Battalion: infantry Regiments were composed of battalions, active service units consisting of about 1000 men under the command of a Lieutenant-Colonel. It was often the case that a soldier’s first loyalty was to his battalion; when conditions allowed great efforts were made to ensure a sense of tradition and ‘esprit de corps’. During the First World War regiments raised large numbers of battalions.
Brigade: four infantry battalions would be grouped together to form an infantry brigade – under the command of a Brigadier General. In 1918 brigades were reduced to three battalions.
Division: three infantry brigades would be grouped together to form a division – under the command of a Major-General. The division was likely to have been the largest formation that a soldier would have identified with; they had distinctive insignia and familiar nicknames; some divisional commanders became well known to their men. The division was a self-contained fighting force possessing, in addition to its 12 infantry battalions and Pioneer Battalion, its own supporting specialists, Engineers, Artillery, Transport and Medical units. Its total complement was over 19,000 men.
Corps: divisions (any number from two to six) would be grouped to serve under corps – a directing administrative formation responsible for the effective deployment of its divisions in the field. An army corps was commanded by a Lieutenant-General. A corps would be provided with supporting troops – often known as ‘Lines of Communication’ or ‘Corps Troops’.
Army: corps would be grouped to serve under an army – another higher-level administrative formation responsible for the effective fulfilment of the overall strategic aims of the Commander-in-Chief. An army, commanded by a General, was provided with specialist supporting troops – often known as ‘Lines of Communication’ or ‘Army Troops’.
Commander-in-Chief: Armies came under the control and command of the Commander-in Chief (C-in-C) at General Headquarters (GHQ). Appointed C-in-C in December 1915, General Sir Douglas Haig was responsible for the overall conduct of the British Army during the Battle of the Somme (and indeed all British Army operations in France and Belgium); he was promoted Field Marshal on 3 January 1917.
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