Units of the British Army
The units of the British Army are commanded by the Chief of the General Staff. This is broadly similar to the structures of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, in that the four-star (general-equivalent) commander-in-chiefs have been eliminated since 2011 and service chiefs are given direct command of their respective services are responsible as Top Level Budget (TLB) holders. Army Headquarters is located in Andover, Hampshire. There is a Commander Field Army and a personnel and UK operations command, Home Command.
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The command structure is hierarchical with divisions and brigades controlling groupings of units from an administrative perspective. Major Units are regiment or battalion-sized with minor units being either company sized sub-units or platoons. All units within the service are either Regular (full-time) or Army Reserve (full-time or part-time), or a combination with sub-units of each type.
Naming conventions of units differ for traditional British historical reasons, creating a significant opportunity for confusion; an infantry battalion is equivalent to a cavalry regiment. An infantry regiment is an administrative and ceremonial organisation only, and may include several battalions. For operational tasks, a battle group will be formed around a combat unit, supported by units or sub-units from other areas. An example would be a squadron of tanks attached to an armoured infantry battle group, together with a reconnaissance troop, artillery battery and engineering support.
Since the 1957 Defence Review, the size of the Army has consistently shrunk. A comparison of the List of British Army Regiments (1962), the List of British Army Regiments (1994) and the List of British Army Regiments (2008) will show the steep decline in the number of infantry and armoured regiments. Since 1990, reductions have been almost constant, through succeeding defence reviews: Options for Change (1990), Front Line First (1994), the Strategic Defence Review of 1998, Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003), and the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010. However, the 2015 Review indicated no change from the personnel number targets set in 2010.
Through a major army reorganisation effective 1 November 2011, the Chief of the General Staff took direct command of the Army through a new structure, based at Andover and known as "Army Headquarters".
Reporting to the Chief of the General Staff are four lieutenant-generals: the Deputy Chief of the General Staff; the Commander Field Army (CFA); the Commander Home Command (CHC), and Commander Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. The CFA is responsible for generating and preparing forces for current and contingency operations; he commands 1st (United Kingdom) Division, 3rd (United Kingdom) Division, 6th (United Kingdom) Division and Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). CHC is responsible for commanding a wide variety or organisations that both contribute to the administrative running of the Army (i.e. the Army Personnel Centre (APC) in Glasgow), and focuses on the 'home base' (i.e. Regional Command).
A command is a military formation that handles a specific task or region, and can direct forces as large as multiple corps or as little as a few battalions. Previously the Army had regional commands in the UK, including Aldershot Command, Eastern Command, Northern Command, Scottish Command, Southern Command and Western Command. In addition, there were functional commands, such as Anti-Aircraft Command (disbanded in the 1950s), and overseas commands, such as Middle East Command. Gradually, these were consolidated into a land command in the UK, Headquarters UK Land Forces, and a land command in Germany, British Army of the Rhine. Eventually, both were merged into Land Command and later, Field Army.
From 1995, UK commands and later districts were replaced by regenerative divisions. 2nd Division, 4th Division, 5th Division and London District acted as regional commands within the UK reporting to Commander Regional Forces. Scotland District was absorbed by 2nd Division in 2000. The divisions were responsible for training subordinate formations and units under their command for operations in the UK, such as Military Aid to the Civil Community, as well as training units for overseas deployments. 2nd, 4th and 5th Divisions were replaced by Support Command on 1 November 2011.
London District includes many units with significant ceremonial roles. The Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle is primarily mounted by the two Foot Guards Battalions and one Line Infantry Battalion, together with the Foot Guards Incremental companies: Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards, No 7 Company, Coldstream Guards, and F Company, Scots Guards. The guard at Horse Guards is normally drawn from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR). The Honourable Artillery Company carries out public duties in the City of London. The HAC and the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery provide gun salutes in London. Under the General Officer Commanding Scotland, public duties in Edinburgh are the responsibility of a new incremental company, Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), formed after the reduction of the Argylls from battalion status.
A corps, in the sense of a field fighting formation, is a formation of two or more divisions, potentially 50,000 personnel or more. While the British Army has no standing corps headquarters, forces are allocated through a number of multinational arrangements to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and European commitments, providing much of the headquarters capability and framework for the multinational Allied Rapid Reaction Corps. The last purely British corps, I (BR) Corps, disbanded in Germany after the end of the Cold War.
The word corps is also used for administrative groupings by common function, such as the Royal Armoured Corps and Army Air Corps. Various Combat Support Arms and Services are referred to in the wider sense as a Corps, such as the Royal Corps of Signals.
The British Army has two deployable divisions, capable of deploying the headquarters and subordinate formations immediately to operations. A third division has responsibility for overseeing both offensive and defensive cyberwarfare, intelligence activities, surveillance and propaganda.
London District is responsible for the maintenance of capability for the defence of the capital and the provision of ceremonial units and garrisons for the Crown Estate in London, such as the Tower of London.
Several infantry regiments are organised into four administrative divisions based on the type of infantry unit or traditional recruiting areas:
A brigade contains three or four battalion-sized units, around 5,000 personnel, and is commanded by a one star officer, a Brigadier. The brigade will contain a wide range of military disciplines allowing the conduct of a spectrum of military tasks.
The brigade would be required to deploy up to three separate battlegroups, the primary tactical formation employed in British doctrine. The battlegroup is a mixed formation built around the core of one unit, an armoured regiment or infantry battalion, with sub-units providing artillery, engineers, logistics, aviation, etc., as required.
- 4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East
- 7th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East
- 11th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters South East
- 51st Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Scotland
- 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade
- 16th Air Assault Brigade
- Strike Experimentation Group
- Specialised Infantry Group
- 1st Artillery Brigade
- 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
- 1st Military Police Brigade
- 1st (United Kingdom) Signal Brigade
- 2nd Medical Brigade
- 8th Engineer Brigade
- 11th Signal Brigade and Headquarters West Midlands
- 77th Brigade
- 101st Logistic Brigade
- 102nd Logistic Brigade
- 104th Logistic Support Brigade
Order of precedence
The British Army parades according to the order of precedence, from right to left, with the unit at the extreme right being highest on the order. The Household Cavalry has the highest precedence, unless the Royal Horse Artillery parades with its guns.
Arms and services
The Combat Arms are the "teeth" of the British Army, infantry, armoured and aviation units which engage in close action.
Household Cavalry and Royal Armoured Corps
Regiments of line cavalry and the Royal Tank Regiment together form the Royal Armoured Corps which has units equipped with either main battle tanks, light armour for reconnaissance, or lightly armoured vehicles for the light cavalry role. An additional reconnaissance regiment is provided by the Household Cavalry Regiment, of the Household Cavalry, which administratively is not considered to be part of the RAC, but is included among the RAC order of battle for operational tasking.
The Infantry is divided for administrative purposes into four 'divisions', with battalions being trained and equipped to operate in one of six main roles:
- Air Assault Infantry
- Armoured Infantry
- Light Infantry
- Mechanised Infantry
- Specialised Training Infantry
- Public Duties
Under the arms-plot system, a battalion would spend between two and six years in one role, before re-training for another. Following a review of the operation of the army, it has been demonstrated that this system is inefficient and it is being phased out, with battalions specialising in role—this will see armoured infantry, mechanised infantry and air assault battalions remaining in a single posting; however, light infantry battalions will continue to be periodically rotated between postings. Personnel will be "trickle posted" between battalions of the same regiment as required, and to further their careers.
|Guards Division||Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division||King's Division||Queen's Division|
|1st Bn, Grenadier Guards||1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Bn,|
The Royal Regiment of Scotland
|1st & 2nd Bn, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment|
(King's Lancashire and Border)
|1st & 2nd Bn, The Princess of Wales's|
Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires)
|1st Bn, Coldstream Guards||1st Bn, The Royal Welsh||1st & 2nd Bn The Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th,|
19th and 33rd/76th Foot)
|1st Bn, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers|
|1st Bn, Scots Guards||1st Bn, The Royal Irish Regiment|
(27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th
and The Ulster Defence Regiment)
|1st & 2nd Bn, The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire,|
Worcesters and Foresters, and Staffords)
|1st & 2nd Bn, The Royal Anglian Regiment|
|1st Bn, Irish Guards||The Royal Gibraltar Regiment|
|1st Bn, Welsh Guards|
Three further infantry units in the regular army are not grouped within the various infantry divisions:
- 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn, The Parachute Regiment
- 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn, The Royal Gurkha Rifles
- 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Bn, The Rifles.
The three senior regiments of foot guards, plus the Royal Regiment of Scotland, each maintain an additional reinforced company that retains custody of the colours of battalions that are in suspended animation:
- Nijmegen Company, Grenadier Guards (ex 2nd Bn, Grenadier Guards)
- No. 7 Company, Coldstream Guards (ex 2nd Bn, Coldstream Guards)
- F Company, Scots Guards (ex 2nd Bn, Scots Guards)
- Balaklava Company, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (ex 5th Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland)
Brigade of Gurkhas
The Royal Gurkha Rifles is the largest element of the Brigade of Gurkhas, which includes its own support arms. These units are affiliated to the equivalent British units, but have their own unique cap badges.
- Special Air Service – The Regular Army's special forces formation is a single, battalion sized unit, 22nd SAS Regiment.
- Special Forces Support Group – A tri-service unit formed around 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment and enhanced with personnel from Combat Support Services, the Royal Marines and RAF Regiment. SFSG is designed to provide support to Special Forces operations.
- Special Reconnaissance Regiment – A tri-service element of the United Kingdom Special Forces alongside the SAS and Special Boat Service.
Note: UKSF is considered a joint organisation and as such falls outside the Army chain of command.
Combat Support Arms
The Combat Support Arms provide direct support to the Combat Arms and include artillery, engineer, signals and aviation.
Royal Regiment of Artillery
The Royal Artillery consists of 13 Regular Regiments and 5 Reserve Regiments along with the ceremonial King's Troop. Although not part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery the Honourable Artillery Company shares some of the same capabilities. Four of the Regular Regiments retain the cap badge, or "cypher", and traditions of the Royal Horse Artillery, although this naming convention has no link to the role that they undertake. The Royal Artillery undertakes six different roles:
|Air Defence||Close Support|
(AS90 & MRLS)
(L118 Light Gun)
|Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA)||Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)||Training|
|King's Troop, RHA||12 Regiment RA||1st Regiment RHA||7th (Para) Regiment RHA||5 Regiment RA||32 Regiment RA||14 Regiment RA|
|16 Regiment RA||19 Regiment RA||29 (Cdo) Regiment RA||Honourable Artillery Company (HAC)||47 Regiment RA|
|26 Regiment RA||3rd Regiment RHA|
|4 Regiment RA|
Corps of Royal Engineers
The Royal Engineers is a corps of 15 regiments in the regular army providing military engineering (civil engineering, assault engineering and demolition) capabilities to the field army and facilities management expertise within garrisons.
Regiments are associated with Brigade level formations with a number of independent squadrons and support groups associated with specific tasks:
The Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) comprises two recruit training regiments:
- 1 RSME Regiment – Construction Engineer School
- 3 RSME Regiment – Combat Engineer School
The remainder are field regiments attached to various deployable formations:
Royal Corps of Signals
The Royal Signals is a corps of 10 Regiments and 13 independent squadrons which provides communications and information systems support to formations of Brigade level and above. Below the Brigade level support is provided by Battalion Signallers drawn from the parent unit. Within the deployable brigades, the Signal Regiment also provides support to the HQ function including logistics, life support and force protection capabilities.
- 1st Signal Regiment
- 2nd Signal Regiment
- 3rd Signal Regiment
- 10th Signal Regiment
- 11th (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment
- 14th Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare)
- 15th Signal Regiment (Information Support)
- 16th Signal Regiment
- 18th (UKSF) Signal Regiment
- 21st Signal Regiment
- 22nd Signal Regiment
- 30th Signal Regiment
Army Air Corps
The Army Air Corps provides battlefield air support with six regiments and four independent squadrons and flights:
The Intelligence Corps provides intelligence support including collection, interpretation and counter-intelligence capabilities with three battalions and a joint service group:
- 1 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 2 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 4 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group
Combat Service Support Arms
The Combat Service Support Arms provide sustainment and support for the Combat and Combat Support Arms. Whilst CSS personnel are not intended to close with and engage opposition forces, the fluidity of the modern battlefield means that these personnel are likely to be engaged in close combat at times, particularly when associated with Battle Groups.
Royal Logistic Corps
The Royal Logistic Corps is the largest single corps in the British Army:
- 1 Close Support Logistic Regiment RLC
- 3 Close Support Logistic Regiment RLC
- 4 Close Support Logistic Regiment RLC
- 6 Force Logistic Regiment RLC
- 7 Force Logistic Regiment RLC
- 9 Theatre Logistic Regiment RLC
- 10 Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment RLC
- 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Regiment RLC
- 13 Air Assault Support Regiment RLC
- 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC
- 25 Training Support Regiment RLC
- 27 Theatre Logistic Regiment RLC
- 29 Postal Courier & Movement Regiment RLC
Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers is a corps that provides maintenance support to equipment and vehicles. Most units will have either a Light Aid Detachment (LAD) or Workshop (Wksp) attached. Seven battalions provide support to formations of brigade level and above:
- 1 Close Support Battalion REME
- 2 Close Support Battalion REME
- 3 Close Support Battalion REME
- 4 Close Support Battalion REME
- 5 Force Support Battalion REME
- 6 Close Support Battalion REME
- 7 Aviation Support Battalion REME
The Army Medical Services provide primary and secondary care for the armed forces in fixed locations and whilst deployed on operations. Personnel are attached to a parent unit, one of five field regiments or the defence medical services. The AMS comprises four different Corps providing the range of medical and veterinary care, with the Royal Army Medical Corps also providing the administrative framework for the regiments.
- Royal Army Medical Corps
- Royal Army Dental Corps
- Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps
- Royal Army Veterinary Corps
Adjutant General's Corps
The Adjutant General's Corps provides administrative, police and disciplinary and educational support to the army. The AGC is an amalgamation with three of the constituent units retaining their previous cap badge. Personnel from the AGC administrative and educational specialisations serve in attached posts to establishments or units of other arms. The police and disciplinary activities retain their own cap badges and act as discrete bodies. The Corps as a whole is divided into four separate branches:
- Staff and Personnel Branch: The SPS branch is the largest part of the AGC and has responsibility for providing most administrative functions, including finance, IT support, human resources. The SPS branch was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Army Pay Corps with elements of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Women's Royal Army Corps.
- Education and Training Services Branch: The ETS branch provides for the educational needs of all serving personnel. These cover both professional development within the army, and wider personal development. The ETS branch was formed through the renaming of the Royal Army Educational Corps.
- Army Legal Services Branch: The ALS branch provides legal advice to the army and to individuals requiring representation at Courts Martial. It is one of the smallest individual units, numbering 120 professionally qualified lawyers. All of its members are officers. The ALS branch retains the cap badge and traditions of the Army Legal Corps.
- Provost Branch: The Provost branch consists of three separate elements:
- Military Provost Staff: The MPS is the element of the provost branch responsible for administering military correctional facilities. The MPS is one of the few elements in the army that does not recruit directly; instead, its members are volunteers from other branches of the army. The MPS retains the cap badge and traditions of the Military Provost Staff Corps.
- Royal Military Police: The RMP provides the army's policing services, both in peacetime and in wartime. Units of the RMP are trained to deploy with the Field Army in the event of mobilisation. The RMP provides two regular regiments and supplements Army Reserve regiments with one Provost company each. A further provost company is trained in the air assault mission and is permanently attached to 16 Air Assault Brigade. The Corps also provides a number of specialist capabilities, such as the Special Investigation Branch, Close Protection Teams and special escort capabilities.
- 1 Regiment, Royal Military Police
- 3 Regiment, Royal Military Police
- Military Provost Guard Service: The MPGS is a unit dedicated to the guarding of military installations, allowing the army to replace civilian guards with trained soldiers. The MPGS has responsibilities at installations belonging to all three services.
Training in the Regular Army differs for soldiers and officers but in general takes place in at least two phases:
Phase one training is basic military training for all new recruits. Here candidates learn the basic standards of military performance including operation in the field, weapon handling, personal administration, drill etc.
- Prospective officers attend the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where they undergo basic training in soldiering, defence policy and the structure of government, administration, command and leadership. The Commissioning Course for new entry officers lasts 44 weeks. Some specialist branches, Medical and Legal, undergo a short course which provides basic military training.
- Infantry soldiers undergo a 26-week course at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick Garrison which combines phase one and phase two training.
- Soldiers in other specialisations undergo the 14-week Army Development Course at the Army Training Centre, Pirbright or the Army Training Regiment at Winchester
- Junior Soldiers (Under 18) at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate undergo either 23 or 46 weeks training (Junior Soldiers with trades complete 23 weeks and infantry Junior Soldiers complete 46 weeks)
Phase two training is specific to the trade that the soldier or officer will follow and is conducted in a branch specialised school. Phase two training enables the individual to join an operational unit prepared to contribute to operational effectiveness. These schools are under the direction of the parent corps or arm of the service, as illustrated above, with the Infantry Training Centre being formed of two training battalions.
Units of the Army Reserve
The four armoured regiments of the Army Reserve operate in two roles - provision of crew replacements for armoured regiments, and Light Cavalry (reconnaissance):
- 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 3rd Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment
- The London Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment
- 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
- 3rd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Mercian Regiment
- 3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh
- 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment
- 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
- 6th Battalion, The Rifles
- 7th Battalion, The Rifles
- 8th Battalion, The Rifles
Honourable Artillery Company
- The Engineer and Logistic Staff Corps – Specialist industry knowledge (invitation only, industry leaders)
- Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) – Field Regiment
- 71 Engineer Regiment
- 75 Engineer Regiment
Army Air Corps
- 6 Regiment, Army Air Corps
- 3 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 5 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 6 Military Intelligence Battalion
- 7 Military Intelligence Battalion
Combat Service Support
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
- 101 Battalion, REME
- 102 Battalion, REME
- 103 Battalion, REME
Royal Logistic Corps
Army Medical Services
- 201 (Northern) Field Hospital
- 202 (Midlands) Field Hospital
- 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital
- 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital
- 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital
- 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital
- 208 (Liverpool) Field Hospital
- 212 (Yorkshire) Field Hospital
- 217 (London) General Hospital
- 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital
- 256 (City of London) Field Hospital
- 306 Hospital Support Regiment
- 335 Medical Evacuation Regiment
- Medical Operational Support Group
- "Defence Reform: an independent report into the structure and management of the Ministry of Defence (June 2011)" (PDF). gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
- Correspondence from Army Secretariat
- Army Command reorganization Archived 2011-11-12 at the Wayback Machine Defence Marketing Intelligence, 10 November 2011
- Higher Command Archived 2013-06-05 at the Wayback Machine
- "Army Structure". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
- Charles Heyman, 'The British Army: A Pocket Guide 2012-2013', p.31
- "Formations, Divisions & Brigades". www.army.mod.uk. Retrieved 2019-01-20.
- firstname.lastname@example.org, The British Army,. "The British Army - Regiments". www.army.mod.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-03.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
External links and sources
- British Army Corps, Regiment Units
- British Monarchy and the British Army
- A Guide to Appointments and Invitations for Defence Staffs within High Commissions and Embassies in London, UK Ministry of Defence, June 2005 edition
- UK operations: the defence contribution to resilience and security