Army Organisation

Infantry Organisation in the British Army

An Army

There were eventually five British armies in France. Each comprised of 250,000 to 500,000 men and was commanded by a full general.


For administrative reasons armies were divided into three to five Corps, commanded by a Lieutenant General.


This was the largest formation which normally remained together. At full strength a division would number about 20,000 men, commanded by a Major General. The Division was self-contained. It was made up of twelve infantry battalions and also included a range of other units such as artillery, the medical corps, transport, engineers and a veterinary section. A thirteenth pioneer battalion was added to carry out tasks such as trench digging and building work.


Divisions were divided into three Brigades. Each Brigade was made up of four battalions and was commanded by a Brigadier General.


The battalion was the basic unit of the infantry of the British army in The First World War. At full establishment, it consisted of just over 1000 men, of whom 30 were officers. Men in a battalion would all be from one regiment, e.g. The First Battalion of The Lancashire Fusiliers. Men in a battalion remained together as a group during the war.

The battalion was usually commanded by an officer with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. A Major was Second-in-Command. The battalion headquarters included a range of officers, NCOs and privates responsible for administration, stores, transport, signals, medical care and a range of other duties.


A battalion was divided into four companies, usually lettered A to D or in the case of the Guards Regiments numbered 1 to 4. Each of the 4 Companies numbered 227 men at full establishment. Each was commanded by a Major or Captain, with a Captain as Second-in-Command.


The company was divided into 4 Platoons of about 45 men, each of which was commanded by a subaltern (a Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant).


Each Platoon was subdivided into 4 Sections, each of about 12 men under an NCO.


The Composition of an Infantry Division in 1914

An infantry division comprised of 20,000 men of whom 12,000 were infantrymen.

A division included:


Three brigades of infantry, each made up of four battalions of about 1,000 men

A 13th pioneer battalion was later added, to carry out work such a digging trenches and building dugouts and roads etc


Three brigades of Royal Field Artillery, each made up of three six gun batteries and an ammunition column, totalling 54 field guns

One brigade of howitzers

One battery of heavy guns

Royal Engineers

Two field companies, skilled in construction and also in demolition

A signals company

A cyclist company


A squadron divided into four troops, each of 28 men and horses, and a machine gun section

Army Service Corps

A divisional train of horse drawn wagons provided by The Army Service Corps

A divisional supply column of motor vehicles

Royal Army Medical Corps

Three Field Ambulances, each comprising of a forward section of bearers and a tented dressing station section

Other Services

A division also included units from a range of other services, such as The Veterinary Corps, the military police and, later in the war, the Labour Corps.