Naming conventions for British units

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The purpose of this page is to record and explain our current practices for naming units and pages. It's not a set of rules that you have to learn. If you want to create a page that doesn't exist, just create it. Don't worry about whether it has the right name. We can easily move it later.

Page name suffixes[edit]

  • if the word "British" already appears in the unit's name, it doesn't need a suffix.
  • if the page is for a ship that starts with "HMS", it doesn't need a suffix.
  • if the unit was wholly or mostly in the British Army, the suffix is ", British Army"
  • if the unit was outside the British Army for a significant part of its existence, the suffix is ", British". This usually applies to:
    • the Royal Air Force
    • the Royal Navy, including units of 63rd (Royal Naval) Division
    • the Volunteer Training Corps
    • voluntary organizations that were not legally part of the armed forces


British units use the unit_name1 etc. parameters in {{infobox military unit}} to record their actual full names, which are nearly always different from the page name. The suffixes ", British Army" and ", British" are never used in full names because they weren't part of the actual name and have been added to wiki page names for dismbiguation and information.

Page names usually use ordinal Arabic numbers, but there are some exceptions described below.

Units identified by letters, such as cavalry squadrons and horse artillery batteries, shouldn't have quotation marks around the letters in the page name.

In page names, there should always be a comma after the unit type if it forms part of the name. The comma may be followed by the regiment or corps that the unit belongs to, or directly by the suffix. This doesn't always apply to full names.


The only exceptions are where "British" forms part of the name and there isn't an administrative regiment or corps in the name. These are typically expeditionary forces:

The Territorial Force[edit]

The duplication of Territorial units during the First World War led to some complicated name histories. We still don't have definitive information about which units existed when, or what they were called. The official naming rules given in Army Orders and War Office Instructions weren't always followed in practice.

This section sets out what we know about general patterns for full names. More information about full names and page names is given below in sections about types of units.

First line[edit]

These were the original Territorial units. Most were formed from Volunteer Force units in 1908 but there are some exceptions which were created later. They seem to have kept their original names until they added 1/ in front, which was ordered in January 1915. Most of these units went overseas in 1914-15.

Second line[edit]

These were originally formed from men who didn't volunteer for overseas service with the first line units. Their initial role was to take the place of the first line units for home defence and to train new recruits, but after the introduction of conscription in 1916, they became liable for overseas service and most had gone overseas by the end of 1917.

Second line units were not all created at the same time as the rules said it depended on when the first line unit was selected for overseas service. The official naming rules are complicated, and were not necessarily put into practice. In January 1915 they were ordered to take the name of the original unit but with "2/" in front of it. From then on, their names seem to be fairly stable.

Third line[edit]

These were training units that always stayed at home. When they were supposed to be formed depended on when the first line unit went overseas, but the rules for creating and naming them weren't necessarily followed in practice. In January 1915 they were ordered to take the name of the original unit but with "3/" in front of it. Later many of them were amalgamated, taking the name of one of their equivalent first line units but adding "(Reserve)" after it.


Page names[edit]

Tactical armies, corps, divisions and brigades usually follow this pattern:

Infantry division page names always include the division's ordinal number. Names in brackets are omitted unless they are needed for dismbiguation. The only known case is:

'(1914)' is used to disambiguate the divisions of the original Fourth New Army that were formed in 1914 and broken up in April 1915. For example, 30th Division (1914), British Army is not the same division as 30th Division, British Army.

Cavalry divisions have the word "Cavalry" to disambiguate them from infantry:

4th and 5th cavalry divisions each refer to two different Indian formations and were not used for British divisions.

The Cavalry Corps on the Western Front are under Cavalry Corps, British Army.

Armies outside the Western Front are known by their names because they didn't have numbers:

Full names[edit]

Full names should be entered in unit_name1 etc. in {{infobox military unit}}. These names are usually given in Becke's Order of Battle.

Territorial infantry divisions were originally known only by a name but were given numbers in 1915. These name changes should be entered in infoboxes. See 46th Division, British Army for an example.

Territorial infantry brigades follow a similar pattern, except that the second name doesn't have the old name in brackets, only an ordinal number. See 138th Infantry Brigade, British Army for an example.

Formation troops[edit]

Formations of division level and above usually had some support units attached directly to the formation headquarters. Formations will have at least one extra page grouping these units together.

Corps will have one "Corps Troops" page containing all corps troops. For example:

Divisions have several pages grouping units by type. Example from 46th Division, British Army:

Groups for army troops and general headquarters troops are not yet decided.


This section covers infantry regiments and battalions of the British Army. See #Royal Navy and Royal Marines infantry further below for Royal Navy and Royal Marines infantry units.

Infantry regiments[edit]

Pages for all infantry regiments of the British Army already exist (except for the Volunteer Training Corps). Page names and full names are shown in the table at British units in World War I#Infantry regiments.

Page names consist of the regiment name, shortened unless the name is already short enough, followed by the suffix ", British Army". Practice for shortening names is based on arbitrary decisions and an impression of common usage. General rules are:

Full names are as shown in E.A. James, British Regiments 1914-1918 but omitting "The". The Monthly Army List can also be cited as a source for full names.

Infantry battalions[edit]

Pages already exist for every British infantry battalion named in E.A. James, British Regiments 1914-1918.

Page names[edit]

The general pattern of infantry battalion page names is:

  • the least ambiguous ordinal number that the battalion had. For Territorial battalions, this should include the fractional line number if it ever had one: "1/5th" not "5th".
  • any words that are absolutely necessary to disambiguate the battalion from other battalions with the same number and regiment.
    • The most usual one is "Garrison", but "(Home Service)" is usually omitted.
    • "Buckinghamshire" and "Brecknockshire" are also needed to disambiguate some Territorial battalions.
    • "(Reserve)" is usually omitted but there are a few cases where it needs to be kept.
  • the word "Battalion".
  • the page name of the parent regiment, including the suffix ", British Army".

If a battalion changed regiments, its whole history should go on one page, and there should be a redirect for each of its other regiments. Redirects are named according to the same conventions as other pages. To decide which of the page names has the actual content:

  • named regiments are preferred. "Training Reserve Battalion", "Provisional Battalion" or "Battalion Royal Defence Corps" should only be used for the page name if the battalion was never part of a named infantry regiment.
  • if a battalion was in the Training Reserve and ended up as 51st, 52nd or 53rd battalion of a named regiment, use the last name.
  • if a battalion was in the Training Reserve but didn't move to a named regiment afterwards, use its first name.
  • Garrison battalions that changed regiments are often put under the regiment in which they were part of the normal sequence of battalion numbers and not a Garrison battalion, but this isn't an important rule and isn't rigidly enforced.
  • practice varies for other battalions that changed from one named regiment to another.

In some cases, a battalion was disbanded and another battalion (which previously had a different identity) took its name and number. In these cases the page names are arranged so that every battalion has a unique number wherever possible. For example:

The London Regiment has been given an intermediate administrative level using the identity type. These identities have only names, but the battalions have only numbers, and both are followed by the name "London Regiment". For example, this is part of the hierarchy:

Full names[edit]

Every British infantry battalion should have at least one name entered in unit_name1 in {{infobox military unit}}. The most useful source for full names is James, E.A. (1998) [first published 1978]. British Regiments 1914-1918. Heathfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 0-906304-03-2. . We currently use the names given by James but omitting "The" and "T.F.". The forms to use for the regiment name are shown in the table at British units in World War I#Infantry regiments. The battalion name should include all extra words in brackets both before and after the regiment name. The Monthly Army List also gives full names of all infantry battalions but in a slightly different form from James.

Some examples:

Page Name Full Name
1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, British Army 1st Battalion Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders)
3rd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army 3rd (Reserve) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
10th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, British Army 10th (Service) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Grimsby)
11th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment, British Army 11th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (Pioneers)
6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, British Army 6th (Service) Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment)

Some infantry battalions were converted to pioneer battalions during the war. When this happened, "(Pioneers)" was usually added to the end of the name, after the regiment name, although this isn't always shown in James.

Regular Army battalions[edit]

Pre-war Regular Army battalions had simple names that didn't usually change. Full names are as shown in James. Names and branches of these battalions can also be confirmed by the Monthly Army List or by Hart's Annual Army List.

Special Reserve battalions[edit]

Special Reserve battalions were mostly created in 1908 and kept the same names. These are as shown in James, typically in these forms, followed by the full name of the regiment:

  • 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
  • 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion

The Monthly Army List puts '(Reserve)' after the name but we currently follow James's practice of putting it before 'Battalion'.

Territorial Force battalions[edit]

Full names from 30 January 1915 onwards are shown in James.[1] First line battalions can be assumed to have the same name omitting "1/" before this date, and this might be confirmed by the Monthly Army List of Hart's Annual. Second and third line units that existed before this date can have complicated name histories between August 1914 and January 1915 that are not shown in James, and the official naming rules were not always followed in practice. We need more information (especially from distribution lists and strength returns) before we can decide definitive conventions in these cases.

Kitchener Army battalions[edit]

These battalions were raised directly by the War Office as part of Kitchener's New Armies (each of these armies was known for short as K1, K2 and so on). The battalions had numbers as part of their parent regiments from the start of their existence. Complete name histories are probably shown in James.

Pals battalions[edit]

The Pals battalions, officially known as locally raised battalions, were recruited in certain places by local authorities or other organisations or individuals, who were responsible for funding, training and administration of the battalions until they were later taken over by the War Office and added to the New Armies. These battalions were part of named infantry regiments from the start of their existence but did not always have numbers. James shows complete name histories from 3 December 1914 onwards.[2] Before this date, they only had names, which are shown in various instructions from the War Office.

These battalions also had unofficial but commonly used nicknames. These nicknames should be shown in the alternate_unit_names parameter in {{infobox military unit}} and should also be redirects. For example, Grimsby Chums redirects to 10th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, British Army. We don't yet have a definitive list of these nicknames.

Training Reserve battalions[edit]

These were orignally raised as reserve battalions of the New Army (both the Kitchener and Pals battalions described above). They have complicated name histories because many of them changed regiments once or twice and were Training Reserve battalions for some of their existence. Their name histories are mostly found in James but with a few possible errors and ambiguities.

Composite battalions[edit]

Sometimes battalions were temporarily merged and given a new name in which the numbers of both battalions were separated with a slash. These should not be confused with line numbers of Territorial battalions. For example, 5/6th Battalion, Royal Scots, British Army was a composite formed from 5th Battalion and 6th Battalion, not the fifth line of 6th Battalion. The proper form, to be used in the infobox, is "5th/6th" but page names always use the form "5/6th".

Volunteer Training Corps[edit]

Pages names will be based on pre-1918 Volunteer regiment names to disambiguate the units from pre-1908 Volunteer battalions. They will usually be in this form:

Full name history in unit_name1 etc. in {{infobox military unit}} should also show later names where battalions were affiliated with regular British Army regiments. These will usually be in the form "3rd Volunteer Battalion Hampshire Regiment". Full regiment names should be used in these cases, as with other battalions of the regiment (see #Infantry above).

Machine gun units[edit]

Pages names are usually in these forms:

Full names of Guards machine gun battalions are shown in James.

Full names of Machine Gun Corps units are probably the same as page names but without the suffix ", British Army", but we don't yet have a canonical source for their full names.


We now have pages for more or less all British cavalry units.

The administrative corps of cavalry are:

Regular cavalry regiments[edit]

Page names should omit names in brackets and consist only of:

  • ordinal number
  • type of regiment
  • suffix ", British Army"


Royal Horse Guards, British Army is the only one that doesn't have a number.

Full names are as shown in James.

Regiment names didn't change during the war.

Reserve cavalry regiments that existed at the start of the war are in the form:

In 1917, the original reserve regiments were merged into new reserve regiments which had a completely different composition from the old ones. The page names for these new regiments use "(1917)" to disambiguate them from the old regiments:

Yeomanry regiments[edit]

Yeomanry regiments were all Territorial, usually with three lines. The regiment name is represented as an identity above the three lines but below the administrative corps. For example:

Page names for the regimental identity are the name shown in James in capitals, omitting any lower case words in brackets. The only exceptions are:

Full names are as shown in James, including both capitalised words and any lower case words in brackets. The Glasgow Yeomanry use the full name in 1914, shown in the note at the end of the entry on page 19.

Names for the actual units consist of line number and regiment number followed by the regimental names defined above. For example:

Page name Full name
Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, British Army Montgomeryshire Yeomanry
1/1st Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, British Army 1/1st Montgomeryshire Yeomanry
Sherwood Rangers, British Army Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers)
2/1st Sherwood Rangers, British Army 2/1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers)
1/1st Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry, British Army 1/1st Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry
3/1st Yorkshire Hussars Yeomanry, British Army 3/1st Yorkshire Hussars Yeomanry (Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own)

Yeomanry regiments that became infantry battalions[edit]

Part-way through the war, some yeomanry cavalry regiments were permanently dismounted, converted to infantry and became battalions of existing infantry regiments, although their old identities persisted in the battalion's full name and uniform.

In these cases, the unit's history should be split between two pages: one for its career as cavalry and one for its career as infantry. For example, 1/1st Lovat's Scouts Yeomanry, British Army and 1/2nd Lovat's Scouts Yeomanry, British Army became 10th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, British Army.

Yeomanry regiments that became machine gun battalions, or that were merged into cyclist regiments or battalions, should be treated similarly.

Corps cavalry regiments[edit]

In 1916, divisional cavalry squadrons were removed to army corps level and formed into regiments. In some cases, a corps cavalry regiment was identical to a named cavalry regiment, having all the squadrons of that regiment and no squadrons from other regiments. In these cases, the corps cavalry regiment does not have a separate page, and all information about it goes on the same page as the named regiment.

Some corps cavalry regiments were not identical to named regiments and have their own pages. Page names are the name of the corps followed by "Cavalry Regiment" followed by the suffix ", British Army". For example:

These regiments usually have squadrons of one or more named regiments as tactical children.


Some squadrons have their own pages because they operated separately from their parent regiments. This is usually because they were divisional cavalry squadrons, or part of corps cavalry regiments that were not identical with one named regiment. Page names for squadrons are usually the capital letter that identifies the squadron, followed by the word "Squadron" and a comma, followed by the page name of the parent regiment. This is true for regular, yeomanry and Special Reserve cavalry. For example:

Squadron letters should not have quotation marks around them.

Regular cavalry brigades[edit]

The cavalry brigades of the regular army were numbered 1st to 9th and did not change their names during the war. Page names are in the form 1st Cavalry Brigade, British Army.

During the post-war occupation of Germany, the cavalry were reorganised into the Rhine Cavalry Brigades, with names instead of numbers:

Yeomanry mounted brigades[edit]

These often have very complicated name histories. Line numbers and geographical names are preferred for page names where possible because these are the least ambiguous names. For example:

Note that the numbers in these cases qualify the names and are not unique on their own.

Numbers and the words "Mounted Brigade" are used only for brigades that never had geographical names. For example:

These numbers and names were often used at other times by other brigades, so pages will need disambiguation information using {{About}}.


We don't yet have pages for most artillery units, or a canonical source for their correct full names. These are likely conventions for their page names.

Field artillery[edit]

Pages will usually only go down to brigade level because this is equivalent to an infantry battalion. Page names will probably be in the form:

But it's not certain if we should use ordinal or cardinal numbers.

Brigades were sometimes known by roman numerals in official documents, but this form is not used in page names because it's too long and confusing.

Pages for Territorial brigades will usually be under their latest names, which are in the same form as above. Line numbers and regional names are not used in page names unless the brigade was disbanded before being renumbered.

Territorial field artillery brigades and divisional ammunition columns will probably be grouped into identities by territorial region:

Horse artillery[edit]

We now have pages for all horse artillery units that have war diaries. Pages go down to battery level because these operated independently of their parent artillery brigades and were attached to different cavalry brigades. Page names for regular units are usually in the form:

Territorial units usually have a line number and a geographical name:

The Honourable Artillery Company has a number and a letter for each battery:

Heavy artillery[edit]

Pages will probably go down to battery level. Names are likely to be:

Trench mortars[edit]

Page names are likely to be in the form:

Ammunition columns[edit]

Divisional ammunition column page names will be in similar form to division names:

Brigade ammunition columns will not normally have their own pages because they are sub-units of battalion-level units.


We don't yet have pages for engineer units, or a canonical source for their correct full names. These are likely conventions for page names for divisional engineers.

Territorial field companies should be under their latest names, which will usually be in the same form as above. Page names should omit their earlier names. For example, 427th Field Company, Royal Engineers, British Army, not "427th (1/1st East Lancashire) Field Company, Royal Engineers, British Army".

Territorial field companies changed their names at least once during the war. All names should be shown in the infobox, if known.

Territorial field and signals companies will probably be grouped into identities by territorial region:

Medical units[edit]

We don't yet have pages for medical units, or a canonical source for their correct full names. These are likely conventions for their page names.

Page names should usually omit "Royal Army Medical Corps", but this may be part of the full names listed in the infobox.

Regular units simply have number, type and suffix:

Territorial field ambulances were not renumbered into the regular sequence, so their page names have to keep line numbers and regional names:

Territorial field ambulances will probably be grouped into identities by territorial region:

Names of hospitals varied. The form "No 1" is often preferred to ordinal numbers.

Royal Navy and Royal Marines infantry[edit]

Page names for navy infantry battalions of the Royal Naval Division use only the name, not the number:

The original Royal Marines battalions of the Royal Naval Division are under their names:

The amalgamated Royal Marines battalions are under their later numbers, not their names:

Brigades in the Royal Naval Division use numbers in the Army sequence if they had them:

Brigades that weren't renumbered in the Army sequence, or that don't have a simple lineage with a numbered brigade, use older names:

Royal Navy ships[edit]

Not yet decided but likely to be in the form HMS Dreadnought.

Air units[edit]

Not yet decided.
  1. War Office Instruction number 258 (January 1915) added the fractional numbers 1/, 2/ and 3/. These and subsequent changes are shown in James.
  2. War Office Instruction number 28 (December 1914) first ordered these battalions to be numbered. These numbers and subsequent name changes are shown in James.