The British order of battle of 1914-1918

This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to find out about the structure of the army and the history of the various formations from which it was constructed.

What is an order of battle?

An Order of Battle (often shortened to ORBAT) is the identification, strength, command structure and disposition of the personnel, units and equipment of any military force. It is an organisational view of the army.

The structure

Many people find the various names of organisational units very confusing. There is good reason for this: it is confusing! For example the word Corps is used in three quite distinct ways. As a guide, we can look at it this way, starting with the individual. This is simplified but works in most cases.

  • Soldier -> in the infantry, he is part of a Battalion (c. 1000 men) This is subdivided into Companies, which are subdivided into Platoons, which are subdivided into Sections.
  • several Battalions -> are under command of a Brigade (c.5000 men)
  • several Brigades -> are under command of a Division (c.20000 men)
  • several Divisions -> are under command of a Corps
  • several Corps -> are under command of an Army
  • several Armies (the British eventually had five in France and Flanders) -> under command of a GHQ, General Headquarters
  • GHQ -> under command of the War Office.

The arrangements and names are a little different in the artillery:

  • Soldier -> in the artillery, he is part of a Battery or Ammunition Column (which may be subdivided into Sections)
  • several Batteries and an AC -> are under command of a Brigade
  • several Brigades -> are under command of a Division, etc

How the Long, Long Trail can help

The constituent parts and history of every formation are here. Just click on the appropriate links: