Marching order of the British Army

ancienturion

LE
Book Reviewer
#1
I have not been very successful in finding the following information. Perhaps someone could help.
When did the British army stop forming four ranks and parade/march in three ranks?
 

ancienturion

LE
Book Reviewer
#3
Pirimaiboy said:
Not long after WW1. Early 1920s maybe.
Many thanks. Info so far had indicated somewhere around WW1 but not sure whether during or after.
 

JINGO

War Hero
Book Reviewer
#4
I recall reading somewhere (but cant recall where) that it was linked to the downsizing of Infantry Battalions, but ive got it in my head that this occured before WW1 in the early 1900s. Mind you if Brown keeps going the way he wants the Army will soon be parading in one rank and one file.
 
#5
If you look at photographs of WW1 troops they are still marching in fours. Couldn't find the answer on Google either.
 
#9
I read one WW1 account which linked the change to "3's" to the need to ease traffic flow on the narrow roads/tracks in the support area.

Maybe it was a wartime expedient that was only later formalised into the drill manuals?
 
#10
The Infantry changed from 4 platoon companies to 3 and 4 company Bns to 3 in the later stage of WW1,it was brought on by a shortage of manpower. I reckon this is probably when they changed into 3 ranks from 4. Mind you I read somewhere recently that the Brigade of Guards, apparently having decided to wait and see if such a bold, dangerously radical step would cause a breakdown in discipline and a decline in saluting, didn't change their drill until they had specifically received permission from King George V in 1940 or something!!
 
#11
Are you sure it was as early as WW1? I recall my father describing forming fours on the drill square as a newly joined aircrew volunteer in 1940.
 
#12
Jaeger said:
The Infantry changed from 4 platoon companies to 3 and 4 company Bns to 3 in the later stage of WW1,it was brought on by a shortage of manpower. I reckon this is probably when they changed into 3 ranks from 4. Mind you I read somewhere recently that the Brigade of Guards, apparently having decided to wait and see if such a bold, dangerously radical step would cause a breakdown in discipline and a decline in saluting, didn't change their drill until they had specifically received permission from King George V in 1940 or something!!
HA! Toldja, toldja, ner ner ni ner ner!
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#13
Thaddeus said:
Are you sure it was as early as WW1? I recall my father describing forming fours on the drill square as a newly joined aircrew volunteer in 1940.
I was going to give my two penn'orth because I was under the impression that it happened after Dunkirk because the columns of troops were so pitifully short, but reading this thread I didn't want my head above the parapet.

Since somebody beat me to putting his two penn'orth in, there's mine now.
 
#14
Jaeger said:
The Infantry changed from 4 platoon companies to 3 and 4 company Bns to 3 in the later stage of WW1,it was brought on by a shortage of manpower. I reckon this is probably when they changed into 3 ranks from 4. Mind you I read somewhere recently that the Brigade of Guards, apparently having decided to wait and see if such a bold, dangerously radical step would cause a breakdown in discipline and a decline in saluting, didn't change their drill until they had specifically received permission from King George V in 1940 or something!!
You do mean George VI don't you :?
 
#15
From memory: wasn't the effectiveness of the British Army based on the change to a two-rank firing line instead of the naff, continental three-rank line?
Marching in four files offered a tactical advantage. When turned, the second and fourth could quickly fill the gaps in the first and third ranks to form the firing line - less caterpillaring. less time wasted closing up the formation.
Once the Thin Red Line disappeared from the battlefield it's likely the 'fours' soldiered on until 1923 before reverting to the (more convenient?) threes.
 
#16
WaltOnTheMildSide said:
From memory: wasn't the effectiveness of the British Army based on the change to a two-rank firing line instead of the naff, continental three-rank line?
Marching in four files offered a tactical advantage. When turned, the second and fourth could quickly fill the gaps in the first and third ranks to form the firing line - less caterpillaring. less time wasted closing up the formation.
Once the Thin Red Line disappeared from the battlefield it's likely the 'fours' soldiered on until 1923 before reverting to the (more convenient?) threes.
I seem to remember reading something somewhere about a two deep line of battle and a four rank wide column of march in the British Army of the Napoleonic period.

Officially the British infantry was formed in 3 ranks. However during the Napoleonic Wars they had their infantry formed on 2 ranks only. At Waterloo many battalions - for various reasons - were formed on 4 ranks. Rory Muir writes, "At Waterloo, much of the British infantry was formed in 4-deep line, which made the procedure for forming square much quicker and easier….." Lack of space also played a role, especially for the brigades deployed between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. Mark Adkin writes, "... at Waterloo lines were formed in 4 ranks on the infrequent occasions when they were needed because of the limited space available."...

French General Foy wrote, "The [British] infantry, although on system formed 3 deep, like the other nations of Europe, is more frequently drawn up in 2 ranks; but when making or receiving a charge, it is frequently formed 4- deep. Sometimes it has made offensive movements, and even charged columns, when in open order."
http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/infantry_tactics_4.htm#_the_thin_red_line
 
#17
tiger stacker said:
Jaeger said:
The Infantry changed from 4 platoon companies to 3 and 4 company Bns to 3 in the later stage of WW1,it was brought on by a shortage of manpower. I reckon this is probably when they changed into 3 ranks from 4. Mind you I read somewhere recently that the Brigade of Guards, apparently having decided to wait and see if such a bold, dangerously radical step would cause a breakdown in discipline and a decline in saluting, didn't change their drill until they had specifically received permission from King George V in 1940 or something!!
You do mean George VI don't you :?
Yes I do, well spotted, take yesterday off. :wink:
 
#18
auscam said:
Jaeger said:
The Infantry changed from 4 platoon companies to 3 and 4 company Bns to 3 in the later stage of WW1,it was brought on by a shortage of manpower. I reckon this is probably when they changed into 3 ranks from 4. Mind you I read somewhere recently that the Brigade of Guards, apparently having decided to wait and see if such a bold, dangerously radical step would cause a breakdown in discipline and a decline in saluting, didn't change their drill until they had specifically received permission from King George V in 1940 or something!!
HA! Toldja, toldja, ner ner ni ner ner!
Joking apart, I seem to recall that the manpower shortage was caused not by casualties but by Lloyd Georges refusal to release thousands of men based in the UK for service in France, despite Haigs repeated requests for him to do so. Interfering civvy git! :x
 

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