1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland/British Military Forces

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British Military Forces.

The forces of the British Crown may be classed as (a) the regular, or general service, army, together with the Indian army; and (b) the home territorial force; while there are also certain forces controlled by the governments of the various self-governing dominions. The home government raises, pays and controls the regular army, its reserves, the territorial force, and some few details such as the militia of the smaller possessions, Indian native battalions employed on imperial service out of India, &c. But the cost of that portion of the regular army which is in India is borne by the Indian government, which is not the case with the regulars serving in other colonies or in the dominions. Consequently the Indian government, unlike the colonial governments, can within limits dispose of the British paid regulars within its sphere.

Regular Army.—The duties of the regular army are to garrison India and overseas colonies, to garrison Great Britain and Ireland, and to find expeditionary forces of greater or less strength for war in Europe or elsewhere. The principles upon which the reorganization of 19051908 was based are: (a) that in peace the army at home must be maintained at such an effective standard that all necessary drafts for the army abroad shall be forthcoming, without undue depletion of the army at home; (b) the home army on mobilization for service should be brought up to war strength by the recall of reservists in sufficient, but not too great, numbers; (c) the wastage of a campaign shall be made good by drafts partly from the remaining army reserve, but above all from the militia, now converted into the special reserve; and (d) the volunteers and yeomanry, reorganized into the territorial force, shall be responsible, with little regular help, for the defence of the home country, thus freeing the regular army at home for general service. The first of these conditions entirely, the second largely, and even indirectly the third and fourth depend upon the recruiting, establishments and terms of service of the regular army. These last are a compromise between the opposite needs of short service, producing large reserves, and long service, which minimizes the sea transport of drafts; they are also influenced by the state of the labour market at any given moment, as recruiting is voluntary. To enable the authorities to deal with these conditions, the secretary of state for war may without special legislation vary the terms of enlistment, not only in general but also for the various arms and branches.

After the South African War, several different terms were tried for the line infantry and cavalry, but these experiments proved that the terms formerly prevailing, viz. 7 years with the colours and 5 in the reserve, were the most convenient. In the Horse and Field Artillery the term is 6 and 6, in the Household Cavalry and the Garrison Artillery 8 and 4, and in the Foot Guards 3 and 9. Engineers and other specialists are recruited on various terms. A certain number, again varying from year to year, almost from month to month, are allowed to engage for the full 12 years with the colours (long service). Thus in 19071908, 1551 men were serving on a 12-year colour engagement, 24,856 on a term of 7 years colours and 5 reserve, 3589 on a 6 and 6 term, 3449 on 3 and 9 engagement, 4529 for other terms, out of a total of 37,974 recruits or soldiers signing fresh engagements.

The following figures show the inflow of recruits:—

Year.  Recruits 
 of Recruits 
 to Strength 
 of Army. 
 Oct. 1903-Oct. 1904  89,824 42,041 46·8 14·6
 Oct. 1904-Oct. 1905  81,045 35,551 43·9 13·05
 Oct. 1905-Oct. 1906  83,155 36,380 43·5 14
 Oct. 1906-Oct. 1907  72,855 34,710 47·6 14·25
 Oct. 1907-Oct. 1908  77,526 37,222 47·9 14·05
 Oct. 1908-Oct. 1909  75,630 33,766 44·7 13·6

The army consists of about 250,000 officers and men of the regular forces on full pay, distributed (October 1909) as follows:—

  Strength.  Establishment. 
 Staff and departments, &c. 3,293 3,392
 On regimental strength:—    
Home..... 128,412 130,714
India..... 77,866 76,009
Colonies  ..... 47,127 44,981
Total  .... 253,004 253,405

By units, it is composed of 3 regiments of Household Cavalry, 7 regiments of Dragoon Guards, 3 of Dragoons, 6 of Lancers and 12 of Hussars (total cavalrv, 31 regiments); 4 regiments of Foot Guards of battalions, 51 English and Welsh, 10 Scottish and 8 Irish line infantry and rifle regiments (total infantry, 149 battalions); the Royal Regiment of Artillery, divided into Royal Horse and Field Artillery, and Royal Garrison Artillery—the R.H.A. consisting of 28 batteries, the R.F.A. of 150 batteries, the R.G.A. of 100 companies (told off to garrisons, siege train and heavy field batteries) and 8 batteries mountain guns; the Corps of Royal Engineers, organized into mounted field troops, field companies, fortress, telegraph, railway, searchlight, balloon, wireless companies and bridging train; the Army Service Corps, divided into transport, supply, mechanical transport and other companies and sections; the Royal Army Medical Corps of 35 companies; the Army Ordnance Corps; the Army Veterinary Corps; Army Post Office Corps (formed on mobilization only) and Army Pay Corps.

In addition, there are the following colonial troops under the home government:—West India Regiment, 2 battalions; Royal Malta Artillery, 2 garrison companies; West African Frontier Force, 2 batteries, 1 garrison company, 1 battalion M.I., 6 battalions infantry; and King's African Rifles (East Africa), 5 battalions, besides the Indian troops in imperial services.

The army reserve, formed of men who have served with the colours, consists of four classes. Sections A, B and C consist of men who are fulfilling the reserve portion of their original twelve years' liability. Section A, which receives extra allowances, is liable to be called up in a minor emergency; section B is the general reserve; section C, also part of the general reserve, consists of men who have been sent to the reserve prematurely; section D (which is often suspended) consists of men who at the expiry of their twelve years engagement undertake a further four years' reserve liability.

Strength and Ages of the Army Reserve (Oct. 1, 1909).

Section. A.  B & C.  D.  Total. 
 Infantry... 4,051 70,998 9,608 84,657
 Cavalry 8,894 1,229 10,123
 R.H. & F.A. 604 13,849 1,571 16,024
 R.G.A. 7,748 642 3,139
 R.E. 415 4,200 406 5,021
 Others 427 9,356 553 10,341
  5,496 115,045 14,014 134,556
 Under 30 93,146 201 93,347
 3035 21,730 10,758 32,438
 Over 35 666 3,055 3,721
  120,542 14,014 134,556

The special reserve, converted from the militia, consists of infantry, field and garrison artillery, the Irish Horse (late Yeomanry), engineers, and a few A.S.C. and R.A.M.C. Its object is to make good on mobilization deficiencies (so far as they may exist after the

calling in of the army reserve) in the expeditionary or regular forces, and to repair the losses of a campaign. It also acts as a feeder to the regular army. Its establishment and strength on the 1st of October 1909 were 90,664 and 69,954 respectively, without counting in the latter figure 6172 militia and militia reserve men not then absorbed into the new organization.

The war organization of the home establishment, with its general and special reserves, aimed at the mobilization and despatch overseas of 6 army divisions, each of 12 battalions in 3 brigades; 9 field batteries in 3 brigades, a brigade of 3 field howitzer batteries, and a heavy battery, each with the appropriate ammunition columns; 2 field companies and 1 telegraph company R.E.; 2 companies mounted infantry; and ambulances, columns and parks. In addition to these 6 divisions, there are “army troops” at the disposal of the commander-in-chief, consisting of two mixed “mounted brigades” (cavalry, mounted infantry, and horse artillery) serving as the “protective cavalry,” and of various technical troops, such as balloon companies and bridging train. The “strategical” cavalry is a division of 4 brigades (12 regiments or 36 squadrons), with 2 brigades (4 batteries) of horse artillery, 4 “field troops” and wireless company R.E., and ambulances and supply columns. The peace organization of the regular forces at home conforms to the prospective war organization. In addition to the field army itself, various lines of communication troops are sent abroad on mobilization. These number some 20,000 men, the field army about 135,000, with 492 field guns, 7561 other vehicles and 60,769 horses and mules.

But the first condition of employing all the home regulars abroad is perfect security at home. Thus the pivot of the Haldane system is the organization of the Territorial Force as a completely self-contained army. The higher organization—which the volunteers (q.v.) and yeomanry (q.v.) never possessed—varies only slightly from that in vogue in the regular army. The second line army consists of 14 mixed mounted brigades as protective cavalry and 14 army divisions of much the same combatant strength as the regular divisions, the only important variation being that the artillery consists of 4-gun instead of 6-gun batteries. In addition to the divisions and mounted brigades there are “army troops,” of which the most important component is the cyclist battalions, recruited in the different coast counties and specially organized as a first line of opposition to an invader. Affiliated to the territorial force are officers' training corps, cadets, “veteran reserves,” and some of the other organizations mentioned below, the Haldane scheme having as its express object the utilization of every sort of contribution to national defence, whether combatant or non-combatant, on a voluntary basis.

The conditions of enlistment and reserve in the territorial force are a four years' engagement (former yeomen and volunteers being however allowed to extend for one year at a time if they desire to do so), within each year a consecutive training in camp of 1418 days and a number of “drills” (attendances at company and battalion parades) that varies with the branch and the year of service. The minimum is practically always exceeded, and trebled or quadrupled in the case of the more enthusiastic men, and the chief difficulty with which the officers responsible for training have to contend is the fact that no man can be compelled to attend on any particular occasion. Attendance at the camp training, in so far as the claims of men's civil employment do not infringe upon it, is compulsory, and takes place at one time for all—generally the first half of August.

The army troops, divisions and mounted brigades consist of 56 regiments of yeomanry; 14 batteries and 14 ammunition columns R.H.A., 151 batteries and 55 ammunition columns R.F.A., 3 mountain batteries and ammunition column, and 14 heavy batteries and ammunition columns R.G.A.; 28 field companies, 29 telegraph companies, railway battalion, &c., R.E.; 204 battalions infantry (including 10 of cyclists, the Honourable Artillery Company, and certain corps of the Officers' Training Corps training as territorials); 60 units A.S.C.; 56 field ambulances, 23 general hospitals and 2 sanitary companies R.A.M.C. Told off to the defended seaports are 16 groups of garrison artillery companies and 58 fortress and electric light companies R.E.

Establishment and Strength (April 1, 1910)

Arm or Branch. Establishment. Strength.
   Officers  Men.   Officers  Men. 
 Yeomanry.... 1,345 24,766 1,193 24,219
 R.H. & F.A. .... 1,211 32,945 1,015 29,658
 R.G.A...... 450 11,455 406 9,356
 R.E.  ...... 571 14,660 525 12,896
 Infantry  ..... 5,679 195,297 5,064 173,670
 A.S.C...... 322 8,562 277 7,577
 R.A.M.C..... 1,438 13,664 1,151 11,849
 A.V.C...... 198 14 95
 Total.... 11,214 301,363 9,726[1] 269,225

The Territorial Force is enlisted to serve at home, but individuals and whole corps may volunteer for service abroad in war if called upon. A register is kept of those who accept this liability beforehand, and about 6000 officers and men had joined it in April 1910.

The force is trained, commanded and inspected exclusively by the military authorities, the regular army finding the higher commanders and staffs. But in accordance both with the growing tendency to separate command and administration and with the desire to enlist local sympathies and utilize local resources, “associations,” partly of civilian, partly of military members, were formed in every county and charged by statute with all matters relating to the enlistment, service and discharge of the county's quota in the force, finance (other than pay, &c. in camp), buildings, ownership of regimental property, &c. To these duties of county associations are added that of supervising and administering cadet corps of all sorts (other than officers' training corps), and that of providing the extra horses required on mobilization, not only by the territorial force, but by the expeditionary force as well.

There are several groups of more or less military character which are for various reasons outside war office control. These are: (a) boys' brigades—the Church Lads' Brigade, the London Diocesan Brigade, the Jewish Lads' Brigade, &c.; (b) the Legion of Frontiersmen, an organization intended to enroll for “irregular” service men with colonial or frontier experience; (c) rifle clubs, which exist solely for rifle practice, and have no military liabilities; (d) boy scouts, an organization founded in 1908 by Lieut.-General Sir R. S. S. Baden-Powell.

Command and Administration.—The secretary of state for war is the head of the army council, which comprises the heads of departments and is the chief executive authority. These departments (see Staff) are: the general staff; the adjutant general's department; the quartermaster-general's department; the department of the master-general of the ordnance; the civil member's department; and the finance member's department. In addition to these departments, whose heads form the army council itself, there is the very important department of the inspector-general of the forces, whose duties are to ensure by inspection the maintenance of military efficiency and an adequate standard of instruction, &c. This department is thus in the main a complement of the general staff branch. In 1910 the commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean was appointed inspector-general of the overseas forces other than those in India, and the inspector-general in London supervises therefore only the forces in the home establishment. There are, therefore, three single authorities of high rank for the great divisions of the army—the two inspectors-general and the commander-in-chief in India.

The United Kingdom is subdivided into 7 commands and 12 districts, the commands under a lieutenant-general or general as commander-in-chief and the districts under brigadier-generals. The commands are the eastern, southern, western, northern, Scottish, Irish and the Aldershot. London is organized as a separate district under a major-general. In the colonial establishment the principal commands are the Mediterranean (including Egypt) and the South African. Except in South Africa, there are no imperial troops quartered in the self-governing colonies.

Since 1904–1905 command and administration have been separated and general officers commanding in chief relieved of administrative details by the appointment to their staffs of major generals in charge of administration (see Staff and Officers).

Finance.—The army estimates for 1910–1911 show a total sum of £27,760,000 required for the home and colonial establishments, made up as follows (after deducting appropriations in aid):—

Regular Army, Pay and Allowances...... £8,733,000
Special Reserve............ 833,000
Territorial Force........... 2,660,000
Medical Services.......... 452,000
Educational Establishments......... 147,000
Quartering, Transport, Remounts....... 1,589,000
Supplies, Clothing........... 4,397,000
Stores and Ordnance Establishment...... 533,000
Armament and Engineer Stores....... 1,482,000
Works, Buildings and Land, &c......... 2,598,000
War Office and Miscellaneous......... 503,000
Pensions, &c............. 3,833,000

The pay of the soldiers has increased since the South African War. Without allowances of any kind, it was in 1910 as follows: Warrant officer, 5s. to 6s. per day; quartermaster-sergeants, colour-sergeants, &c., 3s. 4d. to 4s. 6d.; sergeants, 2s. 4d. to 3s. 4d.; corporals, 1s. 8d. to 2s. 8d.; lance-corporals, 1s. 3d. to 1s. 9d.; privates 1s. 1d. to 1s. 9d.; boys, 8d. In addition, all receive a messing allowance of 3d. per day, 2d. for upkeep of kit, and most receive “service” or “proficiency” pay at 3d.-6d. a day; and engineers, A.S.C. and R.A.M.C. specialist pay at various rates. Officers' pay, without allowances, is for second lieutenants 5s. 3d. to 7s. 8d.; lieutenants, 6s. 5d. to 8s. 10d.; captains, 11s. 7d. to 15s.; majors, 13s. 7d. to 18s. 6d.; and lieutenant-colonels, 18s. to 24s. 9d.

Indian Army.—The forces in India consist of the British army on the Indian establishment and the Indian native army with its dependent local militias, feudatories, contingents, &c. In addition there is a force of European and Eurasian volunteers, drawn largely from railway employés. The Indian army consists of 138 battalions of infantry, 10 regiments of cavalry, 16 mountain batteries, 1 garrison artillery company, 32 sapper and miner companies (2 railways companies included). The proportion between British and Indian troops observed since the Mutiny is roughly one British to two native, the Indian army being about 162,000 men. In addition the native army includes supply and transport corps, the medical service, and the veterinary service, officered in the higher ranks by officers of the A.S.C, R.A.M.C. and A.V.C. respectively.

The Indian army is recruited from Mahommedans and Hindus of various tribes and sects, and with some exceptions (chiefly in the Madras infantry) companies, sometimes regiments, are composed exclusively of men of one class. The official F.S. Pocket Book 1908 gives the following particulars: Mahommedans (Pathans of the frontier tribes, Hazaras Baluchis, Moplahs, Punjabi Mahommedans, &c.), 350 infantry companies, 76 squadrons· 35% of the army). Hindus (Sikhs, Gurkhas, Rajputs, Jats, Dogras, Mahrattas, Tamils, Brahmans, Bhils, Garhwalis, &c.), 727 companies, 79 squadrons (63·3%).

Enlistment is entirely voluntary, and the army enjoys the highest prestige. Service is for three years, but in practice the native soldier makes the army his career and he is allowed to extend up to 32 years. The native cavalry is almost entirely Silahdar, in which the trooper mounts and clothes himself, and practically serves without pay. In the infantry, too, the old system of paying men and requiring them to equip, clothe and feed themselves, is in vogue to some extent. There is a reserve of the native army, numbering some 35,000 men. But it is rather a draft to replace wastage than a means of bringing the army up to a war footing in the European way. Indeed, a cardinal principle of the Indian forces, British and native alike, is that the units are maintained in peace at full war effective, often a little above their field strength. Part of the army, nearest the north-west frontier, has even its transport practically in readiness to move at once. The command is in the hands of British officers assisted by native officers, promoted from the ranks. The number of native officers in a unit is equal to that of the British officers.

Besides the regular native army there are: (a) various frontier and other levies, such as the Khyber Rifles and the Waziristan Militia; (b) selected contingents from the armies of the native princes, inspected by British officers, numbering about 20,000 and styled “imperial service troops”; (c) the volunteers, about 32,000 strong; and (d) the military police.

The general organization of the forces is into two armies, the northern and the southern, with headquarters at Rawal Pindi and Poona respectively.

Administration.—Under the governor-general in council the commander-in-chief (himself a member of the council) is the executive authority. Under him in the army department, now divided into higher committees and the headquarter staff, the latter comprising (since the abolition of the military staff department under Lord Kitchener's reorganization) the divisions of the chief of the general staff, the adjutant-general and the quartermaster-general. India has her own staff college at Quetta, and can manufacture rifles, ammunition and field artillery equipment except the actual guns.

The cost of the Indian army, and of the British forces on the Indian establishment, borne by the Indian government in 1909 was £20,558,000.

Regulars only. Northern
 British.... 40,608 34,143 74,751
 Indian Army, white . 1,534 1,512 3,046
native . 85,189 76,772 161,961
  Total . 86,723 78,284 165,007
 Total .... 127,331 112,427 239,758

Forces of the Dominions and Colonies.Lord Kitchener and Sir John French in 1909–1910 paid visits of inspection to Australia and Canada in connexion with the reorganization by the local governments of their military forces, and a beginning was made of a common organization of the forces of the empire in the colonial military conference of 1909. Without infringement of local autonomy and local conditions, a common system of drill, equipment, training and staff administration was agreed on as essential, and to that end the general staff in London was to evolve into an “imperial general staff.” The object to be attained as laid down was twofold; (a) complete organization of the territorial forces of each dominion or colony; (b) evolution of contingents of colonial general-service troops with which the dominion governments might assist the army of Great Britain in wars outside the immediate borders of each dominion. (See British Empire; Australia; Canada.)


  1. Does not include unattached list of officers, 853, or 736 R.A.M.C. officers not available until mobilization.