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Structure of the British Army

The structure of the British Army is broadly similar to that of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, being divided into two Commands as top-level budget holders: Land Command and the Adjutant-General. These are responsible for providing forces at Operational Readiness for employment by the Permanent Joint Headquarters. The Adjutant-Generals organisation is responsible for most of the recruitment and personal and professional training of personnel whilst the staff of Commander-in-Chief Land is responsible for commitment planning and ensuring that the operational formations are resourced and have undergone appropriate collective training. Headquarters Northern Ireland additionally has devolved responsibility for all activities in the Province.

The command structure is hierarchical with divisions and brigades controlling groupings of units from an administrative perspective. Major Units are regiment or battalion-sized with minor units being smaller, either company sized sub-units or platoons. All units within the service are either Regular (full-time) or Territorial Army (part-time), or a combination with sub-units of each type.

Naming conventions of units differ for traditional British historical reasons, creating a significant opportunity for confusion; an infantry battalion is equivalent to a cavalry regiment. An infantry regiment is an administrative and ceremonial organisation only and may include several battalions. For operational tasks a battle group will be formed around a combat unit, supported by units or sub-units from other areas. Such an example would be a squadron of tanks attached to an armoured infantry battle group, together with a reconnaissance troop, artillery battery and engineering support.




A command is a military formation that handles a specific task or region, and can direct forces as large as multiple corps or as little as a few battalions.

Land Command Headquarters is at Wilton, Wiltshire and has two main subdivisions, Field Army and Regional Forces. Commander Field Army commands 1st (Armoured) Division, 3rd (Mechanised) Division, HQ 6th Division, Theatre Troops, and Director General Training Support. Commander Regional Forces commands 2nd Division, 4th Division, 5th Division and London District, the administrative organisation of garrisons in mainland UK and United Kingdom Support Command (Germany).

Field Army Structure
Field Army Structure
Regional Force Structure
Regional Force Structure

Commander-in-Chief, Land Command (CINCLAND) is the Standing Joint Commander (UK) (SJC(UK)), responsible for overall command of Military Aid to Civil Power within mainland United Kingdom.[1]

Previously the Army had regional commands in the UK, including Southern, Northern, Western, Scottish, Aldershot, and Eastern, and also abroad: Middle East Command and Malaya Command among them.


A corps is a formation of two or more divisions, potentially fifty thousand personnel or more.

Whilst the British Army has the capability there is no standing UK Corps organisation, forces being allocated through a number of multi-partite arrangements to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and European commitments, providing much of the headquarters capability and framework for the multinational Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

The word corps is more formally used for administrative groupings by common function, such as the Royal Armoured Corps and Army Air Corps, with various Combat Support Arms and Services being referred to in the wider sense as a Corps, such as the Royal Corps of Signals.


A division is a formation of three or four brigades, around twenty thousand personnel, commanded by a Major General.

The British Army has two deployable divisions, capable of deploying the headquarters and subordinate formations immediately to operations.

UK Defence Secretary Des Browne, during July 2007, announced the creation of another "two star" headquarters, to be known as HQ 6th Division. This unit will be a deployable headquarters unit to support deployed forces in Afghanistan. It is to be provisionally created until 2011.[2]

The remaining divisional headquarters and London District act as regional commands in the UK, training subordinate formations and units under their command for operations in the UK and overseas. This task leads to them being described as Regenerative Divisions. These divisions would only be required to generate field formations in the event of a general war.

London District is responsible for the maintenance of capability for the defence of the capital and the provision of ceremonial units and garrisons for the Crown Estate in London, such as the Tower of London.

Several infantry regiments are organised into five administrative divisions based on the type of infantry unit or traditional recruiting areas:


A brigade contains three or four battalion-sized units, around 5000 personnel and is commanded by a one star officer, Brigadier. The brigade will contain a wide range of military disciplines allowing the conduct of a spectrum of military tasks.

The brigade would be required to deploy up to three separate battlegroups, the primary tactical formation employed in British doctrine. The battlegroup is a mixed formation around the core of one unit, an armoured regiment or infantry battalion, with sub-units providing artillery, engineers, logistics, aviation, etc., as required. A typical Brigade organisation

A typical Brigade organisation

  1. Armoured Regiment
  2. Armoured Infantry Battalion
  3. Artillery Regiment
  4. Army Air Corps Detachment
  5. Provost Unit
  6. Royal Logistic Corps Squadron
  7. Engineer Squadron
  8. Javelin Air Defence Battery
  9. Long-Range Anti-Tank Guided Weapons Troop
  10. Mechanised Infantry Battalion

Combat formations

Order of Precedence

The British Army parades according to the order of precedence, from right to left, with the unit at the extreme right being highest on the order.

The Household Cavalry has the highest precedence, unless the Royal Horse Artillery parades with its guns.

Arms and services

Combat Arms

The Combat Arms are the "teeth" of the British Army, infantry, armoured and aviation units which engage in close action.

Royal Armoured Corps

Regiments of line cavalry and the Royal Tank Regiment together form the Royal Armoured Corps which has units equipped with either main battle tanks or with light armour for formation reconnaissance. An additional reconnaissance regiment is provided by the Household Cavalry Regiment, of the Household Cavalry, which is not considered to be part of the RAC.

Armoured Regiments Formation Reconnaissance Regiments
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
(Carabiniers and Greys)
The Household Cavalry Regiment
The Royal Dragoon Guards 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards
The Queen's Royal Hussars
(Queen's Own and Royal Irish)
9th/12th Royal Lancers
(Prince of Wales's)
The King's Royal Hussars The Light Dragoons
2nd Royal Tank Regiment The Queen's Royal Lancers

The 1st Royal Tank Regiment operates dual roles, with two squadrons allocated to each:


The Infantry is divided for administrative purposes into five divisions with battalions being trained and equipped to operate in one of five main roles:

Under the arms-plot system, a battalion would spend between two and six years in one role, before re-training for another. Following a review of the operation of the army it has been demonstrated that the system is inefficient and the system is being phased out, with battalions specialising in role - this will see armoured infantry, mechanised infantry and air assault battalions remaining in a single posting; however, light infantry battalions will continue to be periodically rotated between postings. Personnel will be "trickle posted" between battalions of the same regiment as required, and to further their careers.

Guards Division Scottish Division King's Division Prince of Wales' Division Queen's Division
1st Bn, Grenadier Guards The Royal Scots Borderers, (1st Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland) 1st & 2nd Bn, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (King's Lancashire and Border) 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn, The Mercian Regiment 1st & 2nd Bn, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires)
1st Bn, Coldstream Guards The Royal Highland Fusiliers (2nd Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland) 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn The Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot) 1st & 2nd Bn, The Royal Welsh 1st & 2nd Bn, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
1st Bn, Scots Guards The Black Watch (3rd Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland) 1st & 2nd Bn, The Royal Anglian Regiment
1st Bn, Irish Guards The Highlanders (4th Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland) The Royal Gibraltar Regiment
1st Bn, Welsh Guards The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (5th Bn, The Royal Regiment of Scotland)

Four further infantry units in the regular army are not grouped within the various infantry divisions:

The role of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment is limited to the defence of Gibraltar.

Brigade of Gurkhas

The Royal Gurkha Rifles is the largest element of the Brigade of Gurkhas which includes its own support arms. These units are affiliated to the equivalent British units, but have their own unique cap badges.

Special Forces

Note: UKSF is considered a joint organisation and as such falls outside the Army chain of command.

Army Air Corps

The Army Air Corps provides battlefield air support with 6 Regiments and 4 independent squadrons and flights:

Combat Support Arms

The Combat Support Arms provide direct support to the Combat Arms and include artillery, engineer, signals and aviation.

Royal Regiment of Artillery

The Royal Artillery consists of 16 regiments, four of which retain the cap badge and traditions of the Royal Horse Artillery. The Royal Artillery undertakes seven different roles:

Home Defence Air Defence General Support
Close Support
Close Support
(L118 Light Gun)
Surveillance and
Target Acquisition
King's Troop, RHA 12 Regiment RA 39 Regiment RA 1st Regiment RHA 7th (Para) Regiment RHA 5 Regiment RA 14 Regiment RA
16 Regiment RA 3rd Regiment RHA 29 (Cdo) Regiment RA 32 Regiment RA
47 Regiment RA 4 Regiment RA 40 Regiment RA
19 Regiment RA
26 Regiment RA

Corps of Royal Engineers

The Royal Engineers is a corps of 15 regiments in the regular army providing military engineering (civil engineering, assault engineering and demolition) capabilities to the field army and facilities management expertise within garrisons.

Regiments are associated with Brigade level formations with a number of independent squadrons and support groups associated with specific tasks:

The Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) comprises two recruit training regiments:

The remainder are field regiments attached to various deployable formations:

Two squadrons of 36 Engineer Regiment are cap badged as Queen's Gurkha Engineers and are manned predominantly by Gurkhas.

Royal Corps of Signals

The Royal Signals is a corps of 10 Regiments and 13 independent squadrons which provides communications and information systems support to formations of Brigade level and above. Below the Brigade level support is provided by Battalion Signallers drawn from the parent unit. Within the deployable brigades the Signal Regiment also provides support to the HQ function including logistics, life support and force protection capabilities.

Two squadrons are cap badged as the Queen's Gurkha Signals and are manned predominantly by Gurkhas.

Intelligence Corps

The Intelligence Corps provides intelligence support including collection, interpretation and counter-intelligence capabilities with three battalions and a joint service group:

Combat Service Support Arms

The Combat Service Support Arms provide sustainment and support for the Combat and Combat Support Arms. Whilst CSS personnel are not intended to close with end engage opposition forces the fluidity of the modern battlefield means that these personnel are likely to be engaged in close combat at times, particularly when associated with Battle Groups.

Royal Logistic Corps

The Royal Logistic Corps is the largest single corps in the British Army; responsible for a range of supply, sustainment and movement tasks. Within the corps there are 21 regiments and 6 independent sub-units:

Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers is a corps which provides maintenance support to equipment. Most units will have either a Light Aid Detachment (LAD) or Workshop (Wksp) attached. Seven battalions provide support to formations of brigade level and above:

Medical services

The Army Medical Services provide primary and secondary care for the armed forces in fixed locations and whilst deployed on operations. Personnel are attached to a parent unit, one of five field regiments or the defence medical services. The AMS comprises four different Corps providing the range of medical and veterinary care, with the Royal Army Medical Corps also providing the administrative framework for the regiments.

Adjutant General's Corps

The Adjutant General's Corps provides administrative, police and disciplinary and educational support to the army. The AGC is an amalgamation with three of the constituent units retaining their previous cap badge. Personnel from the AGC administrative and educational specialisations serve in attached posts to establishments or units of other arms. The police and disciplinary activities retain their own cap badges and act as discrete bodies. The Corps as a whole is divided into four separate branches:

Other services


Training in the British Army differs for soldiers and officers but in general takes place in at least two phases:

Phase one training is basic military training for all new recruits. Here candidates learn the basic standards of military performance including operation in the field, weapon handling, personal administration, drill etc.

Phase two training is specific to the trade which the soldier or officer will follow and is conducted in a branch specialised school. Phase two training enables the individual to join an operational unit prepared to contribute to operational effectiveness. These schools are under the direction of the parent corps or arm of the service, as illustrated above, with the Infantry Training Centre being formed of four training battalions.

Units of the Territorial Army

Combat Arms

Armour (TA)

The four armoured regiments of the Territorial Army operate in two roles - provision of crew replacements for armoured and NBC regiments, and formation reconnaissance:

Infantry (TA)

The 1999 reorganisation of the Territorial Army saw a number of new, multi-cap badge battalions take the place of the old territorial battalions of regular regiments. However, starting in 2006, these regiments will be replaced by a number of single cap-badged battalions attached to the new large infantry regiments:

Special Forces (TA)

Army Air Corps (TA)

Combat Support

Royal Artillery (TA)

Air Defence General Support (MLRS) Close Support (Light Gun) Surveillance and Target Acquisition
104 Regiment RA(V) 101 (Northumbrian) Regiment RA(V) 100 (Yeomanry) Regiment RA(V) Honourable Artillery Company
105 Regiment RA(V) 103 Regiment RA(V)
106 (Yeomanry) Regiment RA(V)

Royal Engineers (TA)

Royal Signals (TA)

Intelligence Corps (TA)

Note: Although the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers is part of the Royal Engineers order of battle, it is a separate regiment with its own cap badge, regimental colours and traditions.

Combat Service Support

Adjutant General's Corps

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Royal Logistic Corps

Army Medical Services

Ceremonial units

Although the majority of the British Army performs both operational and ceremonial roles, there are some units that are purely ceremonial. These are manned by fully trained soldiers who are periodically transferred from operational units.

Queen's Guard/Queen's Life Guard

The following are units of the regular army that most regularly mount the guard at Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards and Windsor Castle:

Gun salutes

The following are units that provide gun salutes in various parts of London:

Sovereign's Bodyguard

The following are not part of the army, but perform the ceremonial role of Sovereign's Bodyguard. They tend to be made up of retired officers and NCOs:

One of the significant duties that all of the above units (with the exception of the King's Troop and the Honourable Artillery Company) perform is to guard the catafalque upon which the coffin of a state funeral rests in Westminster Hall.



In July 2004 and December 2004 a significant restructuring of the armed forces was announced with a wide ranging impact on all three services. For the army the infantry strength was to be reduced by four infantry battalions (three English and one Scottish) with the remaining single battalion regiments amalgamating within their division; Scottish, King's and Prince of Wales's. The armoured strength was to be rebalanced reducing the strength by seven Challenger 2 squadrons by re-roling one regiment as force reconnaissance. The artillery strength was to be rebalanced, reducing AS-90 battery numbers by six by re-roling a regiment to the light gun and reducing the size of individual Ground Based Air Defence batteries.

The brigade structure was to be restructured to become:

Infantry restructuring

The arms plot is to be abolished, with all infantry battalions given a set role and (for armoured and mechanised battalions) location. In order that officers and soldiers can keep up the various skills gained through each of the distinct roles, all single battalion regiments (with the exception of the Guards regiments and the Royal Irish Regiment) will be amalgamated into large regiments. It is planned that each division will have a total of five battalions - of these, one will be armoured infantry, one will be mechanised infantry and the remainder light infantry.

Guards Division

Territorial Army


New Infantry structure and Order of Precedence

Regular Army

Guards Division Scottish Division King's Division Prince of Wales' Division Queen's Division Light Division
1st Bn, Grenadier Guards 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Bn, Royal Regiment of Scotland 1st & 2nd Bn, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment 1st & 2nd Bn, Royal Welsh 1st & 2nd Bn, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Bn, The Rifles
1st Bn, Coldstream Guards 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn, Yorkshire Regiment 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bn, Mercian Regiment 1st & 2nd Bn, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
1st Bn, Scots Guards 1st & 2nd Bn, Royal Anglian Regiment
1st Bn, Irish Guards
1st Bn, Welsh Guards

Territorial Army

Guards Division Scottish Division King's Division Prince of Wales' Division Queen's Division Light Division
London Regiment 6th & 7th Bn, Royal Regiment of Scotland 3rd Bn, King's Lancashire and Border Regiment 3rd Bn, Royal Welsh 3rd Bn, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment 6th & 7th Bn, The Rifles
4th Bn, Yorkshire Regiment 4th Bn, Mercian Regiment 5th Bn, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
3rd Bn, Royal Anglian Regiment

Future Army Structure (Next Steps)

There is an ongoing review of the structure of the British Army known as Future Army Structure (Next Steps).

See also

Other corps of the British Armed Forces

British Army restructuring

The British Army



External links and sources