Bloodline: The Origins and Development of the Regular Formations of the British Army, Iain Gordon

Bloodline: The Origins and Development of the Regular Formations of the British Army, Iain Gordon

The units of the British Army have a long and often rather tangled history, in some cases dating back for over three centuries. This handy volume provides a guide to the evolution of the regular units of the British Army, tracing them through successive waves of reforms, from the original numbering of 1751 to the amalgamations of recent years.

This book reminds us that these amalgamations are not a new thing in the British army. Many of the county regiments created in the 1881 reforms were made up of two or more of the numbered regiments of the line - for example the five 1881 regiments that current form the Mercian Regiment were created from a total of seven numbered regiments. Many of these early amalgamations involved at least one regiment that was comparatively new, but the Worcestershire Regiment was formed from regiments that were formed in 1694 and 1701 respectively (it is also worth remembering that the 1881 reforms were rather unpopular at the time, with many mourning the passing of the old numbered regiments).

The book is very well organised. Each section begins with a brief overview of the current unit (at divisional level for the infantry). This is followed by a one or two page spread showing the development of each modern regiment as a flow chart, with the earliest units at the top, then working down the page to the modern unit. In the case of the infantry this means that the numbered regiments of the line are at the top, followed by a row for the 1881 county regiments, another one for the post-war amalgamations, and the current regiment at the base. Again using the Mercian Regiment as an example this allows us to trace the evolution of Lillingston's Regiment of Foot of 1705 into the 38th Regiment of Foot of 1751 and the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of 1782, its merger with the 80th Foot to form the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1881 and with the North Staffs to form the Staffordshire Regiment in 1959, and finally (for the moment) into the 3rd Battalion (Staffords), Mercian Regiment. These flow charts are followed by a section dedicated to each of the 1881 regiments, showing their badge, listing their battle honours and providing contact details for the regimental museums.

As can be seen from the chapter lists, Gordon hasn't just restricted himself to the infantry and cavalry regiments, but has included a comprehensive list of other formations, from combat arms such as the artillery or the Gurkhas to the many and varied support services, ending with the bands, many of which have just as complex a history as their parent units! Finally he looks at the history of the two regiments that chose to disband rather than be amalgamated in 1968, and the southern Irish regiments that were disbanded in 1922.

Gordon has also provided a very useful table at the start of the book showing the evolution of each of the cavalry and infantry regiments in numerical order, showing their identity in 1751, 1861, 1881, 1922 and 2008, making it much easier to find the correct current section for each historical unit.

Royal Horse Artillery
Household Cavalry
Royal Armoured Corps - Heavy Cavalry
Royal Armoured Corps - Light Cavalry
Royal Armoured Corps - Royal Tank Regiment
Foot Guards - The Guards Division
Infantry of the Line - The Scottish Division
Infantry of the Line - The Queen's Division
Infantry of the Line - The King's Division
Infantry of the Line - The Prince of Wales's Division
Infantry of the Line
Aviation and Special Forces
Army Medical Services
Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
Personnel and Administration
Small Arms Training and Evaluation
Compassionate and Spiritual Support
Physical Training
The Disbanded Regiments
Battle Honours awarded to Regular Regiments of the British Army 1662-2008

Author: Iain Gordon
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 164
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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