Timeline of the British Army
of the British Armed Forces
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This timeline covers the main wars, battles and engagements and related issues for the Scottish, English and British Army, from 1537 to the present. See also Timeline of British diplomatic history.
- 1537 The Overseers of the Fraternity or Guild of St George received a Royal Charter from Henry VIII on 25 August, when Letters Patent were received authorising them to establish a perpetual corporation for the defence of the realm to be known as the Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handgonnes. This body was known by a variety of names since, but today is called the Honourable Artillery Company, and is the oldest regiment in continuous service in the British Army.
- 1539 The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineer Regiment is first mustered before becoming a militia force for the county of Monmouth. When the new Police was formed in the 19th Century, the regiment switched to the Royal Engineers Reserve, becoming the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Militia. And becoming the senior regiment of the Reserve Army and depending on the source the oldest Regiment of the British Army.
- 1572 The Buffs were formed from London's urban militia to support the Protestants in Holland, where they remained until the outbreak of the Anglo-Dutch war in 1665, at which point they were disbanded for refusing the oath of loyalty to the Dutch States General. They fled to England and reformed as 'The Holland Regiment' in the British Army. The unit is now part of the Princess Of Wales's Royal Regiment.
- 1633 – The Royal Regiment of Foot (later the Royal Scots) is placed on the Scottish Establishment, later becoming the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army.
- 1642 – Marquis of Argyll's Royal Regiment was raised by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll for service in Ireland, renamed in 1650 Lyfe Guard of Foot and reformed as the Scottish Regiment of Foot Guards in 1661 (later the Scots Guards).
- 1650 – George Monck's Regiment is formed (later the Coldstream Guards), becoming the oldest infantry regiment in continuous service in the British Army but not under the monarch.
- 1656 – Lord Wentworth's Regiment is formed (later the Grenadier Guards), later becoming the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army because of the long serving loyalty to the monarch during the English Civil War.
- 26 January 1661 – King Charles II issues warrant, becoming the acknowledged beginning of the British Army. This concerned an assemblage of English regiments and Scottish regiments brought south with Charles II. The British Army would not formally exist, however, for another 46 years, as Scotland and England remained two independent states, each with its own Army.
- 1 October 1661 – The Tangier Regiment is formed, later The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, the most senior English infantry regiment in the British Army.
- 1684 – The English withdraw from the Colony of Tangier.
- 1688 – The War of the Grand Alliance begins.
- 1702 – War of the Spanish Succession begins.
- 1707 – Kingdom of Great Britain is formed. Scottish and English armies merged to create the British Army.
- 1722 – Royal Regiment of Artillery is formed.
- 1742 – War of the Austrian Succession begins.
- 1743 – Battle of Dettingen, King George II becomes the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle.
- 1746 – Battle of Culloden, The British Army, made from Scottish and English soldiers and led by the Duke of Cumberland, fights the last major battle on British mainland soil against French supported Scottish rebel Jacobites.
- 1751 – A numerical system is introduced into the Army, such as 1st Regiment of Foot, 2nd Regiment of Foot, etc.
- 1755 – Seven Years' War begins.
- 1759 - Battle of Minden, the Duke of Brunswick leads an Anglo-German army against the French.
- 1759 – British forces, led by General James Wolfe, take French Quebec.
- 1775 – American War of Independence begins.
- 1776 – British victory at the Battle of Long Island.
- 1777 - British victory at the Battle of Brandywine.
- 1777 – British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga.
- 1781 – British defeat at the Siege of Yorktown.
- 1793 – War on revolutionary France declared
- 1795 – Capture of Ceylon.
- 1796 – slave forces in Haiti led by Toussaint L'ouverture British Forces defeated
- 1798 – Large-scale rebellion in Ireland.
- 1799 - Capture of Seringapatam.
- 1801 – The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is formed.
- French Revolutionary Wars (A campaign to expel a French invasion force in Egypt) takes place.
- 1803 – The Napoleonic Wars begin.
- 1803 – Second Anglo-Maratha War begins, ends 1805
- 1806 – Seizure of the Cape of Good Hope.
- – An abortive (initially unauthorised) invasion of Spanish South America begins.
- 1808 – The Peninsular War begins.
- 16 January – Battle of Corunna
- 1812 – The War of 1812 against the United States begins.
- 7 January – Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo
- 16 March – Battle of Badajoz (1812)
- 11 April – Battle of Villagarcia
- 11 June – Battle of Maguilla
- 22 July – Battle of Salamanca
- 23 July – Battle of Garcia Hernandez
- 11 August – Battle of Majadahonda
- 19 September – Siege of Burgos
- 23 October – Battle of Venta del Pozo
- 1814 – The Gurkha War begins.
- 16 August – The Peterloo Massacre takes place.
- 1839 – First Anglo-Afghan War begins ends 1842
- 1854 – The Crimean War begins; ends in 1856.
- 8 September – The siege of Sevastopol ends.
- 1857 – The Indian Mutiny begins.
- 30 May – Indian rebels begin the Siege of Delhi, Siege of Lucknow
- 5 June – Siege of Cawnpore begins
- 8 June – Battle of Badli-ki-Serai, Siege of Delhi
- 30 June – Siege of Lucknow begins, Battle of Chinhat
- 25 August – Battle of Najafgarh
- 11 October – Battle of Agra
- 19 November – Second Battle of Cawnpore
- 1859 – Due to fear of invasion by France, a volunteer movement begins, known as the Volunteer Rifle Corps.
- 1870 – The Army withdraws from Australia and New Zealand.
- 1871 – The Army adopts the Martini-Henry rifle, replacing the Snider.
- – Abolition of the purchase of commission.
- 1878 – Second Anglo-Afghan War begins, ends 1880
- 1879 – The Anglo-Zulu War takes place.
- 1881 – Sudan Campaign begins, ends 1889
- January – Battle of Abu Klea
- 28 January – General Charles George Gordon is killed by Mahommed Ahmed (the self-proclaimed Mahdi) after his siege of Khartoum; British relief force arrives two-days later.
- 8 February – Battle of Schuinshoogte
- 10 February – Battle of Kirbekan
- 27 February – Battle of Majuba Hill
- 30 December – Battle of Ginnis
- 1889 – The Maxim machine gun is introduced.
- 3 August – Battle of Toski
- 7 June – Battle of Ferkeh
Second Boer War
- 31 May – War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging.
- 1905 – The 5th Battalion, The Royal Garrison Regiment is the last British battalion to leave Canada.
- 1908 – The Territorial Force (later Army) is formed.
- 1 April – Following an order issued on 28 February, the Air Battalion Royal Engineers is formed.
- 1912 – The Vickers machine gun is introduced into the Army; it remains in service until 1968.
- 13 May – The Air Battalion Royal Engineers becomes the Royal Flying Corps. It remains part of the Army.
First World War
- 28 July – The Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps is split off to form the Tank Corps (later the Royal Tank Regiment).
- 8 November – About 200 men of the Warwickshire Yeomanry and Worcestershire Yeomanry charge with sabres drawn and defeat an Ottoman battery and a large group of Ottoman infantry at Huj. It was one of the last cavalry charges by the British Army.
- 20 November – The Battle of Cambrai begins; sees the first large-scale use of tanks.
- December – The Capture of Jerusalem takes place.
- 11 November – The First World War ends with the signing of the Armistice.
- January 1919 – Anglo-Irish War begins; British forces combat guerilla operations by the Irish Republican Army.
- 1919 – British Army takes part in Allied intervention during Russian Civil War.
- 31 July 1922 – Six Irish regiments (5 infantry and one cavalry) are disbanded due to the establishment of the Irish Free State.
- 5 August 1922 – The Royal Corps of Signals is formed.
- 1929 – The British Army of the Rhine in Germany is withdrawn.
- 1935 – Abyssinian Crisis takes place; Army deploys substantial reinforcements to Africa and the Middle East.
- 1936 – uprising in Palestine begins.
- 4 April 1939 – The Royal Armoured Corps is formed.
Second World War
- 3 September 1939 – Britain enters the Second World War when it declares war, along with its Allies, on Nazi Germany.
- September 1939 – British Expeditionary Force begins to land in France.
- 17 May 1940 – The Local Defence Volunteers (later the Home Guard) is formed.
- 20 May 1940– In France, British armoured units counter-attack at Arras.
- 26 May 1940 – The Dunkirk evacuation begins; over 330,000 British and French soldiers are evacuated by 4 June.
- 22 June 1940 – The Parachute Corps (later The Parachute Regiment) is formed.
- April 1941 – Germany invades Crete; Army and Commonwealth forces eventually evacuated by Royal Navy.
- 25 December 1941 – The garrison at Hong Kong surrenders to the Japanese.
- 15 February 1942 – Singapore garrison surrenders to Japanese forces.
- 23 October 1942 – Second Battle of El Alamein takes place; Montgomery's British Eighth Army defeats the Afrika Korps in offensive.
- 1943 – The Allied invasion of Sicily begins.
- 1943 – Invasion of Italian mainland begins.
- March 1944 – The Japanese launch their offensive against India; battles of Imphal and Kohima takes place.
- 1 April 1944 – The Special Air Service Regiment is formed to administer existing SAS units.
- 6 June 1944 – in airborne operations prior to D-Day landings, Pegasus and Horsa Bridges are taken by D Company, 2nd Ox & Bucks, and the Merville gun battery is destroyed by the 9th Parachute Battalion.
- 6 June 1944 – The D-Day landings take place; British Army lands at Gold and Sword; some British units allocated to Canadian beach at Juno.
- 18 July 1944 – Allied armoured offensive, Operation Goodwood, begins.
- September 1944 – Operation Market Garden takes place.
- 24 March 1945 – Airborne crossing of the Rhine, Operation Varsity, takes place.
- 8 May 1945 – VE Day.
- 2 September 1945 – Formal surrender of Japan.
- 1 January 1948 – Four Gurkha regiments are transferred from the Indian Army to the British Army, forming the Brigade of Gurkhas.
- 28 February 1948 – The 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry becomes the last British regiment to leave India.
- 1948 – The Malayan Emergency begins.
- 1948 – The Army withdraws from Palestine.
- 1 January 1949 – National Service, the new name for conscription, is introduced.
- 1 February 1949 – The Women's Royal Army Corps is formed.
- 1950 – The Korean War begins.
- 22 April 1951 – The Battle of the Imjin River takes place.
- 1952 – The Mau Mau uprising in Kenya begins.
- 1953 – The Army withdraws its garrison from Bermuda.
- 1954 – The last troops leave Trieste, having been there since 1945 as part of British Forces Element Trieste.
- 1955 – Occupying troops leave upon Austrian independence.
- June 1956 – Last British troops leave the Suez Canal Zone, Egypt.
- 31 October 1956 – Operation Musketeer, the invasion of Suez begins.
- 1 September 1957 – The Army Air Corps is formed.
- 1957 – The Sandys Review of the armed forces takes place.
1958 - July - 16 Independent Parachute Brigade Group (less 3 Para), air-landed in Amman, Jordan from Cyprus.
- 1961 – Army deploys troops to Kuwait after its request for British to deter invasion by Iraq.
- 1962 – The Brunei uprising takes place.
- 1963 – Last National Serviceman is discharged from the Army.
- 1967 – Withdrawal from Aden after a period of time known as the Aden Emergency.
- 1968 – The only year in the century when the British Army lost no soldiers in action.
- August 1969 – British troops deployed to Northern Ireland to assist in stopping sectarian violence. It is the beginning of "The Troubles".
- 5 May 1980 – Special Air Service ends the Iranian Embassy siege.
- 2 April 1982 – Falklands War begins.
- 28 May – 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 Para) defeat Argentinians at Goose Green.
- 8 June – Bombing of RFA's Sir Galahad, Sir Tristram kills 48, including 32 Welsh Guards.
- 12 June – 3 Para defeats the Argentinians at Mount Longdon.
- 14 June – 2 Para takes Wireless Ridge.
- 14 June – 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards defeat Argentinians at Mount Tumbledown.
- 14 June – Falkland Islands are liberated upon the surrender of Argentinian forces.
- 1991 The Gulf War begins; Army contributes 28,000 troops.
- 1991 – The last British Army regiment leaves Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Regiment is subsequently placed on the Army's regular establishment.
- 6 April 1992 – the WRAC was disbanded and its members integrated into various British Army units.
- 1 October 1992 – I (BR) Corps is disbanded and replaced by the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps.
- 1992 – British forces deployed to Bosnia as part of UNPROFOR.
- 31 March 1994 – The British Army of the Rhine is disbanded and replaced by British Forces Germany.
- 1994 – The main force of the Army garrison in Belize is withdrawn; small detachment remains as part of British Army Training and Support Unit Belize.
- 1994 – 1st Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment becomes the last British battalion to leave Berlin.
- 30 June 1997 – 1st Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) becomes the last British unit to leave Hong Kong.
- 1998 – The Strategic Defence Review white paper is published.
- 1999 – Kosovo War begins.
- 2000 – 2 PARA arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone to evacuate British, Commonwealth and EU citizens.
- 2000 – The Army deploys to the Republic of Macedonia.
- 7 October 2001 – U.S. invasion of Afghanistan begins. The SAS was, initially, the main Army contribution.
- 20 March 2003 – The US-led invasion of Iraq begins.
- 2004 – The defence white paper "Delivering Security in a Changing World" is published.
- March 2005 – Private Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in Iraq in 2004.
- 6 April 2005 – The Special Reconnaissance Regiment became operational.
- See John William Fortescue, History of the British Army (13 vol, 1899-1930), which tells the story to 1870.
- David G. Chandler and Ian Frederick William Beckett, eds. The Oxford illustrated history of the British army (Oxford UP, 1994)
- David G. Chandler, The Oxford history of the British army. (Oxford UP, 2003).
- Eric William Sheppard, A short history of the British army. (Constable, 1950).
- Robert Money Barnes, A history of the regiments & uniforms of the British Army (London: Seeley Service, 1950).
- Peter Young and James Philip Lawford, History of the British Army (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970).
- Basil Williams and C.H. Stuart, The Whig Supremacy 1714-1760 (1965) pp 231-70
- Oliver Warner, With Wolfe to Quebec: the path to glory (1972).
- See Jeremy Black, "Could the British Have Won the American War of Independence?." Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research. (Fall 1996), Vol. 74 Issue 299, pp 145-154. online 90-minute video lecture given at Ohio State in 2006; requires Real Player
- Richard M. Ketchum, Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill (1999).
- Barnet Schecter, The battle for New York: The city at the heart of the American Revolution (2003).
- Bruce Mowday, September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia (White Mane Pub, 2002).
- Michael O. Logusz, With Musket and Tomahawk: The Saratoga Campaign and the Wilderness War of 1777 (Casemate Publishers, 2010).
- Jerome A. Greene, The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781 (Casemate Publishers, 2009).
- Nikolas Gardner, Trial by fire: Command and the British Expeditionary Force in 1914 (2003).
- Ian Beckett, Ypres: The First Battle 1914 (Routledge, 2013).
- Basil Henry Liddell Hart, The Tanks: The History of the Royal Tank Regiment and Its Predecessors, Heavy Branch, Machine-Gun Corps, Tank Corps, and Royal Tank Corps, 1914-1945 (1959).
- Robert Woollcombe, The First Tank Battle: Cambrai 1917 (Arthur Barker, 1967).
- Abigail Jacobson, From Empire to Empire: Jerusalem between Ottoman and British Rule (2011).