Northern Command (United Kingdom)

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Northern Command
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
TypeHome Command
Garrison/HQNewcastle upon Tyne

Northern Command was a Home Command of the British Army from 1793 to 1889 and from 1905 to 1972.

Nineteenth century[edit]

Fenham Barracks, Newcastle upon Tyne, command headquarters in the early 19th century.

Great Britain was divided into military districts on the outbreak of war with France in 1793.[1] The formation in the North, which included Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland and Durham, was originally based at Fenham Barracks in Newcastle upon Tyne until other districts were merged in after the Napoleonic Wars.[2]

Hulme Barracks, Manchester, command headquarters from the 1840s to 1878.

In 1840 Northern Command was held by Major-General Sir Charles James Napier, appointed in 1838. During his time the troops stationed within Northern Command were frequently deployed in support of the civil authorities during the Chartist unrest in the northern industrial cities.[3][4]

Tower House, Fishergate, York, command headquarters from 1878 to 1958.

Napier was succeeded in 1841 by Major-General Sir William Gomm, when the command included the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland, Durham, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Flintshire, Denbighshire and the Isle of Man, with HQ at Manchester. Later the Midland Counties of Shropshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Northamptonshire were added and from 1850 to 1854 the Command included three sub-commands: NW Counties (HQ Manchester), NE Counties (HQ York) and Midlands (HQ Birmingham). From 1854 to 1857 there were two sub-commands, Northern Counties and Midland Counties, each with a brigade staff, but after that they disappeared and Northern Command remained a unitary command.[5]

In 1876 a Mobilisation Scheme for the forces in Great Britain and Ireland was published, with the 'Active Army' divided into eight army corps based on the District Commands. 6th Corps and 7th Corps were to be formed within Northern Command, based at Chester and York respectively. The Northern Command Headquarters itself moved from Manchester to Tower House in Fishergate in York in 1878.[6] The corps scheme disappeared in 1881, when the districts were retitled ‘District Commands.[7] Northern Command continued to be an important administrative organisation until 1 July 1889, when it was divided into two separate Commands: North Eastern, under Major-General Nathaniel Stevenson (HQ York), and North Western, under Major-General William Goodenough (HQ Chester).[5]

Twentieth century[edit]

Imphal Barracks, York, command headquarters from 1958 to 1972.

The 1901 Army Estimates introduced by St John Brodrick allowed for six army corps based on six regional commands. As outlined in a paper published in 1903, V Corps was to be formed in a reconstituted Northern Command, with HQ at York.[8] Major-General Sir Leslie Rundle was appointed acting General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOCinC) of Northern Command on 10 October 1903, and it reappears in the Army List in 1905, with the boundaries defined as 'Berwick-on-Tweed (so far as regards the Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteers) and the Counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Isle of Man. The defences on the southern shores of the estuaries of the Humber and Mersey are included in the Northern Command'.[9] By 1908 the Midland Counties of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Rutland had been added, but Westmoreland, Cumberland and Lancashire had been moved into Western Command.[10]

The Command HQ was established at Tower House in Fishergate in York in 1905.[11]

First World War[edit]

Army Order No 324, issued on 21 August 1914, authorised the formation of a 'New Army' of six divisions, manned by volunteers who had responded to Earl Kitchener's appeal (hence the First New Army was known as 'K1'). Each division was to be under the administration of one of the Home Commands, and Northern Command formed what became the 11th (Northern) Division.[12] It was followed by the 17th (Northern) Division of K2 in September 1914.[13]

At the end of 1914, Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Plumer, the GOCinC, left Northern Command to form V Corps in France, and Major-General Henry Lawson was placed in temporary command, followed by Lieutenant General Sir John Maxwell after he had suppressed the Easter Rising in Ireland. Maxwell was formally appointed GOCinC in November 1916.[14]

Second World War[edit]

In 1939 Regular Troops reporting to Northern Command included 5th Infantry Division, based at Catterick.[15] Other Regular Troops reporting to Northern Command at that time included:[15]

Territorial Army troops included 25th Army Tank Brigade.

On 20 December 1942, the 77th Infantry (Reserve) Division was assigned to the command to act as its training formation. On 1 September 1944, the 77th was replaced by the 45th (Holding) Division.[16][17]

Command Training Centres[edit]

Between 1941 and 1943, each regional command of the British Army formed at-least one training centre which trained those recruits preparing to move overseas. The centres which were based in the area were:[18]

Post War[edit]

Among the TA troops active in Northern Command after the war was 9th Armoured Brigade, as an independent brigade.[19]

The Fishergate site was named Imphal Barracks in 1951, but closed in 1958, when Northern Command HQ moved to a new Imphal Barracks on Fulford Road, York.[11][20] Portions of the former headquarters at Fishergate are now serviced accommodation.[21] The Command was merged into HQ UK Land Forces (HQ UKLF) in 1972.[22]

General Officers Commanding-in-Chief[edit]

GOCs and GOCinCs have included (with dates of service):[14][23][24][25]
General Officer Commanding Northern District

Note: between 1810 and 1812 England was divided into 15 Districts

In 1889 Northern District was divided into North Eastern District and North Western District.
General Officer Commanding North Eastern District

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command


  1. ^ Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan, The British Army Against Napoleon: Facts, Lists and Trivia, 1805–1815 (2010) p. 7.
  2. ^ Adolphus, p. 353
  3. ^ Hart's Army List 1840.
  4. ^ Priscilla Napier, I Have Sind: Charles Napier in India 1841-1844, Salisbury: Michael Russell, 1990.
  5. ^ a b Hart's Army Lists.
  6. ^ "'The barracks', in A History of the County of York: the City of York, ed. P M Tillott". London. 1961. pp. 541–542. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  7. ^ Army List 1876–1881.
  8. ^ Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, London: Methuen, 1938.
  9. ^ Quarterly Army List April 1905.
  10. ^ Army List 1908.
  11. ^ a b British History on line: Imphal Barracks
  12. ^ "11th Division". The long, long trail. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  13. ^ "17th Division". The long, long trail. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  14. ^ a b Army Lists.
  15. ^ a b Patriot Files
  16. ^ Forty 2013, Reserve Divisions.
  17. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 73.
  18. ^ Frederick, pp. 115–6.
  19. ^ "Badges & Insignia". The Prince Albert's Own Yeomanry. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  20. ^ Subterranea Britannica
  21. ^ Fishergate: Serviced Offices
  22. ^ "Army Command Structure (United Kingdom)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 17 December 1970. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  23. ^ Whitaker's Almanacks 1905 - 1972
  24. ^ Northern Command at
  25. ^ Army Commands
  26. ^ "William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  27. ^ Mackenzie, Eneas (1827). "Historical events: 1783 - 1825, in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead". Newcastle-upon-Tyne. pp. 66–88. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  28. ^ "Dalrymple, Sir Hew Whitefoord". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  29. ^ Fewster, p. 215
  30. ^ Urban, Sylvanus (1831). "Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 101, Part 2". J. B. Nichols & Son.
  31. ^ "William Wynyard". Gregory Don Cooke. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  32. ^ Cole, John William (1856). "Memoirs of British Generals distinguished during the Peninsular War". London, R. Bentley. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  33. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (2015). The Book of Fallacies. Oxford University Press. p. 327. ISBN 978-0198719816.
  34. ^ John Sweetman, Bouverie, Sir Henry Frederick (1783–1852), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  35. ^ Norman Hillmer and O. A. Cooke, JACKSON, Sir RICHARD DOWNES, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1988
  36. ^ Ainslie T. Embree, Napier, Sir Charles James (1782–1853), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  37. ^ "No. 27474". The London Gazette. 16 September 1902. p. 5964.