - 1
  • Light Role Infantry (1 RIFLES, 2 RIFLES) - 2
  • Specialised Training Infantry (4 RIFLES) - 1
  • Army Reserve (6 RIFLES, 7 RIFLES, 8 RIFLES) - 3

Other infantry regiments

  • Light Role Infantry (1 RGR, 2 RGR) - 2
  • Parachute Infantry (2 PARA, 3 PARA, 4 PARA) - 2
  • Specialised Training Infantry (3 RGR) - 1

: These are the battalions represented by the four incremental companies

Other regiments

Disbanded regiments

Over time, a handful of infantry regiments have disappeared from the roll through disbandment rather than amalgamation. In the 20th Century, seven regiments disappeared like this:

Honourable Artillery Company

The Honourable Artillery Company included infantry battalions from its formation up to 1973 when its infantry wing was amalgamated with its artillery batteries in a new role.[21]

Regiments that never were

Since the Cardwell reforms began, infantry regiments in the British Army have amalgamated on many occasions. However, there have been occasions where amalgamations have been announced, but have then been abandoned:

Fictional regiments

In recent years, there have been many depictions of the British Army of various periods in fiction. Two notable ones depicting the modern British Army have been Spearhead from the period of the late 1970s, and Soldier Soldier from the early to mid-1990s. Both are seen as reasonably accurate depictions of life in the army at those times, and both are centred on a fictional infantry regiment. The more recent depiction of the British Army came in the film The Mark of Cain, which featured an infantry regiment deployed to Iraq, and the difficulties it faced.

The Loamshire Regiment is used by the British Army as the placeholder name in the provision of examples for its procedures, for example in the method of addressing letters to members of the forces produced by the British Forces Post Office.

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Royal Corps of Signals
Order of precedence Succeeded by
Special Air Service


  1. War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  2. Marshall, Andrew. "British Army Phase 1: Initial Military Training". Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  3. "Headquarters Infantry". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  4. Whitaker's Almanack 1956, p. 471
  5. More adaptations forecast in the Army: study of "large regiment" basis for infantry, The Times, 9 March 1962
  6. Bigger infantry regiments planned by War Office, The Times, 16 March 1962
  7. First of new large regiments, The Times, 25 February 1964
  8. New Green Jackets Regiment, The Times, 29 May 1965
  9. "History". Scots Guards Association. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  10. "Royal Hampshire Regiment from 1946-1992". The Royal Hampshire Regiment. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  11. "1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Balaklava Company 1971". The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders History from 1945 to 1971. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  12. "The Queen's Regiment: Formation and Forebears". The Queen's Regiment Association. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  13. "History of the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment". Viking Veterans. 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  14. "The Royal Green Jackets: The Formation and Origins of the Regiment" (PDF). Royal Green Jackets Association. February 2009. p. 31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  15. News - Telegraph
  16. The Rifles - March 2006 situation report 2 Archived 15 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Duke of Wellington's Regiment
  18. "Strategic Defence and Security Review - Army: Written statement - HCWS367". Hansard. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  19. "Oral evidence: SDSR 2015 and the Army, HC 108". Hansard. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  20. Ripley, Tim (18 July 2018). "UK to recruit more Gurkha soldiers". Jane's 360. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  21. Litchfield, Norman E.H. (1992). The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988: Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges. Nottingham: Sherwood Press. ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  22. Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence (3 February 1993). "Army Manpower". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. col. 322.
  23. Hoon wins his regimental campaign Archived 25 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine Daily Telegraph 16 July 2004
  24. Sikh regiment dumped over 'racism' fears Daily Telegraph 24 June 2007
  25. Kainth, Shamsher (5 October 2016). "Britain rules out creating a Sikh regiment". SBS. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
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