Regiments and Corps

British Army organisation

The photograph above shows a section of soldiers from the Recce and Patrols Platoon, Fire Support Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers, 1st Mechanised Brigade, 3rd Mechanised Division.

That's quite a mouthful. So what exactly do all these different terms mean?

Section

A section usually consists of 7 to 12 men, and is part of a platoon. Sections are usually under the command of a non-commissioned officer, often a corporal or sergeant.

Platoon

A platoon is a part of an infantry company and is further divided into three or four sections. A British platoon usually consists of 25 to 30 men. Platoons are commanded by a lieutenant or second lieutenant

A platoon of ‘A’ Company, 4th King’s African Rifles, during a route march near Gilgil in Kenya, c1956

A troop of cavalry cantering along a track, North West Frontier of India, c1918

A troop of cavalry cantering along a track, North West Frontier of India, c1918

Troop

Part of a squadron of cavalry or a battery of artillery, a troop is equivalent to an infantry platoon. Troops are normally commanded by a lieutenant.

Company

A company is part of a battalion and usually consists of between 150 and 200 men. They are usually lettered A through to D, and made up of at least two platoons. But sometimes they have names such as ‘Grenadier Company’ or ‘Fire Support Company’. Companies are commanded by a major or a captain.

'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, before their deployment to Afghanistan, 2006

Squadron

A squadron is a sub-unit of a cavalry, engineer or armoured regiment. It is equivalent in status and size to an infantry company and normally consists of two or more troops. Squadrons are commanded by a captain or major and usually named by letter.

Battery

A battery is an artillery unit equivalent to an infantry company. Sub-units of batteries are called troops. An administrative collection of artillery batteries was called a battalion in the 18th century, a brigade until 1938, and since then a regiment. Tactical artillery regiments all belong to the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Batteries are commanded by a captain or major.

'L’ Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, at Nery, September 1914

Challenger tanks of ‘A’ Squadron, The Queen's Royal Hussars (The Queen's Own and Royal Irish) in Iraq, 2009

Battalion

A battalion is a regimental sub-unit of infantry or signals troops amounting to between 500 and 1,000 soldiers. It normally consists of a headquarters and three or more companies. Traditionally, most British regiments have had more than one battalion. But different battalions of the same regiment have seldom fought together.

A tactical grouping of battalions is called a brigade. Battalions are normally commanded by a lieutenant colonel. At present, the British Army has 47 regular and reserve infantry battalions.

1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers parading at Victoria Barracks, Belfast, October 1902

1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers parading at Victoria Barracks, Belfast, October 1902

Brigade

This is a formation consisting of three infantry battalions or three cavalry or armoured regiments. During the world wars a brigade numbered between 3,500 and 4,000 men.

When forming part of a division, a brigade has no internal support. But when operating independently (usually called a brigade group), it includes supporting reconnaissance, artillery, engineers, supply and transport. A brigade is commanded by a major-general or brigadier.  

A Mark I tank surrounded by troops of 122nd Brigade, 17 September 1916

Formation badge of 4th Armoured Brigade, c1999

Division

A division is made up of three infantry, cavalry or armoured brigades. Divisions are usually equipped to operate independently in the field, and have a full complement of supporting reconnaissance, artillery, engineers, medical, supply and transport troops.

During the World Wars, the average British division numbered around 16,000 men. Divisions are commanded by a lieutenant-general or major-general. The British Army currently has two deployable divisions.

Sir Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery visiting men of 79th Armoured Division after the Rhine crossings, March 1945

Corps

This is a tactical formation made up of two or three divisions and commanded by a lieutenant-general. Corps are normally identified by Roman numerals. During the First World War the British Army grew to encompass 22 army corps.

Formation badge of XXX (30) Corps, c1941

Formation badge of 14th Army, c1945

Formation badge of 14th Army, c1945

Army

An army is a formation consisting of two or more corps. They are commanded by a general or a field marshal. An army in the Second World War numbered about 150,000 men. Eleven British armies were formed during the First World War. More than one army operating together is known as an army group.

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