British Army Hierarchies

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See also Constitution of the Military Forces of the British Crown, which gives the contemporary legal definition of the British Army and lists the main administrative units.

Units, formations and regiments[edit]

The British Army had two hierarchies:

  • Administrative
  • Tactical

These were separate at higher levels but overlapped at lower levels. There was also a separate hierarchy of pay offices that we haven't yet tried to represent on this site.


Administrative hierarchy[edit]

Formation hierarchy[edit]

This is a typical hierarchy based on the Western Front, but there were all sorts of non-standard formations in other theatres, especially in Africa and Asia.

Units could be direct members of any level of formation. Above brigade level this was in groups known as Divisional Troops, Corps Troops, Army Troops, or GHQ Troops .

Units and sub-units[edit]

There are many different types of units. This section shows the main ones for infantry, cavalry and field artillery. Each unit was divided into smaller units, sometimes known as sub-units. These sub-units are generally not represented by separate pages on this site unless they sometimes operated independently of their parent units, but they are shown here for information.

Infantry Cavalry Field artillery
Unit Infantry battalion Cavalry regiment Field artillery brigade
Sub-unit Infantry company Cavalry squadron Field artillery battery
Sub-unit Infantry platoon Cavalry troop Field artillery section

Infantry platoons were further divided into sections of about 12 men.

A Royal Engineers company was a similar size to an infantry company but for many types of engineers was the largest unit, attached directly to a formation.

Cavalry squadrons could be attached directly to an infantry division, separately from their parent regiments.


Regulars and Territorials[edit]

Each unit of the British Army belonged to one of these branches:

  • Regular Army
  • Territorial Force (including the Yeomanry, which was the Territorial cavalry)
  • Special Reserve
  • New Army

These classifications apply at unit level and don't follow the administrative hierarchy: most infantry regiments contained battalions of all types.

Except for Special Reserve, they can also apply to formations at Brigade and Division level, but are usually meaningless at higher levels.

There was also the Volunteer Training Corps, which was originally a separate unofficial service but became a branch of the British Army later in the war.

Examples[edit]

Infantry battalion[edit]

Example hierarchies for 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, which was a battalion of the Territorial Force.

Infantry administrative hierarchy[edit]

Infantry tactical hierarchy[edit]

Same battalion's tactical hierarchy, 1 July 1916 (sources: gommecourt.co.uk; WO 95/2691):

Regular Cavalry[edit]

Example hierarchies for 7th Dragoon Guards.

Cavalry administrative hierarchy[edit]

Cavalry tactical hierarchy[edit]

Same regiment's tactical hierarchy, 14 July 1916 (source: David Kenyon's PhD thesis, pp. 50-56):

The cavalry divisions on the Western Front were sometimes part of a tactical formation called Cavalry Corps, which should not be confused with the administrative corps of Dragoons, Hussars and Lancers.