Orders of Battle for the British Army in WW1
The Orders of Battle are lists of military units which show the structure of command for a particular battle. An Order of Battle is compiled in order of seniority to provide a comprehensive list of every single unit to take part in a particular battle. Starting with the most senior commander the listing continues according to the structure of the British Army at the time, with the fighting troops and supporting troops grouped under headings of corps, division, brigade, battalion, company, squadron, depot, unit or hospital.
Trace a British Military Unit in the Orders of Battle
If you know the unit in which an individual had served in, you can use the Orders of Battle to trace the date and location of where he or she was on the battlefront.
Some individuals served in more than one unit during the war. If there were heavy casualties soldiers were sometimes transferred into different battalions to make up the full complement of men. Sometimes men transferred into newly formed units, such as Machine Gun Companies or Trench Mortar Batteries.
Where to View The British Army Orders of Battle
The National Archives, Kew, Surrey
The National Archives holds files containing the Orders of Battle of the British Army. These can be viewed by visiting the National Archives or they are availabe to download throught the Documents Online service for a charge. The file is classified as WO 95/5468. For a link to the online document go to the National Archives website at:
Website: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk Documents Online: WO 95/5468
Published Reference Books Containing Orders of Battle
There are a number of reference books which contain lists of the Orders of Battle. Some are out of print but can be viewed at the National Archives or it should be possible to arrange for an inter-library loan service. For books currently in print see “Further Reading” below.
- Orders of Battle, Volumes 1 - 4: This publication was compiled in four volumes by Major A F Becke. This publication was produced under the direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence and published by His Majesty's Stationery Office between 1935 and 1945. The original publication is out of print but available to view at the National Archives.
- Orders of Battle, Volumes 1 - 4 (reprinted): Major A F Becke's Orders of Battle were reprinted in 2007 by Naval & Military Press and are available in four volumes as hardback or paperback copies. Alternatively it should be possible to arrange to request these on loan through a local library.
- British Regiments 1914-1918: Brigadier E A James compiled a comprehensive reference work originally printed by Samson Books of London in 1978. It was reprinted in 2001 by Naval & Military Press.
- A Record of the Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders, 1914-1918: As a young Captain E A James produced a compilation to provide an overvew of the Orders of Battle from the level of Army, through to corps and then to division. From Novemer 1914 onwards there is no listing of brigades or battalions in this publication. Originally printed in 1924, this book was reprinted in 1994 by Naval & Military Press.
- British Battalions in France and Belgium, 1914: Author Ray Westlake hs compiled a number of books containing Orders of Battle. This one was published by Leo Cooper (London) in 1997.
There are a number of excellent reference books which include Orders of Battle by author Ray Westlake:
- Order of Battle of Divisions, Index: Naval & Military Press, 2009.
- British Battalions in France and Belgium, 1914: Pen & Sword Books, 1997.
- British Battalions on the Western Front January to June 1915: Pen & Sword Books, 2000.
- Kitchener's Army: The History Press, 2003.
- Tracing British Battalions on the Somme: Pen & Sword Books, 2009.
- British Territorial Units, 1914-18: An illustrated book in the Osprey Publishing Men-at-Arms Series, 1992.
British Official Histories of the Great War
After the First World War the involvement of British forces in the battles and campaigns of 1914-1918 was compiled in numerous volumes with appendices and maps. These publications provide an in-depth record of the military operations and engagements by the army, navy and air force. The volumes contain Orders of Battle as appropriate for that volume or battle. See our page about the British Official Histories at:
British Order of Battle: Second Battle of Ypres, 22nd April 1915
The Order of Battle for the British Second Army is listed in our Battle Study of the build-up to the Second Battle of Ypres, which began with a German trial of poisonous gas on the afternoon of 22nd April 1915:British Second Army Order of Battle, 22nd April 1915
Tracing an Ancestor's British Military Unit
If you do not know the military unit of the person you are tracing you should (if the records are available) be able to find out by searching the WW1 casualty records of death in service, medal records or service records. Go to our page about getting started on Tracing a WW1 Serviceman at:Tracing World War 1 Family History
Record of the Battles and Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders 1914 - 18 (Paperback)
by E A James
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (26 Nov 1994), 56 pages, ISBN-10: 1843421968 and ISBN-13: 978-1843421962
British Regiments, 1914-18 (Paperback)
by E A James
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (20 Nov 2001), 140 pages, ISBN-10: 1843421976 and ISBN-13: 978-1843421979
British Battalions in France and Belgium, 1914 (Hardback)
by Ray Westlake
Published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd (5 Sep 1997), 384 pages, ISBN-10: 0850525772 and ISBN-13: 978-0850525779
ORDER OF BATTLE OF DIVISIONS, Index (Paperback)
by Ray Westlake
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (21 Jan 2009), 76 pages, ISBN-10: 184734903X and ISBN-13: 978-1847349033
ORDER OF BATTLE OF DIVISIONS, Part 1: The Regular British Division (Paperback)
by Major A F Becke
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (1 Sep 2007), 144 pages, ISBN-10: 184734738X and ISBN-13: 978-1847347381
ORDER OF BATTLE OF DIVISIONS, Part 2a & 2b: Territorial & Yeomanry Divisions (Paperback)
by Major A F Becke
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (1 Sep 2007), 332 pages, ISBN-10: 1847347398 and ISBN-13: 978-1847347398
ORDER OF BATTLE OF DIVISIONS, Part 3a & 3b: New Army Divisions (Paperback)
by Major A F Becke
Published by Naval & Military Press Ltd (1 Sep 2007), 352 pages, ISBN-10: 184734741X and ISBN-13: 978-1847347411