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The infantry battalion was a key structure in the Royal Army and thus its structure went through a fair few changes during the course of the war. Specifically, the transition from the failed 1940 organization to the improved 1941 organization that served the army until the spring of 1943 when finally, the 1943 organization was established. [1] This would be the last change to the basic British infantry battalion until the end of the war.

Note that a (2), (3), or (4) indicates the respective amount of said unit in the unit above it. Ex. (4) Rifle Company indicates four rifle companies in the battalion.

Battalion Strength

Complete Battalion: 36 Officers, 809 other ranks[2]

  • Battalion Headquarters: 5 Officers, 45 other ranks[2]

  • Headquarters Company: 4 Officers, 91 other ranks[2]

  • Company Headquarters: 1 Officer, 5 other ranks[2]
  • Signals Platoon: 1 Officer, 35 other ranks[2]
  • Administrative Platoon: 2 Officers, 51 other tanks
  • (4) Rifle Company: 5 Officers, 122 other ranks

  • Company Headquarters: 2 Officers, 14 other ranks
  • (3) Rifle Platoons: 1 officer, 36 other ranks
  • Platoon Headquarters: 1 Officer, 3 other ranks
  • (3) Rifle Sections: 30 Other ranks
  • Light Mortar Section: 3 Other ranks
  • Support Company: 7 Officers, 185 other ranks

  • Company Headquarters: 1 Officer, 8 other ranks
  • Mortar Platoon: 1 Officer, 42 other ranks
  • Carrier Platoon: 2 Officers, 61 other ranks
  • Anti-tank Platoon: 2 Officers, 53 other ranks
  • Pioneer Platoon: 1 Officer, 21 other ranks

In Practice

The British infantry battalion's strength came from its four rifle companies. Each section was equipped with a Bren light machine gun meant to cover advancing groups of riflemen. However, having only one machine gun per section and fitting only NCOs with submachine guns who may not even choose to use them for fear of snipers put the section at a disadvantage when entering into urban combat. As soon as the light machine gun team needed to advance, the riflemen simply could not match its volume of fire.

In support of the rifle platoons, the light mortar section, was often used more to provide valuable smoke cover than fire high explosive into enemy lines. When heavier automatic fire was required, a platoon of four Vickers machine guns was sometimes provided down from the divisional battalion.[2]

References

  1. http://bayonetstrength.150m.com/British/Infantry/british_infantry_battalion.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 http://bayonetstrength.150m.com/British/Infantry/british_infantry_battalion%201943%20to%201945.htm