A large regiment is a multi-battalion infantry formation of the British Army. First formed in the 1960s, large regiments are the result of the amalgamation of three or more existing single-battalion regiments, and perpetuate the traditions of each of the predecessor units.
Following the Defence Review announced in 1957, the regular infantry of the British Army consisted of single-battalion regiments grouped in 14 administrative "brigades", each of three or four battalions. Although the battalions in a brigade shared a common depot and cap badge, they maintained a separate regimental identity. Reductions in troop numbers following the 1957 review had necessitated the amalgamation of pairs of regiments within the brigades from 1958 to 1961, a process that sometimes proved controversial.
- Royal Scots Fusiliers/Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) - Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment)
- Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's)/Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders - Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons)
- Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)/East Surrey Regiment - Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment
- The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)/Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment - Queen's Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment
- Royal Norfolk Regiment/Suffolk Regiment - 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk)
- Royal Lincolnshire Regiment/Northamptonshire Regiment - 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire)
- Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment/Essex Regiment - 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot)
- South Staffordshire Regiment/North Staffordshire Regiment (The Princes of Wales's) - Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's)
- Devonshire Regiment/Dorset Regiment - Devonshire and Dorset Regiment
- Royal Berkshire Regiment (Princess Charlotte of Wales's)/Wiltshire Regiment (Duke of Edinburgh's) - Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (Berkshire and Wiltshire)
- East Lancashire Regiment/South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers) - Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers)
- King's Regiment (Liverpool)/Manchester Regiment - King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool)
- King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)/Border Regiment - King's Own Royal Border Regiment
- West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)/East Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of York's Own) - Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire
- Somerset Light Infantry (Prince Albert's)/Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry - Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry
The idea of the "large regiment" originated in 1962. Speaking in the House of Commons on 8 March, the Minister of War, John Profumo, stated that there was not going to be a further extensive reorganisation of army units. However, talking of the need to increase flexibility in the services, he noted that the regimental system of the infantry could be said to "stand in the way of change". He stated that the transition from the regimental to the brigade system "had on the whole been going well" and it was now time to see if there were "tangible advantages from the point of view of recruiting and flexibility" to be gained from a "large regiment system".
On 16 March The Times reported that the War Office were in the early stages of planning for the creation of large regiments. The plan involved the conversion of the existing brigades into regiments, with each of the regiments forming a numbered battalion of the large regiment. The creation of the multi-battalion regiments would allow the infantry to be expanded or reduced as needed. This could be done by the increase or decrease in the number of battalions of each regiment, rather than by the emotive process of merging or disbanding historic single-battalion regiments. The report noted that this process had effectively already begun in the East Anglian and Green Jackets Brigades, where regiments had been redesignated or amalgamated as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd East Anglian Regiments and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Green Jackets.
The first large regiments
In February 1964, approval for the creation of the first large regiment was given. The Royal Anglian Regiment was to be formed from the four regular battalions of the East Anglian Brigade. The regiment was formed on 1 September. In May 1965 it was announced that the regiments of the Green Jackets Brigade were to become the three-battalion Royal Green Jackets from 1 January 1966.
In September 1965, figures showed that the new large regiments were recruiting more successfully than the remaining single-battalion regiments, some of which were only at rifle company strength. In particular the Welsh, North Irish and Lancastrian Brigades were under strength. It was thought that the Yorkshire Brigade and Home Counties Brigade were likely to form large regiments in the near future, while plans to merge the battalions of the Highland Brigade were only being delayed by failure to agree on a common tartan to be worn. While the Army Board could not compel regiments to amalgamate, it was their stated "wish and intention" that they should. The survival of the weaker brigades was under doubt, while a feasibility study into the formation of a single "Corps of Infantry" was initiated.
In June 1966, it was announced that the regiments of the Home Counties Brigade had agreed to form the third large regiment. Accordingly, on 31 December, the four regiments became The Queen's Regiment.
By July 1967, three more Brigades had opted to become large regiments. All three mergers occurred in 1968: the Fusilier Brigade became the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers on 23 April, the North Irish Brigade became the Royal Irish Rangers on 1 July and the Light Infantry Brigade became The Light Infantry on 10 July.
The Defence White Paper of 1967 reduced the number of infantry battalions, with the large regiments all losing one battalion in 1968. The six brigades that had chosen not to form large regiments were also to lose a battalion: the decision to amalgamate a pair of regiments or to disband the junior regiment being left to the council of colonels of the brigade.
On 1 July 1968, the brigade system was abandoned, with the infantry being grouped in five administrative "divisions" instead. Individual regimental cap badges were reintroduced and the creation of large regiments effectively ceased. Following a change of government in 1970, a policy of retaining single-battalion regiments was shown with the reversal of decisions to disband the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and to merge the Gloucestershire and Royal Hampshire Regiments.
- Royal Anglian Regiment - formed 1 September 1964 from:
- Royal Green Jackets - formed 1 January 1966 from:
- Queen's Regiment - formed 31 December 1966 from:
- Royal Regiment of Fusiliers - formed 23 April 1968 from:
- Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th) - formed 1 July 1968 from:
- The Light Infantry - formed 10 July 1968 from:
Options for Change
Under the Options for Change defence cuts announced in 1990, the number of infantry battalions was to be reduced. While some of the reductions were effected by the merger of pairs of single-battalion regiments, two existing large regiments were further amalgamated and the infantry regiments of the Brigade of Gurkhas became a large regiment.
- Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment) - formed 1 July 1992 from:
- The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th)
- The Ulster Defence Regiment
- The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) - formed 9 September 1992 from:
- The Queen's Regiment
- The Royal Hampshire Regiment
- The Royal Gurkha Rifles - formed 1 July 1994 from:
Subsequent to amalgamation, both the Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Gurkha Rifles had their junior battalions disbanded.
Future Infantry Structure
In 2004, the Army Board announced the ending of the "Arms Plot" system, where individual battalions changed role[clarification needed] and moved station every 2 to 6 years. The Board argued that the existing system led to seven or eight battalions being unavailable at any time due to retraining while changing roles. The lack of stability for the families of soldiers due to constant moving of locations was also cited as a disadvantage. In the future, battalions would retain the same role and largely the same location. As part of this process, all infantry would be organised as large single cap badge regiments of two or more battalions. At the same time, there was to be a reduction in the number of battalions, with amalgamations to take place within the administrative divisions created in 1968: The Scottish Division was to lose 1 battalion, the King's Division 2 and the Prince of Wales's Division 1. Each division was to consider one of two options:
- The "small/large" option of 2 (3 in the case of the Queen's Division) regiments, each of 2 or 3 battalions.
- The "large/large" option of one regiment of 4 or more battalions.
The results of the reorganisation, which were completed in September 2007, were:
- The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)
- The Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment)
- The King's Own Scottish Borderers
- The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
- The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons)
- The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)
The Queen's Division adopted the "small/large" option, retaining the three existing regiments with two regular battalions each:
- The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires)
- The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
- The Royal Anglian Regiment
The King's Division also adopted the "small/large" option:
- The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (King's, Lancashire and Border) was formed on 1 July 2006 (initially of three battalions, reduced to two in March 2007) from:
- The Yorkshire Regiment (14th/15th, 19th and 33rd/76th Foot) was formed on 6 June 2006 from:
The Prince of Wales' Division formed two "small/large" regiments:
- The Royal Welsh was formed on 1 March 2006 from:
- The Mercian Regiment formed with 3 regular battalions on 1 September 2007 from:
- In addition the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment were converted to light infantry in 2005 and transferred to the Light Division.
The Light Division was initially going to follow the "small/large" route, with the Royal Green Jackets retaining two battalions, and The Light Infantry gaining a third by amalgamating with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment. However, the four regiments then took the decision to form a single five-battalion "large/large" regiment, The Rifles on 1 February 2007:
- The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry
- The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry
- The Light Infantry
- The Royal Green Jackets
The Territorial Army has also been reorganised so that each large regiment has one or more TA battalions.
The Guards Division and those regiments outside the divisional structure (The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd, 87th and Ulster Defence Regiment), The Royal Gurkha Rifles and the Parachute Regiment were left unreformed.
- More adaptations forecast in the Army: study of "large regiment" basis for infantry, The Times, 9 March 1962
- Bigger infantry regiments planned by War Office, The Times, 16 March 1962
- First of new large regiments, The Times, 25 February 1964
- New Green Jackets Regiment, The Times, 29 May 1965
- Infantry may be reshaped, The Times, 30 September 1965
- New Home Counties large regiment, The Times, 1 July 1966
- Defence White Paper: sweeping changes in Britain's forces, The Times, 19 July 1967
- Future Infantry Structure, (Ministry of Defence), accessed 21 August 2007
- The amalgamation of the Scottish regiments proved an emotive issue, and led to the compromise of the names of the amalgamated regiments becoming the title of the new battalions, with each battalion's number being the subtitle - for example the full title of the 1st Battalion is "The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland", as opposed to "1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (Royal Scots Borderers)", the pattern adopted by the English and Welsh regiments.
- "RGBW The Future". RGBW Regimental Association. 22 July 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2016.