British Army

British Army

The British Army is the land armed forces branch of the British Armed Forces. It came into being with unification of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England and Scotland and was administered by the War Office from London. Since 1963, it has been managed by the Ministry of Defence.

The British Army includes 98,000 regular soldiers and 34,000 Territorial Army soldiers, giving it a total of around 132,000 soldiers. The full-time element of the British Army has also been referred to as the "Regular Army" since the creation of the reservist "Territorial Army" in 1908. The British Army is deployed in many of the world's war zones as part of both Expeditionary Forces and in United Nations Peacekeeping forces. The British Army is currently deployed in Kosovo, Cyprus, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places.

In contrast to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, the British Army does not include "Royal" in its title, although many of its constituent Regiments and Corps are styled Royal. [ [ FAQ: Oldest Regiment in the British Army ] ]

The professional head of the British Army is the Chief of the General Staff, currently Sir Richard Dannatt.


The British Army came into being with the merger of the Scottish Army and the English Army, following the unification of the two countries' parliaments and the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated existing English and Scottish regiments, and was controlled from London.

From roughly 1763 the United Kingdom has been one of the leading military and economic powers of the world. The British Empire expanded in this time to include colonies, protectorates, and Dominions throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Although the Royal Navy is widely regarded as having been vital for the rise of Empire, and British dominance of the world, the British Army played important roles in colonisation. Typical tasks for the Army included garrisoning the colonies, capturing strategically important territories and participating in actions to pacify colonial borders, provide support to allied governments, suppress Britain's rivals, and protect against foreign powers and hostile natives. British troops also helped capture strategically important territories for the British, allowing the British Empire to expand throughout the globe. The Army also involved itself in numerous wars meant to pacify the borders, or to prop-up friendly governments, and thereby keep other, competitive, empires away from the British Empire's borders. Among these actions were the Seven Years' War, the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the First and Second Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, the New Zealand Wars, the Indian Mutiny, the First and Second Boer Wars, the Fenian raids, the Anglo-Irish War, its serial interventions into Afghanistan (which were meant to maintain a friendly buffer state between British India and the Russian Empire), and the Crimean War (to keep the Russian Empire at a safe distance by coming to Turkey's aid).

As had its predecessor, the English Army, the British Army fought Spain, France, and the Netherlands for supremacy in North America and the West Indies. With native and provincial assistance, the Army conquered New France in the Seven Years' War and subsequently suppressed a Native American uprising in Pontiac's War. The British Army suffered defeat in the American War of Independence, losing the Thirteen Colonies but holding on to Canada.

The British army was heavily involved in the Napoleonic Wars in which the army served in Spain, across Europe, and in North Africa. The war between the British and French Empires stretched around the world. The British Army finally came to defeat Napoleon at one of Britain's greatest military victories at the battle of Waterloo.

in which 11 VCs were awarded to British troops.

The battle is remarkable in that a hundred well-armed British soldiers managed to defend the small, walled compound of a farmstead and hold a few thousand native warriors and their spears long enough for them to give up and leave them alone.]

Under Oliver Cromwell, the English Army had been active in the conquest, and the settlement, of Ireland since the 1650s. The Cromwellian campaign was characterised by its uncompromising treatment of the Irish towns (most notably Drogheda) that had supported the Royalists during the English Civil War. It (and subsequently, the British Army) have been almost continuously involved in Ireland ever since, primarily in suppressing numerous Irish revolts and campaigns for self-determination. It was faced with the prospect of battling Anglo-Irish and Ulster Scots settlers in Ireland, who alongside their Irish countrymen had raised their own volunteer army and threatened to emulate the American colonists if their conditions (primarily concerning home rule and freedom of trade) were not met. The British Army found itself fighting Irish rebels, both Protestant and Catholic, primarily in Ulster and Leinster (Wolfe Tone's United Irishmen) in the 1798 rebellion.

In addition to battling the armies of other European Empires' (and of its former colonies, the United States, in the American War of 1812,) in the battle for global supremacy, the British Army fought the Chinese in the First and Second Opium Wars, and the Boxer Rebellion; Māori tribes in the first of the New Zealand Wars; Indian princely forces and British East India Company mutineers in the Indian Mutiny; the Boers in the First and Second Boer Wars; Irish Fenians in Canada during the Fenian raids; and Irish separatists in the Anglo-Irish War.

Following William and Mary's accession to the throne, England involved itself in the War of the Grand Alliance primarily to prevent a French invasion restoring Mary's father, James II. Following the 1707 union of England and Scotland, and then the 1801 creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, British foreign policy, on the continent, was to contain expansion by its competitor powers such as France and Spain. The territorial ambitions of the French led to the War of the Spanish Succession and the Napoleonic Wars. Russian activity led to the Crimean War.

The vastly increasing demands of imperial expansion, and the inadequacies and inefficiencies of the underfunded, post-Napoleonic Wars British Army, and of the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteer Force, led to the Cardwell and Childers Reforms of the late 19th century, which gave the British Army its modern shape, and redefined its regimental system. The Haldane Reforms of 1907, formally created the Territorial Force as the Army's volunteer reserve component.

Great Britain's dominance of the world had been challenged by numerous other powers, notably the German Empire. The UK was allied with France (by the Entente Cordiale) and Russia, and when the First World War broke out in 1914, the British Army sent the British Expeditionary Force to France and Belgium to prevent Germany from occupying these countries. The War would be the most devastating in British military history, with near 800,000 men killed and over 2 million wounded. In the early part of the war, the professional force of the BEF was decimated and, by turns, a volunteer (and then conscripted) force replaced it. Major battles included the Battle of the Somme. Advances in technology saw advent of the tank, with the creation of the Royal Tank Regiment, and advances in aircraft design, with the creation of the Royal Flying Corps, which were to be decisive in future battles. Trench warfare dominated strategy on the Western Front, and the use of chemical and poison gases added to the devastation.

In 1939, the Second World War broke out with the German invasion of Poland. British assurances to the Polish led the British Empire to declare war on Germany. Again an Expeditionary Force was sent to France, only to be hastily evacuated as the German forces swept through the Low Countries and across France in 1940. Only the Dunkirk evacuations saved the entire Expeditionary Force from capture. Later, however, the British would have success defeating the Italians and Germans at the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa, and in the D-Day invasions of Normandy with the help of American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand forces. In the Far East, the British Army battled the Japanese in Burma. World War II saw the British army develop its Commando units including the Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service. During the war the British army was one of the major fighting forces on the side of the allies.

After the end of World War II, the British Army was significantly reduced in size, although National Service continued until 1960. This period also saw the process of Decolonisation commence with the end of the British Raj, and the independence of other colonies in Africa and Asia. Accordingly the strength of the British military was further reduced, in recognition of Britain's reduced role in world affairs, outlined in the 1957 Defence White Paper, although major conflicts had been recently fought in form of the Korean War in 1950 and Suez Crisis in 1956. A large deployment of British troops also remained in Germany, facing the threat of Soviet invasion. The Cold War saw significant technological advances in warfare, and the Army saw more technologically advanced weapons systems come into service.

Despite the decline of the British Empire, the Army was still deployed around the world, fighting colonial wars in Aden, Cyprus, Kenya and Malaya. In 1982 the British Army, alongside the Royal Marines, helped to recapture the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War against Argentina.

In the three decades following 1969, the Army was heavily deployed in Northern Ireland, to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary (later the Police Service of Northern Ireland) in their conflict with loyalist and republican paramilitary groups, called Operation Banner. The locally-recruited Ulster Defence Regiment was formed, later becoming the Royal Irish Regiment in 1992. Over 700 soldiers were killed during the Troubles. Following the IRA ceasefires between 1994 and 1996 and since 1997, demilitarisation has taken place as part of the peace process, much reducing the military presence in the area. On 25 June 2007, the Second Battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment vacated the Army complex at Bessbrook Mill in Armagh. This is part of the 'normalisation' programme in Northern Ireland in response to the IRA's declared end to its activities.

Recent and current conflicts

Persian Gulf War

The ending of the Cold War saw a 40% cut in manpower, as outlined in the Options for Change review. Despite this, the Army has been deployed in an increasingly global role. In 1991, the United Kingdom was the second largest contributor to the coalition force that fought Iraq in the Gulf War.The nation supplied just under 50,000 personnel and was the nation put in control of Kuwait after it was liberated.

Balkans conflicts

The British Army was deployed to Yugoslavia in 1992. Initially this force formed part of the United Nations Protection Force. In 1995 command was transferred to IFOR and then to SFOR. Currently troops are under the command of EUFOR. Over 10,000 troops were sent. In 1999 British forces under the command of SFOR were sent to Kosovo during the conflict there. Command was subsequently transferred to KFOR.


In 2001 the United Kingdom, as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom with the United States, invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban. The 3rd Division Signal Regiment were deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan to assist in the liberation of the troubled capital. The Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade also swept the Afghan mountains but this force is part of the Royal Navy. The British Armed forces are currently in charge of NATO forces in the nation. The British Army is today concentrating on fighting Taliban forces and bringing security to Helmand province under NATO control. Approximately 8,000 British troops are currently in Afghanistan, making it the second largest force after the US.

Iraq War

In 2003, the United Kingdom was a major contributor to the United States-led invasion of Iraq. There was some disagreement amongst the populace but the House of Commons voted for the conflict, sending 46,000 army personnel to the region, the second largest force after the US. The British Army controls the southern regions of Iraq and maintains a presence in the city of Basra. The British Army is not currently at war, but this is a conflict against militant groups acting within Iraq. The British Army's main duty in Iraq is peace-keeping.

Northern Ireland

The British Army was initially deployed in Northern Ireland in the wake of Catholic rioting in Derry [Bloomfield, K Stormont in Crisis (Belfast 1994) p 114] and Belfast [PRONI: Cabinet conclusions file CAB/4/1460] and to prevent Protestant Loyalist attacks on Catholic communities, under Operation Banner between 1969 and 2007 in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and its successor, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The two reserve SAS Regiments; 21 SAS Regiment and 23 SAS Regiment have a more limited role, focusing on the battlespace, with tasks including Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols and Combat Search and Rescue; rather than Counter-Terrorism.Fact|date=October 2007

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) which was formed in 2005, from existing assets, undertakes close reconnaissance and special surveillance tasks.Fact|date=October 2007

Formed around 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment, with attached Royal Marines and RAF Regiment assets, the Special Forces Support Group are under the Operational Control of Director Special Forces to provide operational manoeuvre support to the elements of United Kingdom Special Forces.


The Army mainly recruits within the United Kingdom, and normally has a recruitment target of around 25,000 soldiers per year.

Low unemployment in Britain has resulted in the Army having difficulty in meeting its target, and in the early years of the 21st century there has been a marked increase in the number of recruits from other (mostly Commonwealth) countries. In 2008 Commonwealth origin volunteers comprised approximately 6.7% of the Army's total strength. In total 6,600 foreign soldiers from 42 countries were represented in the Army, not including Gurkhas. After Gurkhas, the nation with most citizens in the British Army is Fiji, with 1,900, followed by Jamaica and Ghana with 600 each; soldiers also come from more prosperous countries such as Australia, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland.

The Ministry of Defence is now considering capping the number of recruits from Commonwealth countries, although this will not affect the Gurkhas. If the trend continues 10% of the army will be from Commonwealth countries before 2012. The cap is being debated, as some fear the army's "Britishness" is being diluted, and employing too many could make the army seen as employing "mercenaries". [cite news|url=|title= Commonwealth recruitment caps & current commonwealth troop levels.| publisher= Guardian Newspaper|accessdate=|date]

The minimum recruitment age is 16 years (but only after the end of GCSEs), although soldiers may not serve on operations below 18 years; the maximum recruitment age was raised in January 2007 from 26 to 33 years. The normal term of engagement is 22 years, and once enlisted soldiers are not normally permitted to leave until they have served at least 4 years. [cite web | title=Recruitment Age for Army Raised | publisher= | date=2007-01-06 | work=BBC News | url= | accessdate=2007-01-12 ]

There has been a strong and continuing tradition of recruiting from Ireland including what is now the Republic of Ireland. Almost 150,000 Irish soldiers fought in the First World War; 49,000 died. More than 60,000 Irishmen, more than from Northern Ireland, also saw action in the Second World War; like their compatriots in the Great War, all were volunteers.There were more than 400 men serving from the Republic in 2003. [ " [ ‘Ian's death brought people together'] " in the "Daily Telegraph" 19 March 2003]

Oath of allegiance

All soldiers must take an oath of allegiance upon joining the Army, a process known as "attestation". Those who believe in God use the following words:

Others replace the words "swear by Almighty God" with "solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm".Fact|date=March 2008

Training establishments [ [ Training Establishments ] ]

*Army Training Regiments:
**ATR Bassingbourn
**ATR Winchester
**ATR Pirbright
**ATR Lichfield
**AFC Harrogate
*Infantry Training Centres:
**ITC Catterick
**Infantry Battle School, Brecon
**Support Weapons School, Warminster
*Regional training centres
*Tri Service Police College
*Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College
*Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS)

Flags and ensigns

The British Army does not have its own specific ensign, unlike the Royal Navy, which uses the White Ensign, and the RAF, which uses the Royal Air Force Ensign. Instead, the Army has different flags and ensigns, for the entire army and the different regiments and corps. The official flag of the Army as a whole is the Union Flag, flown in ratio 3:5. A non-ceremonial flag also exists, which is used at recruiting events, military events and exhibitions. It also flies from the MOD building in Whitehall. [ [ British Army (non-ceremonial)] ] Whilst at war, the Union Flag is always used, and this flag represents the Army on the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London (the UK's memorial to war dead). A British Army ensign also exists for vessels commanded by a commissioned officer, the Blue Ensign defaced with the Army badge. Army Vessels are operated by the Maritime element of the Royal Logistic Corps.

Each line regiment (which does not include the Rifle Regiments) also has its own flags, known as the Colours - the Regimental Colour and the Queen's Colour. These Colours have been taken into battle in the past and give pride to the regiment. There is great variation in the designs of different Regimental Colours. Typically the colour has the Regiment's badge in the centre.

Ranks, specialisms and insignia

Royal Navy and RAF infantry units

The other armed services have their own infantry units which are not part of the British Army. The Royal Marines are amphibious light infantry forming part of the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force has the RAF Regiment used for airfield defence, force protection duties and Forward Air Control.

Overseas territories military units

Numerous military units were raised historically in British territories, including self-governing and Crown colonies, and protectorates. Few of these have appeared on the Army List, and their relationship to the British Army has been ambiguous. Whereas Dominions, such as Canada and Australia, raised their own armies, Crown possessions (like the Channel Islands), and colonies (now called Overseas Territories) were, and are, part of the UK (that is, they are territiories of Britain, not British protectorates), and their defence remains the responsibility of the National (i.e., United Kingdom) government. All military forces of overseas territories are, therefore, under the direct command of the UK Government, via the local Governor and Commander-In-Chief. Many of the units in colonies, or former colonies, were also actually formed at the behest of the UK Government as it sought to reduce the deployment of the British Army on garrison around the world at the latter end of the 19th century. Today, three overseas territories retain locally-raised military units, Bermuda, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands. The units are patterned on the British Army, are subject to review by the Ministry of Defence, and are ultimately under the control of the British government, not the local governments of the territories (though day-to-day control may be delegated to Ministers of the territorial governments). Despite this, the units may have no tasking or funding from the MOD, and are generally raised under acts of the territorial assemblies.

*Bermuda Regiment
*Royal Gibraltar Regiment
*Falkland Islands Defence Force

ee also

*Ministry of Defence
*Territorial Army
*Home Service Force
*Volunteer Army
*British military history
*Royal Navy
*Royal Air Force
*United Kingdom Special Forces
*Modern equipment and uniform of the British Army
*The British Army Rumour Service
*Military Covenant
*Army Cadet Force(ACF)
*Army Rugby Union
*Military mascot
*List of nicknames of British Army regiments


External links

* [ British Army Website]

* [ UK Defence Statistics 2008]

* [ British Army Friends Reunited]
* [ The British Army: A Pocket Guide 2008-2009]

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