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British Armed Forces

Image Right - The Battle of Marston Moor, 1644

Image by John Barker - Art, Public Domain, Wiki Commons

Please add people who served in the British Armed Forces to this project, regardless of service period or location. The purpose of the project is to serve as a Military Portal for the British Armed Forces, but also to catch members of the British armed forces who have not been added to (but not excluding) any of the projects listed below. Often the occupations listed for a person are not specific regarding where a soldier served.

Please expand the project as new projects are set up, linking them to this project and listing them below as appropriate.

See also

The Royal Air Force
The Royal Navy

The Act of Union in 1707 resulted in the armed forces of England and Scotland being merged into the armed forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain. With the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Britain rose to become the world's dominant superpower. A period of relative peace, known as Pax Britannica, reigned until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Between 1707 and 1914, British forces played a prominent role in notable conflicts including the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars and the Crimean War.

The current structure of defence management in Britain was set in place in 1964 when the modern day Ministry of Defence (MoD) was created (an earlier form had existed since 1940). The MoD assumed the roles of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry.

Militia Lists and Muster Rolls

After the English Civil War (1642-1651), the raising of a militia was suspended until the Militia Act of 1757. The Militia force was re-established by Henry II in 1181 by the Assize of Arms and later the Statute of Winchester in 1285 created Commissions of Array who were responsible for mustering the militia. The role of the Commissions was superseded by the Lord Lieutenant (established in 1594). Following the formation of the British Standing Army in 1660, the use and need of a militia fell into decline until the Militia Act of 1757 which once again revived the militia. Pre-1757 militia records in the form of Muster Rolls are held at The National Archives (TNA) or at County Record Offices and sometimes amongst private papers.

For a detailed listing of surviving muster rolls held at TNA, County Record Offices as well as published transcriptions and indexes, see: Gibson, Jeremy & Dell, Alan. Tudor and Stuart Muster Rolls: Federation of Family History Societies, 1989.

Following the Militia Act, the militia remained a standalone county force until the Cardwell Reforms of 1872 which saw the militia attached to the regular county regiments of the army. Finally in 1906 the militia was transformed into Special Reserve Battalions.

The county based Lord Lieutenant was responsible for raising the force and Petty Magistrates and Parish Constables distributed the Household Forms, which were given to each household requiring details about each adult male. From the forms, the Militia Ballot List was drawn up showing all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 (lowered to aged 42 in 1762). Those selected for service appear in the Militia Lists whilst those that actually served appear in Attestation (enlistment) Papers, pay books and enrolment lists. The Militia Ballot Lists and Militia Lists are held at County Record Offices whilst the records of those selected to serve are at TNA.

In theory all adult able-bodied males between the ages of 15 and 60 should appear in the lists although the earlier lists only detail those that attended the muster. The wealthy often evaded service and some professions such as the clergy, teachers and apprentices were excluded from the earlier ballots. Those too poor or unfit were not considered for service. The 'Posse Comitatus' lists and the 'Levee en Masse' (mass enlistment) lists were made in 1798 and 1803/1804 respectively. These were lists of reservists to be used in the event of a French invasion during the Napoleonic Wars which ended in 1815. When the threat of invasion ended, these surveys were no longer taken and militia membership became voluntary. A militiaman could serve between three and five years and thereafter he might have joined the regular army. Many just attended a few weeks training each year.

Other volunteer forces such as the Yeomanry, The Volunteers and the Local Militia can be found in series WO 13 at The National Archives and in records found in County Record Offices and other local collections. The militia was funded from proceeds from the land tax so some references are found in E 182. Militia lists might also be found amongst the parish Overseer Accounts.

Militia Relief Orders provided for the relief of the families of poorer militiamen. The Orders gave the name of the soldier and his wife and occasionally the names of the children and their ages. - See Militia Records

See also

British Officers in India
English Battles, Wars and Conflicts - Main Page
Military history of Britain project
Military History of Scotland
Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815
The Royal Navy
Seven Years War 1756-1763
Scottish Battles, Conflicts and other Events - Main Page
The Waterloo Campaign

Crimean War

The Crimean War (1853 – 1856)

Boer War

Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 British Armed Forces (Other Ranks)
Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 British Armed Forces (Officers)

World War 1

WW1 Armed Forces - Channel Islands
WW1 Armed Forces - England
WW1 Armed Forces - Ireland
WW1 Armed Forces - Scotland
WW1 Armed Forces - Wales
WW1 Armed Forces - Participating Women

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References and Sources

British Regiments

Officer Ranks

The rank system forms the backbone of the Army's structure and it defines a soldier or officer's role and degree of responsibility. Soldiers and Officers have different rank systems. Broadly speaking, officers have more leadership duties. However many Officers start off as soldiers, before gaining their commission.

Officer Cadet This is the rank held during initial officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Second Lieutenant The first rank held on commissioning. It is normally held for up to 2 years, during which time they complete special to arms training relevant to their Corps. Afterwards they are responsible for leading up to 30 soldiers in a platoon or troop, both in training and on operations.

Lieutenant Lieutenant is a rank typically held for up to 3 years. They normally command of a platoon or troop of around 30 soldiers, but with experience comes increased responsibilities. They also have the opportunity to gain specialised skills outside their unit.

Captain Captains are normally made second-in-command of a sub-unit of up to 120 soldiers. They are key players in the planning and decision-making process, with tactical responsibility for operations on the ground as well as equipment maintenance, logistic support and manpower.

Major Promotion to Major follows between 8-10 years service. Typically a Major will be given command of a sub-unit of up to 120 officers and soldiers with responsibility for their training, welfare and administration both in camp and on operations, as well as the management of their equipment.

Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonels typically command units of up to 650 soldiers, containing four or five sub-units. They are responsible for the overall operational effectiveness of their unit in terms of military capability, welfare and general discipline. Typically a two-year appointment.

Colonel Colonels are not usually field commanders (except in the Royal Army Medical Corps) - typically they serve as staff officers between field commands at battalion/brigade level. It is the lowest of the staff ranks and they are the principal operational advisors to senior officers.

Brigadier (aka 1 star) Brigadier is not considered to be a General Officer rank by the British Army but rather a Field officer rank. Brigadiers can command a brigade or be a director of operational capability groups such as a director of staff.

Major General (aka 2 star) Major Generals command formations of division size and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and hold senior staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence and other headquarters.

Lieutenant General (aka 3 star) Lieutenant Generals command formations of Corps size and other commands in the UK and overseas, and hold very senior staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence and other headquarters.

General (aka 4 star)

Generals hold the most senior appointments - such as the Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of the General Staff, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Commander in Chief Land Forces.

Other Ranks

Private On completion of Phase 1 Training, all new soldiers start as Privates although the title may be Trooper, Gunner, Signaller, Sapper, Guardsman Rifleman or even Kingsman depending on Corps/Regiment.

Lance Corporal Promotion to Lance Corporal may follow after Phase 2 Training or after about 3 years as a private. Lance Corporals are required to supervise a small team of up to four soldiers called a section. They also have opportunities to specialise and undertake specialist military training.

Corporal After 6-8 years, and depending on ability to lead, promotion to Corporal typically follows. In this rank additional trade and instructor qualifications can be gained. Corporals are given command of more soldiers and equipment such as tanks and guns.

Sergeant Sergeant is a senior role of responsibility, promotion to which typically takes place after 12 years depending on ability. Sergeants typically are second in command of a troop or platoon of up to 35 soldiers, with the important responsibility for advising and assisting junior officers.

Staff/Colour Sergeant After a few years as a Sergeant promotion to either Staff or Colour Sergeant may follow. This is a senior role combining man and resource management of around 120 soldiers, or even command of a troop or platoon.

Warrant Officer Class 2 (Company/Squadron Sergeant Major) This is a senior management role focussing on the training, welfare and discipline of a company, squadron or battery of up to 120 soldiers. WO2s act as senior adviser to the Major in command of the sub-unit and may also be selected for a commission as an Officer.

Warrant Officer Class 1 (Regimental Sergeant Major) The most senior soldier rank in the British Army, typically reached after 18 years of outstanding service. WO1s are the senior advisors of their unit's Commanding Officer, with leadership, discipline and welfare responsibilities of up to 650 officers and soldiers and equipment.

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