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"Organization of Imperial British Field Army" Topic

18 Posts

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Toy Soldier Green18 Feb 2017 10:53 a.m. PST

Can anyone give me some examples of how they've fielded the own British armies for the late 19th century based upon whatever conflict you chose.

For example I am unsure of how to set up a British Army for the Sudan, both Boer Wars and the Northwest Frontier. From what I've found online I can't see a division/brigade structure only that Unit A fought here or there.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2017 11:38 a.m. PST

The Brits did use brigades but I do not believe they very commonly (if ever) used divisions in colonial campaigns

Jamesonsafari Inactive Member18 Feb 2017 11:46 a.m. PST

No fixed divisional or brigade organization.
All depends on the campaign and how big the field army was

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member18 Feb 2017 11:48 a.m. PST

I believe that the British at this time only formed ad hoc field brigades as they felt necessary for a given campaign situation, and based on whatever units were available. Expeditionary forces. There was no permanent organizational structure higher than the regimental level, apart from the Household Guards. Is this correct?

KTravlos Inactive Member18 Feb 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

Brigades were ad-hoc made up of the 1st or 2nd Battalions of various Regiments. Divisions were used, the same.

Rich Bliss18 Feb 2017 1:43 p.m. PST

Every campaign was different, depending on the goal and the General in charge.

sjwalker38 Inactive Member18 Feb 2017 1:49 p.m. PST

Best approach is to find the OOB of a 'typical' force for your chosen theatre, like Graham's Suakin Field Force in 1885, and put together your forces accordingly – as previous posts have said, it was all pretty ad-hoc, so you can't go far wrong.

Any particular period or campaign you're interested in?

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2017 5:58 p.m. PST

Definitely, it depends.

In my own case, I went with the Zulu War first.

Just about any book on the subject will have details for one or more of the columns.

Same with first Boer War. There we only had one major column and a few scattered garrisons.

Festerfest18 Feb 2017 10:10 p.m. PST

Not sure if this is what you're looking for but it may be of help.


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2017 11:24 p.m. PST

I believe your standard British battalion, up to the end of the 2nd Boer War, had ten companies. The brigades were organized at the outset of each campaign.

I have gamed the Boer War quite a bit. I just went by the OB for that campaign. It means doing a little research.

alan lockhart Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

Is it not 8 companies?

GreenLeader19 Feb 2017 5:07 a.m. PST

Yes, it was 8 companies to a battalion, though even this was not set in stone. The Devons, for example, fielded ten companies in one of their battalions: perhaps they got more reservists than they expected?

GreenLeader19 Feb 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

Divisions were used in conventional phase of the Second Boer War, typically a brigade was four battalions, and a division was two brigades.

There are endless exceptions to this rule, however. In a lengthy action like The Battle of the Tugela Heights, for example, the Brigades were chopped and changed throughout the battle though were generally 4 or 3.5 battalions per Brigade nevertheless (it was not uncommon to use half a battalion – 4 companies).

In early 1900, French's Cavalry Division was initially formed from three cavalry brigades and two MI brigades

Later, Hamilton's MI Division was 18,000 men strong, of whom only 6000 were actually mounted.

GreenLeader19 Feb 2017 5:31 a.m. PST

Here are the ever changing Brigade structures in the Battle of the Tugela Heights:

The 2nd Infantry Brigade consisted of the 2nd Royal West Surrey Regiment (the Queen's), 2nd Devons, 2nd East Surreys and the 2nd West Yorkshires.

The 4th (Rifle) Brigade was made up from the 1st Durham Light Infantry, 1st Scottish Rifles, 3rd King's Royal Rifle Corps and 1st Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own).

The 6th Brigade comprised the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers and 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers (the archaic spelling of ‘Welch' was restored by Army Order No.56 in 1920).

The 11th (Lancashire) Brigade was made up of the 2nd Royal Lancasters, 1st South Lancashires, 1st York and Lancasters and the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers.

The 5th (Irish) Brigade consisted of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 1st Connaught Rangers, 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers and half a battalion of the Imperial Light Infantry. For the attack on the 23rd, the brigade was reinforced by the 1st Durham Light Infantry and the 1st Rifle Brigade, both detached from the 4th Brigade.

The 6th Brigade was then reorganized and was now just three battalions strong: the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers which had transferred from Hart's 5th Brigade.

Later in the battle, the 11th Brigade comprised the 1st South Lancashires, 1st York and Lancasters, Royal Lancasters and six companies of the 2nd West Yorks.

By the end of the battle, the 4th Brigade was reorganized as follows: the 1st Durham Light Infantry, 1st Rifle Brigade, four companies of the Scottish Rifles and six of the 2nd East Surreys (detached from the 2nd Brigade).

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 2:06 p.m. PST

The study of the British Army is not something that should be undertaken by anyone with OCD. It will melt their brain….

Mad Guru Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2017 12:58 a.m. PST

@Cedric: SO TRUE!!!

The only thing I'll add to the wisdom dispensed by many above -- which may already have been mentioned as well -- is that on a campaign by campaign and sometimes even "operational" basis, division as well as brigade organizations were created and used. Often divisional and brigade size "battle groups" were referred to as FIELD FORCES.

Henry Martini20 Feb 2017 2:36 p.m. PST

On the NW Frontier it was standard practice to create infantry brigades from a single British battalion and two or three Indian battalions, one of which might be Sikh or Gurkha.

oldjarhead1 Inactive Member20 Feb 2017 4:51 p.m. PST

@Henry Martini, although during the initial defense of the Malakand Pass the "brigade" was all Indian battalions.

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