Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Pompieus

British Battalions

Recommended Posts

As there are several residents of the UK active on this site perhaps someone with an interest in military trivia can help a dim colonial understand the designation of British infantry battalions in World War 2.

 

I vaguely comprehend the "Regimental System" with its ancient traditions, county affiliations, and numerous battalions serving apart from each other all over the Empire. But the system is confusing, especially since cavalry regiments used a different system, as did artillery, antiaircraft and antitank regiments; and the Indian Army and Commonwealth Armies were each different again

 

I understand that in peacetime each infantry regiment normally had two battalions, often one serving overseas and one recruiting and training at home (e.g. 1 & 2 Essex).

 

I even see that the associated "Territorial" battalions (volunteer reservists somewhat like the American "National Guard") had a different designation, but why "fractions" (1/4 Essex) and what do the additional fractions mean? (2/4 Essex) Are all "fractional" British infantry battalions Territorial units, and vice versa?.

 

Additional numbers (8 Essex 9 Essex)  originally were assigned to units of Kitcheners "New Army" volunteers in World War 1, what did they designate in World War 2?

 

Why are there gaps in the sequences and why do some regiments have no fractional battalions? (no Territorial units?).

 

For example, Joslen (Orders of Battle Second World War) shows the following battalions for the Essex Regiment:

  1, 2, 1/4, 2/4, 5, 1/5, 2/5, 8, 9, 10, 19

and for the Black Watch:

 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 10 

Why no 3rd battalions?  why no fractions for the Black Watch? why does the Essex skip 6th battalion and the Black Watch skip 9th?  why three 5th battalions in the Essex Regiment? Is there method in this?

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd also like an explanation for the american system as well, I still don't get our system, much less the British system.

 

I was in the 1/501st, and most Airborne Infantry units had a X/50X number, but like, the 501st was originally in the 101st Airborne, and that unit (assuming always a division) predated the airborne.... so how that 50X rating came systematic confuses me. Likewise how companies can seemingly expand to infinity within a battalion, but a battalion can't be a brigade, even if it is hypothetically brigade size, and why some divisions like the 82nd get to be all airborne, but others gotta be mixed Stryker/Airborne with a lot of non-infantry leg support. I also want to know why the pentagon thought half the Tropic of Lightning should be in the arctic of all places, and just how the Tropic of Lightning on Division Level Leadership managed to stay in Hawaii when only one of the four brigades was in Hawaii, and most was in Alaska getting frostbite instead of tans.

 

And I want to know why they made me spend a hundred dollars on stupid parachute books for a dress uniform I wasade to wear to a all male ball, despite my adamant claims attending a sausage fest violated Don't Ask Don't Tell for everyone who liked the idea, and why they didn't want to hang our with their wives or girlfriends, or try to get some at least in town, instead of dressing up cute with one another..... and what the hell was up with the berets.... what are we, French or something? All I needed was boots, a rifle, and a buttflap to keep my junk covered.

 

Also what the heck was going on with all the gold threads on the flag in the base HQ, and why they didn't cut that gaudy clutter off the flag, and why some people thought you had to eat the flag if it touched the ground accidently (I'm not buying its to honor the Spanish-American War Soldiers sacrifices, I doubt they really cared much about it either- everyone was always pretending to honor it for someone else prior. You go back far enough, its Uggh the caveman with a skull on a pole, we all are just honoring Uggh's aesthetic accomplishment and never questioned why).

 

I also want to know why my unit had all native american units..... Apache, Blackfoot, Comanche, Delaware.... but we had no Eskimo company despite being in Alaska.

 

Also why headquarter units go by a special name and not A Company, and support units aren't given a company designation.

 

Also want to know why there was a 1501 Apache Longbow Unit (a kind of helicopter), yet our Apache unit (pure infantry, no helicopters) never accidentally got helicopter parts in the mail, despite the postal service in the military otherwise sucking and getting stuff mixed up. We wanted our own personal attack helicopter, but noooooo, Army had to suffer a sudden fit of postal competency when it came to such things.

 

Also.... why aren't platoons known as 1/2nd Comanche or 3/3rd Blackfoot. You get a few platoons per company, but the platoons don't follow the battalion and division patterns.

 

Likewise, why don't soldiers wear division crests, instead of battalion?

 

If the president wore a rank, could is rank just be a image of his face slapped on uniform?

 

If a base announced a order on its base wide megaphone, and it gave a order, but it echoed, and the echoed bounced back in such a way that it modified the order, is everyone required to follow the echo as a lawful order modifying the first order, or just the first?

 

Also, what the hell was up with all the music coming out of the Ft. Benning HQ building outside of Airborne School? I only knew what a few of the sounds were, it sounded like the had a Merry Go Round Carosal on the roof, and the General Staff was was riding wooden horses and eating cotten candy in circles. Neither us or the guys over in Officer Candidacy School could figure out what those tunes were possibly about at times. They need to knock that stuff off.

 

Army left me confused about some stuff. Mostly doesn't make sense. I just don't know. British army just looks more confusing with its merged lineages.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HA!!!

The Navy is simpler....you're either on a ship-or not (usually).  Though they've abandoned the old system of naming US ships and submarines.  An Admiral once told me that fish don't approve appropriations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Usually...actually there are lots of them...usually acronyms (NOTU, SUBLANT, SWFPAC, SUBRON, SRU etc, etc) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a colleague in the Territorial Army.  I'll see him on Monday, so I'll show him the OP.  I'm sure he'll shed some light on the matter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It said for the English, a regiment was like a battalion but purely ceremonial.

 

I was stumped in the American system, the difference between Regiment and Battalion myself. My unit was a parachute battalion (some 600 guys), but for a while we had a PIR attached it it (Parachute Infantry Regiment).

 

I remember reading old field manuals on making booby traps, and it said everything had to be approved by the regimental commander (which killed my weekend plans), but I couldn't quite figure out who the regimental commander was back then. The battalion CO, or the Brigade Colonel? I didn't know then, and just a tad bit uncertain still now. Does said person exist only in the pentagon, or do they have a office in the larger Alaskan command, or even larger pacific command? Exist in another dimension perhaps, communication with our realm via ham radio?

 

Honestly, I doubt had I known, they would of let me test out all the booby traps, or let me build a random guard tower on the roof of our building to manual specs. Leadership tends to be a bunch of killjoys. "Oh no, we can't dig a punji stake pit in the woods, what if a moose falls in" sort of replies. Its why if your gonna dig a death pit, just do it, and don't talk about it. Words can only hurt any creative burst of creativity and inspiration. Who needs regimental approval.... I sure don't, not even sure if such things even exist.

 

I could really use a shovel right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although these definitions are not strictly promulgated, I understand the battalion is a fighting formation, whereas the regiment has a social aspect as well. British soldiers were (I'm not sure about today) loyal to a regiment rather than the battalion they fought with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What?

 

Loyal to the.....

 

I thought they would just sign a oath to king and country?

 

We had to swear a oath to the president and constitution. We were airborne, and many of us (including myself) tried out for the ranger battalion and so heavily accepted the Ethos behind leave no man behind. The idea caused a lot of damage to the battalion once Bergdahl left (just Google Bergdahl if you never heard of him, I know the BBC covered him).

 

If he had been kidnapped, then every death and injury resulting to the battalion would of been acceptable and worth it in retrieving him. However, if it is true that he just wandered off and decided to low crawl to India or Russia with his travel diary, then it is an unimaginable betrayal. I spent several years looking at his photograph, learned even how to calculate a gnome afor calculating the angle of shadows, and trued funding topographical maps and botanical works to decipher his exact location in his picture. Its confusing and upsetting to me.

 

We never had to swear however a oath to a unit. You just showed up to a base (if your a brand new infantry private, you could even show up to a base not assigned to and get accepted after getting chewed out), and the base placed you to a battalion. The battalion would ask you if you even have a preference of company, but if not, would just line you up and say in sequence "your A, your B, C, D, A, B, C, D.....". Once in the Company, I was like.... homeless for a month. I slept in the hallway and day room, and then given a room with First Platoon, but was NOT first platoon, cause the XO (assistant commander) never got around to assigning me and the others.

 

My squad was chosen very random, the new guys to the platoon were all lined up, and the squad leaders looked us over like a piece of meat, like they were choosing guys for dodgeball. I was lucky not to be chosen for the heavy weapons squad. I wasn't so lucky I was stuck with a giant milk drinking freak from Miami who became my roommate.

 

So saying guys were loyal to a regiment and not a battalion is a very alien concept, as I had absolutely no "loyalty" to my unit. I had it to the guys, I wanted them to live. I wanted however on a abstract level for everyone to live. They tried instituting a company esprite and superiority complex.... My best friend wasn't in the company, even not in the battalion or even infantry, he was in communications, was responsible for monitoring all computers on base to make sure people were looking at *or* or playing on yahoo messenger. I and others were told to break off our friendships and only have friends with guys in our company. I saluted, sang the Airborne Ranger Cadence in the hallway, and after work went and hung out with him.... Cause like I said, we had no real "loyalty" to the unit. We understood of course as well as all of you the basic idea of esprite de corps, but didn't want to be bothered by it after work if it interfered with our life.

 

Some of us would put up pictures of the battalion Command Sargent Major next to our beds, making it look creepy for a room inspection. I had one of Donald Rumsfeld for a while, put it in my bathroom after getting out facing my toilet, found it helped me shit.

 

The idea was at best a joke, experimental and awkward. Loyalty to a battalion works, say if your in a ranger battalion. Our unit, though very similar in being stacked with guys who tried our for rangers and special forces and didn't make it (the best of the worst or the worst of the best) wasn't quite that, and despite our more advanced methods and harder experiences in Alaska, being a cold and frozen parachute unit, never quite aligned on that axis as you claim the British do.

 

The only way I can see the British doing this is from the episode of "Sharpe's" where they had several guys directly recruited by a battalion, and trained by them, then expected to join said battalion in Spain under Wellington. Instead, they were being auctioned off to the highest bidding commanders. I take from this that the English at one time had their garrisons directly recruit the locals.

 

I further presume we inherited the Battalion /Regiment Mess, kept it up until at least the Civil War on some level, but afterwards federalized the draft process, under a central command that took men in mass, and chucked them after training in the general direction of a base, and let the base figure it out. Another part of the pentagon worked on designations, and generally made most units battalions, but sometimes regiments if they felt like it, cause who will say otherwise?

 

Pentagon does a lot of stupid oversight and mandating. The idiots made us walk around in night vision in Alaska in the middle of summer when it never got dark. Sunny for months, and we were mandated to walk a obstacle course to familiarize us with squad and platoon movements wearing the crap. I had to keep mine crooked off to the side so I could see. I had a platoon Sargent catch me and shake his finger at me, and place the stupid thing back over my eye so I couldn't see when walking., crashing into stuff.

 

Obviously no loyalty to the pentagon. A lot of rank and confusion in there, and its better for all if they just stay in there and not come out or issue such orders. Less is more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, I was being vague. Yes, the soldiers of the British Army swear an oath of allegiance

 

"I (your name), swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, her heirs and successors in person, crown and dignity against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, her heirs and successors and of the generals and officers set over me."

 

Non-christians may swear 'solemnly' and omit the reference to God. The reason the Army is not called 'Royal' as the air force and navy do is because of the English Civil War and its legacy. However, the regiment has an abstract virtue that a battalion does not, again, for historical reasons, seeing as senior officers - noblemen more often than not - were recruited to serve the regiment, and as these things follow a natural order, so ordinary soldiers were recruited tp serve them via the same formation  (though the situation is of course more to do with the service these days, but of course, legacy customs continue).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand, the British army isn't Royal, because it for a time existed directly under the authority of Cromwell and Parliment, but the Navy that would transport units to Ireland, and evict the "rebels" to the Caribbean, and show up in the Caribbean and North American colonies, harassing the hell out of us because authority descended from Parliment was seen as illegitimate, ironically got to remain a "Royal Navy".

 

What of all these units known as "The Princes' Own". I'm sure the Duke of Cornhole has a unit attributed to him even today, given to him outside the rank and officer position given to him as a helicopter pilot. Surely at least a Royal laundry unit, or his own medical sanitary command.

 

And what happened to those medieval beef eaters in the Tower of London? They predate Cromwell, wear the archaic royal uniform and go about clipping raven feathers. Did they become republican during the civil war, or remain dressed up like fools during it, and continue under their original mandate?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Navy remained Royal because it had been raised by the Crown, not Parliament.

 

Some of these 'Princes OPwn' regiments are actually quite modern, formed as a resut of amalgamations, and entitled because a Prince of the Realm had been nominated as a commander-in-chief, or something similar. Don't wknow where Cornhole is. There is a Duke of Cornwall, our very own Prince of Wales.

 

Beefeaters... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Officially at least, King Charles II disbanded the Army of the Commonwealth/Protectorate (viz "The New Model Army) at his restoration in 1660. Three New regiments were then formed, then more, a few at a time.  It is from these units that British regiments of the 18th century to today take their history, traditions, precedence etc.

 

The Yeoman of the Guard (from which the "Beefeaters" are derived) were apparently also re-established at this time.

 

The original units (now the senior regiments of the British Army) were all serving overseas when the English Civil War broke out, and continued to do so until the restoration; serving in the French or Dutch Armies and as garrison of Tangiers in Morocco.  When Charles was restored to the throne he brought them home, and along with the guards who served him during his exile (later the Grenadier Guards) they were the original regiments of the British Army.

Edited by Pompieus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×