British Army

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British Army

British Army flag
Lineup 1707
Country United Kingdom national flag United Kingdom
Armed forces United Kingdom Armed Forces United Kingdom Armed Forces
Type Armed forces ( land force )
Strength Professional soldiers: 79,620
Gurkhas : 3,760
Part-time soldiers : 29,980
Headquarters seat London
Chief of the General Staff General Mark Carleton-Smith CBE
Army Sergeant Major WO1 Gavin Paton
A unit of the Welsh Guards in their typical red parade uniform at the annual Trooping the Color in honor of their Commander-in-Chief, Queen Elizabeth II

British Army [ ˌbrɪtɪʃ ɑːmɪ ] ( German  British Army ) is the name of the land forces of the United Kingdom .

In contrast to the two other branches of the United Kingdom , the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy , the British Army does not have the addition of Royal in its name, which corresponds to its tradition as a parliamentary army - instead, a large number of British regiments within the Army carry this addition.

She is formally subordinate to the British monarch as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Since 1962 the British Army has consisted entirely of volunteers . Major areas of operation in recent decades have been Northern Ireland , the Falkland Islands , Kosovo , Afghanistan and Iraq .



Until the English Civil War in 1642, there was no standing army in either England or Scotland . In the event of war, the nobility provided the monarch with a certain number of soldiers . In addition, mercenaries were recruited. During the civil war, however, this practice proved questionable from the point of view of the central government, as Oliver Cromwell managed to win many soldiers for the parliamentary army. In order to eliminate this weak point - dangerous for any central government - Parliament, at Cromwell's instigation, set up a standing army for the first time, the New Model Army, during the civil war . After the re-establishment of the monarchy, Charles II retained this principle and signed the official charter of the English Army on January 26, 1661 . It has been known as the British Army since the Act of Union 1707 , which incorporated the Scottish regiments into the army .

Bill of Rights

In 1689 parliament limited the monarch's influence on the military. It rejected a standing army in peacetime, as it could also serve the monarch as an instrument of domestic political power. By the Bill of Rights 1689 a standing army could only exist with the consent of parliament. To this day, parliament has to approve the existence of the army every year, although it is now a purely formal act. Demands to completely withdraw control of the army from the monarch could not be enforced, so that he is the sole commander in chief of the British Army to this day.

British Empire

British infantry in the battle of Quatre-Bras (1815)

From the later 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century, Great Britain was the dominant world power with unrestricted supremacy. Although the Royal Navy is always cited as the main instrument in the expansion of the British Empire , the British Army also played a crucial role. The army was essential to defend the colonies against other nations and insurgents. However, the ground troops also played an essential role in the conquest of new colonies, as Great Britain wanted to control the territories far inland and therefore had to act outside the scope of the Royal Navy.

In contrast to the armies in France and Germany, the British army was not a mass army at this time and there was also no conscription . The British regiments were deployed in a rotation system at home or in the colonies.

British Army campaigns during this period:

British Indian Army

After the suppression of the Sepoy uprising , the British East India Company was dissolved in 1858 . The Company's territories were placed under the Crown and the Indian Army became the army of the British Government of India. The Indian Army at this time comprised both British and Indian units. At the beginning of the 20th century, extensive reforms were carried out by the Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener . The Army of India consisted of 1903-1947:

  • Troops of local soldiers with British officers (Indian Army)
  • British troops who were commanded to India for a certain period of time (20 years) (British Army in India)

Operations in Europe

While the British Empire grew steadily, there were significant crises in Europe but also in their own country. In the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution in 1688, there were fights for the English throne that only ended with the Battle of Culloden . This was also the last battle that was ever fought on British soil.

On the European mainland, Great Britain tried to stay out of the disputes between the three great powers France , Spain and Austria . Nevertheless, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out in 1701 , in which Great Britain opposed France to prevent its further expansion. The British Army also played a decisive role in defeating Napoleon in the Napoleonic Wars . Ultimately, the victory of the Allied Forces ( Great Britain , Netherlands , Hanover , Braunschweig , Nassau ) and the Prussian Army in the Battle of Waterloo under the command of British Field Marshal Wellington and Prussian Marshal Blücher led to the end of the Napoleonic Empire . The British Army was also involved in the Crimean War against Russia.

The First World War

Units of the Royal Irish Rifles in the Battle of the Somme 1916
" Lord Kitchener Wants You ": Poster by Alfred Leete (1880–1933), 1914

Even before the beginning of the First World War , the German Empire had questioned the supremacy of Great Britain. Since Great Britain had allied itself with France and Russia to form the Triple Entente , the first military confrontation between the two states took place in 1914. The British Expeditionary Force met the German army in Belgium and northern France . At the beginning of the war, the army had to be adapted to the conditions of the modern war, which is waged with large conscript armies . Therefore, Minister of War Horatio Herbert Kitchener launched a program for the creation of a mass army ( Kitchener's Army ). Due to the high number of volunteers, it was possible to refrain from military service for the time being. John French had led the bulk of the old professional army to France as the British Expeditionary Force, whose deployment helped to decide the Battle of the Marne . Because of his feeble and indecisive leadership, French was made responsible for the British failures and high losses of the subsequent period and was replaced in September 1915 by his deputy, the previous Commander in Chief of the 1st Army Douglas Haig . In 1916 conscription was introduced in Great Britain. Over 900,000 British Empire soldiers were killed and about two million injured in the course of the war . In the Battle of the Somme alone , the British Army lost around 419,000 soldiers. In addition to northern France / Belgium, the theaters of war in the Middle East were of particular importance (see e.g. Battle of Gallipoli and Mesopotamia Front (First World War) ). The First World War was the war with the greatest losses in the history of the British Army. For the first time, technical innovations such as aircraft and tanks were used here, which would shape the face of later wars. In the spring of 1918, the Royal Air Force was the first air force in the world to be organized in the form of a branch . It had largely emerged from the Royal Flying Corps , which had previously been subordinate to the Army .

The second World War

The use of the British Army in World War II began with a major defeat. In May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force was surrounded by the German Wehrmacht near Dunkirk . Hitler's stop order of May 24, 1940 gave him a few days to organize a defensive ring around Dunkirk. The battle of Dunkirk broke out . In the largest rescue operation by the British armed forces ( Operation Dynamo ), 220,000 British and 120,000 French soldiers were evacuated to Great Britain within a week. Later in the war, the tide turned with the battle of El Alamein , the landing in Italy and the invasion of Normandy, and the subsequent invasion of Germany. In the Pacific , the British Army defeated Japanese troops in Burma . During the Second World War, the British began to set up special units with paramilitary procedures. These committed acts of sabotage and acted in small groups behind enemy lines (see also Long Range Desert Group ). This marked the birth of the Special Air Service .


With the collapse of the British Empire after World War II, the British Army was drastically downsized and global operations reduced. Great Britain became a nuclear power on October 20, 1952 ; on May 15, 1957, it tested a hydrogen bomb for the first time (see list ). The British nuclear forces are called the UK Nuclear Deterrent Forces .

The largest troop contingents were in Germany to repel the threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact . At times, up to 80,000 British soldiers were stationed in West Germany for this purpose (see British Army of the Rhine ). During the Cold War , technical innovations led to a previously unknown level of effectiveness for the British Army. For example, with the Challenger 1 , the British Army received one of the most powerful main battle tanks in the world.

The British Army continued to be active worldwide. Operations in the Korean War and the Suez Crisis (1956) as well as in Oman and Malaysia were among the last conflicts in the style of a colonial power. In 1982 in the Falklands War , along with 5000 Royal Marines, around 20,000 British Army soldiers were involved in the reconquest of the Falkland Islands . The British Army was particularly well represented in Northern Ireland since the 1960s . The fight against the Irish Republican Army ( IRA ) as well as the containment of the at times civil war-like conditions were their main tasks here.

Since 1990

A unit of the Rifles in Afghanistan 2009

After the end of the Cold War, the British Army was reduced by almost 100,000 soldiers. It quickly developed into a specialized, globally operating emergency force. In the wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 , Great Britain provided the second largest contingent of troops after the USA . Operations in the Balkans are now just as much a part of the British Army's range of tasks as crisis interventions and the fight against terrorism . In order to be able to cope with these tasks effectively, a substantial restructuring of the British armed forces took place as early as the early 1990s. The cooperation between the three branches of the armed forces was intensified and coordinated through joint command centers. As a result, the boundaries between the branches of arms disappeared and the flexibility of the armed forces was significantly increased. With the exception of the United States, no other nation has deployed more soldiers overseas and conducts more global missions than the United Kingdom.

On July 31, 2007, Operation Banner , the Army's mission in Northern Ireland, ended. At 38, it was the longest ongoing operation in the history of the United Kingdom Army.
In 2010, shortly after taking office, the British government at the time ( Cameron I cabinet ) advocated the withdrawal of troops stationed in Germany by 2020 in its defense strategy paper Strategic Defense and Security Review . In view of Russia's aggressive
foreign policy , this decision was reversed in 2018.

Organization of the British Army

Supreme command

The commander of the British Army (Commander-in-Chief of the Forces) was the military / technical leader of the British land forces by mid-17th century to 1904 (see list of Chief of the British Army ). Due to the reorganization of the army administration, Lord Roberts resigned as Commander-in-Chief in 1904, which was no longer occupied. The function was later carried out by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff . The Chief of the Imperial General Staff or Reich General Staff was the Chief of the General Staff of the British Land Forces between 1908 and 1964. Since 1964 the military leader of the Army has been called the Chief of the General Staff .

Vertical organization

The British Army is the largest branch of the British armed forces with 112,760 men. The British Army consists of two components:

By 2014, the name was Army Reserve (dt. Reserve army) Territorial Army and was divided into its own divisions. Since then, the reservist battalions have been directly subordinate to the divisions and brigades of the Regular Army and are regularly paired with a regular battalion for reinforcement.

The army is divided into three divisions and several independent brigades. In use, the Army forms battlegroups . These are mixed formations of tanks , infantry , artillery , engineers and support units . Typically these units are 600 to 700 strong and are led by a Lieutenant Colonel . Due to the growing involvement of the British Army in the war in Afghanistan , a brigade (11th Light Brigade) and a division staff (6th Division) were reorganized in 2008 .

The structure of the British Army is extremely complicated due to its diverse traditions. The regiment is the most important unit in the British Army and today consists of a single battalion in most branches of service . The "large" regiments of infantry, which administratively manage up to eight battalions, are an exception. Operationally, however, all battalions are subordinate to the brigades. The regiments maintain tradition and organize local recruitment.

Some infantry regiments are subordinate to four administrative divisions. So subordinate z. B. the five active and the two territorial battalions with Scottish traditions administratively the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Royal Regiment of Scotland), which in turn administratively subordinate to the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division ( Scottish-Welsh-Irish Division ). Operationally, however, the Scottish battalions are subordinate to the Brigades of the Regular Army . The Regular Army and the Army Reserve are both under the command of the Commander-in-Chief Land Command (CINCLAND).

Land Forces Structure (2010)
Territorial Army structure (2010)
British Army Infantry structure
British Army Infantry Recruitment Areas
Royal Armored Corps recruiting areas

Regular Army

  • Commander, Field Army:
    • 1st (UK) Division
      York (United Kingdom)
      • 4 Infantry Brigade and HQ Northeast
      • 7 Infantry Brigade and HQ East
      • 11 Infantry Brigade and HQ South East
      • 51 Infantry Brigade and HQ Scotland
      • 8 Engineer Brigade
      • 2 Medical Brigade
      • 104 Logistic Brigade
    • 3rd (UK) Division
      • 1st Strike Brigade
      • 12th Armored Infantry Brigade
      • 20th Armored Infantry Brigade
      • Strike Experimentation Group
      • 1st Artillery Brigade and Headquarters South West
      • 101st Logistic Brigade
      • 7th Air Defense Group
      • 25th Engineer Group
    • 6th (UK) Division
    • Joint Helicopter Command (component Army Air Corps )
    • 16th Air Assault Brigade
  • Commander, Home Command:
    • Regional Command:
      • 38th (Irish) Brigade
      • 160th (Welsh) Brigade
      • Headquarters North-West
      • Headquarters South-West
      • British Forces Brunei
    • Headquarters London District
    • 1st Military Police Brigade
  • Strategic Command:
    • Director Special Forces
    • Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ)
      • British Forces Cyprus
      • British Forces Gibraltar
      • British Forces South Atlantic Islands
      • British Indian Ocean Territory

Regiments of the British Overseas Territories

Part of the British Army are units of the Territorial Army which are stationed in the four remaining British overseas territories and are also recruited to a limited extent. The regiments of Bermuda and Malta together are listed as the twenty-eighth association in the ranking of regiments of the British Army.

Administrative divisions

In addition to the aforementioned divisions, which are formed according to operational purposes, most infantry regiments are also organized in so-called administrative divisions. These are responsible for the administration and especially the recruiting of the regiments under their control. There is a mix of function (guard, fusiliers) and responsibility by region.

  • Guards Division (Guard Division)
    • (5 active and 1 territorial battalion)
  • King's Division (division of the king)
    • The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (2 active and 1 territorial battalion)
    • The Yorkshire Regiment (2 active and 1 territorial battalion)
    • The Mercian Regiment (2 active and 1 territorial battalion)
  • Queen's Division ( Queen's Division )
    • Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) (2 active and 2 territorial battalions)
    • The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1 active and 1 territorial battalion)
    • The Royal Anglian Regiment (2 active and 1 territorial battalion)
    • The Royal Gibraltar Regiment (partially active: HQ company (with artillery), 2 active and 1 territorial company)
  • Scottish, Welsh and Irish Division (Scottish-Welsh-Irish Division)
    • The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 active and 2 territorial battalions)
    • The Royal Welsh (1 active and 1 territorial battalion)
    • The Royal Irish Regiment (1 active and 1 territorial battalion)

The following regiments of infantry are not subordinate to the five administrative divisions:


Hand weapons

  • Browning HI-Power - 9 × 19 mm caliber pistol
  • Sig Sauer P226 - 9 × 19 mm caliber pistol
  • Glock 17 - 9 × 19 mm caliber pistol, gradually replacing the Browning HI-Power
  • HK MP5 - submachine gun in caliber 9 × 19 mm
  • SA80 (rifle: L85A1 or L85A2 or L85A3 carbine: L22A2) - Light infantry weapon from the RSAF , caliber 5.56 × 45 mm
  • L96 - sniper rifle, 7.62 mm caliber (AI UK)
  • L115A1 - Lapua Magnum caliber .338 sniper rifle (AI UK)
  • M82 - sniper rifle, caliber .50 in (Barrett "Light Fifty", USA)
  • GPMG - Light machine gun (General Purpose Machine Gun), caliber 7.62 mm
  • FN Minimi - Light machine gun 5.56 × 45 mm NATO code AB24, various versions (FN Belgium)

Artillery and air defense


  • approx. 200 Challenger 2 (battle tanks)
  • FV-430 series
  • Warrior (armored personnel carrier)
  • Scorpion (reconnaissance and infantry support tank)
    • Scimitar (variant of the Scorpion as a reconnaissance and infantry support tank)
    • Spartan (variant of the Scorpion as a reconnaissance and rifle transport tank)
    • Samson (variant of the Scorpion as armored recovery vehicle)
    • Sultan (variant of the Scorpion as command post and command tank)
    • Samaritan (variant of the Scorpion as a medical tank)
  • Ajax
  • Boxer (replaces Mastiff 2 in service)

Protected vehicles



Unmanned aerial vehicles


The British Army is currently stationed in over 80 countries. The missions abroad vary from maneuvers and training facilities to war missions and peace missions.


British Army Generals
Field Marshal
Lieutenant General
Lt Gen
Major General
Maj Gen
OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7
British Army OF-10.svg British Army OF-9.svg British Army OF-8.svg British Army OF-7.svg
British Army Officer Corps
Lieutenant Colonel
Lt Col
Second Lieutenant
2nd Lt
OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1b OF-1a
British Army OF-6.svg British Army OF-5.svg British Army OF-4.svg British Army OF-3.svg British Army OF-2.svg British Army OF-1b.svg British Army OF-1a.svg
British Army NCOs
Warrant Officer Class 1 (Conductor)
Warrant Officer Class 1
Warrant Officer Class 2 (Quartermaster Sergeant)
Warrant Officer Class 2
Staff Sergeant / Color Sergeant
SSgt / CSgt
OR-9 OR-9 OR-8 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 / OR-5 OR-4
Army-GBR-OR-09a.svg Army-GBR-OR-09b.svg Army-GBR-OR-08a.svg Army-GBR-OR-08b.svg Army-GBR-OR-07.svg Army-GBR-OR-06.svg Army-GBR-OR-04.svg
British Army crew grades
Lance Corporal
Private Class 1–3
Private Class 4
OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Army-GBR-OR-03.svg No badge No badge
  1. As can be seen from the name, the brigadier (OF-6) is usually the commander of a brigade , but today, in contrast to many other armies, no longer a member of the generals.
  2. a b c d The badges of the two highest NCO ranks are generally the royal coat of arms for the WOI and the royal crown for the WOII. However, in the case of special posts for Warrant Officers, the badges are also framed by a wreath, on the one hand at WOI, who hold the post of conductor in the Royal Logistic Corps and, on the other hand, at WOII as a quartermaster sergeant and at all WOII of the Royal Army Medical Corps and the 9th / 12th Royal Lancers regiment (since 2015 Royal Lancers ).
  3. The rank of pay level OR-7 has a special feature: The rank of color sergeant is used exclusively in the Royal Marines and the infantry regiments of the British Army, in all other units of the British land forces this rank is staff sergeant .

See also


  • Chandler, David; Beckett, Ian: The Oxford History of the British Army . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2003, ISBN 0-19-280311-5 .
  • Heyman, Charles: The British Army: A Pocket Guide 2008-2009 . Pen & Sword Military, 2008, ISBN 1-84415-644-3 .
  • Clayton, Anthony: The British Officer: Leading the Army from 1660 to the Present . Longman, 2003, ISBN 1-4058-5901-6 .
  • Griffin, PD: Encyclopedia of Modern British Army Regiments . Sutton Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-7509-3929-X .

Web links

Commons : British Army  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics. (PDF) Ministry of Defense, July 3, 2020 (English).;
  2. Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defense and Security Review , p. 28.
  3. Alan Mendoza and James Rogers: The British military is in a different league . In: November 22, 2018.
  4. British Army rebalances major commands. Janes, July 31, 2019
  5. ^ Ministry of Defense: British troops in Afghanistan are the first to use state-of-the-art handheld nano surveillance helicopters. Retrieved February 6, 2013 .