The First World War brought forth new corps in the sciences of tank warfare, weaponry and signalling, but the old arts of war had taken a knock, and in 1921 eighteen regular cavalry regiments were reduced, and paired off as nine 'new' regiments. In the same period five Irish infantry regiments were disbanded with the birth of the Irish Free State.
During the 1920s and 30s most of the army's horse regiments were converted to armoured vehicles, and the Second World War saw the need for airborne regiments and more support corps. The Auxiliary Territorial Service enabled women to serve in trades hitherto reserved for men.
The reign of Elizabeth II will be remembered in the army as a time of great reductions in the armed forces. In the 1950s infantry regiments were organised into brigades, which were to act as a basis for amalgamations. This was visited on twenty-four regiments between 1958 and 1961. The Army Council's decision to make large regiments from the infantry brigades was implemented in 1964 with the Royal Anglians, but in 1968 two old regiments, the Cameronians and the York and Lancasters, were disbanded as the junior regiments of their brigades.
Late Victorian infantry as portrayed by the Die Hard Company. The infantry pattern helmet replaced the shako in 1878
In 1992 the government's Options for Change scheme meant another wave of amalgamations, which involved support corps as well as regiments, and in 2004 the Ministry of Defence asked for further cuts in manpower to fund new technology and the remaining small (single battalion) regiments were drawn down' to be restructured into larger but fewer infantry regiments by 2007.
The regiments and corps of the Regular Army are listed in order of precedence according to the army's old class system where seniority does not always bring priority:
1. The Household Cavalry, seniority over all other regiments given to the Horse Guards by a royal warrant of 1666.
2. The Royal Horse Artillery, formed in 1793 but placed ahead of the cavalry in the Queen's Regulations of 1873 because its parent regiment (see class 4) had priority over the infantry.
A First World War re-enactment group in the universal khaki service dress issued in 1904. Full dress was suspended with mass enlistment in 1914
3. The Royal Armoured Corps, formed in 1939 with the inherited seniority of its cavalry regiments, which were given status second only to the Horse Guards in 1713. Dragoon Guards have precedence in the corps and regiments are listed by the seniority of their oldest antecedent.
4. The Royal Regiment of Artillery, promoted ahead of the foot regiments in 1756.
The Corps of Royal Engineers, grouped with the RA for its parallel history.
The Royal Corps of Signals, placed under its parent corps, the Royal Engineers, although actually far more junior than this classification.
5. The Foot Guards, displaced from their rank next to the Horse Guards in 1713.
6. Infantry regiments, listed by the seniority of their oldest antecedents.
7. Support corps other than those in class 4 (listed in order of seniority).
8. The Territorial Army (regiments listed in the order of their affiliated regular regiments and corps).
This, the most senior of all British Army units, is a mix and match of two complementary regiments of Horse Guards that, since 1820, have served together as Household Cavalry, a term rooted in the royal household that they guard. The Life Guards were the first to have this exalted honour and have always headed the army list. The Blues and Royals are the product of the 1969 union of the Royal Horse Guards (nicknamed 'The Blues' from their distinctive coats) and the 1st Royal Dragoons ('The Royals). All three regiments have London backgrounds and date back to the reign of Charles II.
The armoured squadrons based at Windsor fulfil the regiments' modern role, whereas the ceremonial mounted squadrons - the only true cavalry left in the army - operate their historic public duties from Hyde Park Barracks, home to the Life Guards since 1795.
Household Cavalry bands in mounted review order, Blues and Royals to the fore
The blue forage cap has the scarlet band of royal regiments and a Guards' pattern peak with gold braid according to rank: troopers and musicians one row, lance corporal ranks two rows, corporals of horse three rows, squadron quartermaster corporals four rows and corporal major five rows. The rank of sergeant is not used in the Household Cavalry because of the word's origin in 'servant' and the Horse Guards' high-bred traditions. The HC cap badge shows the sovereign's cypher within a crowned Garter belt inscribed with its motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shamed be he who thinks evil of it).
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