United Kingdom 1930 - 1938
With the end of the First World War (then known as the Great
War), the British Army returned to a peacetime establishment.
Conscripts were released back into society, with the Regular Army
returning as a small, professional army, tasked with policing the
empire. Several cavalry regiments were merged in the period of 1920
to 1923, with reductions made in the number of infantry battalions
during this period. The creation of the Irish Free State in 1922
resulted in five infantry regiments disappearing from the
establishment of the British Army. The Terrritorial Army was
reformed in 1920, its purpose being to reinforce the Regular Army
at times of crisis.
The 1930's were a time of economic restraint, and the finance available to the British Army was limited. The British Government's policy was to maintain a small, regular (ie, full time or professional) army, supported by a larger territorial (part-time) army that could be mobilised at times of crisis. There was also a small Militia, mainly comprising recently retired regular army personnel. The main purpose of the British Army was to police the British Empire, in particular India, whilst maintaining a small corps in the United Kingdom able to be deployed to troublespots as and when required. The British Government relied on the concept that there would be at least ten years of increasing tension before a major war, during which time rearmament could take place. In the end, there was less than two years to prepare for the Second World War.
By 1930, the establishment of the British and Indian Armies had settled down. In the United Kingdom, there were five Commands, and two Districts. Based in the U.K. were five Regular Army infantry divisions, The 1 Infantry Division and 2 Infantry Division were up to strength and based at Aldershot. These formed the 'Spearhead Corps' available for deployment to meet the needs of the United Kingdom foreign policy. The 3 Infantry Division was based in Southern Command, the 4 Infantry Division in Eastern Command, and the 5 Infantry Division was stationed in Northern Command. There were some cavalry regiments and a few tank regiments, but mechanisation had only tentatively commenced by 1930. The Regular Army anti-aircraft artillery comprised two brigades only.
The main strength of the British Army was to be found in the fourteen Territorial Army divisional formations located across the Territorial Army. There were also a few T.A. yeomanry cavalry regiments and yeomanry artillery regiments.
Rearmament began slowly in 1932 with the creation of additional T.A. anti-aircraft units, a process that accelerated in 1935 and 1936. Mechanisation of the cavalry also continued during this period, albeit slowly. The appointment of Isaac Leslie HORE-BELISHA, M.P., as Secretary of State for War on 28 May 1937 did provide the political impetus for rearmament of the British Army, but the policy of the British government was still one of appeasement. As increased funding was found for rearmament, the priority was for the development of the Air Defence of Great Britain. This was a consequence of the Spanish Civil War, and the new impact of Air Power. The decisions of British Prime Minister, Neville CHAMBERLAIN, and his National Government proved to be extremely sound, as it was during this period that the U.K. developed the Home Chain radar system, and the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire single seat fighters. It was decisions and work undertaken in in 1937 and 1938 that led to the outcome of the Battle of Britain in September 1940.
By April 1939, the outbreak of war was becoming inevitable, so full scale expansion of the British Army began. The declaration of war with Germany on 3 September 1939 found the British Army only partially ready, yet by 1944 it had developed into a large, well led, well equipped and effective fighting force deployed across the world. The cost, however, in terms of those killed, wounded and taken prisoner of war was considerable, as was the financial cost to the United Kingdom economy.
United Kingdom 1930 - 38 Overview
The British Army has undergone regular reorganisation throughout its existence. These reorganisations have occurred in line with the then current political imperatives, and the economic situation of the United Kingdom at that time. The shape and organisation of the British Army in the Second World War was directly related to ...view details
Introduction Aldershot became the main centre of the British Army within the United Kingdom in 1854. The Army needed a large concentration of troops in the south of England, as the main threat to the United Kingdom came from across the English Channel. The heathland surrounding Aldershot was ideal for ...view details
Introduction Eastern Command was reconstituted in 1920 following the Great War, covering the counties of Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex (except Purfleet and Rainham Rifle Range and (for the foot guards) Warley), Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey (except for the portion included in Aldershot Command) and Sussex. It was ...view details
Introduction In 1920, Northern Command was reconstituted covering the counties of Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland. Berwick-on-Tweed was also in Northern Command, other than in respect of Regular Army units. The headquarters of the command were located in Fishergate, York (as shown in the accompanying ...view details
Introduction Scottish Command covered the country of Scotland, and included Berwick-on-Tweed for Regular Army and Militia only. The headquarters of Scottish Command were located at Edinburgh Castle, the General Officer Commander-in-Chief also having the title of Governor of Edinburgh Castle. It was a Lieutenant General's (or General's) appointment. Areas There ...view details