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4 mars 2008 2 04 /03 /mars /2008 23:41




Explanation of British Regiments

Designations of British units:  Each British Regiment contained 4 or 5 Battalions, or even as many as 12. Unlike the US divisions, the British Regiment was identified only by its name-- not a number-- and the battalions of a regiment did not serve in the same division.  Therefore, one battalion of one regiment might be sent to Italy, another to Pacific and another to France.  I presume the purpose was ensuring each division had diversified units so as to utilize combined arms.  Another reason is that regiments generally raised troops from one local area and if that regiment received heavy casualties, then that would have a devastating impact on the local community.  This was a lesson that was learned in World War 1. 
Prior to WW2, a regiment would consist of 3 battalions: one used for home defense, one deployed overseas and one 'home' unit that provided a a flow of trained replacements.  Regiments that existed before 1939, generally consisted of 1 or 2 regular battalions and 2 or 3 Territorial Army battalions for training and replenishment.  As the requirement for more divisions grew, the TA battalions duplicated themselves, thus creating a 1/6 and 2/6 battalion designation.  These new battalions were group together to form new TA brigades and new divisions and fought together.  
Towards the end of the war, the British converted to a system similar to the Americans that trained all replacements and assigned them to units as needed. 
Each Regiment was identified by their name.  However, most references will have a number preceding the name that identifies the specific battalion of that regiment.


  6 Grenadier Guards stands for the 6th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards.
  40 Royal Tank Regiment is the 40th Regiment, as there were many tank regiments.
  1/6 West Surrey is the 1st Battalion of the territorial West Surrey Regiment.  
  The second battalion of   the Territorial Army was designated as 2/6th West Surrey. 
The British preferred to designate the corps in Arabic numbers, whereas the Americans used Roman numerals. Thus sometimes you will see it written as "X Corps" and other times as "10th Corps", depending whether the source is American or British.   The British divisions and some brigades were issued shoulder patches.  
The division adopted a name or title that described their heritage or origin; i.e., North Midland Division or Highland Division.  The British regiments did not have shoulder patches.  

Each regiment and branch (such as Engineers) had a distinctive cap badge and, in some cases, a shoulder title either of metal or cloth strip.


  The Eighth Army

It was a British formation, and was always commanded by British generals. Its personnel came from throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth, complemented by units composed of exiles from Nazi-occupied Europe. Subordinate units came from Australia, British India, Canada, Free French Forces, Greece, New Zealand, Poland, Rhodesia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Was one of the best-known formations in World War II, fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns.


North Africa

Eighth Army first went into action as an Army as part of Operation Crusader, the Allied operation to relieve the besieged city of Tobruk, on 17 November 1941, when it crossed the Egyptian frontier into Libya to attack Erwin Rommel's Panzer Army Africa.

On 26 November the Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced Cunningham with Major-General Neil Ritchie, following disagreements between Auchinleck and Cunningham. Despite achieving a number of tactical successes, Rommel was forced to concede Tobruk and was pushed back to El Agheila by the end of 1941. In February 1942 Rommel had regrouped his forces sufficiently to push the over-extended Eighth Army back to the Gazala line, just west of Tobruk. Both sides commenced a period of building their strength to launch new offensives but it was Rommel who took the initiative first, forcing Eighth Army from the Gazala position.

Ritchie proved unable to halt Rommel and was replaced when Auchinleck himself took direct command of the army. The Panzer Army Afrika were eventually stopped by Auchinleck at the First battle of El Alamein. Auchinleck, wishing to pause and regroup Eighth Army which had expended a lot of its strength in halting Rommel, came under intense political pressure from Winston Churchill to strike back immediately. However, he proved unable to build on his success at Alamein and was replaced as Commander-in-Chief Middle-East in August 1942 by General Alexander and as Eighth Army commander by Lieutenant-General William Gott. Gott was killed in an air crash on his way to take up his command and so Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was appointed in his place. Alexander and Montgomery were able to resist the pressure from Churchill, building the army's strength and adding a pursuit formation, X Corps, to the Army's XIII Corps and XXX Corps.

At the beginning of November 1942 the Eighth Army defeated Rommel in the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, pursuing the defeated Axis army across Libya and reaching the Mareth defensive line on the Tunisian border in February 1943 where it came under the control of 18th Army Group. Eighth Army outflanked the Mareth defenses in March 1943 and after further fighting alongside British First Army, the other 18th Army Group component which had been campaigning in Tunisia since November 1942, the Axis forces in North Africa surrendered the 13 May 1943.


Field Marshall Montgomery   

Indian Army in WWII
Punjabi Regiments

During WWII Britain's ability to fight on equal terms with the Axis powers was due in large part to the sizable number of troops raised in countries like Canada, South Africa and India. These areas, who were either currently or formerly part of the British Empire, raised their own regiments that fought alongside British troops on every front of the war.

India was the largest contributor among the Empire, and Indian regiments fought with distinction in North Africa, Italy, and South-East Asia. At the time India still consisted of what are now three independent countries, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In fact, the India of WWII was actually 565 states ruled by local leaders that had varying degrees of independence from the British Crown. Over a period of 100 years the Indian Army had evolved to become a very distinct part of the British armed forces, with its own customs and traditions.

In 1941 the Indian army had 18 regular regiments, along with 10 regiments of the legendary Gurkhas from Nepal. Of the 18 Indian regiments 13 were raised from the mountainous northern regions of the Punjab, Kashmir, and Jammu, an area known today for being the focal point of tense conflict between India and Pakistan. Together these areas were considered Punjabi for recruiting purposes. A brigade in the Indian Army would often consist of two battalions from Indian regiments and one battalion from a British regiment, which rotated through long stints of service in Asia.

There were three types of soldiers in the Punjabi Indian regiments: Sikhs, Punjabi Mussulmans, and Dogras. Punjabi Mussulmans were Muslims who came from the northern parts of the provinces, and usually comprised about half of the regiment. Dogras were Hindus who came from the region of Jammu. Both were usually peasants or farmers who chose long terms of service in the military.

Sikhs were a distinctive group of soldiers, with long hair, beards and a special turban. The Sikh religion was a monotheistic one influenced by Hinduism. It was based on rules known as the five 'K's. These were: Kess (hair and beard, never shaved), Kirpan (small sword, always carried), Karra (bracelet) 
Kangha (comb, worn in the hair), 
and Kachar (underwear, not usually worn by other Indians).



The NCOs were promoted from the ranks, and a portion of the officers were Indian as well. The majority of the officers, and all of the high ranking ones, were British. None of the enlisted men or NCOs in the Indian army spoke English, so the British officers were required to learn Urdu, a dialect of Hindustani that mixed in Persian and Arabic words.

Urdu Words

Following is a list of some commonly used Urdu words. Since large numbers of British soldiers served alongside Indian units, many Urdu words were adopted or modified and used as slang in the British army.

Urdu Word English
accha good
asti slowly
badmash undesirable
baksheesh tip, gift
basha native hut
bhisti water carrier
bibi girl
bobaji cook
burra big
char tea
char-wallah food vendor
charbash well done
charboy drill afternoon siesta
chota small
dacoit robber
dekko look
dhobi laundry
jao go
jildi quickly
khud hillside
pani water
puggle-pani alcoholic drink
pukka genuine
sahib sir
shikari hunter
salaams greetings
sepoy soldier
susti lazy
wallah servant
wappas jao go back









The Lee-Enfield was, in various marks and models, the British Army's standard bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle for over 60 years from (officially) 1895 until 1957, although it remained in British service well into the early 1960s and is still found in service in the armed forces of some Commonwealth nations. In its many versions, it was the standard army service rifle for the first half of the 20th century, and was adopted by Britain's colonies and Commonwealth allies, including India, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

  Rifle No 4 Mk I Cal 303*

By the late 1930s the need for new rifles grew, and the Rifle, No. 4 Mk I was first issued in 1939 but not officially adopted intil 1941. The No. 4 action was similar to the Mk VI but lighter, stronger, and most importantly, easier to mass-produce. Unlike the SMLE, the No 4 Lee-Enfield barrel protruded from the end of the forestock. The No. 4 rifle was considerably heavier than the No. 1 Mk. III, largely due to its heavier barrel, and a new bayonet was designed to go with the rifle- a spike bayonet (which was essentially a steel rod with a sharp point), and was nicknamed "pigsticker" by soldiers. Towards the end of WWII, a bladed bayonet was developed and issued for the No 4 rifle, using the same mount as the spike bayonet.

During the course of World War II, the No. 4 rifle was further simplified for mass-production with the creation of the No. 4 Mk I* in 1942which saw the bolt release catch removed in favour of a more simplified notch on the bolt track of rifle's receiver. It was produced only in North America, with Long Branch Arsenal in Canada and Savage-Stevens Firearms in the USA producing the No. 4 Mk I* rifle from their respective factories. On the other hand, the No.4 Mk I rifle was primarily produced in the United Kingdom.

Lee-Enfield Mk .1

 No.4 Mk.1


.303 British (7.7x56mm R)


manually operated, rotating bolt

Overall length

1132 mm

Barrel length

640 mm


3.96 kg

Magazine capacity

10 rounds in detachable box magazine

Models/marks of Lee-Enfield Rifle and service periods

Magazine Lee-Enfield 1895–1926
Charger Loading Lee-Enfield 1906–1926
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk I 1904–1926
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk II 1906–1927
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk III/III   1907–Present
Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Mk V 1922–1924 (Trials Only 20,000)
Rifle No. 4 Mk I * 1941–Present
Rifle No. 4 Mk I 1942–Present
Rifle No 5 Mk I "Jungle Carbine" 1944–Present
Rifle No. 4 Mk 2 1949–Present
Rifle 7.62mm 2A 1964–Present
Rifle 7.62mm 2A1 1965-Present

united-states-enacts-lend-lease-bill-4.jpg Sir Winston Churchill







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