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Meet The Infantry

The foot soldiers of the British Army


Meet the infantry

Let’s take a look at the infantry – the foot soldiers of the British Army. 

It’s the largest part of the army, consisting of 36 regular battalions and 14 reserve battalions across 18 regiments, including some of the very oldest in the British Army.

The history of the infantry

The Infantry owes it’s heritage to the Crown in the pre-Civil War period.  The oldest regiment is the Royal Scots Borderers – now part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland – which was formed in 1633 when King Charles I raised a Scottish Regiment for service in France.

Then there were the Foot Guards who traditionally provided protection to the Monarch.  The Royal Regiment of Guards was raised in 1656 by the exiled King Charles II – today we know this regiment as the Grenadier Guards.

Who is in the British infantry?

Along with the Household Cavalry, there are five Guards regiments in the Household Division – that’s regiments that have served as the Monarch’s official body guards since the restoration of King Charles II

The Grenadier Guards – the most senior infantry regiment in the British Army, and the one you’re most likely to see in London.

Then there’s the Coldstream Guards – the oldest regiment in continuous service, the Scots Guards who after training are posted to F Company in London, the Irish Guards were formed by Queen Victoria in 1900 to commemorate Irishmen who fought in the Second Boer War for the British Empire, and finally the Welsh Guards, raised in 1915 by King George.

How can you tell them apart?

Buttons and plumes – that’s how.  Grenadier Guards have white plumes, Coldstream Guards red plumes and tunic buttons in pairs, Irish Guards have blue plumes and tunic buttons spaced in fours, Welsh Guards have a white and green plume and tunic buttons in fives, and the Scots Guards they have no plumes at all, but do have tunic buttons – grouped in threes! 

Whatever regiment they come from make no mistake – these guys are some of the most highly trained soldiers in the army.

The infantry at ceremonial events

Guards have two roles in the Army. In their ceremonial military uniform, they stand guard at Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace, and take part in major events such as the State Opening of Parliament and to support ceremonial events are the military bands. 

There are 23 Bands in the Regular Army, and a further 20 Territorial Bands, all of which exist within the Corps of Army Music which is based in Twickenham.

Where you’ll also find the Royal Military School of Music.  And its not just marching music that they play, there’s a string orchestra, brass bands, and also rock and pop bands who play Modern Rock, Pop and Jazz music.

What does infantry training involve?

There are specialisms to learn – from being a sharpshooter to combat medic, not forgetting learning to drive or parachuting.

And with more training, there’s promotion opportunities.  As a Lance Corporal, you’ll take charge of a four-man fire team.

It’s up to you to make sure they work as an effective unit and that everyone has the skills they need.  Next up is Lance Sergeant, who’s in charge of a section – that’s two fire teams.

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Life in the Armed Forces

Find out about Life in the Armed Forces

More From Life in the Armed Forces