Structure of the British Army

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The structure of the British Army is broadly similar to that of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, in that the four-star (general-equivalent) field commands have been eliminated. Army Headquarters is located in Andover, Hampshire. As the top-level budget holder, this organisation is responsible for providing forces at operational readiness for employment by the Permanent Joint Headquarters. There is a Commander Field Army and a personnel and UK operations command, Home Command.

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 structure 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.

Army Headquarters

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[1] and known as "Army Headquarters".[2][3]

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, and Force Troops Command (FTC).[4] 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).

Formations

Commands

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.[5]

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.

Corps

United Kingdom
British Army lists
Commands and Army groups
Field armies in the First World War
Field armies in the Second World War
Corps in the First World War
Corps in the Second World War
Divisions in the First World War
Divisions in the Second World War
Brigades in the First World War
Brigades in the Second World War
Regiments of Cavalry
Royal Armoured Corps Regiments in Second World War
Royal Artillery Batteries
Regiments of Foot
Regiments in 1881
Territorial Force Units in 1908
Yeomanry Regiments converted to Royal Artillery
Regiments in 1962
Regiments in 1994
Regiments in 2008
Territorial Army units in 2012
Present-day Regiments
Nicknames of regiments

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.

Divisions

A division is a formation of three or four brigades, around twenty thousand personnel, commanded by a Major General.

The British Army has two deployable divisions, capable of deploying the headquarters and subordinate formations immediately to operations.

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:

Brigades

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.

Combat formations include:

There are also several non-combat focused service support units of brigade size.

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.

Army 2020

In 2010, the incoming government conducted a defence review. Those elements affecting the army were released as part of the Future British Army Structure (Next Steps) publication,[6] which was superseded by the "Army 2020" concept announced in 2012. Under Army 2020 the army will be divided into:

  • Reaction forces comprising a modified 16 Air Assault Brigade and an armoured division (3rd (UK) Division) of three armoured infantry brigades. These will be the 1st, 12th and 20th Armoured Infantry Brigades.[7][8]
  • Adaptive forces comprising a division (1st (UK) Division) of seven infantry brigades, three of which (the 4th, 7th, and 51st) will be deployable. This will be assisted by another 2-star command, Support Command (United Kingdom)[9][10][11]
  • Force troops and logistics support comprising eight brigades.

All units from Germany will gradually move back to the UK. The basing plan was released on 5 March 2013. This positions 3rd (UK) Division as the head of the Reaction Force. 1st (UK) Division is the division in charge of the Adaptable Force being based in York. This basing plan locates all three Reaction Force Brigades, along with the three Armoured Regiments and the six Armoured Infantry Battalions, in the Salisbury Plain training area.[12][13]

Refinements to the plans following the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review became known as "Army 2020 Refine". [14]

Arms and services

Combat Arms

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.

Armoured Regiments Armoured Cavalry Regiments Light Cavalry Regiments
The King's Royal Hussars Household Cavalry Regiment 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards
The Queen's Royal Hussars
(Queen's Own and Royal Irish)
The Royal Dragoon Guards The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
(Carabiniers and Greys)
The Royal Tank Regiment The Royal Lancers
(Queen Elizabeth's Own)
The Light Dragoons

Infantry

The Infantry is divided for administrative purposes into four 'divisions', with battalions being trained and equipped to operate in one of six main roles:

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:

The role of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment is limited to the defence of Gibraltar.

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 Forces

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:[15]

Home Defence
(Ceremonial)
Air Defence Close Support
(AS90 & MRLS)
Close Support
(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 (United Kingdom) Division 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:

Intelligence Corps

The Intelligence Corps provides intelligence support including collection, interpretation and counter-intelligence capabilities with three battalions and a joint service 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:

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

Medical services

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.

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.

Other services

Training

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

Combat Arms

Armour

The four armoured regiments of the Army Reserve operate in two roles - provision of crew replacements for armoured regiments, and Light Cavalry (reconnaissance):

Infantry

Special Air Service

Combat Support

Honourable Artillery Company

Royal Artillery

Royal Engineers

Note: Although the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers is part of the Royal Engineers order of battle, it is a separate regiment with its own cap badge, regimental colours and traditions.

Royal Signals

Army Air Corps

  • 6 Regiment, Army Air Corps

Intelligence 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
  • 104 Battalion, REME
  • 105 Battalion, REME
  • 106 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

Notes

  1. ^ Correspondence from Army Secretariat
  2. ^ Army Command reorganization Archived 2011-11-12 at the Wayback Machine. Defence Marketing Intelligence, 10 November 2011
  3. ^ Higher Command Archived 2013-06-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Army Structure". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  5. ^ Charles Heyman, 'The British Army: A Pocket Guide 2012-2013', p.31
  6. ^ Briefing Paper SN06038 Defence Basing Review: Headline Decisions House of Commons Library
  7. ^ "Famed Desert Rats to lose their tanks under Army cuts". Telegraph. 2013-03-05. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  8. ^ Army Basing Plan: The basing plan table labels them as "Armoured Infantry Brigades"
  9. ^ Army Basing Plan: The basing plan table labels them in order
  10. ^ Transforming the British Army Annex A Archived 2013-03-10 at WebCite
  11. ^ Transforming the British Army Annex C[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Regular army basing plan" (PDF). 5 March 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  13. ^ Major Army sites - basing
  14. ^ "Army Information Sub-Strategy (2015 – 2018)" (PDF). British Army. November 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  15. ^ [email protected], The British Army,. "The British Army - Regiments". www.army.mod.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-03.

External links and sources

  • Official Army Website
  • SaBRE
  • 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
  • Operations in the UK: The Defence Contribution to Resilience (Interim Joint Doctrine Publication 2)
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