Army Reserve (United Kingdom)

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Army Reserve
Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve
Territorial Army
Territorial Force
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Allegiance Queen Elizabeth II
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Role Volunteer Reserve
Website Army Reserve
War flag
Flag of the United Kingdom (3-5).svg

The Army Reserve is the active-duty volunteer reserve force and integrated element of the British Army. It should not be confused with the Regular Reserve whose members have formerly served full-time. The Army Reserve was previously known as the Territorial Force from 1908 to 1921, the Territorial Army (TA) from 1921 to 1967, the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve (TAVR) from 1967 to 1979, and again the Territorial Army (TA) from 1979 to 2014.


The Army Reserve was created as the Territorial Force in 1908 by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane, when the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 combined the previously civilian-administered Volunteer Force, with the mounted Yeomanry (at the same time the Militia was renamed the Special Reserve). Most Volunteer infantry units had unique identities, but lost these in the reorganisation, becoming Territorial battalions of Regular Army infantry regiments. Only one infantry unit, the London Regiment, has maintained a separate identity.

Its original purpose was home defence, although the establishment of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve in 1967 involved a restructuring and revised doctrine leading to the provision of routine support for the regular army overseas. Reservists in the past also served as constables or bailiffs, even holding positions of civic duty as overseer of their parish. The more modern Yeomen of the 18th century were cavalry-based units, which were often used to suppress riots (see the Peterloo Massacre). Several units that are now part of the Army Reserve bear the title "militia", [1] reflecting their origins as part of that organisation prior to the formation of the Special Reserve in 1907.

During periods of total war, the Army Reserve is incorporated by the Royal Prerogative into Regular Service under one code of Military Law for the duration of hostilities or until de-activation is decided upon. After the Second World War, for example, the Army Reserve – or Territorial Army as it was known then – was not demobilised until 1947. Army Reservists normally have a full-time civilian job or career, which in some cases provides skills and expertise that are directly transferable to a specialist military role, such as NHS employees serving in Reservist Army Medical Services units. All Army Reserve personnel have their civilian jobs protected to a limited extent by law should they be compulsorily mobilised. There is, however, no legal protection against discrimination in employment for membership of the Army Reserve in the normal course of events (i.e. when not mobilised).


Formation to First World War

The Territorial Force was originally formed by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane, following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 which combined and re-organised the old Volunteer Force with the Yeomanry. As part of the same process, remaining units of militia were converted to the Special Reserve. The TF was formed on 1 April 1908 and contained fourteen infantry divisions, and fourteen mounted yeomanry brigades. It had an overall strength of approximately 269,000.

The individual units that made up each division or brigade were administered by County Associations, with the county's lord lieutenant as president. The other members of the association consisted of military members (chosen from the commanding officers of the units), representative members (nominated by the county councils and county boroughs in the lieutenancy county) and co-opted members (often retired military officers). Associations took over any property vested in the volunteers or yeomanry under their administration. Each regiment or battalion had a Regular Army officer attached as full-time adjutant.

The use of the word territorial signified that the volunteers who served with the force were under no obligation to serve overseas—in 1910, when asked to nominate for Imperial Service overseas in the event of mobilisation, less than 10% of the Force chose to do so. In August 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War, territorial units were given the option of serving in France and, by 25 August, in excess of seventy battalions had volunteered. This question over the availability of territorial divisions for overseas service was one of Lord Kitchener's motivations for raising the New Army separately.

Territorial formations initially saw service in Egypt and British India and other Empire garrisons, such as Gibraltar, thereby releasing regular units for service in France and enabling the formation of an additional five regular army divisions (for a total of eleven) by early 1915. Several reserve units were also deployed with regular formations and the first territorial unit to see action on the Western Front was the Glasgow Territorial Signallers Group, Royal Engineers at the First Battle of Ypres on 11 October 1914. The first fully Territorial division to join the fighting on the Western Front was the 46th (North Midland) Division in March 1915, with divisions later serving in Gallipoli and elsewhere. As the war progressed, and casualties mounted, the distinctive character of territorial units was diluted by the inclusion of conscript and New Army drafts. Following the Armistice all units of the Territorial Force were gradually disbanded.

Interwar re-establishment and the Second World War

The Territorial Force (TF) was officially reconstituted in 1921 by the Territorial Army and Militia Act 1921 and renamed in October as the Territorial Army (TA). [2] The First-Line divisions (that were created in 1907 or 1908) were reconstituted in that year. The TA's intended role was to be the sole method of expanding the size of the British Armed Forces, when compared to the varied methods used during the First World War including the creation of Kitchener's Army. All TA recruits were required to take the general service obligation: if the British Government decided, territorial soldiers could be deployed overseas for combat that avoided the complications of the TF, whose members were not required to leave Britain unless they volunteered for overseas service. [3] [4] [5] [6]

The composition of the divisions was altered, with a reduction in the number of infantry battalions required. There was also a reduced need for cavalry, and of the 55 yeomanry regiments, only the 14 most senior retained their horses. The remaining yeomanry were converted to artillery or armoured car units or disbanded. [7] [8] The amalgamation of 40 pairs of infantry battalions was announced in October 1921. [9] [10] As part of the post-war "Geddes Axe" financial cuts, the TA was further reduced in size in 1922: artillery batteries lost two of their six guns, the established size of infantry battalions was cut and ancillary medical, veterinary, signals and Royal Army Service Corps units were either reduced in size or abolished. [11] The bounty was also reduced to £3 for trained men and £2.10s 0d for recruits, which resulted in finding £1,175,000 of the total savings required from the army as a whole. [12] An innovation in 1922 was the creation of two Air Defence Brigades to provide anti-aircraft defence for London. [13] [14]

During the 1930s, tensions increased between Germany and the United Kingdom and its allies. [15] In late 1937 and throughout 1938, German demands for the annexation of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia led to an international crisis. To avoid war, the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in September and brokered the Munich Agreement. The agreement averted a war and allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland. [16] Although Chamberlain had intended the agreement to lead to further peaceful resolution of issues, relations between both countries soon deteriorated. [17] On 15 March 1939, Germany breached the terms of the agreement by invading and occupying the remnants of the Czech state. [18]

On 29 March, Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha announced plans to increase the TA from 130,000 to 340,000 men and double the number of TA divisions. [19] The plan was for existing TA units to recruit over their establishments (aided by an increase in pay for Territorials, the removal of restrictions on promotion which had hindered recruiting, construction of better-quality barracks and an increase in supper rations) and then form second-line divisions from cadres that could be increased. [19] [20] In April, limited conscription was introduced. This resulted in 34,500 twenty-year-old militiamen being conscripted into the regular army, initially to be trained for six months before deployment to the forming second-line units. [21] [22] It was envisioned that the duplicating process and recruiting the required numbers of men would take no more than six months. Some TA divisions had made little progress by the time the Second World War began; others were able to complete this work within a matter of weeks. [23] [24]

The total strength of the TA was to be 440,000: the field force of the Territorial Army was to rise from 130,000 to 340,000, organised in 26 divisions, while an additional 100,000 all ranks would form the anti-aircraft section. [25] [26] The forming Second Line formations were given liberty to be numbered and named as they saw fit, with some using related names and numbers from the First World War. The TA's war deployment plan envisioned the divisions being deployed, as equipment became available, in waves to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that had already been dispatched to Europe. The TA would join regular army divisions completed their training, with the final divisions of the entire force deployed one year after the war began. [27] A mixture of First and Second Line formations were deployed for combat overseas. After VJ Day in August 1945, the Territorial Army was significantly reduced, with all Second Line and several First-Line Divisions disbanded.

List of Territorial Army Divisions, Second World War

Infantry of 50th (Northumbrian) Division moving up past a knocked-out German 88mm gun near 'Joe's Bridge' over the Meuse-Escaut Canal in Belgium, 16 September 1944 Infantry moving up past a knocked-out German 88mm gun.jpg
Infantry of 50th (Northumbrian) Division moving up past a knocked-out German 88mm gun near 'Joe's Bridge' over the Meuse-Escaut Canal in Belgium, 16 September 1944
A motorcycle and infantry of the 2nd Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders, 46th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, advance along a lane near Caumont, 30 July 1944. Caumontadvance.jpg
A motorcycle and infantry of the 2nd Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders, 46th Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, advance along a lane near Caumont, 30 July 1944.
First LineSecond Line
1st Cavalry Division (1st Line Yeomanry)
1st London Division (Later 56th (London) Infantry Division) 2nd London Division (Later 47th (London) Infantry Division)
42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division 66th Infantry Division
43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division 45th Infantry Division
44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division
48th (South Midland) Infantry Division 61st Infantry Division
49th (West Riding) Infantry Division 46th Infantry Division
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division 23rd (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
51st (Highland) Infantry Division 9th (Highland) Infantry Division
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division
53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division 38th (Welsh) Infantry Division
54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division 18th Infantry Division
55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division

Postwar reforms and Cold War

In 1947, the TA was restructured and expanded through the reactivation of some of the 1st Line divisions that were initially disbanded after the war, keeping its former role of supplying complete divisions to the regular Army until 1967. For the first time, TA units were formed in Northern Ireland. The manoeuvre divisions established or re-established in 1947 were: [28]

The 16th Airborne Division, a totally TA formation, was also raised at this time, under the command of Major-General Robert E. "Roy" Urquhart. 52nd (Lowland) Division was re-established as a tenth, 'mixed' division in March 1950. [29]

The territorials also provided much of the anti-aircraft cover for the United Kingdom until 1956. In that year, Anti-Aircraft Command and 15 anti-aircraft regiments of the Royal Artillery were disbanded, with nine others passing into "suspended animation" as new English Electric Thunderbird Surface to Air Missile units replaced them. [30] On 20 December 1955, the Secretary of State for War informed the House of Commons that the armoured divisions and the 'mixed' division were to be converted to infantry, and the 16th Airborne Division reduced to a parachute brigade group. [31] Only two divisions (43rd and 53rd), two armoured brigades, and a parachute brigade were to remain allocated for NATO and the defence of Western Europe; the other eight divisions were placed on a lower establishment for home defence only. [32] The territorial units of the Royal Armoured Corps were also reduced in number to nine armoured regiments and eleven reconnaissance regiments. This was effected by the amalgamation of pairs of regiments, and the conversion of four RAC units to an infantry role. The new parachute brigade group become the 44th Independent Parachute Brigade Group. [33]

British forces contracted dramatically as the end of conscription in 1960 came in sight as announced in the 1957 Defence White Paper. On 20 July 1960, a reorganisation of the TA was announced in the House of Commons. The territorials were to be reduced from 266 fighting units to 195. There was to be a reduction of 46 regiments of the Royal Artillery, 18 battalions of infantry, 12 regiments of the Royal Engineers and two regiments of the Royal Corps of Signals. [34] The reductions were carried out in 1961, mainly by amalgamating units. Thus, on 1 May 1961, the TA divisional headquarters were merged with regular army districts, which were matched with Civil Defence Regions to aid mobilisation for war. [35] The number of infantry brigades was reduced from 31 to 23, and the two armoured brigades were disbanded.

This was followed by a complete reorganisation announced in the 1966 Defence White Paper from 1 April 1967, when the title Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve (TAVR) was adopted, that abolished the former regimental and divisional structure of the TA. [36] Units in the new TAVR were divided into four categories: [37] [38]

TAVR I and II units were known as "Volunteers", and those in TAVR III as "Territorials". These terms were often incorporated into the unit titles.

The TAVR III was disbanded in 1969, with the units being reduced to eight-man "cadres". The cadres became part of a "sponsoring" TAVR II unit, although continuing to wear the badges and perpetuating the traditions of their forebears. An increase in the size of the TAVR in 1971 led to the formation of a number of battalions based on these cadres. [39] [40]

In 1979, the Territorial Army title was restored and, in the following years, its size was somewhat increased, with the regimental system being progressively reinstated. Some brigades were re-formed which consisted mostly of TA units.

The TA was thus re-roled into its modern form. Instead of supplying complete combat divisions, its function was to round out regular formations by supplying units of up to battalion size (including infantry, light artillery and formation reconnaissance), and to supply extra support functions, such as engineers, medical units and military police.

1998 onwards

After the Strategic Defence Review of 1998, the TA's size of around 56,200 was further reduced. The Infantry suffered most, with 87 companies in 33 battalions reducing to 67 companies in 15 battalions. As of 2006, the Territorial Army had an authorised strength of 42,000 though recruiting difficulties put the actual strength of the TA significantly below that figure (manning is currently at approx 82% across the board, which equates to 34,000, while the actual strength of certain units is almost a skeleton crew, making them unsustainable without direct intervention by full-time personnel).

Army Reservists have seen service in a number of conflicts that the UK has been involved with since 1945. However, they served in particularly large numbers in two conflicts: the Korean War and the Suez Crisis; both occurred during the 1950s and, on each occasion, the entire TA was called up. Throughout the Cold War, however, the Territorial Army was never regarded as a particularly usable force overseas, either by the Government of the day or by the Regular Army.[ citation needed ] This was due to the fact that the entire Territorial Army had to be mobilised by Royal Prerogative in a wartime scenario, as occurred in the World Wars, with no flexibility to use smaller formations or specialists if required and, as a result, relied purely on territorials willing to volunteer their services. Therefore, its role was, at least unofficially, seen as home defence and, as a result, the TA was not used in conflicts such as the 1982 Falklands War and 1991 Gulf War [41] (205 Scottish General Hospital was mobilised as a unit based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during the 1991 Gulf War and a number of TA staff officers and others volunteered and served during the conflict, either in supporting roles in Germany or within 1 (UK) Armoured Division in the Middle East.) Some 550 TA personnel volunteered for and deployed on Op RESOLUTE in December 1995; the UK's contribution to the NATO mission to enforce peace in the Former Yugoslavia. The Government subsequently passed the Reserve Forces Act 1996, [42] which enables individual Reservists to be compulsorily called up for deployment, with certain caveats exempting those in full-time education and other compassionate reasons, as well as providing protection by employment law for members' civilian jobs should they be mobilised, which has led to the Army Reserve increasingly providing routine support for the Regular Army overseas including delivery of composite units to release regular units from standing liabilities; including Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.

In 2003, 9,500 reservists, the vast majority of them from the Reserve, were mobilised to take part in Operation TELIC, the invasion of Iraq; in contrast, only some 420 Regular Reservists were called-up. Approximately 1,200 members of the Army Reserve deployed annually on tours of duty in Iraq, Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan and elsewhere, normally on six month-long roulements. They cannot be used in operations for more than twelve months in any three-year period – making most of those who have already served ineligible for call up for two years afterwards, although reservists may choose to volunteer for additional deployments.

Army Reservists have a minimum commitment to serve 27 training days per annum, or 19 days for some national units. This period normally includes a two-week period of continuous training either as an Army Reserve unit, on courses or attached to a Regular unit. Army Reserve soldiers are paid at a similar rate as their regular equivalents while engaged on military activities. Soldiers of the Army Reserve often serve alongside their regular counterparts, including operations in Afghanistan where 1,000 out of the total 10,100 deployed have been Reservists[ citation needed ], around 10% of the total. The annual budget of the Army Reserve is approximately £350 million – around 1.3% of the total defence budget. [43]

2011 onwards and renaming

Army Reservists applying camouflage during a training exercise Army Reservists Applying Camouflage MOD 45156159.jpg
Army Reservists applying camouflage during a training exercise

Under the "Future Reserves 2020" (FR20) plan outlined by then Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox on 18 July 2011, the Ministry of Defence promised to provide more money to train more Army Reservists with the objective of more frequently deploying entire Army Reserve units[ citation needed ] (much like United States Army Reserve and Army National Guard units). Under the reform plan, the total force will be restructured so that, by 2020, the British Army will have 120,000 soldiers, of which 84,000 will be Regulars and 35,000 Reservists (a ratio of 70/30). The Territorial Army was renamed under that plan, becoming the Army Reserve. [44]

Basic training


For Army Reserve soldiers, recruit training is structured into two phases: Phase 1, also known as the Common Military Syllabus (Recruit) (CMS(R)), and Phase 2, specialist training. [45]

Phase 1

In Phase 1, recruits cover the Common Military Syllabus (Reserve)14 (CMS(R)14). Phase 1 A is a series of 4 training weekends at regional Army Training Units (ATUs), or the recruit could attend a consolidated Phase 1 A week long course. Phase 1 training concludes with a 16 day long Phase 1 B training course normally held at the Army Training Centre, Pirbright or the Army Training Regiment, Winchester, or Grantham. Recruits to the 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment [46] and the Honourable Artillery Company [47] complete their equivalent of CMS(R) within their own units.

Phase 2

Phase 1 is followed by Phase 2, a further period of specialist training specific to the type of unit the recruit is joining. This is normally conducted by the Arm or Service that the recruit is joining, for example for infantry units, Phase 2 consists of the two-week Combat Infantryman's Course (TA) (CIC (TA)) held at the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick. [45]


To gain a commission, Potential Officers have to pass through four modules of training, which together form the Army Reserve Commissioning Course.

Module A consists of basic field training and elementary military skills. This can be completed at either a UOTC over a number of weekends, or over 2 weeks at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS)

Module B covers training in Tactics, Leadership, Doctrine and Navigation, both in theory and in practice, with a focus on the section battle drills and the platoon combat estimate. This training can either be spread over 10 weekends at a UOTC, or 2 weeks at the RMAS.

Module C builds on the Tactics, Leadership, Doctrine and Navigation taught in Module B, with a greater focus on the theory behind these constructs. CBRN training is also added at this point, and Officer Cadets undergo a number of field exercises to test their military and leadership skills. Module C can only be undertaken at the RMAS.

Module D Once the Officer Cadet has completed their ArmyOfficer Selection Board, they can complete this final module, after which they will become commissioned officers in the British Army. Based at the RMAS, this module consists primarily of a prolonged field exercise, followed by drill training in preparation for the passing out parade.

On successful completion of Module D, the Officer Cadets receive their Commission and become Second Lieutenants. Further training that is required prior to them being considered for operational deployment and promotion to Lieutenant includes:

Post Commissioning Training (formerly known as Module 5), again run at an OTC, over 3 weekends.

Special To Arm training is specific to the type of unit the Subaltern is joining, and covers a 2-week period. This is increasingly integrated with the tactics phase of a Regular training course. For example, the Platoon Commander's Battle Course held at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon which is integrated within a Regular training course, or the Light Cavalry Commander's Course held at the Reconnaissance & Armoured Tactics Division in Warminster which is run separately to Regular training courses.

See also

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  1. e.g. Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), The Jersey Field Squadron (Militia), The Royal Militia of the Island of Jersey, 4th (Volunteer) Battalion, the Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th) (North Irish Militia) (until 1993)
  2. Beckett 2008 p. 97
  3. Allport 2015, p. 323.
  4. French 2001, p. 53.
  5. Perry 1988, pp. 41–42.
  6. Simkins 2007, pp. 43–46.
  7. New Territorial Army – The Government Scheme, The Times, January 31, 1920
  8. New Citizen Army – 2nd Line Defence Scheme, The Times, January 31, 1920
  9. Territorial Army Reduction, The Times, July 15, 1921
  10. Territorial Army Amalgamations – 40 Battalions Affected The Times, October 5, 1921
  11. Territorial Army Reductions – £1,650,000 to be saved, The Times, March 4, 1922
  12. Ian F. W. Beckett, 'Territorials: A Century of Service,' First Published April 2008 by DRA Printing of 14 Mary Seacole Road, The Millfields, Plymouth PL1 3JY on behalf of TA 100, ISBN   978-0-9557813-1-5, 102.
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Further reading