Thursday, 16 December 2010

Appendix 1: The Organisation of the British Army in WW1

Memorial to the 51st Highland Division at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme.

This blog uses terms such as "regiment, battalion, division etc". What do these terms mean?

The basic unit of organisation was the regiment. There were infantry regiments who fought on foot and cavalry regiments. (In WW1, cavalry soldiers were still expected to fight on horse back and fight with a sword and a rifle or pistol.)

Each regiment recruited from a particular area of Scotland. For example, the Royal Scots recruited mainly in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Each infantry regiment was made up of 2 battalions. Each battalion consisted of around 1000 men and 30 officers.

Battalions were made up into Brigades. 4 battalions to a Brigade.

Brigades were made up into Divisions. 3 Brigades to a Division.

So the 51st Highland Division and the 52nd Lowland Division which fought throughout the war each consisted of around 12 000 men.

The Division was not the largest unit. This was the Army. There were 5 Armies in the British Army which fought in France and Belgium in WW1. Each army consisted of a mixture of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Also engineers, field hospitals staffed by the Royal Army Medical Corps and even motorised and horse drawn pigeon lofts.

Pigeons? For carrying messages of course. Telephone cables were liable to be cut by shellfire.

Let's finish this blog with a laugh ...