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British Infantry Divisions

The 1967 White Paper on Defence explained that a wide-ranging examination of the long-term structure of the Army was being carried out. The Government had taken several decisions about the organization of the Infantry. The Infantry of the Line was grouped into thirteen Brigades or Large Regiments and the Parachute Regiment. Each contained either three or four battalions. It had become clear that these groupings were too small to meet the needs of the Army. Accordingly, the Infantry of the Line, apart from the Parachute Regiment, was reorganized into five new larger groupings, to be known as 'Divisions', each being formed by amalgamating either two or three Brigades or Large Regiments.

These large groupings would allow for contraction, or for expansion, with the least possible difficulty. In the new organization it would be easier to smooth out inequalities in manpower as between one battalion and another. The reorganization would make for efficiency in recruit training and economy. The new organization was introduced by planned stages and would be complete by the middle of 1969. The aim was to meet the needs of the future while preserving the best features of the regimental system.

The Infantry had been organized into Brigades or Large Regiments. The Brigade of Guards contained eight battalions. The Infantry of the Line was made up of ten Brigades, three Large Regiments and the Parachute Regiment, each containing three or four battalions. A Large Regiment was a more closely integrated group than a Brigade of Infantry of the Line.

It had become clear that the groupings of battalions within Brigades and Large Regiments were too small. The Infantry structure must allow for contraction, which could be considerable, or for expansion in the number and size of infantry units with the least possible difficulty. The present structure was a well established organization but it was necessary to develop it further into larger groupings to meet such changes.

Recruiting was largely on a territorial basis. There were inescapable fluctuations in the recruitment to individual Brigades and Large Regiments. The formation of larger groups for personnel management purposes would make it easier to eliminate any inequalities in strength and in specialists. With larger groupings, it would be possible to concentrate recruit training into fewer Depots; this would make for training efficiency and for economy.

The Army Board rejected the possibility of a single Corps of Infantry devoid of subordinate groupings of Regiments. A single Corps would he unwieldy and impersonal to a degree inimical to effective personnel and general management. What is needed is a reduction in the number of groupings, not their abolition. They accordingly decided that the Infantry should be reorganized into larger groupings to be known as "Divisions".

The Infantry of the Line, less the Parachute Regiment, would be organized into the new Divisions by grouping together existing Brigades and Large Regiments.

Division Existing Brigades and

Large Regiments

The Queen's Division The Queen's Regiment
The Fusilier Brigade
The Royal Anglian Regiment
The King's Division The Lancastrian Brigade
The Yorkshire Brigade
The North Irish Brigade
The Prince of Wales's The Wessex Brigade Division
The Mercian Brigade
The Welsh Brigade
The Scottish Division The Lowland Brigade
The Highland Brigade
The Light Division The Light Infantry Brigade
The Royal Green Jackets

The Scottish and Light Division were smaller than the others but each had distinguishing characteristics justifying a separate identity. In general the new groupings reflected geographical contiguity of home recruiting areas. In each Division a Headquarters would be formed, superseding existing Headquarters of Brigades and Large Regiments. Officers would be gazetted, and soldiers enlisted, into the Division. Whenever possible, officers and soldiers would be posted to the Regiment of their choice. Basic training would be carried out in Divisional Depots. Regiments would preserve their identities, territorial affiliations and titles. To facilitate posting between battalions, there would in due course be some rationalization of dress and eventually a Divisional cap badge would be introduced.

The Brigade of Guards, which was already roughly of the size proposed for a Division, would continue as a separate organization. In conformity with the new nomenclature its title would be changed to The Guards Division. The Parachute Regiment, because of its special characteristics, would not be included in any Division of Infantry and would remain in its existing form.

The new Divisional organization, which would be introduced by planned stages, would be complete by the middle of 1969. The new system of Divisions of Infantry would meet the needs of the future while preserving the best features of the regimental system inherited from the past. It would be flexible enough to meet all the demands that may be made upon it and would thus provide a stable enduring structure for the Infantry.

There are five of these divisions, all with new names. Their names are all worth noticing, perhaps. The Queen's Division—excellent. The Prince of Wales' Division — splendid. The Scottish Division — accurate and descriptive. The Light Division—good. The Scottish, Queen's, King's, Prince of Wales' and Irish Divisions were made up of 'County Regiments' which mainly recruited from specific counties within the UK, giving them a distinct regional character. The Queen's Division was primarily drawn from the south and east Midlands of England, although the Royal Fusiliers had a large proportion of soldiers drawn from Newcastle and Northumbria. The Prince of Wales's Division was formed from regiments drawn from Wales and the west and midlands of England.

The Regiments of the King's Division were recruited from the north of England. When regiments such as the King's Own, the King's Royal Regiment or the King's Royal Rifle Corps were given the Royal prefix, this was a mark of honour. There was a King upon the Throne, and the regiments knew exactly whom they were being named after. But who is the King now that this prefix has been put at the head of this orphan of a regiment, when there was a Queen upon the Throne?

Consider the other two brigades which were to make up its composition. They were the Lancastrian and the Yorkshire, two fine brigades. The Wars of the Roses were over some time ago, and there was even a regiment called the York and Lancaster Regiment, which wore both the red rose and the white. Conceivably, the counties from which the men were drawn being contiguous, this was a reasonable arrangement.

Then, as the third brigade in this division, came the North Irish Brigade. It was hard to say that this is a contiguous brigade. It is separated from the other two brigades by nationality and country — they even lived in a different country — language and sea. It was very difficult to see that this is a convenient grouping, and some observers wondered what sort of a division one is to get when this is done. There was no argument that the North Irish Brigade was an extremely good one. It was small compared with the brigades, and smaller still compared with the new divisions which were to be formed; but it is a special thing of its own, on the other side of the sea, in another country: it was a viable formation, and had been for years.

It was said that this new organization does not affect the separate identity of the individual regiments. Regimental and battalion identities were not supposed to be affected by this regrouping. But the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) Brigade was to be reduced by one battalion, to amalgamate with the Lancashire Regiment to form a new regiment. The two battalions which were to amalgamate — that is, the Loyal and the Lancashire — were each to retain their separate identities.

In the Lowland Brigade the 1st Cameronians were to go. So also were the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Durham Light Infantry, the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 1st Battalions of these regiments were the regiments themselves. With the disappearance of the Welch Regiment the Welch and the Irish Brigades were reduced to two regiments each, which was not a viable formation for cross-posting and organizational matters. It might take a very long time for the Welsh soldier to accept his acquaintances over the marches as brothers; and the same applied to the Irish and the Lancastrians.

The Light Division would consist of four battalions but would drop to three battalions in 1969. Apparently, no one particular battalion, like that of the Durham Light Infantry or the K.O.Y.L.I. [King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry], was to be disbanded but, nevertheless, instead of four, there were to be three battalions in the division. By 1968, of the old original Light Division, the Duke of Wellington's in the Peninsula campaign, the 43rd, the 52nd and the Rifle Brigade alone remained.

As part of the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review, the decision was made to inactivate the regional divisions and assign the regional brigades to a single Support Command. The establishment and structure of the infantry after the implementation of the outcome of the October 2010 strategic defence and security review would include a total liability for 24,631 Infantry personnel.

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Page last modified: 25-04-2013 17:44:06 ZULU