Traditionally, regiments that form the combat arms of the British Army (cavalry and infantry) recruit from specific areas of the country. Infantry regiments had been assigned specific areas from which they would recruit from by the mid eighteenth century. These were formalised under the Cardwell Reforms that began in the 1860s. Under this scheme, single battalion infantry regiments were amalgamated into two battalion regiments, then assigned to a depot and associated recruiting area (which would usually correspond to all or part of a county). The recruiting area (usually) would then become part of the regiment's title. It was this that gave rise to the concept of the "county regiment", with the local infantry regiment becoming part of the fabric of its local area.
Over time, regiments have been amalgamated further, which has led to recruiting areas of individual regiments increasing in size. Often, these amalgamations have been between regiments whose recruiting areas border each other. However, there have been occasions where regiments of a similar type, but from widely different areas, have been amalgamated. Two modern examples have been the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (amalgamated from the county regiments of Northumberland, Warwickshire, City of London and Lancashire, all of which were regiments of fusiliers) and The Light Infantry (amalgamated from the county regiments of Cornwall, Somerset, Shropshire, South Yorkshire and Durham, all of which were regiments of light infantry).
After September 2007, when the current reforms have been completed, the infantry will consist of 18 separate regiments. The five regiments of foot guards recruit from their respective home nations (with the exception of the Coldstream Guards, which recruits from the counties through which the regiment marched between Coldstream and London). Scotland, Ireland and Wales each have a single regiment of line infantry from which they recruit (though the battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland recruit from the areas they recruited from when they were separate regiments), while England has seven line infantry and rifles regiments. The Parachute Regiment recruits nationally, while the Royal Gurkha Rifles recruits most of its serving personnel from Nepal, and the Royal Gibraltar Regiment recruits from the UK and Commonwealth nations
Before the Second World War, infantry recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 m) tall. They initially enlisted for seven years with the colours and a further five years with the reserve. They trained at their own regimental depot.
Unlike the other trades in the army, which have separate units for basic training and specialised training, new recruits into the infantry undergo a single course at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick. This course, called the "Combat Infantryman's Course" (CIC), lasts 26 weeks as standard and teaches recruits both the basics of soldiering (Phase 1 training) and the specifics of soldiering in the infantry (Phase 2 training). On completion of the CIC, the newly qualified infantry soldier will then be posted to his battalion.
For some infantry units, the CIC is longer, due to specific additional requirements for individual regiments:
The Foot Guards CIC has an additional two-week enhanced drill course.
The Brigade of Gurkhas CIC combines the Common Military Syllabus with the CIC, together with courses on British culture and the English Language. The Gurkha CIC lasts 37 weeks.
New officers conduct their Phase 1 training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Phase 2 training for officers, which is encompassed by the Platoon Commander's Battle Course, is run at the Infantry Battle School at Brecon in Wales. It is here that leadership and tactics are taught to new platoon commanders. New NCOs and Warrant Officers are also sent on courses at Brecon when they come up for promotion. This encompasses Phase 3 training. Phase 3 training is also undertaken at the Support Weapons School at Warminster, where new officers, NCOs and soldiers are trained in the use of support weapons (mortars, anti-tank weapons) and in communications.
Territorial Infantrymen undertake preliminary training at Regional Training Centres prior to attending a two-week CIC(TA) at Catterick.
Headquarters Infantry, which is located at the Land Warfare Centre on Imber Road in Warminster, is responsible for recruiting, manning and training policy of the Infantry.
Divisions of infantry
The majority of the infantry in the British Army is divided for administrative purposes into five divisions. These are not the same as the ready and regenerative divisions (see below), but are based on either the geographical recruiting areas of the regiments, or the type of regiments:
British Army Infantry Organization (click to enlarge)
British Army Infantry Organization after Army 2020 reform (click to enlarge)
Types of infantry
Within the British Army, there are four main types of infantry:
Armoured Infantry - armoured infantry are equipped with the Warrior armoured personnel carrier, a tracked vehicle that can deploy over all terrain.
Mechanised Infantry - mechanised infantry are equipped with the Saxon armoured personnel carrier, a wheeled vehicle that can be deployed over rough terrain, but is primarily a road vehicle. Saxon is in the process of being replaced by the Bulldog tracked vehicle. Since the mid-2000s, they have been using vehicles like Mastiff PPV.
Light Infantry - light infantry are not equipped with armoured vehicles, such units may specialise in jungle and/or arctic warfare
Air Assault Infantry - air assault infantry are trained to be deployed using helicopters, parachute or aircraft.
The infantry is traditionally divided into three types:
Foot Guards - foot guards are those infantry regiments that were formed specifically to provide close guard to the King. Soldiers in the guards were usually the best trained and equipped members of the infantry. However, they would fight in the same way as ordinary regiments.
Line Infantry - line infantry refers to those regiments that historically fought in linear formations, unlike light troops, who fought in loose order. Despite this, line infantry are named so because they made up the line of battle, and not because they deployed in lines. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw expansion of the roles of the infantry. To this end, the companies stationed on each flank of an infantry battalion were specialist units, with a company of light infantry trained as skirmishers to operate independently on the battlefield, and a company of grenadiers, who were usually the biggest and strongest men in the battalion, operating as the lead assault troops.
Rifles - in the late eighteenth century, the development of the Baker rifle led to the commissioning by the British Army of regiments specially trained to use the new weapon. These regiments would operate as skirmishers and sharpshooters on the edges of the field of battle. These regiments wore green rather than red tunics to enable them to blend in more with the environment, thus giving them the nickname "green jackets".
The tactical distinctions between infantry regiments disappeared in the late nineteenth century, but remain in tradition. In the order of precedence, the five regiments of foot guards are ranked above the ten regiments of traditional line infantry, who are ranked above the two remaining regiments of rifles.
11 Light Brigade will be formed specifically to command the Operation Herrick deployment between October 2009 and April 2010. This will assume responsibility for all force elements assigned to it, including four infantry battalions (1 GREN GDS, 1 R WELSH, 2 YORKS, 3 RIFLES). 11 Brigade will disband in April 2010, with its constituent units returning to their parent formations.
There are four locations that have a permanent British infantry presence: Germany, Cyprus and Brunei are home to battalions from the regular army, while Gibraltar has its own permanent home defence battalion. Other postings are usually roulement postings from either the UK, Germany or Cyprus.
The British Army is administered through HQ Land Command, which has responsibility for the majority of army units. Most of these are organised into five divisions, each of which has a number of brigades under its command.
2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires)
2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles
^16 (Air Assault) Brigade is based at Colchester, which falls under the direction of 5 Division. However, when deployed, 16 Brigade forms part of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force.
^London District is operationally separate from any higher formation, but for budgetary and administrative purposes comes under the remit of 4 Division.
^3 Commando Brigade is the main element of the United Kingdom Amphibious Force under the command of CINCFLEET. Command and logistics elements and three of the four infantry units assigned to this formation are provided by the Royal Marines, part of the Naval Service. Artillery and engineering support comes from attached Army units, together with the remaining infantry battalion.
Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003)
HM Treasury asked for major cuts in the strength of the infantry in 2003, with at least ten battalions to be disbanded. This proved so unacceptable that, in November 2003, there was consideration to instead reducing each battalion to two rifle companies (with the third to come from the TA). By March 2004, ECAB had shown that the maximum number of battalions it was possible to cut was four. This was finally officially announced as part of the army re-organisation. The arms plot system would be abolished; instead, individual battalions would be given fixed roles. To ensure that officers and men could continue to gain the variety of skills that the arms plot provided, the restructuring would also see a series of amalgamations of the remaining single battalion infantry regiments into large regiments. In addition, the regular army will lose four battalions. The roles are divided up as follows:
Armoured Infantry - 8 battalions (including Land Warfare Training Battalion)
Mechanised Infantry - 3 battalions
Light Role Infantry (including public duties and Gurkhas) - 20 battalions
In addition to the army's infantry battalions, there are three further battalion-sized commando infantry units, which are part of the Royal Marines, as well as eight field squadrons (each larger than an infantry company) of the RAF Regiment, who have responsibility for the ground defence of air assets and are under the control of the Royal Air Force.
The majority of infantry battalions are attached to one of the deployable brigades. However, there are a number of formations that exist to administer those infantry battalions that are not assigned to deployable brigades, but are instead available for independent deployment on roulement tours.
Each battalion in the five single battalion regiments of the Guards Division has a fixed role:
The four current battalions of the Light Division in two regiments were augmented by two battalions from the Prince of Wales's Division in 2005. These two were amalgamated into a single battalion and then amalgamated with Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets to form a new five battalion regiment, called The Rifles. On its formation, the Light Division was abolished.
Armoured Infantry (5 RIFLES) - 1
Light Role (2 RIFLES, 3 RIFLES) - 2
Mechanised Infantry (4 RIFLES) - 1
Commando (1 RIFLES) - 1
Other infantry regiments
Royal Irish Regiment
The single regular battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment is unamalgamated to "retain an infantry footprint in Northern Ireland".
Air Assault/Light Role (1 R IRISH) - 1
Royal Gurkha Rifles
The Royal Gurkha Rifles is unaffected by the restructuring. However, the UK based battalion has been integrated more fully with the rest of the infantry and trained in the air assault role.
With the exception of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, every line infantry regiment has at least one TA battalion (the Royal Regiment of Scotland and The Rifles have two). The Guards Division has The London Regiment as an affiliated TA battalion.
Strategic Defence and Security Review (2010)/Army 2020
Following the 2010 General Election, the new government instituted a new defence review. The ultimate conclusion of this process was to reduce the size of the British Army from approximately 102,000 to approximately 82,000 by 2020. The detail of the process was subsequently announced as Army 2020 in July 2012. As part of this, the infantry was reduced in size from 36 regular battalions to 31. Of the five to be withdrawn, two were armoured infantry units, two general light infantry and one a specialist air assault infantry battalion. The withdrawal of two armoured infantry battalions is to bring this into line with the planned future operational structure, intended to see three "armoured infantry brigades", each with a pair of infantry battalions, forming the core of the Army's "reaction forces". These two battalions, along with the two light infantry battalions, will be disbanded and their personnel distributed among the remaining battalions of each regiment. The air assault battalion will be reduced to company strength, with the intention that it is assigned as a permanent public duties unit in Scotland.
2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot) (Green Howards) - Disbanded and personnel redistributed to 1st and 3rd Battalions. 3 YORKS will eventually be renamed as 1 YORKS.1 YORKS will eventually be renumbered as the 2nd Bn.
The Guards Division regiments/Foot Guards will rotate amongst the roles of the Mastiff Battalion in 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade and the Light Protected Mobility Battalion in 11th Infantry Brigade.
The two battalions in British Forces Cyprus will rotate as follows; 1 LANCS, 2 LANCS, 2 YORKS and 2 PWRR, 1 R ANGLIAN, 2 R ANGLIAN.
The Territorial Army will be renamed as the Army Reserve. The following infantry battalions will remain under Army 2020:
3rd Battalion, The Royal Welsh (11th Infantry Brigade)
2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment (7th Infantry Brigade)
7th Battalion, The Rifles (38th Irish Brigade)
The London Regiment, (11th Infantry Brigade)
Over time, a handful of infantry regiments have disappeared from the roll through disbandment rather than amalgamation. In the 20th Century, seven regiments disappeared like this:
In 1922, following cuts to the size of the armed forces after the First World War and the establishment of the Irish Free State, the five infantry regiments solely from the south of Ireland were disbanded:
Since the Cardwell reforms began, infantry regiments in the British Army have amalgamated on many occasions. However, there have been occasions where amalgamations have been announced, but have then been abandoned:
A two battalion Lowland regiment formed from the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers.
A two battalion Highland regiment formed from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, Black Watch, Highlanders, and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
A two battalion Wessex regiment formed from the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.
Sikh Regiment - in 2007, Sikh leaders in the United Kingdom informed the Army that they would be able to find enough volunteers to form an initial infantry battalion of 700 from within their community. However, the Ministry of Defence, having requested advice from the Commission for Racial Equality, decided to reject the proposal on the grounds that it would be "divisive and amounted to segregation". The Prince of Wales had made a similar suggestion in 2001.
In recent years, there have been many depictions of the British Army of various periods in fiction. Two notable ones depicting the modern British Army have been Spearhead from the period of the late 1970s, and Soldier Soldier from the early to mid-1990s. Both are seen as reasonably accurate depictions of life in the army at those times, and both are centred on a fictional infantry regiment. The most recent depiction of the British Army came in the film The Mark of Cain, which featured an infantry regiment deployed to Iraq, and the difficulties it faced.
The Loamshire Regiment is used by the British Army as the placeholder name in the provision of examples for its procedures, for example in the method of addressing letters to members of the forces produced by the British Forces Post Office.