Skip to content

Units & Formations 1930 - 1956:

British, Indian and African Infantry Battalions

The battalion was the basic, operational unit of the British Army and British Indian Army during the Second World War. Each of the sixty-four infantry regiments of the British Army, the twenty regiments of the British Indian Army, the Royal West African Frontier Force and King’s African Rifles, each had a number of battalions dependent upon the population of their main recruiting area.

In 1881, fundamental changes to the organisation of the British Army created a number of infantry regiments based upon geographical recruitment areas. In addition, there were the then three Guards regiments (by 1915 this was increased to five regiments). During the Second World War, the Parachute Regiment and Glider Pilot Regiment were formed as part of the Army Air Corps. In addition, commando units were formed by the Army and Royal Marines.

An infantry battalion comprised about eight-hundred men. At the outbreak of the Second World War, a battalion was organised with a Headquarter Company and four Rifle Companies. Each Rifle Company comprised three platoons, each platoon three sections. The Headquarter Company contained a Signals Platoon and Administration Platoon.

At the beginning of the war, the establishment included a mortar platoon, carrier platoon, anti-aircraft platoon and pioneer platoon. During the war, these platoons were enhanced and incorporated into a separate Support Company, with a shift in emphasis from anti-aircraft to anti-tank artillery. This coincided with the increasing air superiority gained by the Allies.

Usually, a battalion was commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel; only for temporary periods would a Major assume command of a battlion. If a Major was appointed to command a battalion, he would be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; either on a Local, Acting, Temporary or Substantive basis.

There were differing types of infantry battalion within the British Army and British Indian Army, with the Establishment of each of these types of battalion varying as the war progressed. For a full explanation of the different types of infantry battalion, their organisation, personnel, equipment and weapons, and for some diagrams of the organisation of these units, please see the attached pdf documents.

There are a couple of good websites I recommend people visit if they wish to find out more information. These are:

Back To Top