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The Territorial Army (TA) is the part-time volunteer force of the British Army.

With around 35,500 members, the TA forms about a quarter of the overall manpower strength of the British Army.

TA soldiers serve on operations, either with TA units, or as individuals attached to regular units. Over one thousand TA soldiers are deployed each year. In addition 1,100 Territorial soldiers currently serve as Non Regular Permanent Staff.

The highest ranking Territorial is Major General Greg Smith TD who is Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Reserves and Cadets).


As a locally raised volunteer part-time force, the TA may be considered a militia [1] and several units bear the title "militia".[2] TA members have a minimum commitment to serve 27 training days per annum. This period normally includes a two-week period of continuous training either as a (TA) unit, on courses or attached to a regular unit. Territorial soldiers are paid at a similar rate, while engaged on military activities, as their Regular equivalents. Soldiers of the Territorial Army are often serving alongside their regular counterparts, including operations in Afghanistan where 1,000 out of the total 10,100 deployed are reservists[citation needed], around 10% of the total. The annual budget of the Territorial Army is approximately £350 million – around 1.3% of the total defence budget.[3]

Legal status

During periods of total war, the Territorial Army is incorporated by the Royal Prerogative into Regular Service under one code of Military Law for the duration of hostilities until re-activation is decided upon. After World War II for example the TA was not demobilised until 1947.

Territorials normally have a full-time 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 TA Army Medical Services units. All Territorial 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 TA in the normal course of events (i.e. when not mobilised).

Historical overview

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 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, such as the infamous Peterloo Massacre.

The Territorial Army was created 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 Militia and Yeomanry. Most Volunteer infantry units had unique identities, but lost these in the reorganisation, becoming Territorial battalions of Regular Army infantry regiments. Some, notably the London Regiment, Glasgow Highlanders and Liverpool Scottish maintained a separate identity.

Formation to World War I

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 Army with the remaining units of militia and yeomanry. The TF was formed on 1 April 1908 and contained 14 infantry divisions, and 14 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 World War I, Territorial units were given the option of serving in France and by 25 August in excess of 70 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 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 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 World War II

New recruiting started in early 1920, and the Territorial Force was reconstituted 7 February 1920. On 1 October 1920 the Territorial Force was renamed the Territorial Army. The 1st Line divisions (that were created in 1907 or 1908) were reconstituted in that year. However, 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 fifty-five yeomanry regiments, only the fourteen senior regiments retained their horses. The remaining yeomanry were converted to artillery or armoured car units or disbanded.[4][5] The amalgamation of forty pairs of infantry battalions was announced in October, 1921.[6][7] 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.[8] An innovation in 1922 was the creation of two Air Defence Brigades to provide anti-aircraft defence for London.[9][10]

On 29 March 1939 it was announced that the size of the TA was to be doubled by the reforming of the 2nd line units. 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.[11][12] When the 2nd Line was reformed they were a little different from their WWI predecessors. They had slightly different names and the regiments assigned were different. After VJ Day in August 1945, the Territorial Army was significantly downsized with all 2nd Line and several 1st Line Divisions once again disbanded.

List of TA Divisions, World War II

The Territorial Army armoured and infantry divisions during World War II were:

Postwar reforms and Cold War to present day

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:[13]

The 16th Airborne Division, a totally TA formation, was also raised at this time, under the command of Major-General Roy Urquhart.

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.[14] On 20 December 1955 the Secretary of State for War informed the House of Commons that the armoured divisions and the Lowland mixed division were to be converted to infantry, and the 16th Airborne Division reduced to a parachute brigade group.[15] 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 amalgamation of pairs of regiments, and the conversion of four RAC units to an infantry role. At the same time, the 16th Airborne Division was reduced to in size to become the 44th Independent Parachute Brigade Group.[16]

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 2 regiments of the Royal Corps of Signals.[17] The reductions were carried out in 1961, mainly by amalgamation of units.

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

  • TAVR I: Units available for all purposes
  • TAVR II: Units with a NATO role, specifically support for the British Army of the Rhine
  • TAVR III: Home Defence units
  • TAVR IV: Consisting of bands and the University-based Officer Training Corps

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 lead to the formation of a number of battalions based on these cadres.[18][19]

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. Although due to its decreased established size, Brigades rather than Divisions were used at a manoeuvre formation level.

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.

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 has an authorised strength of 42,000 though recruiting difficulties put the actual strength of the TA below that figure (manning is currently at approx 82% which equates to 34,000). Units also have attached TA soldiers 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 Suez Crisis, which were during the 1950s when 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. 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 [20] (205 Scottish General Hospital were 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.) However, the Government passed the Reserve Forces Act 1996,[21] which enables individual TA personnel 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 TA increasingly providing routine support for the Regular army overseas.

In 2003, 9,500 reservists, the vast majority of them from the TA, 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 TA continue to deploy annually on tours of duty in Iraq, Operation Herrick in Afghanistan and elsewhere, normally on 6 month-long Roulements. They cannot be used in operations for more than 12 months in any three-year period - making most of those who have already served ineligible for call up for two years afterwards. However given the relatively-small size of the Regular British Army, coupled with the current high rate of operational deployments, it is inconceivable that the TA will not see further extensive overseas service.

Regional brigades

Territorial Army units are widely dispersed across the country – much more so than the Regular units, and in many areas they are the only visible face of the Armed Forces. They help to keep society informed about the Armed Forces, and of the importance of defence to the nation, and have an active role supporting the Army Cadet Force and events such as Ten Tors. They provide a means by which the community as a whole can contribute to Britain's defence.

Most units of the Territorial Army are organised into Regional Brigades for administrative and training purposes, dependent upon their geographic location within the United Kingdom. Exceptions include the Army Medical Services and UKSF(R). The Brigades also co-ordinate Civil Contingency Reaction Forces (CCRF) in their respective regions, which are organised to provide support to the emergency services if required:[22]

Current units

British Army arms and services
Flag of the British Army.svg
Combat Arms
Royal Armoured Corps
Special Air Service
Army Air Corps
Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Combat Support Arms
Royal Artillery
Royal Engineers
Royal Corps of Signals
Intelligence Corps
Combat Services
Royal Army Chaplains' Department
Royal Logistic Corps
Army Medical Services
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Adjutant General's Corps
Small Arms School Corps
Royal Army Physical Training Corps
General Service Corps
Corps of Army Music

Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia)

Honourable Artillery Company

Royal Armoured Corps

Royal Artillery

Royal Engineers

Royal Corps of Signals

  • 63 (SAS) Signal Squadron (Volunteers)

2 (National Communications) Signal Brigade Units:


Special Air Service

Army Air Corps

  • 6 (Volunteer) Regiment AAC
  • 7 (Volunteer) Regiment AAC

Royal Logistic Corps

Army Medical Services

2 Medical Brigade Units:

  • 201 (Northern) Field Hospital
  • 202 (Midlands) Field Hospital
  • 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital
  • 204 (North Irish) Field Hospital
  • 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital
  • 207 (Manchester) Field Hospital
  • 208 (Liverpool) Field Hospital
  • 212 (Yorkshire) Field Hospital
  • 222 Field Hospital
  • 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital
  • 256 (City of London) Field Hospital
  • 306 Hospital Support Medical Regiment
  • 335 Medical Evacuation Regiment

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Adjutant General's Corps

  • Central Volunteer Headquarters Adjutant General's Corps
  • Army Legal Services
  • Educational and Training Support
  • Military Provost Staff
  • Military Provost Guard Service
  • Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch
  • 4 Regiment, Royal Military Police
  • 5 Regiment, Royal Military Police

Intelligence Corps

  • 3 (Volunteer) Military Intelligence Battalion
  • 5 (Volunteer) Military Intelligence Battalion

Corps of Army Music

Pipes and Drums

  • Pipes and Drums of the Lancashire Artillery Volunteers
  • Pipes and Drums of the 52nd Lowland, 6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • Pipes and Drums of the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • Pipes and Drums of the London Scottish
  • Pipes and Drums of the London Irish Rifles
  • Pipes and Drums of the Royal Corps of Signals
  • Pipes and Drums of 102bn REME
  • Drums and Pipes of Aberdeen UOTC
  • Pipes and Drums of City of Edinburgh UOTC
  • Pipes and Drums of Glasgow UOTC
  • Pipes and Drums of Tayforth UOTC

Officer Training Corps

Many British Universities also have Officer Training Corps units, which allow students to experience military life. University Officer Training Corps (UOTCs) still officially form part of the TA. However, they fall into reserve category "B" meaning they cannot be called up for service unless there is a national emergency.

  • Aberdeen UOTC
  • Birmingham UOTC
  • Bristol UOTC
  • Cambridge UOTC
  • East Midlands UOTC
  • City of Edinburgh UOTC
  • Exeter UOTC
  • Glasgow and Strathclyde UOTC
  • Leeds UOTC
  • Liverpool UOTC
  • Manchester & Salford UOTC
  • Northumbrian UOTC
  • Oxford UOTC
  • Queen's UOTC
  • Sheffield UOTC
  • Southampton UOTC
  • Tayforth UOTC
  • Wales UOTC
  • University of London OTC

Overseas territories

Throughout the British Empire, home defence units, like the Royal Hong Kong Regiment, were raised in various British colonies with the intention of allowing Regular Army units tied-up on garrison duty to be deployed elsewhere. Although they have generally been organised along Territorial Army lines, they are NOT part of the British army and are funded by the OT government and not by British tax payers. There are three units, today, in the remaining British Overseas Territories (BOT): the Bermuda Regiment, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, and the Falkland Islands Defence Force. Although the British Government, as national government, is responsible for the defence of the territories, and holds direct control of military units raised within them, the local forces are raised and funded by the local governments of the territories. These units must meet British Army standards in organisation and efficiency. Their officers are commissioned by Sandhurst, and their sergeants attend the Platoon Sergeants course at Brecon (itself having been begun as a course for Parachute Regiment NCOs, created by a Bermudian officer, Major-General Glyn Charles Anglim Gilbert). Although OT units may have no tasking under the Ministry of Defence, and members may not be compelled to serve outside their territory, many serve voluntarily on attachment to Regular Army units. In the 1980s, a cadre of officers and NCOs from the Bermuda Regiment was briefly attached to a battalion of the affiliated Royal Anglian Regiment deployed to Belize, guarding against a threatened invasion by Guatemala. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment is moving towards full integration with the British Army, having been added to the Army List, and with two of its three rifle companies having become full-time, following the withdrawal of the Regular Army garrison in 1991.

Basic training


For TA soldiers, recruit training is structured into two phases: Phase 1, also known as the Common Military Syllabus (Recruit) (CMS(R)) Course, and Phase 2, specialist training.[23]

Phase 1

In Phase 1, recruits cover the Common Military Syllabus (Recruit) (CMS(R)) in a series of 6 training weekends at Regional Training Centres (RTCs). For non-infantry units, CMS(R) concludes with a two-week training course normally held at an Army Training Regiment, whilst infantry recruits have an extra 3 weekends and then go directly to their Phase 2 Training at Catterick.[24] Recruits to the 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment[25] and the Honourable Artillery Company[26] 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.[27]


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

Module 1 is the same as the Common Military Syllabus (Recruit) course. As many Officers initially serve a period of time as Soldiers, this module is only undertaken by the minority that join the TA directly as Potential Officers under the Direct Entry TA Potential Officer (DETAPO) system.

Module 2 covers training in Tactics, Leadership, Doctrine and Navigation, both in theory and in practice, and a further series of selection and aptitude tests are undertaken, usually spread over 10 weekends. This also includes passing The Army Officer Selection Board Briefing and Main Board, after which Potential Officers are formally designated as Officer Cadets.

Module 3 applies the theory taught in Module 2 into a 9-day Battle Camp. Modules 1 to 3 are run by Regional Training Centres around the UK.

Module 4. Passing the AOSB and Module 3 then enables Officer Cadets to attend an intensive three week Assessment at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which forms Module 4.

On successful completion of Module 4, 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 RTC, over 3 weekends.

Special To Arm training is specific to the type of unit the Subaltern is joining, for example, the 2 week Platoon Commander's Battle Course held at the Infantry Battle School in Brecon.

See also



  1. Oxford English Dictionary online: "a military force raised from the civilian population of a country or region, esp. to supplement a regular army in an emergency", "military units and forces, raised locally (and usually for the purpose of local defence) from the civilian population of an area, and distinguished from professional standing armies as the latter developed"
  2. 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)
  3. Armed Forces Website - TA Overview
  4. New Territorial Army – The Government Scheme, The Times, January 31, 1920
  5. New Citizen Army – 2nd Line Defence Scheme, The Times, January 31, 1920
  6. Territorial Army Reduction, The Times, July 15, 1921
  7. Territorial Army Amalgamations – 40 Battalions Affected The Times, October 5, 1921
  8. Territorial Army Reductions - £1,650,000 to be saved, The Times, March 4, 1922
  9. The Territorial Army and Air Defence of Great Britain, (United Kingdom Reserve Forces Association), accessed August 28, 2007
  10. Air Defence of London – Two Brigades of Ground Troops, The Times, July 12, 1922
  11. Territorial Army - Establishment doubled, The Times, March 30, 1939
  12. 13 Additional Divisions - Method of Expansion, The Times, March 30, 1939
  13. Charles Messenger, A History of the British Infantry: Volume Two 1915-94, Leo Cooper, London, 1996, p.157
  14. Napoleonic war links to go, The Times, August 30, 1955
  16. TA replanning complete, The Times, May 6, 1956
  17. Reorganizing Territorials, the Times, July 21, 1960
  18. [1] Regiments of the British Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve 1967 (
  19. Lineage of British Army Regiments 1967 - 2000 by Wienand Drieth [2]
  20. TA History
  21. Reserve Forces Act 1996 (c. 14)
  22. BBC report on 2006 CCRF exercise
  23. "TA Recruit Training Structure & Overview". Ministry of Defence. 
  24. "TA Recruit Training Structure & Overview". Ministry of Defence. 
  25. "Phase One: The Build Up". 4th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. 
  26. "Frequently Asked Questions". HAC. Retrieved 2008-06-02. "The HAC runs two Recruits' courses each year, beginning in February/March and September/October. The Recruits course lasts six months and involves training each Tuesday evening, roughly one weekend a month and a ten day final assessment." 
  27. "TA Recruit Training Structure & Overview". Ministry of Defence. 

THE TERRITORIAL ARMY - 1999 - An archive document of The TA in 1999 before the implementation of The Strategic Defence Review. M A Heyman

External links

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