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Arthur Adamson

Composition of a Brigade Headquarters

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Arthur Adamson

Good afternoon all,

 

I was wondering if anyone would happen to know the structure of a Brigade Headquarters in August 1914? I'm aware of the battalion structures but not what composed their Brigade command, transport, logistics, communications engineering support etc? Any help would be very much appreciated.

 

Thank you in advance for any assistance.   

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

The minimum and standard Brigade headquarters ‘staff’ (as in staff officers) was just three men; the GOC Bde (a Brigadier General) the Brigade Major (BM - who was sometimes a senior captain) and the Staff Captain (SC - a more junior captain).  

 

There were three staff divisions of responsibility and they were known as G (General Staff matters), A (Adjutant General Staff matters) and Q (Quarter Master General Staff matters).  

 

The BM was responsible for 'G' which covered Operations and Planning.  The SC covered both, 'A' which encompassed Administrative matters (personnel and discipline) and 'Q' which covered Quartermaster matters (supply and transport).  To assist them there was a small staff of senior and junior NCOs, plus a few privates, who all reported to the SC.  

 

In addition to the three principal officers there was often an aide, or 'orderly officer', who was a staff trainee and generally acted as the personal assistant to the brigade commander.  Finally there was usually a junior officer responsible for Administrative Services, who assisted with the veterinary requirements of the brigade as a whole.  This might seem odd, but it should be remembered that the brigade relied on horseflesh for its supply, its guns and the local transport of its battalions rear echelons.  He too reported to the SC.  The total strength of the brigade HQ was 27 all ranks.

 

Not far from the Brigade HQ, but separate nonetheless, was the battalions' transport sections and rear echelons that usually comprised the quartermasters and transport officers with their personnel.  This enabled a close contact with the SC, with whom they needed to coordinate supply.

 

The BM was the principal staff officer in the HQ and was thus the de facto chief-of-staff.  His primary role was to interpret the commands from either, his commander, or higher headquarters (Division) and convert them into precise instructions and specific actions for each of his brigade's battalions and associated support elements.  He also advised the brigade commander on all matters relating to the fighting efficiency of the brigade.

 

NB.  These staff divisions and roles remained extant until 1984, when they were replaced by a common, NATO arrangement, that was more aligned with a system used by the US.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Arthur Adamson

That is absolutely excellent. Answers my question perfectly. thank you so much indeed! 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, Arthur Adamson said:

That is absolutely excellent. Answers my question perfectly. thank you so much indeed! 

 

As you can see the Brigade headquarters staff was very small and yet by all accounts it functioned remarkably well.  The structure evolved slightly up to 1918, but but the holy triumvirate remained extant throughout.  The WW2 brigade headquarters equivalent became much larger and was arguably more unwieldy as a result.  It's even worse today!

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Arthur Adamson

Yes, indeed, bloody huge in comparison. I'd always been aware of the BC, BM & BC but was unsure as to the rest. Thanks so much. That was exactly what I wanted to know. 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Arthur Adamson said:

Yes, indeed, bloody huge in comparison. I'd always been aware of the BC, BM & BC but was unsure as to the rest. Thanks so much. That was exactly what I wanted to know. 

 

I was glad to help.  Just as a point, during WW1 the brigade commander was 'the General', or 'the GOC', but never BC, which acronym was sacrosanct for the Battery Commander RA.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Arthur Adamson

Yes of course, my mistake. I realised that as soon as I pressed send. So realistically there were perhaps five officers in total, with supporting senior and junior non commissioned officers plus a small support staff. I'm really obliged for such a precise break down. Thank you so much. 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Arthur Adamson said:

Yes of course, my mistake. I realised that as soon as I pressed send. So realistically there were perhaps five officers in total, with supporting senior and junior non commissioned officers plus a small support staff. I'm really obliged for such a precise break down. Thank you so much. 

 

Yes, always three officers as a minimum.  The Administrative Services officer was on the brigade establishment, but the orderly officer/aide was appointed separately and presumably held as a 'supernumerary' whilst on some other establishment.  He often (but not always) came from the regiment of the Brigade Commander.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Arthur Adamson

That would make sense. A sort of high flying protégé. Thank you so much indeed. I'm really grateful for the help. It's been very much appreciated. 

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FROGSMILE
4 hours ago, Arthur Adamson said:

That would make sense. A sort of high flying protégé. Thank you so much indeed. I'm really grateful for the help. It's been very much appreciated. 


Why did you want to know the detail, are you writing a book?

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Muerrisch
6 hours ago, Arthur Adamson said:

Good afternoon all,

 

I was wondering if anyone would happen to know the structure of a Brigade Headquarters in August 1914? I'm aware of the battalion structures but not what composed their Brigade command, transport, logistics, communications engineering support etc? Any help would be very much appreciated.

 

Thank you in advance for any assistance.   

For even further chapter and verse on the War Establishment of an infantry brigade [I assume that is the brigade in question] the expert is Ron Clifton of this forum. If the HQ has bicycles or puncture repair outfits he can provide the facts!. He is easily contacted. If that fails, I hold all Establishments as paper copies and could scan and post. I also have the Establishments for New Armies ....... I doubt if they differ in this respect.

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Arthur Adamson

Good morning Muerrisch,

 

Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, it was for an infantry brigade. Thanks for the additional information. I think I'm ok for now, but if I do need any further information, which I'm sure I will do at some point, then that is excellent. The assistance is very much appreciated. 

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PhilB

Can anyone explain the reasoning behind the change from Brigadier General to Brigadier status in 1922?:unsure:

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squirrel

Parsimonious action by the War Office and Government spending too much on "Generals". 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, PhilB said:

Can anyone explain the reasoning behind the change from Brigadier General to Brigadier status in 1922?:unsure:


It was mainly to do with a re-balancing that was necessary in the officer corps as a whole, as it tried to readjust to peacetime soldiering, with a focus back on colonial policing, and the maintenance of garrisons of strategic importance.  The problem was it was trying to do that with a surfeit of officers reflecting the after-effects of the biggest Army that Britain had ever put into the field.  Large numbers of officers were on average 3 ranks above where they would ordinarily have been given their age and length of service.  A great many of them had to revert to their substantive rank and there was a real fear that if there was not a cull of the most senior officers it would completely stultify promotion prospects for the young blades that are the life blood of any profession, but especially a hierarchical one.  There was at the time a significant surplus in the number of Brigadier General’s for whom there was no peacetime role that justified the status of a General officer.  
 

As well as lowering the status of Brigadier Generals to a new position of Colonel Commandant (it was not until some years later - 1928 - that this was adjusted to the ‘Brigadier’ compromise), it was decided that sub-unit command should be standardised at the rank of Major, thus bringing the cavalry and infantry into line with the RA.  Conversely the artillery battery was dropped from the status of a ‘unit’ capable of being brigaded, to a ‘sub-unit’ that would as a matter of course be subordinate to a regimental commander, thus bringing the artillery into line with the cavalry and infantry.  
 

Most wartime commissioned (temporary gentlemen) officers were obliged to leave the army and those few who sought a continued career and who managed to cling on, often transferred to the Indian Army, where careers for traditional officers were not as popular as before.  
 

Despite all these measures the officer corps did become gridlocked with a dead men’s shoes system of promotion inevitable, and leading to a rather unhealthy degree of patronage becoming the resort of the ultra ambitious.  Hanging on to the right general’s shirt tails became something of a modus operandi and those less talented, or less fortunate in terms of finding a suitable patron, invariably became stuck without any prospect of promotion.  By the early 1930s it was quite common to encounter subalterns still in their 40s, and reaching field rank without the active support of an influential senior officer was something of a lottery.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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PhilB

Thanks for that, Frog. I still find it hard to see how a nominal change in the title of BGs could make any difference to the overall rank structure. No other rank was changed - why just BG? 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, PhilB said:

Thanks for that, Frog. I still find it hard to see how a nominal change in the title of BGs could make any difference to the overall rank structure. No other rank was changed - why just BG? 


As I said, because there was an especially large number of Brigadier Generals after the war was over.  They had not just been commanding brigades, but filling all kinds of other posts as well.  Also, at that time Brigades were single arm (e.g. infantry brigades), and it was felt unnecessary and inappropriate that a ‘General Officer’ more usual across the world when commanding all-arms formations, should command such a narrowly focused formation.  Basically it was decided that all of those roles (command and staff) should be filled by the new post of Colonel Commandant, which reduced at a stroke the number of ‘General Officers’ because it had salami sliced away one complete level, the most numerous one.  Six years later it was decided that those who actually commanded a brigade would be titled Brigadier, thereby giving the extra status without again creating extra General Officers.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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PhilB

:thumbsup:

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Ron Clifton

As I read it, the main reason for converting brigade commanders from junior generals to senior colonels was to save on the permitted allowances in addition to pay. Brigadier-General was a temporary rank anyway.

 

Frogsmile's post 17, and Arthur's point 6, reinforce that in 1914-1918 an infantry brigade was a single-arm formation. Artillery brigades, field companies RE, sections of signal companies and field ambulances were all provided on a scale of one per brigade, but these were divisional assets and co-ordinated at that level, so there was no need for non-infantry specialists at a brigade HQ. The other additional arms at brigade level were machine-gun companies and trench mortar batteries, which had both evolved from the infantry. In 1915 a brigade machine-gun officer was added to the brigade HQ establishment, but this ceased when the MGC was formed and the post was absorbed into the OC MG company job.

 

In the last few months of the war, a brigade HQ establishment also included an intelligence officer and a transport officer. This is not to say that no other officers were ever attached to the HQ, but they would be counted as part of their own home unit, not as HQ staff. Incidentally the Staff Captain officially also doubled as the commander's ADC.

 

To complete the picture, the other ranks at HQ in 1914 comprised one clerk to the staff (a sergeant), an acting QM-sergeant, a sergeant and four other Military Mounted Police, a cook, seven batmen, five drivers, and a corporal and two privates of the Army Postal Service. This number remained substantially unchanged until 1918, the differences being two extra staff clerks and batmen for the extra officers.

 

Ron

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

Excellent detail Ron.  Your point about the allowances is an excellent one and it’s not difficult to imagine the long handled screwdriver of the Treasury being involved in this.  It’s important too, to not underestimate the profound need to rebalance the officer corps for the post WW1 world that it was required to inhabit within a much reduced army.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Arthur Adamson
Posted (edited)

Thanks Ron,

 

As ever, my question has been well and truly answered. Thanks to everybody who helped on this one. Most genuinely appreciated. 

Edited by Arthur Adamson

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Muerrisch
Posted (edited)

I am puzzled. If brigadier general was a temporary rank [ Ron], why was there a surplus when the brigades ceased to exist [Frogsmile]

 

My understanding is certainly that the rank was not substantive. Job goes, rank goes, revert to [usually] lt col. No need for Treasury action.

 

Something does not add up.

 

added later .......

 

The Pay Warrant 1914 is not specific but it is noteworthy that it regards promotion for full  colonels to be to major general.

 

The Army List Aug 1914 lists all full colonels and jumps to major generals.

Edited by Muerrisch
addendum

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

It is true that for a great many years, since well before WW1, Brigadier General was an appointment for a Colonel for the duration of his command of a Brigade.  At the time Brigades were temporary formations (unlike Divisions) and formed, dispersed and re-formed, as and when necessary.  Very often when the brigade was formed one of the commanding officers with a higher, ‘brevet rank’ would take command, sometimes even a Major did so if he had a higher brevet rank than his commanding officer (bizarre but true).  
The brigades were only usually formed by the Divisional, or Corps commander, if he felt it gave him tactical flexibility, or improved his ability to manoeuvre.  The temporary Brigadier General was in effect exercising the divisional commanders will, by proxy, in order to achieve a specific aim.  Some of these Brigadier Generals were promoted to Major General and the chain of substantive promotion was always from Colonel to Major General.  Others returned to either, their battalion command, or their position as a staff officer at the divisional level.  Later on the brigades formed had greater permanence, but the status of the Brigadier General in temporary command remained the same.

 

When WW1 ended it was decreed that those Brigadier Generals who had held command for a set period (I cannot recall now what the precise criterion was, but it was also to do with seniority) and who had not been promoted to substantive Major General (a critical caveat) would retain their rank and privileged status until either, promoted, placed on half pay, or retired out of the Service.  This was despite the fact that newly promoted officers would be titled Colonel Commandant.  These Brigadier Generals aged naturally and those who were not promoted increasingly found themselves in sinecure type appointments commanding training schools and depots, or working at ‘regional commands’ and their subordinate ‘districts’, Horse Guards in Whitehall, or even in foreign embassies, and all in posts that ordinarily would be carried out by individuals one, or even two ranks below them.  Clearly, many others were promoted and the pool of moribund Brigadier Generals gradually grew smaller and older.  The very last few of them were retired, or promoted at the beginning of WW2. This infamous period went down in history as a time of stagnation and dead men’s shoes, and just as one could easily find a portly 40-year old subaltern in the mess, you could just as readily find a walrus moustached Brigadier General falling asleep over his soup.  The epoch of all this was 1928-1938.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Muerrisch

Quite so, that is essentially my reading of the situation.

Which entails a large number of brigadier generals [substantive rank usually lt col] in post on 11 November 1918 losing their temporary rank and reverting, except for those who had held the rank for a substantial period and were senior in their substantive rank.

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sheldrake

In The Gambardier, Mark Severn (Frank Lushington) comments that the French thought the British had too many generals. Jobs carried out by a Colonel in the French Army were performed by a Brigadier General in the British Army. 

 

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