origins of the British Army

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Selfpreservationsociety, Mar 29, 2008.

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  1. If you were to name a date on which the British Army could be said to have formed, when would it be? would you date it from the birth of the oldest regiments which were then incorporated into the British Army, for example the Royal Scots. Or would you put it as 1645 with the establishment of Cromwell's New model army, Britain's first proffessional Army. Or would you put it as 1707 with the union of the crowns and therefore the drawing together of already preexisting scottish and english regiments? Or some completely other date altogether?
  2. Interesting. I would say that it couldn't be until the Crowns were united, as before that they were distinctly separate armies.
    Cromwell's boys were an English army, and in the civil war the Scots stayed aloof at first, when there was trouble and Cromwell went to sort them out then it was very clear that he was fighting against a Scots Army.
    So I would say that while the Regiments have roots going back the Army cannot be counted as one until they started to fight together with a common uniform for a common cause.
    This may well put back the date until just before the Napoleonic wars.
  3. I would have said the current british Army evolved as the empire grew, so around about 1583 for the "first British Empire, the fact that the scots and english had different royalty is irrelevent, the Irish were part of the empire but are no longer, so in that case when did it cease to be?
  4. I'm trying to find an identifiable date that people will recognise to put as an est. date on a product thats hopefully going to raise money for Help for Heroes.
  5. the officially recognised amalgamation happened in 1707 when the english and Scottish Armies merged. Although most old regiments will still trace their history well beyond that.

    edited once for fat finger typing
  6. The first Standing Army was with the Restoration in 1660 but the Royal Army Chaplains' Department trace their origins I think back to the Alleluia Victory in c 447 near Mold when Germanus helped the Britons beat the Saxons and Picts.
  7. and the Royal engineers trace back a line to the first Royal Engineer being Bishop Gundolph, a frenchman, he happened upon a little place called hastings in 1066.
    apparently there was another previous to Gundolph but he performed some act or other so bad that even the RE wouldn't claim him!
  8. So we don't have Northern Irish units in the Army?
    I would suggest that the title 'First British Empire' is misleading because it was still an English enterprise, and the two countries counted themselves as separate until the Act of Union and the troops carried different flags.
    So I go for 1707.
    Regiments can obviously trace their origins further back to national armies as opposed to the army of the State. In fact if the Sappers go back to Hastings then some County Regts. or at least the TA could identify with the Anglo-Saxon Fyrd, the irregulars called up in their areas in time of emergency.
  9. Was part of the Royal Tournament in the eighties, they had us as the first group on representing the beginnings of the British Army, 19 of us I think and yes it was something to do with Oliver Cromwell.
  10. Hmm, you could make the case for 1603 and the Stuart Succession, ie James 1 ruled both England and Scotland, he was therefore the head of both royal armies, the civil war and Commonwealth merely being an short interlude.

    I could also argue that its wrong to focus on 'regiments'. What counts as an army is some formal organisation, which may not be )fully) manned in peacetime. In most countries the first formal military entity was something to do with the availability of artillery, ie holding the guns, necessary stores and most importantly the skilled men (eg master gunners, etc) who provided the nucleus for expansion. Date wise the best I can offer in 1414 when a writ was issued to Nicholas Merbury as "master of the works of our engines, guns and other ordnance for war" appears.
  11. I was always led to believe that the earliest military formation was the Worshipful Company of Farriers (latterly the Royal Army Ordnance Corps then the RLC) - which is why Conductor is one of the most senior WO1s.

    Even until the 19th century, regiments were 'owned' by their Colonels who could dress and arm them as he chose. It was only when they were called to campaign that they were centrally equipped and fed.
  12. Well, according to my Ladybird book (B2), as well as starting the Royal Navy, Alfred the Great (871-899) set up a paid, trained and standing Army in the South-west during his reign....... So 43 Bde, then.

    I'll get my coat.
  13. Probably safest to say, "Britain's armed forces; successfully defending our shores since 1067"...
  14. 1603 would be my pick. Then, as today, regardless of origin, all English & Scottish troops were the sovereign's to command. James I was quite positive about that, so the British Army probably has a Jacobean rather than Cromwellian origin. But the regiments involved probably owed more allegiance to the baron, earl or laird who raised them than to the Crown. The case for the New Model Army is that it brought new standards of professionalism which continued to apply after the Restoration. (In theory at least.) In practice, standards were eroded until the purchase of commissions became a scandal in the Crimean War. In the interim, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, demonstrated the ascendency of British arms with three pivotal victories in the War of the Spanish Succession which cemented Britain's position as the foremost military power in Europe. Like the so-called British Constitution, one is kept searching far & wide for final proof that it actually exists. AFAIK, there is no document formally bringing into being the British Army.

  15. What about Agincourt? 1415 (I think) - there were english , welsh and some scots and irish in Henry's army.