Boots on the Ground


An attempt by an outsider to understand the British Army and how it got to be like it is, and observations on perhaps where it should be.


‘Everyman thinks less of himself for not having been a soldier’

There has been a few snide remarks about the term ‘Warfighter’ as used by our cousins across the pond.  I think its fine and here’s why

A bit of History

It is worth reminding ourselves that up until Cromwell in effect there was no ‘Army’ as such.

Individual nobles raised troops top fight for the king in haphazard amounts and units, equipped according to their finances; and often with little relation to their feudal dues.  A rich Knight often turned up to fight for or against the King with more and better equipped troops than a poor Earl.

The New model Army (more properly contemporaneously called the ‘Newly Modelled’ Army,(if I recall) changed that.  Fed up with troops that would only fight under ‘Their’ commander and on ‘Their’ turf Parliament  said (and I paraphrase):-

‘Sod this literally for a game of soldiers we need to get an Army we can command, if we are going to get any of this shit sorted’…

So the UK’s first professional full time paid and resourced Army was born.

The revolutionary Ideas of:

  • Paying the troops well and on time,
  • Concentrating on Moral, (through religious conformity it its case),
  • An organization of units according to modern requirements,
  • Proper logistics.
  • And a proper code of Military justice.

Worked so well that it pretty much kicked arse from the moment it hit the ground.

However with the restoration of the monarchy a lot of old attitudes re-emerged.

It was very much the case for hundreds of years that you joined ‘The Regiment’. Often named after the Colonel who was in command. The British Army seems at some points to have been almost an accidental conglomeration of like minded units a bit like a trade organisation of organisations who happened to wear uniforms and fight for the King.

OK, this was slowly chipped away at by events in the Napoleonic and Crimean wars, to the stage by the late 19th century it was an ‘Army’, but some traditions and mindsets seem to take an age to die.

For all the ‘esprit de corps’ it undoubtedly delivered, incidents of  internecine ‘warfare’ between units hampering actions in the field are well recorded up to WWII and beyond.

It is worth reminding ourselves that we are only now returning to an army the same size as the one we entered the run up to World war 1 with. That’s the one that was so small by European power standards that when asked what he would do if the British Army invaded Germany in the 1890’s replied ‘I would call the police and have it arrested’!


For all the skill and bravery of its soldiers.

For all the technical advances it has made

To an outsider like me its organisation looks like a mess!

The government can review it as much as it likes but here’s a few ‘Wikifacts’ :-

  • There are/ will be approx. 80,000 full time soldiers in the British Army.
  • There are  approximately 50 Regiments/Corps/ service units (if one includes Chaplains and the like).

That Does not of itself mean a lot, some have much more but some have much less. they have wildly differing functions, and their sizes reflect that.

However within similar function groups is it not time to bite some serious bullet.

‘Fighting Troops’

  • We have 5 Regiments of foot guards each with 1 battalion!
  • We have 12 nominal Cavalry regiments! (if you include RTC)
  • We have 12 (nominal) Infantry regiments with 32 battalions (ish)- that’s an average of not quite 3 each)

Now given that these days troops are deployed in units with the somewhat dramatic title of ‘Battlegroup’; (funny, some people don’t like warfighter but are happy with that).

What’s all this regiment stuff got to do with the price of fish. (Or FRES or bullets come to that).

A battlegroup as I understand it is built around a battalion with extra units of say heavy Armour, or Engineers or Army Air corps etc. bolted on to suit the job it is asked to do. Sometimes ending up twice the size of the original battalion.  For once this sounds to the layman like a very sensible idea.

Provided its being started from the:-

  • What’s the job we want to do?
  • How many men do we need to do it/
  • What’s the terrain?
  • Who are we going with if at all?
  • etc etc

List of questions.

Not the:-

  • What have we got?
  • What can we afford to send?
  • We can blagg It/Bluff it from there

List of questions

Larger deployed units get to be called brigades.

I have remarked on this before, but where in all this is the ‘Regiment’?

The answer to the layman is, nowhere.

As a functioning military combat unit the regiment for all purposes is dead.

So Lets Bury it as such

A Suggestion

We have an Artillery Regiment that looks after the Artillery units and their admin

We have a Logistics unit that looks after logistics

We have an Engineers Regiment that looks after building bridges and digging holes.

How about we have a Recce Regiment to look after Red Trousers

A Tank regiment to look after the tanks

And an Infantry regiment to look after the Infantry (OK a lot of battalions)

A special forces regiment to look after SF and Para’s and Marines.

You get the idea.

No more regimental HQ’s,

No more RSM’s/ Colonels of the Regiment/ Ornamental goats / Silly headgear, etc etc.

No more cap badge bollocks, like those chaps at the Tory Conference

No more outraged pieces in the Daily Mail.

No more ‘reviews’ in which the guards continue their overall ‘bullet proofness’ when it comes to Defence Cuts Reviews

Meanwhile actual fighting capability is sidelined to keep such and such a regiment’s special place in the hearts and minds of a few.

When you join, you join the Royal Regiment of Infantry /Armour/Artillery etc.

What’s in it for the Army

Well it should do a lot for ease of promotion/ advancement.

After all if you can shift a good man form say 3rd battalion to 9th because 9th needs a new company commander, and Bloggins has been doing well in the 3rd but there is no CO spot, it becomes I suspect a lot easier.

Tactical flexibility

Psychologically it becomes easier for commanders and the units involved to work together, if  Battalion 14 has Warriors and needs a light battalion and battalion 7 is ‘light’ then send 14 and 7.


OK it is not going to save billions but the reduction in overheads will be there, we are removing a whole layer of middle management, and some millions could be saved from within the army budget by scraping Reg HQ’s their staff etc.

The QM’s Job must become a lot easier.

Within  a like unit the kit can be moved and accounted for much easier I would have thought. it would be naïve in the extreme to suggest it would eliminate logistical confusion and fuck ups but it should reduce the numbers of ‘containers with no name’ shipped out to units who then have to rummage thru to see what they have got as per G1 and 2.

The Guards

No surprises here. I remain convinced these would be a TA Unit , with a secondary royal protection squad function. Their military function should assumed by Royal Recce/Tank/Infantry regiments.

SF and Raiding

The various ‘Special’ units would become part of the ‘Special Service Regiment’.  Or Perhaps a specific battalion or two within the unit below..

Para’s, Marines, 16 AAB, would become part of a ‘Commando Regiment’

Please note I want to stress this cultural vandalism is about redeploying forces to get more bang per buck, and not ‘cuts’ per se.

The only people loosing jobs are regimental Colonels etc.

Its about killing what appears to an outsider to be a Zombie system, very much of the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ thinking.

After  all does a Grenadier Guardsman ‘Grenade’ more than any other soldier?

Does a Fusilier, err ‘Fusil’ more than any other soldier, and if a rifleman carries a rifle, what do the other soldiers shoot with?

Scrap the bally lot!

‘Warfighter Corporal IXION Reporting for Duty Sir!

  1. Red Trousers says

    ….”takes deep breath…”

    IXION, thanks for this, it’s always good to challenge accepted reality. And so, in that spirit.

    First of all, we’d need to establish the actual cost (in £ & time) of the status quo, versus the cost of doing it otherwise. I suspect that it is not actually that high. Most “Regimental” stuff is done by retired officers, Colonels of Regiments are not paid at all, merely travelling expenses. Of course there’s a cost, but pretty low millions I would estimate. Add in all of the uniform bollocks and it might rise to £20-40 million annually.

    What do Regiments bring? Simple, they are your family, and you fight for them.

    There’s all sorts of really good reasons why Regiments live together in barracks, and then swap troops or squadrons about on operations. Very happy to get into that, but not tonight.

  2. IXION says

    (And i hope others to come)…..

    I am not suggesting this would save billions.

    I personaly think on admitedly very rough guesses it would save some 10s of millions in cash per anum as a headline figure.

    But By liberating the thought processes of those involved in structures and support over longer term more.

    I do not buy the whole ‘for the honour of the regiment” thing. The psychology of ‘warfighting’ has been gone into a lot. Its not realy as the establishment thought it was.

    After the event the ‘the regiment’ seems
    largely ex poste facto justification.

  3. oldreem says

    RT will know that a lot of the “uniform bollocks” is below the radar and not public funded. A new subby joining the cav has to spend 5 or 6 times the commissioning uniform allowance, and can only go to one approved (monopoly) tailor. (And he’s just started paying back his 5-figure uni loan.)

  4. wf says

    Having a single “regiment” for each function would help in maintaining individual units up to strength when attrition affected one more than another: the justification for multiple battalion regiments was supposed to be largely about this. It would also allow more flexibility in career and family circumstances.

    I wonder what the US experience in forming brigades with personnel assigned simultaneously for three years has been like. We cannot do brigades of course, but perhaps battalions formed in this way might actually be an improvement on the regimental system?

  5. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    Whilst generally inclined not to fix what ain’t bust, can I suggest a compromise less likely to result in a sudden rash of fatal accidents amongst Criminal Lawyers resident in and around Carlisle?

    Firstly, the Gunners/Sappers/Loggies are a non-issue…their Regiments are already configured to support the recruitment/training/development of their members on an Army-Wide basis, deploying them as required to operational units…and I think the same is true of a lot of smaller specialisms grouped together as the Adjutant-General’s Corps. The only real “inefficiency” lies with the organisation of Infantry Battalions and Armoured Regiments…which are the core of the proposed adaptable and armoured brigades.

    However, the Infantry Battalions are already organised into “Big Regiments”, often carrying forward the lineage of several predecessors…so why not combine Regimental and Operational functions into a single “Blankshire Regiment” which sorts out recruitment/training/development for the Battalions under it’s command and would lead it as a Brigade in a full scale war…and do the same with the Tanks by creating two “Big” Armoured Regiments (with each Squadron carrying forward a different lineage if required) who recruit/train/develop their people, but also have a command function if we need to put a full Armoured Division in the field.

    The Royal Marine Commandos and 16th Air Assault look pretty much like this already, and both seem to work well – definitely not bust, definitely don’t fix…

    As to command in a full-scale War, we maintain the rudiments of one Corps HQ, and two or three Divisional ones…but their day job is to put together and command task and finish Brigades as and when required in much the same way as we do at present.

    Finally, the Armoured Reconnaissance Regiments become the Light Cavalry Regiment and operate more like the Gunners or Sappers…but can of course have a squadron in Red Trousers, another with a Skull and Crossbones on their hats and so on…

    Furthermore, I can see no reason why each Battalion/Squadron should not have a different cap-badge and enjoy the support of a different (Honorary) Colonel and Regimental Association if they chose to…might even be some merit in developing and supporting those associations to help in post service welfare and resettlement especially where they represent a strong link to a regimental “home town”….anyone for the Yorkshire Regiment Housing Association….which might even provide married quarters and Hall of Residence type accommodation for serving soldiers and take the MOD out of the Housing Business


  6. Repulse says

    Tradition and cap badges is ingrained into the armed forces, whilst it seems alien in the modern world I do not see that it needs to be a limiting factor in building an effective armed forces. I do feel that the structures are probably more appropriate for reserve units (perhaps with full time elements) and a good prune of front line units wouldn’t go amiss.

    However, a fresh approach to structuring joint expeditionary forces is needed in the SDSR in my view – I personally would like to see a Army “Commando” approach based taken around units that are self contained and lend themselves to rapid deployment, with the Paras / RMs seen primarily as door openers.

  7. Deja Vu says

    Let”s not get hung up over the word regiment. The key to effectiveness in Ixion”s terms is giving the two principal combat arms the career and posting homogeneity to be found in the Gunners and Sappers etc. The key here is a common manning and records system and trickle posting with units and sub-units maintaining consistent roles.

    This gives flexibility and career progression and prospects. Note how there are round button and flat button Gunners and the Sappers have PQE, Diver, EOD, Field Engineering, Survey,, Airbourne and Commando elements and not all mutually exclusive. All to be manned with round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes.

    With the larger organisations, what may be lost in family may be gained in the replacement of competition by cooperation as the promotions boards have a wider range of posts to fill. Arms directors and thir staffs decide where the empty bed spaces go, rather than the randomness of regimental recruiting success and the buying out after a hard tour.

    The title, Honorary Colonel, uniform thing can still be kept for the units if required, it’s just the personnel that will not be permanently tied to the unit, but move from unit to unit, providing variety for the plodders and opportunities for the upwardly mobile. Like the multi battalion large regiments but even better.


  8. IXION says


    Commando would Imho be a better and more accurate Title that ‘battlegroup’.

    Will await more replies for a more in depth response.

  9. Chris says

    First – I am an outsider so my viewpoint is distant and might miss nuances. But I look for analogies where I can. Looking at the structure from the outside it reminded me most of the organization of my schools. This may no longer be the fashion but both primary & secondary schools in my time had Houses. So I looked for equivalence:

    Army = School
    Regiment = House
    Division = Form – a proportion of the year’s students of mixed Houses
    Operations = Classes – Forms split up to attend different classes based on the specialization choices made

    and so on. The presence of the House had little or no bearing on Form structure or Class attendance – the House was something the student knew they belonged to, it was something to earn points and trophies for, it spread across Forms and Classes without overhead. Apart from the cost of inter-house trophies and the minor administration given to one senior teacher per House, it cost nothing.

    By analogy then, the Regiment exists as something to belong to, something to win battle honours for, something to own the Regimental Silver. But it shouldn’t impact the structure of Divisions, nor should it distort deployment structures to Operations. It doesn’t (by all accounts in comments above) put a heavy administrative burden on the Army. It does however give the Soldier (all ranks) something to belong to; something to take pride in; something to fight bravely for to win it those battle honours. For a relatively small cost I suspect it plays a disproportionate part in upping the game of the Officers & Men (Women).

    It is one of those well known facts that in the fury of conflict the Soldier does not fight for Monarch or Country or Divisional Plan – certainly not for Politicians’ glory nor even (sorry IXION) Section 13 of the Human Rights act – but for their mates. Doing their best to keep their pals safe. If the Regimental structure strengthens these basic bonds between Soldiers they can only be for the good of the Army.

  10. Phil says

    Battlegroup does what it says on the tin and derives from a pragmatic use of the words by the Germans in that war we had with them – it therefore has legitimacy and a simple normal meaning.

    Warfighter is just another overindulgent, disgusting and ridiculous word coined by Americans to make things sound more “hi speed” and “cool”.

    As for collapsing the infantry regiments into a Corps of Infantry (been done before by the way, didn’t stick) I will make the same argument I always do – strong group identity is part and parcel of any effective operational unit in human affairs whether its a football team of the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional). You can easily remove those identities and collapse everyone into a generic infantry grouping by ensuring you only select weak and sinister young officers and promote only the spineless to NCO positions.

  11. Observer says

    Phil, be glad that the line stopped there. If it had continued, we might have ended up with troops assigned to COIN be called “peacefighters”.

    There are a lot of things to discuss in a topic like this, hardly a simple issue, will structure my thoughts a bit later, this is too meaty for an off the cuff essay.

  12. IXION says

    Phil /observer
    Like i said i want to hear from RT and Observer (and anyonr else before reply in detail. About the regiment thing

    However surely warfighter like battlegroup does what it says on tin. Like peacekeeper (already in use).

    Besides isnt the german more correctly translated as ‘Fighting group’???

    Commando from the boar war has historical precidence.

  13. Mike W says

    “As for collapsing the infantry regiments into a Corps of Infantry (been done before by the way, didn’t stick) I will make the same argument I always do – strong group identity is part and parcel of any effective operational unit in human affairs whether its a football team of the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional).”

    Well said, Phil. Truer words than those have not been spoken in these columns for a long time. Ye gods, it was only a few years ago that the American were looking very closely at our regimental organization to see what they could learn in order to improve the morale of their own infantry and other formations! Ixion, when in iconoclastic mood, is often very thought-provoking, but not here!

    “collapsing the infantry regiments into a Corps of Infantry (been done before by the way, didn’t stick)”

    I don’t know which era you were thinking of when that happened, Phil. Can’t recall it but I believe it wouldn’t stick if tried again.

  14. Phil says

    The 1950s I believe the idea was raised. There was a big culture change when during WWII the training of recruits was stripped away from the regimental depots and placed in the hands of ITCs (of which there were 25 I believe). Then the regiments were “brigaded” in 1962 or so and there was some serious thought to it then. My memory wants to say that there were brigade capbadges. But I had wine last night,

  15. x says

    Repulse said “Tradition and cap badges is ingrained into the armed forces, whilst it seems alien in the modern world I do not see that it needs to be a limiting factor in building an effective armed forces. ”

    No. Tradition and cap badges are everywhere. It is called culture.

  16. x says

    Interesting that the RM is always mentioned pretty early on these in discussions despite being a part of the RN and not a distinct service (as is the case with the USN and USMC.)

    Yet it will be only after about 8000 comments in before that 2,800 (that is like what just under 5 batts worth of infantry) strong group of well equipped shooters the RAF Regiment are mentioned.

    (Have I mentioned before the barstewards have done for my country’s regiments? )

  17. Phil says

    Did someone mention shooting your own body armour?

  18. x says

    Not just body armour, but Gucci body armour pierced with only the bestest freshest bullets fired from a rifle oiled with oils only good enough for the space programme.

  19. Mark says


    Much merit. We could start the numbering of infantry battalions at 1 go to 30 and add of foot on the end. 24th of foot for example has plenty of esprit de corp

  20. Phil says

    Personally I think battalions should be named after their COs. This will prevent the ossification of those structures by a constant change of name.

  21. Mike W says


    “The 1950s I believe the idea was raised . . . Then the regiments were “brigaded” in 1962 or so and there was some serious thought to it then.”

    Thanks very much for that. Interesting!

  22. Chris.B. says

    The regiment system serves its purpose, the question is which regiments and how big?

    Personally I learn more towards the idea of removing the geographic distinctions and moving towards names that are a bit more ambiguous (Rifles, Fusiliers etc) so you can shuffle new recruits to the places they’re most needed, without worrying about a Yorkshire lad ending up in a Lancastrian regiment etc.

    And go large, 4-5 battalions worth each (Paras excepted). When cuts come about just snip off equally, or snip from 5 to 4 in some, then from 5 to 4 in the others when the next round comes about. Make sure everyone (or almost everyone) gets a stake in various pies like armoured, light, Foxhound etc, so that as you shuffle officers and NCO’s about for promotions you get to mix skills within the Reg.

    Everyones a winner.

  23. Phil says

    so you can shuffle new recruits to the places they’re most needed, without worrying about a Yorkshire lad ending up in a Lancastrian regiment etc.

    In practise though nobody does worry about that, either in peacetime or on operations. The whole regimental title issue seems to be something that more occupies the crusty old bastards in their clubs than anyone else.

    I’ll be the first to say that I don’t really buy into this modern nostalgia when it comes to regimental titles (it is a wide ranging nostalgia that goes far beyond regimental titles and into wider heritage issues however) but I do understand that units will form identities and that those unit identities will always have lobbyists and single interest supporters come what may. Changing the titles won’t achieve much because old farts will get just as exercised over the 5th Battalion Generic Infantry Regiment being cut when Model Infantry Regiment 2 still has 5 battalions as they do over the Royal Tweedshires losing a battalion now.

    Effectiveness breeds identity – identity will always breed lobbyists and exercise important people for irrational reasons. Fucking around with the entire system to change precisely nothing is high risk and is probably one of the reasons why only incremental changes have ever occurred in the infantry.

  24. IXION says

    Ok I will come back into this (apart from the Warfighter thing).

    I Have never fought anyone (except with my fists). I have never fired a gun in anger.*

    However a lot of research work has been done on this and so much so, that I take we all now know that people do not fight for the honor of the regiment.

    They fight for their lives,
    They fight for their mates
    They fight not to ‘let down’ their mates,
    They fight out Fear
    They Fight on autopilot ‘Good drills easy kills’

    At that moment in time when the hot metal is flying they do not (it seems) fight for ‘The Regiment’. After the battle there is often unit pride that the 24th Foot and Mouth held this or did that. But at the time amongst the combat soldiers the regiment bit is mentally parked. Likewise effective unit size is a function of the limits of the human brain. Units of more than 5 when faced with combat tasks and being fired on, break down quickly in to units of 2s and 3’s .

    This has all been attested to by detailed multiple post war study – It lead to smaller platoons, infantry sections, more NCO’s etc. Indeed the adoption of the 5.56 assault rifle is an offspring of this. (don’t want to start that thread running again); whatever the technical superiority of the full bore ‘battle rifle’, the fact was smaller units with lighter guns and more bullets hammered larger infantry sections in tests and reality. The US army in particular was so horrified by the test results it ran them again and again in the early 60’s to try and get the ‘right result’ in favor of the M14.

    Don’t want to digress into guns, but the point stands. If you want to get a lot done give small units small jobs that add up to one big job. You can ask a lot of soldiers about Regimental loyalty and honor; to a degree it has to be ‘beaten into them’ during basic training, and they are justly proud. But the hard published psychological evidence is that it has very little to do with ‘warfighting’.

    Some years ago there was a Bosnia based TV Drama ‘Warriors’. A lot of officer types had a real pop at it saying it wasn’t like that and soldiers did not do this or that or think like this or that, and they should know because they commanded these units; and the TV program had over egged the emotional nature of the soldiers etc…. The TV program writers response was simple…

    ‘Have you spoken to your soldiers about it? Coz we interviewed dozens from lots of the units involved and this is what they told us’……..

    So I repeat the questions apart from giving good regimental dinners, and allow for the telling of war stories, what in the harsh light of modern day does the regiment bring to the party coz ‘its a great old boys club’ does not really cut it for me. Neither BTW does the school house system analogy.

    If Soldiers re not trained and ‘brought up’ in the units they fight in where is the payoff for the Army?

    BTW I am not suggesting ending the regimental system; just making one large regiment of infantry etc they can feel just as proud of the 7th battalion Royal Infantry Regiment’s record, as they did of Bwifflsnezeshire Rangers who faced in 12 directions at the Crimea etc. BTW this local tie thing seems overdone aren’t the Scottish regiments based in Colchester now?

    *(Anecdote Alert):

    Re being shot at. As I did say once I had a Jamaican Yardy shove an UZi in my face. There is a good after dinner story in what happened next but back to regiments.

  25. Challenger says

    I think Phil is right in saying that you can never get rid of identity and the parochial, defensive attitude it often breeds completely.

    However I think larger 4-5 battalion infantry regiments and similarly amalgamated armoured/support regiments with more generic non-regional identities could be a good step in the right direction. It wouldn’t remove partisan loyalties (which can be a good thing as well as bad) but it would as Chris.B said make recruitment a smoother and more balanced process as well as any potential future reductions easier to implement.

    Even before any wider amalgamations or reorganizations took place the Guards and Royal Regiment of Scotland would be in my sights! The way the former’s are set-up is pointlessly inefficient and the latter is far too large for the share of the population it represents.

  26. Martin Ryder says

    I was in the RAOC in the 60’s and served in Aden, Borneo, Germany and the UK. I have followed the changes to the British Army (and the RN and RAF) with great interest since then. Every change has been made with the aim of making the Army harder hitting, leaner and more cost effective. Of course the result was that the Army always came out of the change smaller and weaker. GOD is on the side of the big battalions but MOD never is.

    However the Army is still a force to be reckoned with and is, I think, more professional than it was in my day. I consider that a major part of the Army’s resilience is it that it never gives up its traditions and never takes itself too seriously. RT and a number of other contributors often have me chuckling and remembering the old days. I don’t take myself seriously either but I do think seriously about how the Army organises itself.

    In the RAOC (now the Really Large Corps) we were trickle posted from Unit to Unit and the individual officer or soldier never built up the ‘family’ feeling that the Fighting Arms had; which helped them through some awful times. However we did form temporary families though being with 97 Ordnance Maintenance Park never had the same cachet as The Royal Hussars, who I lived with for a while in Aden.

    Getting to the point of Ixion’s blog, before wandering off into some anecdote about the shock of being a REMF living with the Cavalry, I would like to suggest that evolution is far better than revolution. We should not throw all the Lego into the air in the hope that it will come down in the shape that we want it to; especially as recent history in Afghanistan shows that the Battlegroup system works well and that even minor units can absorb people from all sorts of military backgrounds (see the article about the 4 Bde Recce Force on the MOD Web Site). The key to the success of 4 BRF was that the unit had, at its core, a cavalry squadron with a long and proud history and, most important of all, a good leader.

    Being old and living in the past, rather than young and technology minded like many of those who contribute to TD, I would like to see the history of the Infantry and Cavalry preserved in the modern Army even more than it is at present, whilst at the same time making the Army more flexible.

    Basically I would make much more of the company and squadron than the battalion and regiment. Each is commanded by a field officer, a major, unlike in many armies where a a captain does the job, and should be able to operate more independently than they do. Each should become a Combat Unit and be the basic building block of the Battlegroup.

    They should be encouraged to do this by each having a unique title. For example the new Royal Lancers regiment should consist of: (1) HQ & ISTAR Squadron; (2) three Regular squadrons – A Squadron, The 9th/12th Royal Lancers; A Squadron, The 16th/5th Royal Lancers; A Squadron, The 17th/21st Royal Lancers; and (3) two Army Reserve squadrons: B Sqn, 9/12L and B Sqn 16/5L from the Yeomanry regiments, which should be disbanded. The Infantry should do the same with each company in a battalion carrying a Cardwell reform infantry regimental title, eg 4 RIFLES should include 1st & 2nd Company, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light infantry and 1st Company, The Royal Berkshire Regiment. There should also be two Army Reserve companies. 3 Ox & Bucks LI and 2 Berkshires.

    Infantry and Cavalry Combat Units, would remain, as now, with their parent battalions and regiments, for training, admin and welfare, but would move, as a unit, to join a Battlegroup, which is based, as now, on an Infantry or Cavalry major unit.

    The 2020 organisation lends itself to this idea and Force Packages could be built up from the Arms and Services in 1 and 3 Divisions and trained up and deployed as required.

    That is enough. All those still awake can move on to the next blog posting.

  27. Martin Ryder says

    Being a long-serving and proud member of the Old Farts Regiment (Quartermaster’s department) I stand by my previous posting but I do not disagree with Challenger, Chris B and Phil.

    The modern regiments (SCOTS, RIFLES, etc) were designed to do what they suggest. However the Army is being cut again and the modern regiments could merge eg LANCS, YORKS and IRISH could become 1 – 5 KINGS. The PWRR, RRF and RAR could become 1 – 5 QUEEN’S FUSILIERS. The Guards are already in the Household Division. I am not sure where the WELSH, MERCIANS and GURKHAS would go.

    The SCOTS should be 3 battalions but Mr Salmond would telephone Mr Cameron and tell him off and that would be the end of that, especially as neither of them would know what the hell they were talking about.

    I do not believe that the gain would be worth the pain.

  28. Red Trousers says

    What on earth is wrong with the organisation of the Guards? 5 battalions, 3 in the same specialised role, 2 others in different roles, and they rotate around the roles as the rest of the large Regiments in the infantry. The only thing different is that they have an additional 1/2 battalion made up of individual companies of the old 2nd Battalions of the Grenadiers, Coldstream and Scots Guards.

  29. Topman says

    With regard recruiting, how rigid are the recruiting area? If one Regiment had too many recruits I take they don’t send them to another Regiment that is undermanned?

  30. Chris.B. says

    @ Phil,

    I think the primary advantages if you go to large, geographically ambiguous units is that; a) you remove the lingering prospect of single battalion regiments, or regiments that are down to two battalions and looking nervous, b) you remove issues over “this regiment recruits better from its area etc”. Essentially the whole infantry is recruiting from the whole country, giving priority regiment choices to the best candidates (or the only buggers that nominate for certain regiments), then dishing out the rest as the strengths dictate.

    Clearly the system we have doesn’t work that well, otherwise it wouldn’t be constantly in the news (not talking about operations, but the capbadge wars). I always find it odd that the RAF and Navy can drop and pick up names over time with little hoo hah, but the army (or at least its former members) fight tooth and claw for the regiment tradition? Just bizarre. And then just to top the bizarre stakes, they take probably the most famous division/brigade name going (7th Armoured) and turn it into an Infantry Brigade?

  31. x says

    Topman asked “With regard recruiting, how rigid are the recruiting area? If one Regiment had too many recruits I take they don’t send them to another Regiment that is undermanned?”

    If your regiment is fully manned with Englishman and on the whole has a good recruiting record they disband it in favour of regiments from the Celtic fringe manned by Fijians.

  32. IXION says


    That’s exactly the sort of rubbish I am trying to sort out.

  33. All Politicians are the Same says


    That is because Jocks and Fijians are much better at fighting than pansy English County Regiments :)

  34. Observer says

    Might I point out that the “teeth” arms tend to have a fixed quota of men? There is a rigid structure of manpower in place for the combat arms, for example one section is 7 men, one Platoon is 3 sections + leaders for 30 men, one company is 3 platoons etc. The numbers are fairly rigid for the structure, with some leeway for unit-plus or unit-minus. This means that too many men may cause the system to bloat, resulting in people being assigned to units without a hard manpower structure, i.e service support staff.

  35. as says

    All three service’s suffer from this its not just the army

    The army has 256 brigadiers and generals but just 200 Challenger II tanks.

    Ok not the best article but the services do look a little top heavy. It can be oversimplified to base it on numbers like that it makes you ask the question.

  36. Topman says

    This means that too many men may cause the system to bloat, resulting in people being assigned to units without a hard manpower structure, i.e service support staff.

    Do you mean trained inf, just leaving their training regiment? If so why not send them to another Inf Regiment?

  37. Chris.B. says

    If you look at the numbers breakdown, seldom does any regiment meet its full paper establishment. I think – if I remember rightly – during the main years of Afghanistan many new recruits were diverted into units that were about to enter the pre-deployment cycle, in order to make sure they had the maximum amount of manpower as they headed to theatre.

  38. x says

    @ APATS

    Um. True. Probably also accounts also for “our” side’s level of performance at Twickenham over the last twenty years or so…………….

  39. All Politicians are the Same says

    Damn right it does, Fijian fly halfs who have played in the NZ NPC, capped props, South African training camps :(

  40. x says

    @ APATS

    Yes all that and 6 months deployed out of 36 and the fact that grey war canoes doesn’t even come FFBNW a rugby pitch.

    I have been wondering about how much depth of turf can be laid in CVF’s hangar. Plenty of flight deck space so need for the aircraft to be taken below. All that bracing sea air fixing things outside will could be for the health of your average pasty face WAFU tiffy so it is win-win all round. Um. Perhaps keep CVF to Mediterranean deployments too? Yes, I can see it now…….

  41. Observer says

    as, that is a false comparison. In terms of WWI, during the start, no one had any tanks. Does that mean that the best number of officers for WWI was 0? Or even the Netherlands today. No more MBTs. Does that mean that they should not have any officers?

    The number of officers needed are judged on a need for command and control per unit basis, not on an MBT basis. Example would be a Captain/Major? would be needed for a single Sabre squadron of 16 tanks(?) in the new reorganization (maybe) or 12 tanks under the old organization (need a factcheck on this), so it is a single Commanding Officer to control 48-64 men. Comparatively, an infantry company has about 100 men, with the same need for ONE Commanding Officer, in an approximate 1:100 ratio. So you could say that infantry units are almost 100% more command efficient manpower-wise than an armoured squadron. On the other hand, an army without armour is constrained in so many ways, isn’t it?

    Look at the number of units and type you have to determine if you have too many officers, not just the amount of X pieces of equipment.

  42. 7 says

    So far apart from a certain ammount ‘Glory days’. And ‘for the honor of the regiment’ stuff. There has been nothing which has done anything to change my views.

    Nothing about fighting efficiency unit deployment etc.

    Dissapointed. Thought someone who has served could comeback with a more practical response.

  43. Obsvr says

    The Salerno mutiny is the example of why the regimetnal systems is potential problem. For those unaware, it occurred when former casualties were being sent as replacements for more recent casualties, and refused to soldier when posted to regiments other than their own. The needs to the nation and army must always come first, at Salerno the regimental system failed.

    Size and role complexity is not a problem, in 1943 RA had a greater established strength that infantry and RAC combined and roles covered what in many armies was divided between different branches, field and AA being most obvious but also coast and anti-tk.

    It’s also uselful to note that RA, RE and I assume others each have a ‘RHQ’ dealing with regimental matters, typically a colonel and a very small staff. Furthermore RA has not in the past used trickle posting (every posting has a cost) for soldiers but does keep the officers moving, they also try and tie regiments to regions for recruiting purposes, although there’s always been plenty on soldiers from outside a regiment’s region. This has always applied to infantry as well, not just Fijians, I remember being surprised by the number of Londoners in the Gordon Highlanders (and I wouldn’t put that down to the London Scottish).

  44. IXION says

    Re officer numbers

    We have way top may snr officers, in every force.

    Admiral of the fleet, Major general, Air vice marshal, Car parks (North), Anyone.

  45. oldreem says

    Maybe we have, but we are now suffering a diseconomy of scale. For example, if the total headcount is reduced by 20%, we can’t necessarily reduce the number of defence attachés by 20% to match. A lot of senior jobs have been de-ranked or combined over the past decade or so – arms directors among the most recent. Also, if you ignore the titles and look at the salaries, senior officers are not overpaid relative to their levels of responsibility – try comparing with agency and local authority senior staff, never mind the BBC. Chasing the ‘star count’ in isolation often means that people end up doing the same job with a pay cut. And there are no more serving Admirals of the Fleet (5*); CDS was reduced to 4* a long time ago.

  46. Topman says

    @ IXION
    We have way top may snr officers, in every force.

    Not a snide question; but by how many, what’s the correct number?

  47. Phil says

    @Chris B

    I’d have no problem with regiments on your model. But I don’t think it would change much. Regiments had recruiting regions because it was sensible and more efficient to have them. Regiments could concentrate their recruiting efforts.

    Personally I hate the whole “save the name” movement. All this sub-unit naming and renaming of support units with older titles (the OCUs becoming squadrons and so forth) does my head in. It shows a national obsession freeze-dried heritage. Before the Victorians nobody would have thought anything of raising and disbanding regiments of foot.

  48. WiseApe says

    I’m with Ixion on this. We have more admirals than we have ships. We need more ships. :-)

  49. Topman says

    @ Phil ‘Regiments had recruiting regions because it was sensible and more efficient to have them. Regiments could concentrate their recruiting efforts. ‘

    How often does this happen with rigid recruiting regions, can units send recruits that are due to go to overmanned regiments to those undermanned?

  50. Phil says

    I have no idea to be honest. As I understood it in the past each regiment would have x number of recruit spaces and that was it. If you lost someone they were gone from your batch.

  51. Chris.B. says

    @ Phil,

    The thing that always perplexes me is how the Royal Reg of Scotland got away with retaining old names in its battalions? The whole point of having one large regiment was to avoid any future “you can’t disband the highlanders!” type arguments, and yet sure enough when the time came to chop one the Argylls PR machine went into full over drive. It seems to utterly defeat the point of having a large regiment.

    My main thinking on the large, geo-ambiguous regs is to do with population distribution. 1.5 out of every ten people in the UK lives in the Greater London area. Another 1.5 out of every ten lives in the Liverpool-to-Hull belt. When we zoom in even closer and look at the demographics of the new soldiers that sign up, 85% are under-19 and a significant proportion come from low income backgrounds, which means large urban areas have a disproportinate representation. Removing any geographic tie to the regiments opens up that entire recruiting base to each reg.

    Of course you can mix the two, with a few large, geographically tied regiments, which would probably go something like; Scotland, Anglia, Yorkshire, Mercia and Wales, Lancashire, Wessex/home counties, with maybe a fusilier reg to cover a number of cities.

    How much of a difference would it make? Dunno, but it might put an end to the cap badge wars once and for all. Or for at least a few decades.

    @ Topman,
    “can units send recruits that are due to go to overmanned regiments to those undermanned?”
    — Somebody I went to school with joined up a few years ago and he was one of the ones diverted to a different reg in order to fill manpower gaps in the run up to an Afghan deployment, so it would appear so. And at least according to their own figures, none of the regiments has reached its paper estbalishment for years now, which might be a function of shifting people about?

  52. IXION says


    Sorry for being late back on this.

    Too Many officers.

    Given that we cannot in effect deploy a force of more than one full on division any more, then commanding that is a role for a major general. I accept that major structures in the army

    Say, infantry /armour/ engineers, logistics etc need a major general in charge of them and we need a few spares, Then there is all that joint command stuff, so perhaps 15- 20 major/lieutenant generals to be generous and perhaps – 3 4 star posts, I head of the army. As of 2012 the Telegraph reported we had 44 Major generals alone. That’s Too many. Way Too many.

    Sorry but many of the starred ponti’s posts need down grading, de skilling etc. like as happened everywhere else (save govt service of course).

    In ANY other walk of life business etc that is huge over manning.


    That’s part of the problem how many military attaché’s do we have, and why do they have to have that sort of Rank?

    We can spare a few RN Captains for that job!

    Chris B

    That’s an example of why a Royal regiment of Infantry would be a good idea!

    Overall No one has come back yet and said we need regiments because….

  53. Topman says

    @ Chris B

    Primarly to put people into empty posts. I was of the believe the the Fusiliers were fully manned and some others were near full. I wondered how flexible the system was at filling posts regardless of where they were recruited. IE post them towards end of Phase 2 training to the posts that need filling. But if I take your meaning right it already happens.

  54. Chris.B. says

    @ Topman,

    That’s pretty much what I’ve been lead to believe over the last few years; that all the recruits get their first choice of regiment on paper, but will ultimately land where needed, with units ear marked for future operations taking the priority.

  55. oldreem says


    I’m no expert on attachés – never been one – but my wider point was that one can’t necessarily scale everything down pro rata. I think that this one is a political and perceived status matter. If the French, for example, provided a Colonel attaché to B**** B**** Land and the Brits provided a Major, who would have the influence (including perhaps over equipment sales)? And a Colonel/Captain RN/Group Captain wouldn’t carry much clout in Washington!

  56. Topman says

    @ IXION

    ‘In ANY other walk of life business etc that is huge over manning. ‘

    Possibly but then you’ve have to know what each post involved and the knock on from down ranking that post. What knock ons would there be through the armed forces by halving the number of 2* and 3* posts?

    Chris B


  57. All Politicians are the Same says

    Reference the senior Officer posts.

    Do not forget NATO, in my last NATO job we had 2 3 star posts, 1 2 star and 1 1 star in an HQ of less than 180. The UK had 1 2 star but in the adjoining HQ there was a US 4 star and umpteen other flag rank officers including a UK Army 2 and RAF 1 star. They hosted a deployable Lodger unit with a UK RN 2 star.
    That is in one NATO location.
    Made socials intetresting :)

  58. x says

    Was the executive bathroom dual key?

  59. IXION says


    That sort of reasoning ends up with 15 admirals attaché -ing around the world when we have 1 frigate….

    Also; we have influence in Washington??- When did that happen??


    I imagine that a lot of Brigadiers (of which we probably have too many as well), will get pissed off. Tough!

    We are running an army for the killing of the queens enemies, not a job creation scheme for shiny arsed middle aged types that circumstances have made redundant- maybe they should all be made military attachés then retired put in the reserve list, and lumped on the FO’s budget?

  60. Mark says

    How many doctors, dentists, lawyers, and chaplains are in the senior officer numbers?

  61. Chris.B. says

    @ IXION,

    One question would be how much of the ranking system is based around pay grades, as opposed to having Wing Commanders vs Wings (even though, confusingly, they command Squadrons) and Captains vs ships. A regional manager of a private sector company is drawn by the pay more than the desire to be named regional manager. There may be a number of other people doing jobs equally demanding to him or her, who have different titles, but are paid a commesurate amount. The ranks linked to pay grade system makes some sense.

    That said, the sheer number of officers (of various ranks) involved in the non-fighty side does seem quite hefty. With all due respect to officers for their command skills, most will have entered the service fairly shortly after leaving university, so commercial skills are probably not abundant among the officer class, which makes the numbers involved in DE&S seem a little odd.

  62. All Politicians are the Same says

    @Chris B

    Agree on DE&S


    Unfortunately with attaches etc you really have to have a certain level of gravitas, otherwise you get nowhere and that is far more harmful to HMG interests than an extra 30k a year.

  63. Challenger says


    ‘Of course you can mix the two, with a few large, geographically tied regiments, which would probably go something like; Scotland, Anglia, Yorkshire, Mercia and Wales, Lancashire, Wessex/home counties, with maybe a fusilier reg to cover a number of cities.

    How much of a difference would it make? Dunno, but it might put an end to the cap badge wars once and for all. Or for at least a few decades’

    I remember advocating something similar to you a while back. I don’t think it would solve all of the recruiting problems and totally do away with cap-badge parochialism….but it would certainly be a good first step in the right direction.

    As you say, the problem isn’t so much what you call a regiment anymore (with an army down to 80,000 regulars I don’t think we will see many more entire regiments get amalgamated or disbanded) it’s the insanity of creating large regiments and then giving individual battalions historic names/cap-badges that’s the real problem because it doesn’t take away the parochial and defensive infighting that rears it’s head when a reduction or reorganization is on the horizon.

    Oh and I’m sorry but the Guards need to give a little to get a little by amalgamating into one 4 battalion regiment (if the Grenadiers and Coldstreams don’t like it then they can be shown the door!) and it’s sadly time for the Gurkha’s to become a thing of the past.

  64. Phil says

    Overall No one has come back yet and said we need regiments because….

    Because a better question is, “we have regiments because…?”

  65. Topman says


    I imagine that a lot of Brigadiers (of which we probably have too many as well), will get pissed off. Tough!

    Well there maybe, but my point was where does the number come from unless you know what they all do. They may be scope for those cuts or not but unless you know.

    @ Chris B

    ‘One question would be how much of the ranking system is based around pay grades,’

    Hugely so, the dentral branch is a good example. Often a Wing Commander in charge of 2 other dentists (plus nurse, practice manager etc) on station, sometimes even a Group Captain.

    ‘ as opposed to having Wing Commanders vs Wings ‘

    Quite often they do, it’s only on flying Sqns they don’t. There are greater responsibilities, a different structure in terms of personnel and purpose (amongst other reasons) than say a station Eng/Ops/Admin wing.

  66. Phil says

    The thing that always perplexes me is how the Royal Reg of Scotland got away with retaining old names in its battalions?

    Many toys were thrown from many prams. And as ever single issue groups hijack any juicy event of the day to drag their selfish agendas into the picture. That the names of regiments can be a political pawn for many different chess players is sad but true.

    The problem is also that the Officer corps is thoroughly enmeshed with the establishment (it often is the establishment) and so when they kick off after hearing The Royal Tweedshires are going, events often march to their tune or at least there is an element of compromise.

    The cavalry and infantry are fashionable, they draw purposeful and capable young men who thoroughly absorb the identity of their regiment and its local ethos and culture and they go on to become equally capable senior officers and civil servants and bring all their leadership and vigour down on the side of the regiment which has infused their personality and entire being.

  67. IXION says


    Ok The question stands ‘We have regiments because’

    It is interesting that others are all getting upset because the 24th foot and mouth or whatever got to keep its name and yes this exactly what I was trying to get at. All that cap badge shenanigans with the Scottish regiments.

    Re the general thing when you get to 1 star is there really anything left in the British army save commanding something like Afghan, that needs more money or titles? Given yearly increments.

    I just don’t see why you need more stars unless the job is that much bigger? In modern private sector there really is not anything like it. it smacks of the middle management culture that Gordon Geko skewered in the famous ‘greed is good’ speech. Forget the headline bit , just look at the bit where he goes at the number of vice presidents etc.

    Re Regiments.

    I am genuinely surprised that someone who has been there done and got the busby/ cap hasn’t come back and blasted me with a real argument. Given various insiders have ‘had a pop’ at various regiments that got to keep their titles as single battalions etc etc, they seem to be making my point for me.

    I really expected Phil or RT etc to come back and flame my argument. Perhaps I have on that score, (if not the constellation of stars we seem to need to open a letter), nailed it?

  68. All Politicians are the Same says


    As i explained earlier you definitely need more stars multi nationally.

  69. Topman says

    @ Ixion

    ‘the general thing when you get to 1 star is there really anything left in the British army save commanding something like Afghan, that needs more money or titles?’

    Although I’ve not commanded at the level [ yet ;) ] there’s more to do that what drives them on (amongst other reasons). There are the commands that are above, for example, the role of the Tht commander. You don’t get that much freedom at 1*. Many want to influence the force that is sent to Afghan in a long term sense. What level and how many these office should fill is one question, however there is many things to do in a professional sense beyond ThT commander.

    ‘In modern private sector there really is not anything like it.’

    I think APATS covered, what private sector equivilant is there for NATO posts?
    In many countries, even if it shouldn’t rank matters.

  70. Phil says

    Perhaps I have on that score, (if not the constellation of stars we seem to need to open a letter), nailed it?

    Nobody denies the political posturing the regimental names bring about.

  71. IXION says

    I have posted a reply that has seemingly disappeared.

  72. Chris.B. says

    @ Topman,

    “Hugely so, the dental branch is a good example”
    — Pretty much a perfect example, at least in concept. Without the rank they wont get the cash, and without the cash there’s little to keep them there. Though it does seem like the sort of thing that would have been farmed out to the private sector by now? Does/did Bastion have a dentist on site? I’m guessing some of the larger naval vessels might take one along. What’s the RAFs excuse though? ;)

    @ Phil,
    “That the names of regiments can be a political pawn for many different chess players is sad but true.
    — Aye,

  73. Topman says

    @ Chris B

    Same reason as anything being a military role.

  74. erebus says

    The purpose of regiments is to allow for more atomic identities than British. People wish to serve with people with similar values and expectations and identities. This atomisation extends beyond the regional identities of the regiment down to sub units like battalions etc. It is called clump recruiting.

    Here is a quote from Anthony Prices novel – Other Paths to Glory, regarding WWI and the 1914 Volunteers, the pals battalions. (Ignore the characters the history is authentic)

    “‘Huh! Poor devils!’ Butler swung towards Mitchell. ‘I can tell you something about that. My dad joined up then with two-thirds of the men in his street the Blackburn Industrials they called themselves. One of the Pals’ Battalions of the Royal North-East Lancs they became.’

    ‘The Blackburn Industrials – that’s what I’ve been trying to say,’ cut in Mitchell. ‘They had so many volunteers the local people tried to join up in groups with their friends to form complete battalions. The Glasgow City Tramways formed a battalion and the headmaster of a big grammar school up north enlisted all his old pupils. And there were the Tyneside Irish and the Manchester Clerks’ and Warehousemen’s Battalion – ‘

    ‘Joined together and died together,’ Butler growled. ‘After Beaumont Hamel half the wives in our street were widows.’ He turned to Mitchell again. ‘So what?’

    ‘I know which unit George Davis was in, that’s what. The 29th Special Battalion, Rifle Brigade.’

    ‘The Poachers,’ murmured Audley. ‘Have you ever heard of them, Jack?’

    Battalion cap badges represent more atomic identities than the regional regiments and as the army shrinks these identities are represented by smaller units. To remove them would be to impact on the cohesion of the unit in exchange for administrative convenience.

    Local civic pride is often associated with the historic achievements of the local military units.

    Regiments and smaller clump recruiting units represent common local identities.
    This is why historical rather than functional cap badges matter.

  75. Phil says

    Does/did Bastion have a dentist on site?

    Shure does.

  76. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    In the developed Anglosphere Democracies we make a bit of a fetish of rank and formality not mattering – especially in the business world – I suspect it doesn’t work too well in big, important and in some ways socially conservative societies like India, China and Brazil – I know for sure my Brother in Law has to make regular visits to two of those three on business because the guys he has running the show locally are not considered important enough to deal with the key decision makers amongst their local partners and customers…and I have a friend who studied Japanese formality for years and decided in the end that they probably came from another Planet…

    If that’s the case in business, I would expect it to be much more pronounced in Military and Diplomatic Circles.

    A more compelling argument would be a comparison with the French, who have much in common with us in terms of scale and global entanglements…how are they fixed for numbers of senior officers?


  77. Chris.B. says

    @ Erebus,

    Maybe back in WW1 and WW2, when units were being called up en mass for major wars. But now? You don’t have a street of people joining up. You don’t have the staff of a supermarket all forming a company together. You have a group of people from all across their regiments recruiting area. How many Essex lads do you think look at a fella from Cambridge and say to themselves “now there’s a lad with similar values and expectations and identity to me…”? How many 18 year old Stockport lads arrive at their battalion and look at a hardy Lance Corporal from Bolton and think the same?

    I doubt you’d lose much in cohesion by moving to non-geographically tied units. Most of the evidence we have would point to the Company level being the point at which immediate, “family”/”band of brothers” type cohesion reaches its limit*. Beyond that most of the evidence points towards bragging rights derived from the regimental tradition and ethos (even the Para wives in Colchester can’t stop using the phrase “crap hats” every five seconds when referring to anything non-para), which has its place but seldom seems to be a motivator for cohesion.

    *Officers would – on the basis of their accounts – seem to reach their limit at Battalion level, probably because they are more likely to mingle across company lines.

  78. erebus says

    @Chris B

    Of course ‘Esprit de Corps’ can be achieved through training etc, especially in ‘elite’ units like the para’s or the American 101st Airborne. “Band of Brothers” is from Shakespeare.

    To quote Anthony Price’s Novel again.

    “those were almost certainly men from George Davis’s battalion, killed on the Somme between July and November. One of them, he remembered now, had been a Bellamy, a relative – a son, even – of the ‘squire’ who had delayed Davis answering Lord Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers. That had a positively feudal ring about it, the squire’s son and two of his gamekeepers going to the war together, smacking more of Agincourt and Crecy than the Somme.”

    To (mis)quote the Sgt Major in historical film “Zulu”, “Welsh Regiments Sing!” (Battle of Rorke’s Drift)
    “The film ends with another narration by Richard Burton, listing the eleven defenders who received the Victoria Cross for the defense of Rorke’s Drift, the most awarded to a regiment in a single action up to that time.”

    It would be a mistake in my opinion to loose local links, at whatever size of units (Regiment/Battalion/Company) , ‘elites’ are an exception rather than the rule.

  79. Think Defence says

    erebus, were all the VC’s awarded at Rorkes Drift for personnel from infantry regiments?

    Which kind of makes the point I think!

  80. Obsvr says

    Off the top of my head there are 6 4* (CDS, VCDS, 3xCoS, Mil Rep to NATO (on Military Cttee, the military governing body).

    There is a continuing reduction in Brigs as their posts are converted to Colonels, I suspect that in many cases the work doesn’t change much.

  81. IXION says


    Sorry but that pals battalion stuff is old hat.

    As I said above when actually fighting the regiment was no where in mens minds.

    As someone else observes ‘bragging rights’ ex poste facto do not mean at the time soldiers fought any better for the honour of the regiment.

    So still not convinced we need them.

    This local link thing has been shot fown by the Clan McFijian etc. When i heard they were now basing jocks in Colchester i suggested a new regimental standard.

    A white stilleto shoe on a mock Tudor background….

  82. Phil says

    Back into the debate.

    It is interesting that the political infighting aside, the regimental system seems to have no real negative effects on combat effectiveness and people struggle to provide examples of it contributing an active harm (the odd mutiny excepted of course).

    Whenever the system has not been appropriate it has been discarded or it has been bypassed with virtually no ill effects. In WWI and WWII battalion manpower input was centrally controlled and individual regiments lost control over their intakes and training to the General Service Corps and the Infantry Training Centres and in WWI to the Reserve and Graduated battalions and so forth which were removed from the regimental system to feed the needs of the wider war. Thereafter on operations battalions have routinely and without pain been augmented by IAs and sub-units from other regiments and battalions (and shock horror others atts and dets from other Corps and Arms).

    The Army’s manpower is very fluid indeed. The regimental system brings with it a large amount of political fighting in the senior levels and amongst single issue lobbyists but I struggle to see what massive gains in effectiveness would come from abolishing the regiments. I can see an incremental change to larger non-geographic regiments as being useful to some extent (but this would again only really affect the political clashes not the operational capability) but other than that there is not much to be gained at all from abolishing the regimental system. You might argue there is not much to gain from keeping it either but here it is and to remove it would change little enough outside of some unpaid Colonels having their redundancy confirmed and some small change sent back to the Treasury.

    In terms of combat operations the Army will still be able to generate the units of action it needs to meet the capabilities it wants to project because it will pull soldiers from where they are not immediately needed to where they are. Incredibly when a soldier is posted to another infantry regiment he doesn’t suddenly mutiny nor is he instantly bullied to death by people with different accents, nor does he become sullen and refuse to soldier.

    And regiments exist because until last century localised recruitment was simply the most efficient and in its early days the only way to recruit men across a nation where the vast majority of people had to walk. For the vast amount of time the regimental system has been an instrumental solution to the problems of raising a bureaucratic and complex body of men in a pre-industrial society and all the communication, transport and bureaucratic limitations of said society.

  83. Not a Boffin says


    None of the service chiefs are 4* posts anymore AFAIK. You’ve two 4* (CDS & VCDS) and everyone else (inc CJO) is a 3*. Not sure who the NATO milrep is this week, but may be a 3* soon if not now.

  84. Tom says

    Some thoughts:

    Identity is a key point in terms of esprit-de-corps. Identity can be formed by being a specialism (EOD, Para, etc) or formed during war by events – The Chindits, The Desert Rats, etc.

    However, specialisms can come and go, and wars end. Many wartime groups will fade from memory if there is no successor. The regiments of today preserve the history and memory of battalions that served in a wide variety of theatres and specialisms across the ages.

    Look at the Canadians during WWI – the CEF battalions were not (directly) part of any of the existing militia regiments, formed as required. After WWI they were disbanded because the local raised militia made more sense for peace time. However this meant that there was a risk that the deeds of the CEF battalions would be forgotten, so the peacetime regiments were allowed to perpetuate the battle honours and histories of the CEF units.

  85. HurstLlama says


    Esprit-de-corps does not exist have you not read the posts above? Men don’t care about their regimental history and whether they belong to The Parachute Regiment or the 21st Battalion of The Infantry Corps (this week because next they could belong to the 3rd Battalion) makes no difference to their fighting ability. This Espirit-de-Corps is a myth invented by the officer class and it has to beaten into recruits. Furthermore, private soldiers will be happy to be taken from their battalion, the people they have known for years, served-with and trust implicitly, and posted to another battalion at the other end of the country, because they are “plodders” and it will be a change for them.

    No. The idea that an ordinary squaddie off some sh!t council estate can take pride in his regiment so much so that it becomes part of his very identity, that, particularly in a single battalion regiment, that regiment becomes in a very real sense his family, that’s all a nonsense.

    What the army needs is a single corps of infantry with its own Human Resources Department, staffed by civvy “HR Professionals” that can move the “resources” around as it thinks fit.

  86. Phil says

    What the army needs is a single corps of infantry with its own Human Resources Department, staffed by civvy “HR Professionals” that can move the “resources” around as it thinks fit.

    Which is what happens in practise every day of every week. The Guards for example have a Parachute Platoon – Guardsmen posted to and working with the Parachute Regiment.

    I can imagine the management theorists twitching at something like the regimental system. It does get them in their positivist and rationalist outlook all hot and bothered and exercised. But any human system will have its cultural quirks and its non-rationalist (from some perspectives) elements because that is the result of being a system created by humans, one that is hundreds of years old and one which is inextricably enmeshed within the political structure of the country.

    To change the structure completely you have to change the people who man it and administer it and fight it. Their interests are in turn enmeshed within the identities of the regiments. Since that isn’t possible without a dramatic loss of effectiveness (I see your family have connections with the aristocracy / government / civil service / member of the same clubs etc, you are not welcome) it is perhaps better to bow to reality and accept that the system has little effect on operational effectiveness and by and large accept it as a cultural artefact that would do more harm to revolutionise (revolutions are always destructive) than to leave to incrementally change as the people and the times change.

    To all those who argue the regimental system is ossified I would point out how it has evolved and where necessary removed from the greater picture. To those that get exercised about the Guards, what you really want is a removal of the human idea of “fashion” because officers join because they are fashionable – regiments go in and out of fashion and they did so back in the days of Foot as well as they do today. But even so at the end of the day they represent 5 battalions of infantry who can go out there and kill and be killed as well as any other battalion. Unlike the RAF Reg who are shit.

  87. x says


  88. Chris says

    HL – on this occasion I think I must disagree. I doubt the Regiment is the most important most valued part of the Soldier mindset, but I do think it is part of the total identity of the Soldier. All of them, not just the Hofficer classes. In my opinion the Regiment structure is on a par with (as noted before) the Houses in schools; or if you prefer the Counties we live in. I doubt the County is foremost in your thoughts throughout the day, but I imagine you prefer to be known as a Man of Sussex* rather than someone living in the EU Region of the South East of England? That you might feel good if the Sussex Cricket Team does well? Or that you are proud of its heritage and landscape? As hinted above the EU does not recognize Counties and has officially abolished them (EU proclamations being more important than national self determination of course) but HMG sensibly maintains these bounded areas for domestic governance. I doubt many UK nationals noticed this bit of EU arrogance…

    On top of County allegiance you will have others for your local town, village, parish, street etc. Its all part of the human psyche – the need to belong. Many ‘belong’ to their football team; last year many more ‘belonged’ to Team GB at the Olympics. Belonging is important.

    So, as I noted a long way back in this thread, I think the Regiment has a part to play in giving the Soldier a proper entity to which he/she can firmly belong. Better if it has a long and laudable history. For the modest cost the Regiments add to the MOD annual spend, I suspect the effect on the troops is good value for money.

    I have worked for many companies with HR departments staffed by HR professionals. How appropriate that modern companies refer to their personnel as a resource – something with as much value as a water dispenser or a photocopier. From what I’ve seen over the past 30 years that sums up the Modern Exec view of their staff. Something to be hired paid abused and disposed of. I can imagine many lofty managers being quite surprised their workforce are people with as much right to dignity and fair treatment as they demand for themselves, despite the fact the lowly staff don’t even belong to a decent golf club. On the whole, anyone suggesting the current commercial HR standard is a model to which to aspire probably doesn’t work in such an environment.

    * I think HL you said you live in Sussex. Me too – a county which has the official motto “We Wunt Be Druv” – translation for those of other counties: ‘We won’t be driven’. Sussex folk were apparently renowned for being the most stubborn of people. Some who know me might suggest that’s why I feel properly at home down here…

  89. dave haine says


    Unfortunately, it’s them, or having itinerate squaddies wandering about on the active runway in their bloody Sherpa, because they ‘couldn’t be arsed’ to check in with ATC, just as a Tristar reached V1. Why the idiot pongo didn’t see a 245tonne aeroplane, thundering down the runway towards him is beyond me.

    Which probably explains why, when the army was deployed to Heathrow, they were kept off the AMA (aircraft manoeuvring area). I tell you pongo hoi-poloi and aeroplanes don’t mix, even little ones…..

  90. oldreem says

    Agree with you 100%, Chris, about (In)human Resources – mostly process-bound shits (but not quite all – my niece in Oz is an exception). Trouble is, there are so many employment rules and pitfalls, and so many malingerers rushing off to tribunals with specious grievances, that you need some people who know the rules and the related gamesmanship. But God forbid that the human beings in MROs (or at least they were when I was serving) are replaced by that sort. And MROs are ~90% civilian anyway.

  91. dave haine says


    Hmm, not just Sussex, ever tried getting a Somerset lad to do anything he doesn’t feel inclined to do?

    “He’ll be dun drectly” (“drectly” meaning in my own good time)


    “Tain’t roight as I shud do he, so io shaan’t”

  92. Chris says

    DH – spent a few months in Brizzle and Sis lived in Somerset & Dorset for years – I think I might just recognize the attitude. The difference is that down here this County rejected any fancy Latin or Anglo-Saxon aspirational motto in favour of the stubbornness of the common man…

  93. Mike W says


    Are you being ironic? It’s difficult to determine as I have come late to this debate and can’t quite decide your tone. I suppose extracts such as “soldiers will be happy to be taken from their battalion, the people they have known for years, served-with and trust implicitly, and posted to another battalion at the other end of the country . . .” and “a single corps of infantry with its own Human Resources Department, staffed by civvy “HR Professionals””should give the game away but I am really not sure.

    If you are being serious and not satirical, then what you write is arrant claptrap. Some weeks ago my wife and I went to have lunch in the restaurant of our local cathedral. A chap walked in and asked whether he could sit at our table. I noticed that he was in the full “regimental” dress of a former Para and was also carrying a standard. We got into conversation with him and it turned out that he had served in the 1960s and 70s. He simply could not stop talking about the regiment and his pride in it was very palpable all through the conversation. He and his mates had come to represent the regiment in the funeral service (to take place in the Cathedral later that afternoon) of a former colleague. That individual told us he had been born and bred in what is still one of the toughest areas in London. He came from a sink estate but his pride in his regiment was so pronounced that it had obviously become “part of his very identity” and, furthermore, the regiment had become “in a very real sense his family”.

    Apologies if I have mistaken your tone.

  94. HurstLlama says


    I agree with every word of your post, perhaps I didn’t ladle on the sarcasm thick enough in mine.

    I read up thread that academic studies have shown that soldiers do not fight for their regiments – well that is clearly bollocks as anyone who has been in a garrison town pub when it kicks off would know. I can’t talk about what happens in the corps or in Mr. Trousers’ beloved cavalry (what goes on in there is sweet mystery to any outsider), but I will state that regimental pride is an enormous factor in any British Infantryman’s life. The idea that it has no bearing on him when in action is ludicrous.

    As for HR Departments, in 1957 C. Northcote Parkinson published his book, “Parkinson, The Law” in which he stated that when a company built itself a fancy new HQ building it had lost its drive and was on the way out. The modern corollary is when a company or other organisation institutes a Human Resources Department, it has forgotten why it exists and is doomed to bureaucratic sclerosis and eventual death. “HR professionals” are both the harbingers and executioners of corporate destruction.

  95. Phil says

    What makes a soldier fight? His mates and himself and his leadership.

    What makes him stay in, join a particular unit, want to actually go away and fight, and then stag on and keep his chin up and his weapon clean and his admin in order when everything is shit and miserable and piss wet through?

    Pride and leadership.

    Pride in himself, pride in his mates and drawing it all together, pride in his regiment comes into it. Which is also what drives his leadership that in turn motivates him to fight and endure.

    Unit pride is certainly a motivational factor. But it is almost certainly not the main motivating factor when you’re on your belt buckle with rounds cracking around you and it’s time to go forward. But it may well have been the motivating factor to get him where he is and the motivating factor to get him through the aftermath and do it again and again.

  96. Phil says

    He came from a sink estate but his pride in his regiment was so pronounced that it had obviously become “part of his very identity” and, furthermore, the regiment had become “in a very real sense his family”.

    The Paras beat every other regiment hands down when it comes to public displays of affection toward their unit!

  97. dave haine says

    At least you know where you stand…

    typically Somerset tho, couldn’t use that new-fangled latin could they…

    To be fair, i suspect we could find this in almost every county and old town/ city with their unique traditions, identities and cultural ties, and I suppose there is the regimental system in a nutshell… it’s all about the ‘ties that bind’.

    No great use in the modern world, of course, but somewhat more human than the machine that is ‘human’ resources, with their ‘processes’, ‘business-led personal objectives’ and ‘procedures’.

  98. HurstLlama says

    “The Paras beat every other regiment hands down when it comes to public displays of affection toward their unit!”

    They have just got a better PR dept. Mind you the RM take some beating. When my late father-in-law died I wrote the RSM of the sergeants’ mess where he was an honorary life-member to let him know. Couldn’t move at the funeral for Bootnecks, past and present, they even sent a bugler in full No.1. dress to sound the last post. Cost me a fortune in the pub afterwards.

  99. dave haine says


    No…I got what you’re saying, and you’re right, it’s not so much for the officers, it’s for that lad from the sh!t estate, who’s never had any sense of belonging, or personal expectation, or sometimes much of a family. it gives him an identity, something to measure himself against, an expectation of personal pride and performance….a group to belong to, to take pride in, to stand tall for.

    …Just as phil says, it’s the difference between enduring and overcoming and coping and self-respect and self discipline. Careful, I’m in danger of slipping into Kipling.

    By the way, it isn’t just regiments that’ll battle for each other- I’ve seen a load of lads from 4th RTR, go into handbags on behalf of a bootie taking on a septic marine mob on his own…we lumped in too of course…. weren’t right the septics jumping one bloke…

  100. Engineer Tom says

    Coming into this late and reading through all the comments, I feel that if we removed recruiting areas but kept the regiments, we would be able to direct new recruits where the gaps appear, I understand where everyone in favour of keeping the unit pride and don’t want break that and I don’t believe nationwide recruiting would.

    Another thing that comes to me is why is the deployed unit for infantry a battalion, why not a company from multiple battalions forming up for specific operations. The company would keep it’s unit pride on deployment and as every company is in the same boat no single identity would be dominating the deployment, it may actually improve the moral of smaller attached units. (How many operations in Afghan have involved more than a single company, I would say a handful in the last couple of years.)

    Also to me, as an outsider, I recognise the unit names that describe the role more than I do the locations, I have no idea the history of the Mercian Regiment or what they do but I do the Paras.

    Also regards the numbers of captains in the RN compared to the number of commands, the number of commands has to be over 100 rather than the quoted 19, there are 79 RN ships in the fleet to begin with, and then who commands the shore units, there are over 20 of them, and then you go in to the Naval Attaches and the procurements and training side of the RN and 220 sounds about right,

  101. Tom says

    HL et all – I think we are all on the same page here.

    The Regiment is (and has always been) a peace time organisation – it was no place on operations. But it provides an a useful organisation to sustain the battalion during peacetime and helps link the current generation to the past, as well as provide a proper local connection for regiments when it comes to recruiting – something that is still an important factor, alongside familial connections *.

    * Many of the guys that I went to school with who are now serving joined the local regiment (LI and now Rifles) in large part because that was the unit that the schools CCF unit was badged as. Exceptions to this rule were because of family connections (Royal Scots and Paras).

  102. Chris.B. says

    @ Erebus,

    “Band of Brothers” is from Shakespeare”
    — Well I’m glad you pointed that one out /sarcasm. The quote from the Anthony Price novel, not sure what it was intended to prove but it’s quite clearly mocking the Squires son and his two gamekeepers for being out of date. And I’m not sure how you think it relates to your point? It’s referring to the Pals battalions again from WW1. A system which no longer exists.

    While we’re on the subject of pals battalions though, look at the name. “Pals”. As in “people are more likely to sign up if they think the’re going to fight alongside their friends, people they know (with a not insignificant blob of peer pressure involved, which was genius)”. Appeals to Waterloo? No. Appeals to the bond between close individuals? Yes.

    As for Rourkes Drift, ask yourself this question; when surrounded on all sides by Zulu warriors, with their rifles searing hot from the constant firing, ammunition running low, with the dead and the wounded about their feet, their fate seemingly almost sealed, how many of those fellas do you really think were looking at each other thinking “for the Regiment!” and how many were looking at each other thinking “for my mates!”?

    @ Phil,
    “I can see an incremental change to larger non-geographic regiments as being useful to some extent (but this would again only really affect the political clashes not the operational capability) but other than that there is not much to be gained at all from abolishing the regimental system”
    — I can agree with that. I think the change would be mostly to the benefit of peace time administration and recruiting, and I suspect the new breed of soldiers would forge their own identity around their new colours and titles. It wouldn’t make a huge difference to the operations, but might make the peace a little more peaceful.

    @ Hurst Llama,
    “Esprit-de-corps does not exist have you not read the posts above?” [sarcastically]
    — Ironically enough, I think you might have failed to read them. I don’t recall anyone saying that Esprit-de-corps does not exist, just that when the shit hits the fans it would seem around 85% of combat tested respondents cite their mates as the prime motivating factor to keep fighting. What’s been really interesting about this is that you can ask different groups of people, from different countries, from different services, across widely spaced time frames, and the numbers stay roughly the same.

    So either they’re all lying bastards, every man jack of them OR all of the researchers, across all those studies, asked the same leading questions that essentially “created” the desired responses time after time after time OR, fuck me sideways, it may just be that when the bullets and shells start flying the people in the firing line prioritise the relationships with those around them over upholding the honour of the regimental goat.

    “… with its own Human Resources Department, staffed by civvy “HR Professionals” that can move the “resources” around as it thinks fit” [sarcasm]
    — Not suggesting that people should be moved around willy nilly, but “HR Professionals” can be very handy people to have around to organise, surprise suprise, your HR admin. As long as you don’t give HR people too long of a leash and make it clear their job is to organise the admin and make suggestions not decisions, having professional HR people can actually save you a hell of a lot of time, money and hassle, which you can then spend on more useful endeavours.

    “As for HR Departments, in 1957 C. Northcote Parkinson published his book, “Parkinson, The Law” in which he stated that when a company built itself a fancy new HQ building it had lost its drive and was on the way out. The modern corollary is when a company or other organisation institutes a Human Resources Department, it has forgotten why it exists and is doomed to bureaucratic sclerosis and eventual death.”
    — Funny that, because there are lots and lots of companies that have fancy HQ buildings. And they’re doing bloody well for themselves (hence why they can afford a fancy HQ). Instituting a HR department is usually considered a good sign, because it means your business is large enough to require a specialist branch to manage the admin (the absence of which will be the thing that might cause paralysis and death). Having properly organised HR to do the donkey work should be saving you a hell of a lot of time.

    “I read up thread that academic studies have shown that soldiers do not fight for their regiments – well that is clearly bollocks as anyone who has been in a garrison town pub when it kicks off would know.”
    — Ironic you should say that, because I used to work the door in Colchester (our Paras like a few drinks so they do!). They fought for a number of reasons (though their propensity to do so is perhaps over stated by the locals), but normally you’re talking about small groups of people, often pairs, and I think the largest group I saw out that I can remember was perhaps 14-18 strong (funnily enough nobody had a dig at them that night). I can vaguely remember some of the stuff they talked about, like the fatalistic young chap that was convinced he was going to die on tour (he didn’t, thankfully).

    Not once did I ever hear “what did you say about my Regiment?”, or people trying to tell the old bill about how some guy said that Paras were poofs so they nutted him etc (though I did hear one or two “I think they’re murderers”, from students). So here is the question I have for you Hurst; how in the world did you equate fighting in pubs with fighting for the Regiment? There was one incident that made the press, I think it was in Kent, about a fight between Paras and RAF Regiment, and I think it was one of the 7 PARA RHA blokes that got jumped and duffed up in Castle Park by what was allegedly a group of Paras, for whatever reason.

    But I’m interested to know why you think people getting into fights in a pub is an example of Regimental unity? From first hand experience it’s infinitely more likely to have been a pissed chav spilling his drink on one of them.

    @ Chris,
    ” I doubt the Regiment is the most important most valued part of the Soldier mindset, but I do think it is part of the total identity of the Soldier”
    — That’s perhaps the line I was looking for earlier. For the record, Essex doesn’t appear to have a motto. The County Council motto is ‘Essex Works’, which seems to be more of a statement of relief than a statement of belief. I’m sure the unofficial motto is something like ‘when does Lakeside open?’.

    “How appropriate that modern companies refer to their personnel as a resource”
    — That’s because they are a resource, the most valuable one. And if you treat your people properly and tap their potential, they will look after the business without you having to worry about every last detail.

  103. Phil says

    It tends to be the crows that kick off, their guts full of grog and their minds full of heady regimental bollocks.

    That said the odd massive brawl still takes place when it comes to regimental pride – or was it the football ;-)

  104. Chris says

    Chris.B – ref Essex motto – are you sure its not just the name board on the local Council Depot?

    Ref HR dept’s – I determined years ago back when I moved companies quite regularly that the Personnel Dep’t (HR not invented back then) was entirely focused on getting new personnel into the company and departing ones out – when trying to interface with them as a simple employee you’d find they were the most disinterested bunch only ready to repeat company procedure and policy. Never that helpful in my experience. Quite different from the friendly and flexible sorts they appeared while recruiting. I suspect its the lack of apparent humanity demonstrated by HR departments that has earned them the nickname of ‘Human Remains’ in most organizations…

    Ref fighting for the honour of the Regiment – back in the early 90s (things may have changed since) each year there was a training exercise at Bovington Camp involving both RM and Paras. The Camp administration would (I was told) deliberately put 3 Para and 42 Cdo in the same barrack block – the one most in need of refurbishing – knowing full well that the inter-service rivalry would get out of hand and in their eagerness to prove which was the hardest bravest toughest organization, the accommodation block would be resolutely trashed. In this way for many years the camp managed to get early funding for refurbishment without the usual demands that they should wait until the next year.

  105. wf says

    @Chris.B: if I was surrounded by thousands of Zulu warriors whom I knew were disinclined to take prisoners, I’d be fighting hard too, purely on the basis of self-preservation :-)

  106. x says

    Most organisations have HR departments because modern organisations have HR departments. Unlike a payroll department or an accounting department I doubt they are an essential. I can’t remember anybody with whom I have spoken speaking highly of their company’s HR department.

  107. dave haine says

    @Chris B

    You sure you weren’t that bootie taking an entire squad of septic booties by himself?

    The problem with some HR departments as well as any centralised head office function, is that they tend to forget about the purpose of the organisation, and just concentrate on organising…thereby bemusing, or possibly f**king off, everyone else in the organisation. I’ll give you an example:

    Example 1: An airline I worked for, used a very expensive, but extremely efficient computer system in operations, this thing handled messaging, live positional updating, flight planning, ATC planning, Load Control, crew control, roster planning…you get the picture. In the nature of things, thursday afternoon and evening were our busiest time in operations. IT announced thursday morning that with immediate effect, the weekly operations systems update and therefore a 2hr downtime would occur on a thursday afternoon. The phonecall went something like this:

    Ops Duty Manager: “you can’t do the update this afternoon, it’s the flying programmes busiest period”
    IT Manager: “We’ll have to do it then, it’s the only time i can spare an analyst to do it”
    ODM: “No you can’t- it’ll delay 15 departures, and its flight safety critical”
    ITM: “What do you mean flight safety critical?”
    ODM: “pilots need their flight and fuel plans, CAA requirement”
    ITM: “Can’t they go without them? Anyway, not my problem, HR have banned overtime in my department”

    Director gets involved, update goes away. Next day Human resources Memo:

    ‘Although we have authorised Overtime to allow IT to update systems on this one occasion. All departments, without exception, should note that the thursday update will become a regular event, and should therefore plan their workloads to free up this time. The only exception to this would be a business critical occurance, and therefore only a director will be able to authorise this”

    And no…they didn’t think up two hr delays on 15 flights was a business critical event. They even suggested that we reschedule the flights- to which suggestion, commercial had a fit at one point physically threatening the HR manager who suggested it.

    So there you are, too big and they lose sight of why they exist.

    Anyway Para’s aren’t murderers, they eat babies….

  108. Phil says

    There’s a place for HR (sorry People Services as its known in one local authority I know) but my experiences exactly mirror Chris’s experiences except for one employer where all concerned helped me immensely as I prepared for my first tour – I was put on maternity leave by them! The second employers HR people I wouldn’t, to this day, piss on if they were on fire.

  109. Chris.B. says

    @ Chris,
    I think the full official council motto is something like “Essex works. For a better quality of life.” or something equally dull and uninspiring.

    ref HR; The key to a good HR dept is to remind them every now and again that you are the dog and they are the tail. The dog wags its tail, not the other way around. When done properly HR should be almost invisible to most employees, the odd reminder or letter being the only sign of their continued existence.

    ref Regiments; I wrote a comment a while back about group identities, god knows what thread it was on. They have their purpose. The commanders of the US 101st Airborne were quite clever in December ’44 at Bastogne in evoking the concept of Paratroopers being born to operate while surrounded on all sides and short of supplies. They used the organisational identity of the 101st to boost morale and reassure people. It was quite clever in retrospect. But that operated on a high level, a general morale level that gave people a bit of warmth on a cold day in hell. When the push came to the shove in the foxholes, it’s hard to think that people fell back on the Regiment/Division for comfort in action, especially when those interviewed afterwards stated the usual factors of their friends and personal pride (essentially a form of peer pressure).

    It’s the same sort of thing that we’ve seen historically with groups like the SAS. That motto “who dares, wins” gives people a standard to live up to, the sense of being able to conquer anything if they just try (which has also been a curse at times, as the incident on Fortuna Glacier showed). But its a very esoteric thing, something which seems to only govern actions in a very occasional, broad manner, and be of little use when everything goes a bit tits up.

    One thing thats interesting about this debate is that let’s say the army did shift to large, non-geospecific regiments. You still have a regiment in place. It will still have a motto, a flag, a history behind it. It’s interesting that the Paras and Marines come up a lot in this debate, as both are non-geospecific. Does a private in 2 PARA think less of his comrades if – in order to fill a spot – he’s promoted across to 3 PARA as a Lance Corporal? I’d have thought he would simply identify himself as being amongst a different group Paras.

    @ WF,
    “if I was surrounded by thousands of Zulu warriors whom I knew were disinclined to take prisoners, I’d be fighting hard too, purely on the basis of self-preservation”
    — That too. I think I’d be busy shitting my pants at the same time!

    @ x,
    “Most organisations have HR departments because modern organisations have HR departments. Unlike a payroll department or an accounting department I doubt they are an essential”
    — Your payroll really should be covered by your HR people, at least on a certain level. My advice; dump you HR dept and see how well it goes. I give you 12 months before you run foul of a legal action that costs you more than the running cost of the HR people. Either that or you’ll end up stabbing yourself in the eye with a pair of scissors in order to save yourself from another wasted day doing compliance paperwork that would really be better done by a dedicated person…..

    If done properly, and kept away from anything important, HR people can be invaluable. As long as you (and they) understand that they are a service to the core business, and not the core business itself.

  110. Phil says

    There’s a vid on Fill Your Boots on Facebook of an RAF Reg bloke “motivating” his recruits for a 5 mile tab (sorry 5 miles of death and then some ranges).

    It’s been up 22 hours and has 1,700 comments already. Some of the more tame including “that genuinely gave me aids” and “5 miles must be the size of the fence round the airfield”. Excellent.

  111. x says

    @ Chris B

    I think you are confusing HR with payroll, administrators, technicians, safety compliance, and legal staffs.

  112. wf says

    @x: no, @Chris.B is correct. The last 20 years have brought in a shedload of European employment law that’s a maze. You really do need HR…although it’s mostly a function of dumb laws.

  113. Chris.B. says

    @ X,

    Your HR department should be managing the admin side of your payroll. Compliance is in the sense that they should be on top of all relevant labour laws and making sure your business is compliant with these. Your legal people should not be wasting their (fucking expensive) time checking the minuate of compliance with labour regulations.

    I think the confusion here is that you’ve allowed your HR people to confuse you into thinking they are more than just a supporting function. If they ever mention words like “strategy” or “process management” just slap them and send them back to their office.

  114. Challenger says


    Re larger, non geographic regiments….

    ‘I think the change would be mostly to the benefit of peace time administration and recruiting, and I suspect the new breed of soldiers would forge their own identity around their new colours and titles. It wouldn’t make a huge difference to the operations, but might make the peace a little more peaceful’

    Fully agree!

  115. Engineer Tom says

    Regards HR depts, mine does admin etc. we then have separate finance and other admin depts, one thing they don’t do is resourcing (deciding who does what job) that is done by one girl who works for the practical side of the company.

  116. Red Trousers says

    One of the strengths of slightly smaller Regiments is that over the course of a career you genuinely get to know a group of people: you have shared experiences, you form long friendships, and it’s not just the soldier, it is the “partners” (God, I so nearly wrote wives there…). It becomes a family.

    When the fighting starts, from my recollections it wasn’t so much explicitly in one’s mind that you were fighting for the Regiment, or didn’t want to let down the Regiment, it was more emotional: you wouldn’t let your mates down, and because you knew them so well, you knew they wouldn’t let you down. Case in point, none of us trusted the QDG Squadron we had attached in Gulf 1. They were lovely blokes, but we hadn’t built up over years a knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. There was an “incident” – probably over-stated that, more like a “mis-interpretation ” in which we thought they’d let us down by redeploying their part of the line too early and without properly telling RHQ, so much that a rogue T-59 got in behind another squadron and caused 2 casualties. I very strongly suspect that the QDG Squadron saw that entirely differently, and thought we weren’t up to spotting an obvious danger. Kind of soured relations for a bit.

    Then there’s a hierarchy of friendship and trust. My Troop I know was the best in B Squadron, collectively we knew B Squadron knocked the socks off the others, as a Regiment we were the best among the 4 RAC recce Regiments, the recce Regiments looked down on and teased the intellectually challenged armoured Regiments, as a Corps we knew no one was finer than the Cavalry, combat arms banded together looking down on the loggies, everyone looked down on the Gunners…. etc etc etc. It even works at whole service level: without knowing anything of you all personally, you can spot the tribalism. (Note to self: must apologise to APATS for being grumpy with him last night: clearly we have different experiences to bring to the debate).

    Of course it can go nasty: look what happened to the Canadian Paras in Rwanda. And, I have extremely strong suspicions that 2 Para on Bloody Sunday were well out of control and colluded massively to cover up what was a bit of a massacre. Note: a personal opinion on that one.

    I’m less convinced about the localism, although I can see how it can benefit, particularly for things like recruiting. I joined a Regiment of Brummies and Black Country boys, when I don’t think at that point in my life I’d ever gone there. Took me months to work out what they were saying. Doesn’t stop some of them now being among my closest friends, and in very many cases the whole artificial officer / soldier divide completely vanishes as well when you’ve all left the service.

    I genuinely think that policy makers meddle with loyalty, friendship and motivations of fighting men at their peril, and unless there is a compelling need to change things, don’t.

    (AFTERNOTE: clicked through the biographies on Wikipedia of the VC winners in the 24th of Foot (South Wales Borderers) at Rorke’s Drift. Very few from Wales. Apart from me now wondering how they apparently knew the words to Men of Harlech, it just goes to show..!)

  117. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    As I understand it a British Army Infantry Regiment seems to have a key role in recruiting and training soldiers and then developing their careers; once in service it also manages the process of feeding, clothing, housing and equipping them – as well as taking care of their physical and mental well-being (when in service) – and because of the nature of the work takes some responsibility for the welfare and indeed housing of families…and provides the basic architecture for things like payroll and record-keeping.

    It also largely provides a structured social environment within which individuals will “take one for the Team” -sometimes at the cost of their life – but at least if the worst happens it provides a mechanism around which family and community can rally around the bereaved and mark the passing of a person of value – and I believe that research shows this to be genuinely beneficial to all concerned.

    Just the sorts of things, oddly enough that a really outstandingly good HR Department might aspire to do…but which most of them fail lamentably to deliver…

    I am beginning to wonder if some of the commentators hereabouts might be deeply frustrated HR “Professionals” hoping to open up a new line of business.

    Just a thought – I would add a smiley face, but I am not smart enough…


  118. IXION says

    I notice that of those who stand for regiments are ready to concede that perhaps fewer and larger would be a good idea.

    I forget which poster said about peacetime infighting. That peacetime infighting is affecting the structure of the army, it absorbs energy etc . Whilst in wartime everyone pulls together, the fact that they are happy to put Regimental allegiances aside and be posted to one another means that obviously it doesn’t mean much! It also means that the Army is a particular shape which differs from how it is used in war. How is that good?

    Also there is creeping in a bit ‘sniffy’ comments about private sector structures. Successful companies long term value their staff, they don’t go in for wasteful structures, nor do they run themselves on some pseudo Etonian house system.

    As (I think) Chris b said many the people in the middle ranks of the army went school, Army, or School university Army and have often not been out ‘in the real world’ in management terms.

    Leaving aside from the debunked ‘for the honour of the Regiment’ stuff; The best anyone has done so far is argue it doesn’t cost much, and could be reformed a bit – hardly a ringing endorsement.

  119. paul g says

    @RT, not wishing to be pedantic, but was Belgium paratroopers in Rwanda, advised to surrender by top brass as no help was available, tortured ,castrated and then killed. By the way although we tended to move around every 3 years in the REME the esprit de corps (see what I did there) was also very strong, I would say 60% of my facebook friends are ex corp. In fact as most are spread around the world it was the only reason to get on facebook

  120. IXION says


    I am not suggesting scrambling the army: – At battalion level it should hardly be felt at all . Apart from perhaps the guards with their single battalion regiments.

    The units people fight in won’t change much except for a freer movement of officers/NCO’s – square peg-square hole being easier to mate up.

  121. IXION says


    The Regiment does some of those things but seemingly not very efficiently, we have 30 odd regiments each essentially repeating the job on a small scale, when one structure could do it for everyone. Would a grieving relative really feel less supported by the representatives of the Royal regiment of Infantry rather than, say, ‘The Rifles’?

    As for the ‘taking one for the team’ this has been dealt with above, it is largely a myth.

  122. Phil says

    Successful companies long term value their staff, they don’t go in for wasteful structures, nor do they run themselves on some pseudo Etonian house system.

    Most private companies are dead by 40. Most public bodies still only exist because they can only die by decree. This tells us that more often than not, human organisations fail. Private and public. They have an enormously high failure rate. Why? Because humans are actually quite shit at running complex organisations on a sustainable basis and in a successful manner.

    The best anyone has done so far is argue it doesn’t cost much, and could be reformed a bit – hardly a ringing endorsement.

    All you’ve offered is a solution about as likely as Alan Carr deposing the Queen because it is based on how you want the world to work and not on how it works in practise. You’ve been told several arguments regarding why it is difficult to change it and why it is not that much trouble to deal with because it actually has very little effect on how the Army goes about projecting capabilities.

    You’ve not answered these points.

    How will you change the regimental system? I don’t mean how you want it to look at end state but how will you actually manage to change the basis of it? And where are the examples of it having a real and tangible negative effect on combat operations?

  123. Phil says

    Apart from me now wondering how they apparently knew the words to Men of Harlech, it just goes to show..!)

    You mean you didn’t realise that whilst Zulu is a bloody good film about the only link it has with the reality is the place, the names and there being thousands of Zulu’s running around?

  124. Think Defence says

    The book is better than the film :)

  125. DavidNiven says

    I don’t understand are you saying the Welsh didn’t sing at Rourkes Drift!

  126. Red Trousers says

    Paul G, re Canadian Paras. Yes, them Canucks, except I completely cocked up the country. Somalia, not Rwanda (I think I must have been subliminally confusing the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda with Canadian Paras in Somalia). Anyway, I think you’ll get my drift.

    IXION, I think you and I won’t agree. I just don’t see the problem to which you are positing a solution, and in your solution I don’t see any merits over what we’ve already got. Overlooking some minor points you trip over (such as not understanding that the Guards very much do act as a large Regiment of 5 Battalions), I do stick somewhat mulishly to my observation that you fight with and for your mates, and really deep bonds of friendship and shared experience become harder to acquire in the bigger organisations than those of 600 or so.

    Think of it this way. Those who have traditionally done the fighting (ie the RAC and Infantry) organise themselves this way, want to, and by and large it makes sense to those who are in them. What you propose isn’t wanted, and it is unclear from your original article or your subsequent comments why what you propose would in any way be better.

    However, as a caveat, I will observe that more modern theatres are exposing soldiers who would not previously have been in the front line are now much more exposed: REME, Medics, transport drivers. That needs watching.

    Here’s a real life observation: when my Regiment did a standard “Arms Plot” move from Tidworth to Herford in the mid 80s, just about every attached REME, and ACC attached to us put in a request to be posted alongside us. Even the ruddy Padre, bless him (his justification was that we were his flock, so he had to come along to look after us). Despite being from Corps that do trickle post individuals routinely, they felt part of a family and wanted to stay with us.

  127. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @IXION – Support from the Royal Regiment of Infantry at the Funeral wouldn’t work as well unless there was some subsidiary organisation between the individual soldier’s Family and the Infantry HR Office Funeral Liaison Officer Rota – like a Battalion or Regiment – to ensure that the person who showed up knew the Fallen Comrade; in fact a complete stranger turning up because he was top of the rota that week would add unforgivable insult to already very considerable injury…

    “The Team” I had in mind was the hypothetical Soldier’s Section or Fire Team (is that term really used?); the solidarity within the Team would be built in part by how it defined itself alongside others in it’s Platoon, Company,Battalion and Regiment.

    Beyond prejudice, what evidence can you show that the matters I refer to are inefficiently managed within the existing Regimental System, and would be much more efficiently managed by your more rational 20,000 strong Royal Regiment of Infantry…where would the economies be achieved without moving to the use of Division of Labour Devices like the aforesaid “Department for attending random funerals with complete strangers that I know nothing of and care less about”…or would you break the task up into bite-sized chunks where relationships in a very Human system can be made, mostly about the size of a Big Regiment…

    @TD – “Washing of the Spears” ? Or do you favour another of the bookcase full that are currently in print?


  128. Red Trousers says


    good point, very well made.

    I once had the very sad duty of turning up to represent the Regiment at a double funeral: not a casualty of war, but a double suicide of a young Trooper and his girlfriend. Setting aside the reasons – and not something to be gone into in public, merely to note it was a tragedy – I remember so very well the gratitude of the grieving parents that I turned up, in a small parish church, when the Regiment was abroad and fully engaged on training for a large scale exercise. I didn’t know the young lad as I’d been posted away to ERE for 18 months, and he’d only been with the Regiment for 4 or 5 months. His father nearly broke down (he was broken down already, understandably). He kept on thanking the Regiment for having the heart to come to his boy’s funeral.

    He wasn’t perhaps to know that the Regimental Adjutant and Home Headquarters (a virtually free organisation to the taxpayer) had moved heaven and earth to organise the body’s repatriation, some flowers, had contacted the local ACF that his lad had been in to parade themselves, that the sergeant who’d recruited him was also in church. My only role was to receive a phone call from the Adjutant in my office in Salisbury to tell me “Listen you delinquent fucker***, get yourself in Number One dress up to Walsall for 0930 tomorrow for the funeral. Give a good account of the Regiment. Make sure his parents know we care. Find out their plans for a memorial service, tell them we’ll send a bus of the boys over. I don’t care which meetings you’ll miss – make excuses and just fucking do it“.

    **** Still one of my closest muckers. “Delinquent fucker” is an term of endearment.

  129. erebus says

    @Chris B

    I should have made the Shakespeare link explicit, It was referring to Agincourt and therefore Stephen E Ambrose was alluding to the bond created by the local/feudal nature of recruitment (St Crispins Day, 1415 was the battle Agincourt) .

    You can create Esprit de Corps e.g. French Foreign Legion, where you become a Legionnaire (No national allegiances). So you could argue this does not apply to as great an extent, to professional troops, who train together for long periods.

    The Pals Battalions were built upon existing social relationships and all therefore stronger, as I imagine were the 2nd/24th of Foot at Roukes drift, because of their common Welsh identity a common song “Men of Harlech” (also related to Henry V) and a tradition of male voice choirs.

    However Tribalism is one of the fundamental human social structures, and certainly applied to the Zulus. You can choose to ignore it, and move to the Continental system.

    From the horse’s mouth.

    “We are a tribal, family Regiment, both in terms of how we view our members and sister battalions, but also how we see the wider Regimental family. This culture extends to the families of the members of the Battalions, who are viewed as part of the Regimental family.”
    Wikipedia makes the case for Regiments vs Continental system.

    “It should however be noted that amalgamations beginning in the late 1950s and ending in 2006 have diluted the British regimental system through the now almost universal adoption of “large regiments” for the infantry of the Army. These units comprise up to six of the former battalions that previously had separate regimental status. Only the Guards regiments retain their historic separate identities.” .

    Where the Americans lead we follow:

    “The United States Army was also once organized into regiments, but in the 20th century the division became the tactical and administrative unit. Industrial management techniques were used to draft, assemble, equip, train and then employ huge masses of conscripted civilians in very short order, starting with minimal resources.”

    But it doesn’t make the M.O.D. right!


    Harold (II) Goodwinson’s army defeated the Vikings at Stamford Bridge near York (25th Sept) and then lost to the Norman French (who did not land until the 28th of September) at Hastings on the 14th Oct in 1066.

    “The English army was organised along regional lines, with the fyrd, or local levy, serving under a local magnate – whether an earl, bishop, or sheriff.[23] The fyrd was composed of men who owned their own land, and were equipped by their community to fulfil the king’s demands for military forces.”

    “Harold did not hesitate. Having heard of William’s landing while at York, he raced his army down the old Roman road of Ermine Street, stopping on the way at his foundation of Waltham Abbey, to pray for victory. By 12 October, he was back in London and gathering what forces he could to face William. By the 14th, he was on the way to Hastings.”

    The Regimental system and clump recruitment may be more effective and represents the established practice of centuries.

  130. wf says

    As an Army cadet, I was in Catterick to visit our parent regiment, what was then the 14/20 Kings Hussars, when we were introduced to the CO, who told his story of how he joined. Apparently his A Levels were rather mediocre, and were not of a standard that would procure him a regular commission, so the next day he enlisted as a trooper. Two months later his remarked A Levels looked a lot better, and after some too-ing an fro-ing he was allowed to transfer to Sandhurst. I’m still impressed that his family ties to the regiment were such that enlisting at the bottom of the heap was accepted as a price worth paying for entrance :-)

  131. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @Erebus – The English Army at Agincourt was much more closely akin to an Early Modern National Army than a Feudal Array…that was the French, who got soundly beaten by a much smaller but considerably more professional operation.

    Typically for overseas wars of choice the King recruited paid soldiers directly, and had other great noblemen do likewise. The usual arrangement being that a Gentlemen of modest means came himself and brought along eight or ten soldiers (a mixture of Men at Arms and Archers). They would team up with other groups of similar size forming a Company of 100 Plus, often under a Captain of recognised experience – then the Companies would group together – and finally form three “Battles” – Vanguard, Main Battle, Rear Guard. They were all professional soldiers, self-trained and equipped, and paid on a fixed scale…although of course all men and boys over seven had to practice at butts with the longbow after Church on Sunday, so they started with a basic level of military proficiency with the national weapon…


  132. IXION says


    How would all that unit loyalty and all the good stuff change, if instead of being whatever regiments of guards, it was 3rd battalion Royal recon regiment?

    I have simply not proposed any change to the organization of ‘fighting units’
    MY whole point is by common consent the regiment is not (and has not been since Victorian times) a fighting unit.


    I really don’t accept the funeral pint as a real problem, it should be simple someone form the battalion would be detailed to turn up.

    As for ‘teams’ we have done this to death the regiment is not a fighting unit and there is zero real evidence that people fight ‘for the regiment’.

    The old economies of scale apply. A single admin dept dealing with 20,000 people, will be cheaper and simpler to operate than say 20 dealing with 1000 people.

    RT Again

    Very touching – seriously no sarcasm very touching. However not sure that a Royal regiment of recon would not do the job as well after all the same delinquent fucker would still be in the same job.


    We simply don’t recruit in a meaningful local way any more and whatever pieces of interesting classical history you quote (and have I missed something but what is all this quoting thing going on about?), the reality is everyone accepts regiments are no longer fighting units.

  133. IXION says

    TD I posted a long answer to phil please tell me it hasn’t disappeared into the ether.

  134. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @Erebus – Forgot to add that about a third of Godwinson’s Army were Huscarles – professional soldiers in his employment or that of others, or Thegns with some (in some cases a lot) of military experience – backed by the “Select Fyrd” – the better trained and equipped of the general levy that they picked up on the march south.

    It was mostly the professionals who made that forced march (or rather ride) as they were largely on ponies…the Anglo-Saxons fought on foot but the pros rode to war.


  135. Phil says

    The Regimental system and clump recruitment may be more effective and represents the established practice of centuries.

    You’ve written a narrative and not an analysis. And besides, I have said myself that localised “clump” recruiting as you put it was the only way to recruit people in hyper-parochial times where 95% of the population walked everywhere and rarely went further than their nearest market town unless it was for a pilgrimage. As you may have noticed, even the Tories recognise that Medieval times have passed us by.

    Espirit d’Corps is a product of leadership, not of unit history or homogeneous regional or local make-up. One does not join a regiment and after being draped in its colours somehow absorb by osmosis a battle lust. There are proud “units” which have had appalling leadership and have performed likewise, other units without a heritage and recruited nationally have performed very well (we’ll take the Army Commandos and the Parachute Regiment in the 1940s as some examples, but there are a great many others). Localised recruitment and unit heritage do not make an effective fighting unit – excellent leadership and admin do. Leadership may buy into the ethos of the regiment and peculate that around the unit but that is still a function of good leadership and not unit history.

  136. Phil says

    TD I posted a long answer to phil please tell me it hasn’t disappeared into the ether.

    That old chestnut.

  137. Think Defence says

    Question then…

    What other nations use a similar systems, what don’t, draw some comparisons

    IXION, sorry, I emptied the potential spam folder by accident this morning!

    As a penance, have just installed another system because although the false positives (it is called ham) are low overall, it is still too high

  138. Red Trousers says


    MY whole point is by common consent the regiment is not (and has not been since Victorian times) a fighting unit.

    That’s just not right.

    Every cavalry Regiment is a single Regiment. Dozens of infantry regiments have been until recently single Regiments. Many of course have along the way been amalgamated, but the post amalgamation Regiment then acts as a single Regiment that people join and expect to then stay with for their careers, serving within it and returning to it after staff or teaching postings.

    I don’t understand your entire premise, and your choice of examples seems to be increasingly wrong. For example not realising that the Guards do operate very much as a large Regiment, and now stating such a complete fallacy. So going back to the beginning, and distilling the point you were trying to make, we come to what you think is wrong about the current setup:

    No more regimental HQ’s,

    No more RSM’s/ Colonels of the Regiment/ Ornamental goats / Silly headgear, etc etc.

    No more cap badge bollocks, like those chaps at the Tory Conference

    No more outraged pieces in the Daily Mail.

    No more ‘reviews’ in which the guards continue their overall ‘bullet proofness’ when it comes to Defence Cuts Reviews

    Regimental HQs cost buttons to run: typically a single retired officer, a couple of clerks, and heating and lighting in some shabby offices in an existing barracks, or often not on MoD property at all (eg the 3 RHQs in Edinburgh castle).

    The Regimental traditions equally cost buttons, but are much loved. Just because to you it seems ridiculous that SCOTS DG wear a grey beret doesn’t make them cost more to have grey berets than any other kinds of beret.

    If you maintain any form of acknowledged link between a locality and a unit, you’ll get cap badge loyalties and local pride. No matter what the name. And nothing going on in the Daily Mail is of military importance.

    As for the Guards, there’s 5 battalions. They rotate around various roles. They get trained as per normal infantry. Their uniforms are the same as everyone else’s, less some irrelevant details on Full Dress such as numbers of button holes. They fight as well as any other infantry battalions.

    I really don’t get your problem.

  139. Think Defence says

    GNB, can’t remember the book, its been a while. It wasn’t about Rorkes Drift specifically but the wider conflict. The later battles were really very one sided as we discovered the the joys of gatling guns but Rorkes Drift is an amazing story. Although the film is one of my favourites it does no favours to a couple of those there like Henry Hook, who was actually a militant tee totaller and model soldier, and Commissary Dalton, who was actually the most experienced infantry soldier on the battlefield and only doing the ‘storeman’ job in the Commissariat because he was too old for proper soldiering

  140. Think Defence says

    RT, I would imagine maintaining separate contracts etc for all the regimental dress variations is pretty costly, a single uniform would be duller no doubt, but cheaper, I think so

  141. Obsvr says

    @ NaB

    Hadn’t heard that CoS were reduced to 3* and a quick look at the official army site:- “General Sir Peter Wall KCB CBE ADC Gen assumed the role of Chief of the General Staff on 15 September 2010.” and from the RAF “The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) has the rank of Air Chief Marshal.” Perhaps you’re getting confused with Australia.

    However, DSACEUR at SHAPE is a UK position and 4* while the UK Mil Rep is 3*. Obviously there will be other senior and less senior UK officers here and at the other major NATO HQ across the Atlantic, doubtless including a Brigadier or three. However, there’s been a big reduction from the Cold War 3 MNCs divided in MSCs divided into PSCs (eg NORTHAG and 2ATAF both commanded by UK).


    Training comes at several levels and training the unit is a fundamental task of the CO. It’s what armies do when they are not fighting. However, regimental responsibility for recruit training ended some decades ago. Since then it has been the task of a handful of Army Training Regiments, although these are regimentally aligned. For example ATR Pirbright trains recruits for Guards, RA and RLC, and these also provide the instructors (along with the usual suspects from APTC, etc).

  142. dave haine says

    @TD- Duller, and a little less, well, British…and less for the great unwashed to identify with, and therefore support.

    As for the uniform contracts, it only costs more because the MOD are maintaining separate contracts, rather than going to one supplier. I find it odd that, despite there only being a couple of designs of tunic, in a couple of colours, with all the gold, fiddly bits being add-ons, we are running separate contracts. Even the Guards full dress tunic, if you disregard the strange button arrangements, is the same as the standard county infantry full dress tunic, as indeed is the RAC/ RA full dress tunic, only in black.

    So it’s easy, the basic uniform could be supplied by a single supplier and a good local tailor could do all the twiddly bits, and would probably welcome the contract.

  143. Tom says

    I think the localised recruiting point is being unfairly ignored. Consider this – would The Welsh, Scots, and Irish want to join a (what would be) a predominately English Regiment?

    Even the RA recognise the benefits of having certain regiments that focus their recruitment on specific areas, e.g. “Welsh Gunners” etc.

    Using the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines as examples of nationally recruited regiments is abit misleading IMO. These regiments are “elite” glamorous units, and don’t have to recruit a whole army, just a small part of it.

  144. dave haine says

    In fact, i wonder how much we could save by getting rid of that useless piece of rag- the tie.

    As a rule, the first thing that comes off in working dress, is the tie, in the RAF certainly, and i’m sure the army and RN too. Turn No1 dress back into a high collar, because it’s not worn in normal use now anyway, the same for officers and NCO’s in the navy too. Make the all the service’s No1’s (and the Army’s full dress) all the same pattern, just in different colours.

  145. IXION says

    Phil and RT

    I am genuinely glad you have both decided to wade in. I don’t ‘troll’ but the idea behind this post was that some people in uniform would come back and tell me why it would work.

    So I will try and restate my position.

    I would like to remind people that I did not say this was the cure for military cancer!

    I did say it would save some cash, (I Put it at a few tens of millions headline not earth shaking but hey every little helps).

    I also said that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it causes little problems. Indeed Phil has said it doesn’t cause many,- that turned on it’s head means it does cause some,

    ‘Friction’ I suppose would be a better word rather than outright grinding and breaking. I would say as an outsider I have to go on what is printed and spoken by those who have been inside. And there are plenty of comments about not being happy that to get a promotion earlier, they had to move out of their regiment, and about being the new man in the new regiment and having to catch up on the traditions.

    Further this type of organization already works for some of the other army functions.

    It is noticeable that some people who have defended the current system then went on to moan about Scottish regiments keeping their named battalions etc. The number of Scottish regiments has been commented on in a different thread. As has the fact that the Clan McFiji seems to have appeared in them. But I slightly digress because my point is that we have the battalion which is a basic building block, they are deployed either in battlegroups, brigades, or (unlikely in the foreseeable future), Divisons, The structure of those deployed forces are made up of (hopefully) units that have the skills and kit to face what we expect them to face. However where in this is the regiment? (RT The guards are the exception in that they are single battalion regiments. so they are deployed in their regiments (even if the brigade acts as multi battalion regiment). One assumes that battalions have their own organization structure to a degree.Above that we have Organizational structures that look after certain types of units Armour/ recon/infantry etc.

    At the moment, to the outsider the Regiment seems to be a middle management function, its job can be downsized to the battalion and upsized to Royal regiment of Infantry.

    Its not just about regimental goats etc or the (largely free to the taxpayer- I accept, ceremony).

    But as I have said some who state they support the system as is then go on to suggest larger regiments as a sort of halfway house.

    It is, I think, incontrovertible that the shape of the army we have has been shaped to a degree by the emotional loyalties of snr officers. The guards charmed life being an example, likewise the para’s, have all been criticized by people in the army after reorganization. As in why did we get done and not them.

    Now the winners may say that’s just sour grapes, but several independent commentators think we have slightly odd shaped army for its size. Again I do not say totally out of shape, just we have a f88k load of recon, for the size we are. Why the paras when no one is likely to drop a regimental strength? Could it be the Para mafia?

    Like I said individually non of this is big stuff. taken overall what we are doing is smoothing the corners and taking off some rough edges, loosing a (small) layer of middle management.

    In other words the sort of thing that modern businesses do to make themselves more efficient.

    So can we have a few less sniffy comments about HR depts.
    We have dealt with the ‘fighting for the honour of the regiment’ stuff – soldiers don’t.
    And just because the ‘Regiment’ does x or why there is no reason why the 3rd battalion royal regiment of infantry cant do it as well, or (horror of horrors) better, when combined with the Royal Regiment of infantry HQ!

    Phill I do not expect this to happen. It was just a proposal.

    But a lot of what comes back is just

    We’ve always done it this way,
    We get round the small problems by…. (ignoring the fact that is an admission there are small problems).
    Emotional stuff.

    Where is the combat military need for the Regiment? (and like I said I know the guards are single battalion so its the battalion that goes to fight, that just happens to be a regiment).

    Got to spend next 2 days earning a living so will be back on Thursday.

  146. oldreem says

    @dave haine

    You mentioned uniform costs. Back in thought 3 (this thing is growing faster that I can read it – what’s the record number of thoughts?) I said – to RT – “A new subby joining the cav has to spend 5 or 6 times the commissioning uniform allowance, and can only go to one approved (monopoly) tailor. (And he’s just started paying back his 5-figure uni loan.)” It’s a DEGEenerate, archaic system – they’re getting SKINNEd alive. How do I know, as an oldreem? My grandson.

  147. Brian Black says

    When will the next regimental reshuffle take place?

    We have a few small regiments of 2+1 battalions; there must be some practicality to doing the Rifles thing and creating larger infantry regiments from what we have already.

    Having only two regular battalions seems quite a precarious position for a regiment nowadays. At least the Rifles can be reasonably sure of existing unchanged for a long while. The smaller regiments should maybe have bitten the bullet and merged in the mid 2000s; take the pain but at least have an assured future.

    I wonder whether the changes to the TA might also upset the current regimental makeup. With reserve battalions expected to take up a more prominent role, and consequently regular battalions being paired with their reserve counterparts in order to aid training and maintain standards, the 2+1 regular to reserve battalion ratio no longer seems so appropriate.

    We might see a reorganisation by 2020 to recognise the changes to the reserve forces. With reserve battalions paired with their regular mentors, surely a 1:1 ratio within regiments makes more sense. ie 2 regular plus 2 reserve battalions per regiment, or 3+3 battalions.

  148. Chris says

    IXION – I detect the slightest bias in your assessment of the comments here above. Not that a gentleman of the legal profession would ever pick & choose evidence to substantiate a pre-constructed theory – that would be unthinkable! I will leave the personally experienced ex-Soldiers to respond to most of your comment, but I will throw in my two-penn’orth ref “We have dealt with the ‘fighting for the honour of the regiment’ stuff – soldiers don’t”:

    While I fully agree once deep in the firefight the Soldier is fighting to protect those mates fighting alongside, as I move the viewpoint back from the hostilities the drivers urging the Soldier to get to the fight I suspect are different. By the time the viewpoint is back in comfortable UK, I would imagine the Soldiers’ need to uphold the honour of the Regiment is fairly central to his/her eagerness to deploy. There will still be the desire – the duty – to protect mates about to go on deployment, but I doubt that drive is the only thing pushing the Soldier from his nice quiet safe UK billet into the uncertain future of fierce daily firefights in some far off land.

    To be truthful (possibly like a few others commenting here) I am struggling to see what’s so bad about the Regimental system that you want to sever the Soldier from his/her traditional historical Regiments (with all the pride they instil), particularly as you seem to want to make new Regiments based on your own view of what would be more rational.

    Like I said earlier, I am sure for the modest cost involved in maintaining the historical Regiments, their effect on the British Soldier is significant. Good value for money. A lot of Bang for the Buck.

  149. DavidNiven says

    I’m at a loss on this post, so I’ll just answer some of the authors questions,

    “No more RSM’s/ Colonels of the Regiment/ Ornamental goats / Silly headgear, etc etc.”

    An RSM would still be required and so would a colonel, they have defined administrative and command roles within the organisation. I think that you are confusing the term regiment with battalion, if you think more as the RSM and Colonel as Battalion Sergeant Major and Battalion Colonel it becomes simpler. And retired colonels are used in a welfare position to assist current and ex members of the regiment.

    “Psychologically it becomes easier for commanders and the units involved to work together, if Battalion 14 has Warriors and needs a light battalion and battalion 7 is ‘light’ then send 14 and 7.”

    Why? Things like that happen on a daily basis, it makes no difference if they are 14 Btn RWF and 7 Btn Rifles, why is it confusing/psychologically harder because a name has been added? If there is any friction ( apart from the, we’re better than you stuff from the younger pups ) it will come from the fact that they are two differing roles, one being armoured and the other light and therefore will work slightly different to the other in a manner that their role dictates.

    (As a side note, the we’re better than you stuff would happen regardless of any system)

    “The QM’s Job must become a lot easier.
    Within a like unit the kit can be moved and accounted for much easier I would have thought. it would be naïve in the extreme to suggest it would eliminate logistical confusion and fuck ups but it should reduce the numbers of ‘containers with no name’ shipped out to units who then have to rummage thru to see what they have got as per G1 and 2”

    But this also is standard, a light role btn is equipped the same as any other light role btn regardless of regimental name. It’s the role that dictates equipment not the cap badge. And if you don’t name a container how has the fact that the army uses a regimental system caused the confusion?

    “And an Infantry regiment to look after the Infantry (OK a lot of battalions)”

    In all but name the infantry are already a corps of infantry, since options for change all army infantry are trained in Catterick, regardless of regiment. The fact that they wear different cap badges does not affect the standard of training they receive; all the training is done to a set standard to a set syllabus. The training for JNCO’s, SNCO’s and officers is also standard throughout regiments and conducted at the school of infantry at Brecon, support weapons are all taught at Warminster.

    The administration is done at manning and records in Glasgow, for all regiments.

    I understand the reasoning behind wanting larger regiments with more btn’s, such as The Rifles and believe the army should have bit the bullet and created more regiments along those lines with 5 reg and 2 res btn’s encompassing armoured, mechanised and light roles within the regiment and with a larger recruiting area. But I don’t understand the authors point or question to be honest. There has been no common thread throughout this debate with people talking of family and others talking of standardisation, with a lot of historical quotes to add to the confusion.

    Is the author arguing to disband the regimental system because of the history or because he truly believes it’s dysfunctional?

  150. oldreem says

    I understand that the Rifles (5+2) are seen as the infantry of choice by many at RMAS – and they don’t cling to their antecedent titles. Sadly, when the large regiment idea was instituted in late 1950s/early 1960s, those who went for it (eg. ANGLIANS) were subsequently reduced, while single-battalion regiments survived, because it didn’t involve “losing a cap-badge” – superficial politician-speak, destroying (ignoring or not understanding) the large regiment rationale. The infantry should in my view have grasped the nettle and formed large regiments across the board when WARRIOR was introduced, because the subsequent waste of crewman trade skills and reduced effectiveness while retraining following Ams Plot moves was ridiculous.
    That said, how will the RAC enable some variety of role (and location) for individuals within the 2020 structure? I believe a system of 3 large RAC regiments was suggested (1/1, 2/1, 3/1; 1/2, 2/2, etc.), each large Regt having an armd, armd recce and lt recce regt. If heavy infantry (eg. D&D) could go via lt inf into rifles, then….? Was it RTR that curdled the potential mix? Incidentally, I feel (with absolutely no interest to declare – I was EME of a cavalry regiment may years ago) that RTR (once a large regiment) have been really stuffed by the “not losing a capbadge” fallacy: 4 out of 19 in 1980s to 2 out of 11, now to 1 out of 9 RAC regts.

  151. Engineer Tom says

    looking at the numbers there are 36 Infantry battalions, so we need 12 Regiments operating of 3 Battalions.

    So we need 12 names, Paras, Rifles, Scottish, Welsh & Irish, Guards, Mercian, Gurkhas, Fusiliers, Plus 4 more. Then give each Battalion a seperate name.

    You would then group these Regiments together in threes for admin and peacetime supply purposes, leaving the social/pastoral side to small regimental teams.

    Harsh and will cause issues when it is first carried out, but starting from scratch and fitting the old traditions into a new system seems a positive way forward.

    Regards recruitment, I would make it national with each recruit making a preference from a selecton that have spaces available.

  152. oldreem says

    @Engineer Tom

    Why 12 x 3? Why not 9 x 4, 7 x 5-6 or some combinations that better suit potential large regt identities? The Rifles (5 regular+2 reserve) seems to be regarded as the best current role model – and they don’t cling to antecedent titles.

    Those who went for the large inf regt model in early 1960s (eg. ANGLIANS) lost out in subsequent reductions, (to avoid “losing a capbadge”) which ignored the large regt logic, while single battalion regts survived. The infantry (or the Army) should in my view have grasped the nettle when WARRIOR was introduced, as the subsequent waste of crewman skill and reduced effectiveness while retraining following Arms Plot moves was ridiculous.

    I believe someone suggested a large regt structure for the RAC 2020 org: 3×3 (plus reserves), such that each large Regt had an armd, armd recce and lt recce regt, to allow for individual career development and some variety. Was it RTR that would have curdled the mix? Incidentally, I really think RTR (formerly a large regt) have been stuffed in successive reductions: 4 out of 19 RAC regts in 1980s to 2 ex 11, to 1 ex 9. (And absolutely no interest to declare.)

  153. oldreem says

    Sorry – latter part of the above is rewrite of my post 2 back, which I thought had disappeared into a black hole in cyberspace.

  154. Engineer Tom says

    @ oldreem

    I choose 3 Battalions as it would allow a nice rotation in training and deployment etc, and I would have 2 TA battalions in each regiment (possibly smaller than regular size). Regiments would speacilize in a role to allow transfers or attachments of varying smaller units (and TA units) within the regiment.

    Grouping these Regiments in 3’s to get 4 divisions, I am thinking a Light, Mechanised, Armoured and Speacilised (Air Assualt and Public Duties) Division.

    Also it would help with basing as it would allow whole regiments to be based together, or at least close to each other.

    (Thinking this through We should be able to maintain 12 Battalions of infantry ready to deploy + the RM’s)

  155. Tom says

    @EngrTom – we have 36 Bns now, we’re going down to 32 for Army 2020 and we’ll no doubt have a smaller number come Army 2050. There is no perfect organisation on that front.

    Like wise with the RAC regts: 3 Regts of 3 operation units might make sense now, but wouldn’t work if one unit were to disbanded.

    As others have said, really the whole infantry should of moved to the large regt model back in the late 60s using the Infantry Brigade Deports as the basis (as many of them did). At least now we could start on a reasonably even playing field even bns need to be disbanded.

  156. erebus says

    I am not an academic military historian, or a member of RUSI etc.

    The argument is:

    Regiments create a cohesive unit a single identity and links to place and history of the unit, this is more effective than the more homogenous approach of the continental
    system. The separate officer class is a weakness of the British army (and should not be introduced into the Police) especially in the past where privilege not ability determined success. This is mitigated to some extent by role of NCO’s.

    Unit cohesiveness can be achieved through training etc, and Esprit de Corps is not just about leadership, through most of history the British army has been badly led, and continued to fight when leaders were lost. We should not abandon the benefits of the regimental system. The regimental has it’s drawbacks but the benefits are greater in my opinion. History has proved the value of Regimental system.

    Here is Col Tim Collins view.
    “But with the coffers empty, the options are stark.” – The real agenda ?

    I don’t share current politicians obsession with cutting cost, (or special forces) as Oscar Wilde put it “A man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing” we have a youth, who would be better recruited into military units that have the potential to be deployed for good in the world, or left on the dole.

    I am opposed to further reductions in the army (military), and may support modest expansion. We have ongoing world wide commitments. The vandalism has to stop.

    We also need to expand the economy, but this applies to Europe as a whole, and is problematic while we are part of the European Union.

  157. dave haine says

    @ oldreem- I was kind of shying away from officers dress, where i could, because, as you say, it’s enough to make you turn communist. I mean £800 for a RAF No5 commissioned mess dress, alone, without the shirts, cummerbunds etc. It is indeed a disgrace, especially as although you get an allowance, it’s funny how they insist that you only go to certain places.

    I was referring to other ranks dress, trying to think of a way of simplifying and saving cost without losing the regimental thing.

  158. x says

    dave haine said “I mean £800 for a RAF No5 commissioned mess dress”

    Worth every penny I am sure. It looks so comfy and so stretchy and is such a good colour……………….

  159. IXION says

    David Niven

    The author is suggesting although it functions ok, it could be made to function better.

    Also suggesting that cap badge mafia and political interference both from within and without the Army, has lead to inefficiencies in design and structure. That structure could be reformed without any loss of fighting efficiency in and that should in a series of minor ways improve it.

    I am not preaching revolution just taking evolution further down the track.

    Well at least seemingly (tee hee), I can add being Anti army to my list of accolades as well as being anti airforce and anti navy.. :)

  160. Topman says

    I see you’ve found the new RAF stewards outfit as provided by Sodhexo.

  161. Chris.B. says

    @ Think Defence,
    “IXION, sorry, I emptied the potential spam folder by accident this morning!”
    — So that explains where the big post I did last night has disappeared to!

    @ Dave Haine,
    I saw your big post late last night, but my response is now in TD’s recycle bin somewhere. Short version; 1) not that Marine. I told an amusing anecdote (it amuses me at least) about a Marine I worked with on the door and about my own experience of being outnumbered, alas, maybe another time. 2) Whoever sent that e-mail from your HR people ought to have been fired on the spot. It never ceases to amaze me how many people make it to management positions without understanding how their core business works and makes money.

    @ Erebus,
    Again, apologies for the lost post, so the short version is; 1) I think you’re misreading that quote about Agincourt. I don’t believe it has anything to do with ‘Band of Brothers’ etc, rather the author appears to be making a point about the squire and his lads going to war being an antiquated concept. 2) You’re mistaking Regiments as being the only form of Tribalism. Look at the 101st, 82nd and 10th mountain in the US. Division sized formations that hold fiercely to their identities. Look at the US Marine Corps, can you name one of their sub regiments or divisions? Not many people can, but the Marine Corps survives as a tribal identity.

    @ Brian B, (from today)
    The Anglians have supposedly been in talks for years now about forming a single large regiment with the other members of the Queens Division. I’d expect that to be the next big amalgamation.

  162. dave haine says

    @x- Up your pipe….

  163. x says

    @ david haine

    I don’t speak RAF so I will take that as a term of fraternal endearment.

  164. Topman says

    No doubt in the navy it is, very close endearment indeed…

  165. Chris says

    x, DH – sorry chaps, didn’t quite catch that…

  166. Red Trousers says


    £800 is an awful lot for some polyester clothes. You’d think the Kevins would be bright enough to know they are being ripped off at that rate. Anyway, they still look like BR buffet car attendants from the 1970s even when togged up in mess kit, and for confirmation, you only have to look at the piece of fluff they bring along with them. Ankle chains, plastic stiletto shoes, visible tattoos, an accent straight out of Middlesborough, over-dosing on the Poundland scent and that’s merely the Station Commander’s wife.

    (Cue horsey Sloaney girl ripostes…., and all good fun)

  167. oldreem says

    All good fun as mess banter or on ARRSE, RT, but a bit OTT for a forum like this.
    TD, perhaps the original subject has been done to death and it’s closing time?

  168. dave haine says

    How very odd….. I used a piece of naval slang, so ‘x’ would feel included and he didn’t get it….

    @RT- the last british rail steward I saw, i’m sure had a white jacket and red trousers, I can’t be sure, however as I was very young at the time.

  169. x says

    @ Chris

    If dave’s lack of humour is indicative of the atmosphere in a RAF’s SNCO mess then that £800 for a polyester ensemble is even worse value….. ;)

    @ RT

    I have never been to a RAF dinner, tell me do the meals arrive so……….

    @ dave h

    Is this the sort of outfit you are after?

    ;) :)

  170. Red Trousers says


    don’t know specifically about RAF dinners on plastic plates, but it seems likely.

    Cautionary tale about some massively sub-optimal Jointery. Joint Staff Course in 1999-2000, the last run at Bracknell the old RAF Staff College. It appears that it is habitual for the Andrew to just completely miss Monday mornings, as they are all motoring back to Pompey from wherever they live. The Army doesn’t do Wednesday afternoons, as it is sports afternoon. The Kevins don’t do Friday afternoons as it is Chips ‘n Dips and a drinkathon at the bar from Friday lunchtime. Add all three together plus a truly enormous amount of inter-service testosterone, and you end up with a working agreement that the syllabus is structured around squeezing 5 days into 3.5, and then the Commandant thinks that to properly stretch us intellectually, he’s going to make it in reality a 6 day course including homework.

    Add to that RT deciding to make good on King’s College London’s offer of getting an MA for merely another voluntary module and a dissertation, Mrs RT sprogging and the resultant little darling having quite the most extravagant amount of colic in her first 5 months of life and requiring to be rocked to sleep at oh God hundred nightly, and apparently only settling down slowly with me singing gently to her the Skye Boat Song and Waltzing Matilda (don’t ask me why, but she seemed to like only those two songs repeated endlessly for hours). Honestly, I think I was in lectures, drunk, or on the cricket field for the entire year without any sleep whatsoever. I went hunting one Saturday and fell asleep before the off, mounted and at 1000 in the village square.

  171. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @ RT – I assume they held the stirrup cup under your nose until you woke up…although it would have been funnier had they not…hunters being a very herdy sort of horse in my experience…

    Unsurprisingly, I always followed Hounds on foot across the hills…in these parts we use horses to make Potted Dog.


  172. Red Trousers says


    luckier than that. The Aged Ps were staying with us that weekend, and Mrs RT and doting Grandma were stylishly but discreetly showboating the little darling. The Old Man – always a true infanteer – noted from afar that I was dozing off, backed Henson the nag into a corner and then gripped my knee in a way I couldn’t ignore and which was astonishingly painful, and quietly told me to get an effing grip. Don’t think too many people noticed. I don’t think I fell off that day either – I have done a handful of times which is normal for hunting, but I don’t think that day. It was just at the meet that I was dozy, and had probably been up most of the night before trying to get a wailing infant to get to ruddy sleep.

    Henson now dead, but I don’t think he got turned into lasange.

  173. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @RT – Although the whole business was a bloody scandal for a whole host of reasons, I never really understood why people got so excited about the principle of consuming the loser of the 2.45…I hope they never ordered Steak Frites at a local Estaminet in those corners of Flanders where every Village boasts a Chevaline..!

    The Salami is usually very good as well.

    I should add that like all true Englishmen I would always insist on seafood in Korea.


  174. erebus says

    @Chris B

    I have conceded that Esprit de Corps can be achieved through training giving my own example of the Legionaries, but it is still most applicable to ‘elite’ units. (Airborne and Mountain Troops are specialist elites).

    I am not that familiar with the US Marine Corps, and the sub units are deliberately few (Cheating: Aviation is one) and the Marine Corps has the rifleman’s creed.

    i.e All Marines are riflemen first. The USMC deliberately tries to avoid distinctions within the Corp.

    Marine Sub-unit: Force Recon (Film: Shooter – Book: Stephen Hunter – Point of Impact) .
    First Loyalty is still to Unit, as in: Unit, Corps, God, Country (Film: A Few Good Men)

    In the USMC to what extent is Unit loyalty greater than loyalty to the Corps?

    I have not studied this subject, I came to it with the general view that it was a mistake to destroy our historical practices.

    In my view is we should restore the Regimental system, it is our tradition, and what has been done to unpick it, has been detrimental (vandalism) to the army.

  175. dave haine says

    @x, chris-
    What lack of humour? I’ll give you heavy-handed sarcasm….maybe….a bit…
    And you can leave the SNCO jibe out of it, I never rose that high, I got commissioned! (Hence the misrole)

  176. Chris says

    DH – now when did I ever accuse you of SOHF (Sloane acronym) – misrepresentation I tell you! As a Engineer I didn’t get Commissioned I got Chartered – a term somewhat devalued by Freddy Laker…

  177. x says

    @ dave haine

    Um, the lack of humour indicated by you not getting me saying you lack of humour was tongue in cheek perhaps? Of course I knew what you meant by up your pipe you noodle I was just feigning indignation. :)

    Any way I take back what I said about RAF messes do’s being a bit dour. This pic taken at a Christmas event at a RAF base in the south east shows an armourer who appears to be happy…….

    even if his mess dress did cost £800…………………

  178. Chris says

    GNB – but how do you know when ordering the seafood in Korea that you’re not being served Seahorse?

  179. monkey says

    The USMC is a strong model to build a strong but small Combined Combat Force. All soldiers/aviatiors/ship crew (officers included) go through boot camp, so they all know who it is and what they need i.e. the boots on the ground , to get them to the next day. Even after specialization basic rifleman training needs to be refreshed at all levels regularly to reinforce this . A total intergration of the British Armed Forces is a logical step towards long term effectiveness and cost savings. However this does not mean the loss of the Regimental espirt-de-corps from your new battalion i.e. 35th Battalion (Blues and Royals) Armourd Recon Marines could still maintain their long and proud history under a new personnel flexible aspect .

  180. Tom says

    @monkey – Comparing the entire British Armed Forces to the USMC is a false and unfair comparison. The USMC is but 10% one part of the entire US Armed Forces. It is a single defined mission and does not have to encompass a wide variety of roles that the British Armed Forces does.

  181. dave haine says


    Was meant to be wry and a bit of feigned internet indignation… you have to realise that I take very little of what you say seriously….unless you’re talking about the grey funnel line, in which case I defer to your obvious experience (seriously, just in case you think i’m undertaking a bit of urinary extraction)

    By the way, wrong trade- armourers would never be seen dead in an andy-pandy outfit, they always wore the village people get-up, I don’t know why, although I suspect they thought it was irony, armourers being the sort of chaps they are.

    I would think it would be medical….or dental

  182. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @Chris – Perfectly happy about that, but I draw the line at Fricassee of Fido…


  183. Chris.B. says

    @ Erebus,

    “I am not that familiar with the US Marine Corps, and the sub units are deliberately few”
    — You have four divisions within the corps, four regiments per division, and four battalions per regiment. Then tack on all the armour and engineers and artillery etc. The Marine Corps is practically laced with sub organisations, but over time they’ve managed to cultivate the primary allegiance to the Marine Corps as opposed to the sub units. Quite an impressive achievement.

    My guess is you could probably jiggle the entire regiment system here upside down and inside out, and within 10-20 years the fellas would have cemented themselves around their new organisation.

    “In my view is we should restore the Regimental system, it is our tradition, and what has been done to unpick it, has been detrimental (vandalism) to the army.”
    — In what way?

  184. Chris says

    GNB – as a Man From T’ North, may I advise you avoid the fine basement curry-dives in Bradford then. I would hope things have changed since I was there in the 70s, when the food standards officers regularly took offence at the varieties of meat in the fridges. Tasty, if somewhat distasteful… I noted a few months back that one of our favourites, the Kash, proclaims on the nameboard its been in business since 1958 – it must be good.

    Chris.B – the fact that the Army ‘org chart’ *could* be changed to something different is not really in question, but whether it *should* be is much less certain. If, as has been stated above by people that spent time in the Army, the Regiment is a low cost administrative body which offers the Soldiers of the Regiment something to believe in, but doesn’t prevent construction of optimum composition deployable forces, then why go through the pain and disruption of wiping out the historical units in favour of new ones? And why would the new ones be any more appropriate 30 years downstream than those already extant?

  185. dave haine says

    @chris- exactly and in 30yrs you’d have to change again, whereas the regiment appears to be fairly adaptable, and more importantly, a reassuring constant in an uncertain world.

  186. oldreem says

    The one argument I can see for a degree of consolidation is that now Arms Plotting has been discontinued in favour of geographic stability, the single battalion Regiment provides no variety of role or location (except for op tours) at regimental duty for officers and longer-serving soldiers; neither is there flexibility in manning or promotion except by attachment or transferring to or from other capbadges. The large Regiment, of however many full-time and reserve major units, can provide this within a shared tradition, ethos and capbadge loyalty (provided the antecedent titles etc are not allowed to undermine loyalty to the new Regiment). The Rifles achieve this (I understand), as do (to a lesser extent) the RA and the Corps. But there is no further gain, and almost certainly a significant loss, in throwing out the baby with the bathwater and going for a single anonymised Corps of Infantry. Each Regiment/Corps needs its own USP for recruiting alone. RN and RAF might say they manage with one capbadge and service identity, but of course there are pecking orders and specialisms within that. Everyone needs someone else they can claim to be better than (cf. John Cleese and the Two Ronnies?).

  187. dave haine says


    There is indeed a pecking order in the RAF. Certain sqns are considered ‘good’ postings, careerwise. No-one upsets armourers, because they have a habit of doing ‘orrible things with flares, if you’re unlucky. Everyone takes the p**s out of shiny-arses. Cos of course Tiffy/C17/Voyager/Herc/Merlin/Puma sqns are the best….and my sqn is best.

  188. Topman says

    @ oldreem

    ‘ might say they manage with one capbadge and service identity, but of course there are pecking orders and specialisms within that. Everyone needs someone else they can claim to be better than (cf. John Cleese and the Two Ronnies?).’

    That to me seems to sum it up. Even if it were to disappear, in name, the differences between them would still appear at some point just under a different guise.

  189. Topman says

    @ dh

    ‘Everyone takes the p**s out of shiny-arses.’

    Of course, but only after you’ve got them to sort out your pay. Which they probably fucked up anyway…

  190. Chris.B. says

    @ Chris,

    “… then why go through the pain and disruption of wiping out the historical units in favour of new ones?”
    — Because we do that anyway, and it causes months of wrangling back and forth as everyone puts their stake in the ground for a fight. Inevitably someone loses out in the end, and it’s not always clear at the minute that the losers lost because they were in the worst position.

    Not sure if you’d really want to go to a “Royal Corps of Infantry”, though large Regiments of this nature have been done before (the Aus regiment has 9 battalions) but one big piece of surgery that puts all the remainders into large regiments would give you a) the perceived benefits of the regimental system and b) remove the issues surrounding small regiments. Sometimes you just have to pull someones chest open and go digging with a knife for a few hours in order to make them better for the next twenty years.

  191. dave haine says


    You know I’ve always wondered why someone would join the RAF to be a shiny-arse…. I can understand joining to be aircrew, or Mechs/Techs, or fighter controllers, ATC, even as a rock-ape… But paperwork tosser in uniform?

  192. Gloomy Northern Boy says

    @Dave Haine – Between 1792 and 1815 the Royal Navy made the Modern World – but it only had the capacity to do so because between 1660 and 1688 a civilian shiny arse who never held the King’s Coimmission or put to sea in any capacity but passenger established the means for it to do so because of his genius as an Administrator.

    He also got pissed every verse end, chased other women with some success (despite loving his wife), was a member of the Royal Society and wrote a rather good diary.

    His name was Samuel Pepys.

    Without him, there would probably have been no Pax Britannica…so show a bit of respect…


  193. dave haine says

    @GNB- Indeed he was a fine man- and one of Britain’s great’s. And a cracking good read!

    I think you miss my point- I don’t have an issue with those who are called to such work, I just don’t understand why you’d want to join the RAF to do work that pays better, with less strife outside, the fence. I’m afraid that ‘join the RAF, see the world (and bomb them)’ just doesn’t exist for the majority of the admin trade in the RAF.

    Unless, of course it’s the uniform……

  194. Obsvr says

    as a matter of fact the regular army element of the Aust Corps of Infantry comprises 3 regiments, RAR (currently 8 bns) Cdo Regt (1 reg and 1 ARes bns, the reg bn being a combined arms unit) and SASR. I’m not sure whether non-infantry corps soldiers still have to corps transfer to corps of inf to serve in SASR.

    Ah the ‘officer class’ how delightfully quaint. The problems of finding offrs in the first yrs of WW2 put paid to that. It’s also useful to note that today the average age on commissioning (excluding late entry officers ie commissioned WOs) is 24. Operations over the last 70+ yrs indicate that the system is working well.

    Back to the subject. The overheads of infantry regts are low, trivial in the greater scheme of things, although presumably kilts are more expensive than normal skirts (ladies fashion is not really my wagon).

    The issue is manning flexibility, ie the ability to move individuals between units according to military need. There is no clear evidence that unit cohesion is improved or better maintained under combat conditions by the regimental system. An interesting case is on MoD web site a few days ago, award of a DSO to the major commanding the BRF, a unit with soldiers from a multitude of cap badges.

    In summary the regimental system demonstrates not notable combat benefit, lacks manning flexibility and imposes a slight increase in marginal costs. A corps of infantry is the obvious solution but 3 large regiments would probably be OK. As for RAC, convert them all to RTR and be done with it.

  195. monkey says

    With regard to the Mission of the British Armed Forces in the present day , What is it?
    The complex and multiple mission types it has to complete from Anti submarine defence to Humanitarian Aid support to Nuclear Deterrent to Counter Insurgency means every area is stretched , @ only US$60Billion it is about the same as Japans/Saudi Arabia budget who do what exactly in the world for their money ?
    The British Armed Forces achieved wonders with very little (170k Army+Navy+RAF combined manpower) , we need to hammer out a long term future goal of integrating the forces into a cohesive whole, sharing bases and facilities and commonality of equipment to achieve cost savings which could be fed back into personnel increases for more boots on ground (or deck or in the air for that matter ).

  196. Phil says

    In summary the regimental system demonstrates not notable combat benefit, lacks manning flexibility and imposes a slight increase in marginal costs.

    So the billion dollar question is – why does it exist?

  197. Red Trousers says


    hard to tell if your sarcasm mode is on or off. Obsvr’s comment to which you reply is simply wrong, so there is no billion dollar question.

    Obsvr: “As for RAC, convert them all to RTR and be done with it.

    Just not going to happen. Apart from clearly myself being biased, looked at dispassionately there’s too much pure politics involved if you follow that course. The Army will be quite content to see the RTR squeezed down to one last Regiment, and then fight tooth and nail to retain that, as their main role is to act as a safety valve to preserve the continuing existence of cavalry regiments. RAC too large? Chop an RTR. RAC needs to grow? Add an RTR. RAC too large again? Chop an RTR.

    There’s only utterly marginal uniform savings in converting the cavalry to RTR, and a world of political pain. No sane Secretary of State would even think of it.

    Very good position to be in, for a cavalryman. Almost as though the Cavalry Regimental Colonels conspired to achieve such an effect and have carried out a very effective lobbying campaign at discreet Belgravia dinners at which CGS gets his briefings… :)

    Works for the Navy as well, but their chosen method of keeping things as they want them to be is to leave a briefcase full of information on a canal towpath in the certain knowledge that a friendly journalist will magically find the papers.

  198. Phil says

    so there is no billion dollar question.

    Well no, there still is.

    The Army has undergone 10-12 or so major, fundamental re-organisations, contractions and expansions of which two (WWI & WWII mobilisation) resulted in the undermining of the independence and recruiting system of the regiments. Even with the 1957 review, the 1960s amalgamations, the Options for Change, Frontline First, SDR and FAS and now Army 2020 – the regiments in some form or other remain.

    I think the utility of the current model needs to be explored before deciding to scrap it otherwise you have no argument for change. So the question still stands – why do we still have regiments when there has been every opportunity to eliminate them? Why did they spring back after 1919 and 1947? There’s reasons why they are still with us.

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