|British Commonwealth units were equipped and trained according to a common philosophy and wore very similar uniforms, rank badges etc. In times of peace, each Dominion maintained a very small separate army, navy and air force which when deployed to theatres of war came under British command. However, the senior commander of each Dominion contingent retained (and frequently used) the right of appeal to their own government over the heads of the Theatre Commander. All the Dominions tried hard to prevent their contingents from being split up and attached piecemeal to other British formations, although this did happen from time to time.
|All British Commonwealth Armies were organised on the Regimental system. Unlike the Continental Armies and the US Army, British Commonwealth Armies were organised so that Battalions were grouped together administratively into "Regiments" which could contain any number of Battalions. The British term for a tactical grouping of 3 Battalions was a "Brigade". In British parlance, the term "Regiment" (confusingly) was frequently used to describe a unit of Battalion size such as a Cavalry Regiment or a Field Artillery Regiment. A Regiment was also sometimes known formally as a "Corps" as in the "The Corps of Royal Artillery" or the "Royal Army Service Corps".
|In terms of nomenclature, the Infantry used the terms "Battalion", "Company" and "Platoon" while the Armoured, Cavalry, Engineer and Signal arms used "Regiment", "Squadron" and "Troop". Artillery units used the terms "Regiment", "Battery" and "Troop"(?).
|In the database, virtually all British Commonwealth units of Battalion and Company size are associated with a Corps (ie the Welsh Guards or the Green Howards for example).
|British Commonwealth units are also categorised by membership of a "Force"; this is used to identify the origin of a unit. British units are usually either "Regular", "Territorial", "Yeomanry" or "War-Formed". Units sometimes moved from one Force to another. View the Unit Forces page to see which Force a unit is associated with. A unit can be associated with more than one Force over time. For a full description of the different Forces, please see the Forces page.
|While Dominion units were officered and organised by their own Dominion governments; Indian and Colonial units were organised and officered by the British and mostly consisted of "native" troops with British officers and (sometimes) NCOs. The Indian Army was officered by a mixture of British career officers commissioned into the Indian Army with King's Commissions, and Indian officers (known as Viceroy Commissioned Officers) who had been commissionand by the Viceroy of India. The Indian Army was controlled by the Government of India. There were some Indian officers in some units with King's Commissions as a result of the policy of "Indianisation". In general, a third of every Indian Division was British. Colonial units were usually officered by British officers on loan from their Regiments.
|Many Dominion officers had been born in the United Kingdom and had emigrated. Some had served in more than one Army in their careers (for example, Sir Bernard Freyburg VC had been born in the United Kingdom and had been a senior British officer until his retirement from the British Army in 1937. He came out of retirement to command the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1939 and was senior to many of his British superior officers in North Africa). Many British officers had been born outside Britain in different parts of the Empire and Dominions. A significant part of the British Officer Corps were from Ireland.
|Regular Cavalry and Yeomanry Regiments are listed as Cavalry for the whole war unless their title changed in which case they are listed according to their new title after that date (for example many Canadian Cavalry Regiments officially changed their titles in 1941 to be numbered as Armoured Regiments). British Cavalry and Yeomanry regiments did not change their titles when they converted to Armour between 1938 and 1941 and are therefore listed under Cavalry. This has been done to avoid confusion where Units with the same name have different Unit Types and to provide a seamless history.
|British and Commonwealth Armoured and Armoured Car Regiments are classified in the Database as "Armoured", "Tank" or "Cavalry" depending on their origin. In general, units are listed under the same Unit Type for the whole war unless their title was changed in such a way that indicated the type of role played. Unlike most other armies where the unit type is clearly identifiable from the title, British armoured units generally did not change their title if their role changed.
|The Royal Armoured Corps was formed in April 1939 and grouped together the formerly independent Cavalry Regiments of the Regular Army and the Yeomanry (listed under Cavalry) and the Tank Battalions of the Royal Tank Corps (listed under Tank). In addition, later in the war many Infantry Battalions were converted to Regiments of the RAC and are listed under Amoured. Finally, units of the Reconnaissance Corps were transfered to the RAC in January 1944 and are shown as part of that Corps in the database. Changes in unit titles are noted where appropriate in the Unit History.
|British Tank Battalions were part of the Royal Tank Corps from 1922 to 1939 when it was renamed the Royal Tank Regiment and became part of the Royal Armoured Corps. In 1945, all the Battalions in the Regiment were renamed Regiments. All the Regular Tank Battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment could trace their lineage back to the original Tank Battalions formed in 1916-1917. They are listed as "Tank" units.
|Yeomanry Regiments are the cavalry equivalent of the Territorial Army and are classified in this database as 1st Line Yeomanry or 2nd Line Yeomanry. Many Yeomanry Regiments were converted to Artillery in 1922-23 which is why some Artillery regiments are classified in the database as Yeomanry. Some Yeomanry regiments survived to be converted to armour in 1940-41.
|The Canadian Armoured Corps was granted Royal status in 1945 when it became the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps
|All Regimental Infantry Battalions which at some point were organised as Machine Gun, Motor-Cycle or Motor Battalions are classed as Infantry and the change in organisation is noted in the Unit History.
|In general, all British regiments followed the same pattern; 1 and 2 Battalions were "Regular" and one would usually be based at home in the United Kingdom while the other was based in the colonies or India; 3 and/or 4 Battalions were Militia Battalions (previously Special Reserve) Battalions which had a long history, and were embodied in the First World War, but not in the Second World War; Higher numbered Battalions were "Volunteer" Battalions and are classified as either 1st or 2nd Line Territorial Army and were composed of part-time soldiers with a small core of regular soldiers. In 1939, the Territorial Army was doubled in size and the 1st Line Battalions threw off a "duplicate" battalion which became 2nd Line Territorial Army battalions; Later on, "War-Formed", "Home Defence" and "Young Soldier" battalions were formed.
|In 1939, when the Territorial Army was expanded, new Battalions were numbered in different ways and there was no set pattern; in some regiments, the new 2nd Line Battalions were numbered "2/" while the original 1st Line Battalions were numbered "1/"; in other regiments however, the opportunity was taken to reuse the numbers of battalions which had been converted to other arms such as Artillery.
|Guards Regiments did not have any "Volunteer" or "Militia" battalions. They only had "Regular" and "War Formed" battalions.
|A few Regiments did not exist independently but were part of another Regiment while retaining a separate name (for example "The London Scottish" became part of the corps of "The Gordon Highlanders" in 1916). The battalions in these regiments are listed underneath their parent regiment and were all Territorial.
|Between 1920 and 1939, many 1st Line Territorial Battalions were converted to Tank, Field Artillery, Medium Artillery, Light Anti-Aircraft, Anti-Tank, Heavy Anti-Aircraft and Searchlight Regiments. The database tracks the history of all of these battalions as well.
|Canadian, South African and Colonial Regiments followed the British pattern and were named. They usually only had 1 or 2 battalions in each Regiment and (in the case of Canada), the 2nd Battalion was not usually activated and remained a depot unit at home.
|Australian and New Zealand infantry battalions were numbered in the Second World War. Australian militia battalions had names associated with them and were the descendents of the Battalions of the 1st Australian Imperial Force formed in World War I. In 1939, the Australian Government did not mobilise the Militia battalions, but instead created a new army for overseas operations called the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. Battalions in this Force were numbered from 1 and were called "2/1", "2/40" etc. The original Militia battalions were not mobilised until the entry of Japan into the War in 1941. Also see Note 33.
|In 1939, there were 19 Indian Regiments and each Regiment was numbered and named; each Regiment had many Battalions which were named "1/1 Punjab" or "5/7 Rajput" where the first number is the Battalion number and the second number is the Regiment number. Until 1937, The Burma Rifles were designated 20 The Burma Rifles as the junior regiment of the Indian Army. The 10th Battalion of every Regiment was the Training Battalion, each company of which supplied recruits to a regular battalion of the regiment.
|In a few cases, the style "3/5" was used to indicate a temporary or permanent amalgamation between two battalions, for example 3/5 Battalion Royal Tank Regiment.
|British and Commonwealth Engineer units were Company size in general. Depending on the Division they are attached to, they are either named Squadrons or Companies. They came under the authority at a Divisional level of the "Commander Royal Engineers".
|British and Commonwealth Artillery units are either "Light","Field","Medium","Heavy" or "Coast" depending on their title. They were traditionally organised in Batteries. Batteries were grouped together into Brigades which were renamed Regiments after 1938-39. Anti-Aircraft units were also part of the Royal Artillery as were Anti-Tank, Searchlight and Survey Regiments. At a Divisional level, Artillery units were under the authority of the "Commander Royal Artillery".
|Royal Artillery Regiments were organised as four-battery "Brigades" until 1938-39 when they were reorganised as two-battery regiments until 1941 when they were regorganised into three-battery regiments. Until 1924, the Royal Artillery was divided into the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) and the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA).
|Where known, Battle Honours are displayed for British and Commonwealth Infantry and Armoured Battalions. Battle Honours for Brigades and Divisions are those awarded to their constituent Battalions at the time. Artillery units are not granted individual Battle Honours - they have only one Battle Honour ("Ubique" - "Everywhere").
|With regard to HQs and Static Formations, I have made some assumptions based upon the size of the subordinate units placed under command or the rank of the Commander (where known). Commands are assumed to be of Army status and Districts of Corps status.
|In general, General HQs and National HQs such as the War Office (in London) and National Defence HQ (in Ottawa) are treated as Army Group-sized static HQs. Home Commands in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada are treated as Army-sized HQs, Districts are treated as Corps-sized HQs, while Area and Sub-Area HQs and Lines of Communication are treated as Division-sized HQs.
|Units created on an ad-hoc basis use the Unit Type of "Alarm".