Home
Home Service
Crimean War
Zulu War
Boer War
Medical Staff Corps
Events for this year
About Us
Drill Manual
Canada 2006
History
Articles
FAQ
Links
Contact Details

 

 

The Infantry Battalion

STRUCTURE, RANKS AND APPOINTMENTS

 

Establishment of an Infantry Battalion

Lieutenant-Colonel………..………………. 1

Majors………………………..……………  3

Captains…………………………..……….  6

Lieutenants…………………………..……. 8

2nd Lieutenants………………………….... 4

Captain or Lieutenant as Adjutant………… 1

Total Officers…………………………...…24

Sergeant Major…………………………….  1

Bandmaster………………………………...  1

Total of Warrant Officers………………….  2

Quartermaster Sergeant……………………. 1

Sergeant Instructor of Musketry…………...  1

Orderly Room Sergeant……………………. 2

Colour Sergeants of Companies…………… 8

Sergeant Drummer………………………… 1

Cook Sergeant……………………………... 1

Pioneer Sergeant…………………………… 1

Sergeants………………………………….  24

Total of Sergeants………………………… 39

Drummers………………………………… 16

Corporals…………………………………. 40

Privates………………………………..… 760

Total Strength of battalion………………. 881

   At the start of Queen Victoria’s reign an infantry battalion had ten companies, the senior company was the Grenadier Company and stood on the right of the battalion, the Light Infantry Company who stood on the left, the eight rifle companies were lettered ‘A’ to ‘H’ (Guards companies were numbered ‘1’ to ‘8’). Grenadiers were selected men whose particular job in wartime was to lead the assault. Light infantrymen were trained to work independently as skirmishers, when the battalion was formed up in line they would create a screen in advance of the main body, using natural cover to snipe at the enemy.

   Following the Crimean War the need for grenadier and light infantry companies was lessened because all troops were trained in those roles, eventually they were disbanded and all infantry regiments had battalions structured on eight rifle companies.

   Throughout the period minor changes were made to the battalion establishments and it is very possible that no battalion ever matched the one laid down in regulations, because of the vagaries of drafts of new men arriving, old soldiers leaving, and individuals being posted in and out, it was a very hit and miss affair. Recruiting was also a factor, if it were poor then the battalion would be under strength, and if it were going particularly well it would be over strength. The aim was to keep battalions abroad up to the required manpower but because of sickness and battle casualties it was a continual struggle.

Ranks and Appointments

   The difference between ranks and appointments can be confusing when some personalities are known by one and some by the other. Starting with the Commanding Officer whose rank is Lieutenant Colonel, he can expect to be universally known as the C.O. except in the Guards where abbreviations were never used. This should not be confused with O.C., which stands for officer commanding, and can be any officer in charge of anything (e.g. O.C. baggage or O.C. transport). A private soldier would normally mean it to be his company commander.

Majors

   Next down from the Lieutenant Colonel we see there are three majors, the senior major is the second in command (2ic) of the battalion, he will deputise for the C.O. in his absence and if the battalion is divided into two half-battalions he will command the left half whilst the C.O. commands the right half. The other two majors are in command of companies.

Captains

   You will see that there are six captains; each commands a company, which with the two majors gives us an O.C. for each of the eight companies.

Lieutenants

   There are eight lieutenants (pronounced lef-tenant), one for each company.

Second Lieutenants

   Four in number, these are new officers still under instruction, when fully qualified they will become lieutenants; they are distributed between the companies where they are best needed.

Adjutant

   One of the main personalities in the battalion, as we see, it is an appointment that can be offered to a captain or lieutenant. The demanding role requires a considerable amount of dedication and will go to a career soldier.

Quartermaster

   The Quartermaster (QM) commission is a special commission awarded to warrant officers or other worthy non-commissioned officers, whilst they go up through the officer ranks they were never considered true officers and they never commanded troops. Their role was to control and issue stores and equipment.

Sergeant Major

   The appointment of sergeant major goes to the senior non-commissioned officer, who has the rank of warrant officer. In an infantry battalion there was only one sergeant major otherwise known as the Regimental Sergeant Major, in the corps and cavalry there were a variety of appointments – Battery Sergeant Major, Squadron Sergeant Major etc.

Bandmaster

   Also a warrant officer, it seems incredible that in a fighting organisation the second senior n.c.o. is the man in charge of the band.

Quartermaster Sergeant

   The quartermaster had a small staff working under him and the senior n.c.o. was a staff sergeant appointed quartermaster sergeant.

Sergeant Instructor of Musketry

   Another staff sergeant was appointed Sergeant Instructor of Musketry; he was responsible for the standard and training of musketry. Marksmanship, weapon handling and skill at arms were (and still are) known as musketry.

Orderly Room Sergeants

   The orderly room is the battalion office where all administration is done, a few literate men were employed as clerks and two staff sergeants who fulfilled the role of head clerks were appointed Orderly Room Sergeants.

Colour Sergeants

   There were eight colour sergeants, one to each of the eight companies where they were the senior n.c.o. When the colours were on parade three colour sergeants were needed as escort, and the senior sergeant took their role in the company.

Sergeant Drummer

   As well as running the corps of drums the sergeant drummer (also known as the drum major) had a multitude of other tasks, he was responsible for keeping the correct time on the guardroom clock, from which all other clocks in barracks were set. He was also responsible for the discipline of the boys in the battalion.

Cook Sergeant

   Each company detailed one man to work in the cookhouse preparing their meals; the cook sergeant was in charge running the cookhouse.

Pioneer Sergeant

   The pioneer sergeant ran a ten-man section of pioneers, all skilled artisans, who were responsible for the maintenance of the barracks and camps. When the battalion was on the march the pioneers traditionally marched it its head to clear any obstacles.

Sergeants

    24 sergeants is a bit of an odd number, we know that there were eight companies each of four sections, this gives us 32 sections each requiring a sergeant in command. Extra corporals made up the shortfall. As well as the previously listed sergeants there were other roles requiring sergeants, Provost Sergeant, Signals Sergeant etc. they were also needed to take responsibility for various tasks, ic machine gun, transport, mounted infantry, cyclists etc. and to run the officer’s and sergeant’s messes. The men for all these tasks come from our total of 24, so we can see that a lot of corporals were acting up, where this was a permanent situation the corporals would be made up to lance sergeant, wearing three white stripes and no sash.

Corporals

   We get the figure of 40 corporals from the 32 required as 2ic for each section plus the extra eight needed to make up the shortfall of sergeants. Where a corporal is permanently filling a sergeant’s position and he needs a private soldier to cover the corporal’s duty a senior man was promoted to lance corporal wearing one stripe.

Drummers

   Sixteen drummers formed the corps of drums and were detailed two per company when operating in the field. Rifle regiments and Light Infantry had bugle corps, therefore buglers and not drummers.

Privates

   760 men divided by the eight companies gives each one a strength of 95, this is reduced when we take out the boys, and the men for the band, pioneers, signals, cooks, police, stores, tailors, transport etc.

This picture of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry on parade in 1895 gives a good impression of a battalion that is up to strength. The C.O. is on his charger; bottom right, his bugler next to him

"The Diehard" Company, members of the Victorian Military Society ~ Our aim is to educate

All contents Copyright of 'The Diehard' company