Regiments of the British Army

Infantry Regiments

The main presence of the British Army was to be found in the infantry regiments. They provided the vast majority of 'boots on the ground' in terms of a military presence, particularly overseas in the British Empire.

In the 1600's when the first organised regiments of the British Army were formed, they were often known by the name of their Colonel. In the 1800's, the regiments began to form their geographical associations with counties and cities in the United Kingdom. The shape and organisation of the British Army in the Second World War was directly related to the reforms resulting from the poor performance of the British Army in the Crimean War of 1853 - 1856, and the Indian Mutiny of 1857. A Royal Commission was established in 1858, which reported in 1862, but few of its recommendations were implemented.

The appointment in 1868 of Edward CARDWELL, as the Secretary of State for War, was the catalyst for change. He made various changes in terms and conditions, but the major reforms of the British Army regiments commenced in 1871. Regiments were allocated to specific geographic areas for recruiting purposes, with the Regimental Depot located in that same area.

The next Secretary of State for War, Hugh CHILDERS continued with the reforms. In 1881 the system of infantry regiments was introduced that persisted until 1948 (and until recently in modified terms). It was this reform that created the Regiment as the administrative basis for the infantry battlions.

Each infantry regiment had two Regular Army infantry battalions, with the exception of some regiments that recruited from the large industrial cities, which had four. These four battalion regiments were (1939 titles used):

The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) - until 1922;
The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers - until 1907;
The King's Regiment (Liverpool) - until 1901;
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment - until 1907;
The Lancashire Fusiliers - until 1906;
The King's Royal Rifle Corps - until 1922;
The Middlesex Regiment - until 1922;
The Worcestershire Regiment - until 1922;
The Manchester Regiment - until 1906;
The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) - until 1922.

Generally, one of the Regular Army battalions was to serve overseas whilst the other was to remain in the United Kingdom. Each regiment also had at least one Militia (or Supplementary Reserve) battalion and at least one and up to four Territorial Force battalions converted from the former volunteer regiments in that area. It was in this format that the British Army fought the South African War and the First World War.

The cessation of hostilities in the First World War in November 1918 did not allow an immediate reduction in the size or commitments in the British Army. By 1921, the Irish Free State (Eire) was established, so five British Army regiments that recruited from Southern Ireland were disbanded. These were:

The Connaught Rangers;
The Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians);
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers;
The Royal Irish Regiment;
Royal Munster Fusiliers.

By 1930, the British Army was back to a peacetime establishment and culture. Limited rearmament commenced in 1932 with the slow increase in the anti-aircraft artillery in the British Army, but it was not until 1936 when a more significant increase in anti-aircraft artillery began. This led to two Territorial Army divisions being converted to anti-aircraft divisions. Towards the end of the war, this process was reversed with artillery regiments being converted to infantry.

In the Second World War, the infantry battalions were provided by the following regiments:

The Brigade of Guards

Grenadier Guards;
Coldstream Guards;
Scots Guards;
Irish Guards;
Welsh Guards.


Infantry of the Line

The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) see attached pdf;
The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey);
The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment);
The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster);
The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers;
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment;
The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment);
      The London Regiment;
The King’s Regiment (Liverpool);
The Royal Norfolk Regiment;
The Lincolnshire Regiment;
The Devonshire Regiment;
The Suffolk Regiment;
      The Cambridgeshire Regiment;
The Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert’s);
The West Yorkshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Own);
The East Yorkshire Regiment (The Duke of York’s Own);
The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment;
      The Hertfordshire Regiment;
The Leicestershire Regiment;
The Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment);
The Lancashire Fusiliers;
The Royal Scots Fusiliers;
The Cheshire Regiment;
The Royal Welch Fusiliers;
The South Wales Borderers;
      The Monmouthshire Regiment;
The King’s Own Scottish Borderers;
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles);
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers;
The Gloucestershire Regiment;
The Worcestershire Regiment;
The East Lancashire Regiment;
The East Surrey Regiment;
The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry;
The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding);
The Border Regiment;
The Royal Sussex Regiment;
The Hampshire Regiment;
The South Staffordshire Regiment;
The Dorsetshire Regiment;
The South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s Volunteers);
The Welch Regiment;
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment);
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry;
The Essex Regiment;
The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment);
The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire);
The Northamptonshire Regiment;
The Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s);
The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment;
The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry;
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry;
The Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own);
      Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment;
The King’s Royal Rifle Corps;
      Queen Victoria’s Rifles;
      The Rangers;
      The Queen’s Westminsters;
The Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh’s);
The Manchester Regiment;
The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales’s);
The York and Lancaster Regiment;
      The Hallamshire Battalion
The Durham Light Infantry;
The Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment);
Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s);
The Gordon Highlanders;
      The London Scottish;
The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders;
The Royal Ulster Rifles;
      The London Irish Rifles;
The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria’s);
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s);
The Parachute Regiment;
The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own);
      The London Rifle Brigade;
      Tower Hamlets Rifles;
      The Artist's Rifles.