The term battalion is used in the infantry, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and Intelligence Corps only. It was formerly used for a few units in the Royal Engineers (before they switched to regiments), and was also used in the now defunct Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Pioneer Corps. Other corps usually use the term regiment instead.
An infantry battalion is numbered ordinarily within its regiment (e.g., 1st Battalion, The Rifles, usually referred to as 1 Rifles). It normally has a headquarters company, support company, and three rifle companies (usually, but not always, A, B and C Companies). Each company is commanded by a major, the officer commanding (OC), with a captain or senior lieutenant as second-in-command (2IC). The HQ company contains signals, quartermaster, catering, intelligence, administration, pay, training, operations and medical elements. The support company usually contains anti-tank, machine gun, mortar, pioneer and reconnaissance platoons. Mechanised units usually have an attached light aid detachment (LAD) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) to perform field repairs on vehicles and equipment. A British battalion in Theatre of War II had around 845 men in it, and as of 2012 a British battalion has around 650 soldiers. With successive rounds of cutbacks after the war, many infantry regiments were reduced to a single battalion (others were amalgamated to form large regiments which maintained multiple battalions, e.g., the Royal Anglian Regiment).
Important figures in a battalion headquarters include:
- Commanding Officer (CO) (invariably a lieutenant colonel)
- Second-in-Command (2i/c) (Major)
- Adjutant (Captain)
- Quartermaster (QM) (Major)
- Quartermaster (Technical) (QM(T))
- Medical Officer (MO) (Royal Army Medical Corps captain or major)
- Administrative Officer (Adjutant General's Corps captain or major)
- Padre (Royal Army Chaplains Department chaplain 4th or 3rd class)
- Intelligence Officer (IO) (lieutenant)
- Signals Officer (lieutenant)
- Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) (warrant officer Class 1)
- Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS) (Warrant Officer Class 2)
- Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (Technical) (RQMS(T)) (Warrant Officer class 2)
Battalions of other corps are given separate cardinal numbers within their corps (e.g., 101 Battalion REME).
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