A regiment is a military unit, larger than a company and smaller than a division. Depending on mission, country of origin, and makeup, a modern regiment is similar to a brigade in size in that both range from a few hundred soldiers up to 2,000-3,000, depending on branch of service and method of organization. The modern unit varies in size, scope, administrative role from nation to nation, and within the armed forces of some nations (See and contrast: US Marine regiments vs. US Army Infantry, as well as the differing use by the US Army Cavalry.)

The term came into use in Europe around the end of the 16th century, when armies evolved from a collection of retinues following knights to a more formally organized structure.

The number of soldiers in a regiment fluctuates, generally depending on casualties and the manpower of the associated army. At its creation, for example, the typical Civil War-era American infantry regiment numbered around 600 (although heavy artillery regiments serving as infantry numbered upwards of 1,000 troops, a brigade-sized formation). Veteran federal regiments commonly experienced a steady decline in strength as the federal (unlike the Confederate) practice was to organize new regiments rather than rebuild old units. However, at the end of the war, Confederate regiments sometimes had less than 100 troops (barely company-sized).

During the post-Civil War years, American regiments rarely served as intact units. The practice was to scatter companies throughout western posts and forts. Company strength for a 10 company infantry regiment or a 12 company (troop after 1882) cavalry regiment hovered around 50 men, well below authorized levels.

In the British Army, for most purposes, the regiment is the largest "permanent" organisational unit. Above regimental level, organisation is changed to meet the tasks at hand. Because of their permanent nature, many regiments have long histories, often going back for centuries; the oldest British regiment still in existence is the Honourable Artillery Company, established in 1537, while the Royal Scots, formed in 1633, is the oldest infantry regiment. (These claims are contested on various points of precedence; see FAQ: Regiments, in general ( and especially: FAQ: Oldest Regiment in the British Army (

The United States Army was also once organized into regiments, but presently uses the brigade instead, except for cavalry. Although every battalion or squadron is associated with a regiment for historical purposes, the only combat regiments are cavalry regiments which are attached to a corps. These regiments, who are associated generally for historical purposes, can be known as "parent regiments".

In the 20th Century the "Division" became the tactical and administrative building block for massive rapidly-mobilized conscripted armies, such as those of Germany or the U.S.S.R. Such was also the case of U.S. armies in successive mobilizations for World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam and NATO. Industrial management techniques were used to draft, assemble, equip, train and then employ huge masses of conscripted civilians in very short order, starting with minimal resources. Training, administration and even tactical employment was centred at divisional level. Most combat support and logistics was also concentrated at that level.

In the 21st century, the U.S. Army has moved to "modularization", trying to use the autonomous brigade as the basic building block, as well as insert more stability and unit cohesion.

The United States Marine Corps calls its divisional brigades, regiments, for traditional reasons.


Types of regiment in Commonwealth armies

In the British Army and other armies modelled on it, such as Canada's and Australia's, the term regiment is used confusingly in two different ways: it can mean an administrative identity and grouping or a tactical unit.

Administrative regiments are not part of the army's day-to-day operational command structure, but regimental ties are maintained by the administrative management of its members, and may include recruiting, basic training at a regimental centre, career management, postings, selection for special training, promotion boards, etc., for those in service. This system dates back to the Cardwell Reforms in the U.K., when each regiment was structured so as to have a battalion permanently overseas, while another battalion of the regiment was based at home to recruit and train replacements.

The historical strength of the regimental system is the fierce loyalty engendered by this administrative regiment. As far as possible, officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and soldiers remain part of their administrative regiment throughout their military career, even when at schools, posted to headquarters or otherwise "extra-regimentally" employed. In the U.K., even the most senior generals do not hesitate to identify themselves as being "General So-and-So, late of the xxxxx Regiment". This exclusive identity maintains morale, dedication and group discipline.

Another key aspect of the regimental system is that the tactical regiment or battalion is the key tactical building block. This flows historically from the colonial period, when battalions were widely dispersed and virtually autonomous, but is equally appropriate to the challenges of today's anti-terrorist operations. In large continental armies using the divisional system, the divisional commander is supreme, and his staff train and administer soldiers, officers and subordinate commanders, frequently using an assembly line process. Divisions are garrisoned in one single large camp, with its single officers' club and division-run training facilities. A battalion Commanding Officer (CO) is just another level in the chain of command.

In contrast, in the regimental system, the tactical regiment or battalion is the building block and its Commanding Officer is supreme. Divisional and brigade commanders use the utmost caution before immersing themselves in the detailed functioning of such a unit; they can sack the commanding officer but it is more difficult to micro-manage his unit. The unit's Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) is another key figure, at the right hand of the CO. He controls the NCOs through his Sergeants' Mess, and ensures the highest standards of discipline.

The regimental system is envied in non-Commonwealth armies. However, attempts to copy it generally fail because it is detested by military bureaucrats, faced with the difficult requirement to keep soldiers of a regiment together, rather than as interchangeable numbers, permit separate garrisons, training, messes and facilities, and return officers and NCOs to their own regiment on subsequent postings.

In those armies where the system exists, non-infantry managers frequently criticize as "parochial" the competing loyalties and jealousies of different regiments, and question whether it is healthy to develop soldiers so loyal to their regiment rather than to the overall bureaucracy. However, Commonwealth-style regiments have proven their worth throughout history, whether in war or, even more significantly, in lengthy and difficult policing missions on other continents. Even regiments recruited from areas in political ferment (such as Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Quebec, India, etc.), have performed exceptionally well because of their loyalty to their regiment.

Within the regimental system, soldiers, and in most cases officers as well, are always posted to a tactical unit of their own administrative regiment when they return to field duty. In addition to combat units, other organizations are very much part of the administrative regimental family: regimental training schools, serving members on "extra-regimental employment", regimental associations (retirees), bands and associated cadet groups. The aspects that an administrative regiment have in common include a symbolic colonel-in-chief (often a member of the royal family), a Colonel of the Regiment or "honorary colonel" who protects the traditions and interests of the regimental family and insists on high standards befitting of the regiments forefathers, battle honours (honours earned by one unit of an administrative regiment are shared by the whole regiment), ceremonial uniforms, cap badge, peculiarities of insignia, stable belt, and regimental marches and songs. The regiment usually has a traditional "home station", which is often a historic garrison that houses the regimental museum and regimental headquarters. The latter has a modest staff to support regimental committees and administer both the regular members and the association(s) of retired members.


Administrative armoured regiments are composed of one (usual) or more tactical regiments. For example, the two tactical regiments Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada and Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada (Milice) are both part of the administrative regiment Le 12e Régiment blindé du Canada. The only administrative armoured regiment of the British Army that consists of more than one tactical regiment is the Royal Tank Regiment, which currently has two (1 and 2 RTR), and once had many more.


All the country's artillery is considered part of a single administrative regiment. However, there are several tactical artillery regiments. They are designated by numbers, names or both. For example, the tactical regiments 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA and many others are part of the single administrative regiment The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. In Britain, the Royal Regiment of Artillery works in the same way.


Administrative infantry regiments are composed of one or more battalions. When a regiment has only one battalion, the battalion may have exactly the same name as the regiment. For example, The North Saskatchewan Regiment is the only battalion in the administrative regiment of the same name. When there is more than one battalion, they are distinguished by numbers, subsidiary titles or both. In Britain, every infantry battalion bears a number, even if it is the only remaining battalion in the regiment (in which case it is the 1st Battalion). Until after the Second World War, every regiment had at least two battalions. Traditionally, the regular battalions were the 1st and 2nd Battalions, the militia battalion was the 3rd Battalion, and the Territorial Army battalions were the 4th Battalion and up. A few regiments had up to four regular battalions and more than one militia battalion, which skewed the numbering, but this was rare. For this reason, although the regular battalion today (if there is only one) will always be the 1st Battalion, the TA battalions may have non-consecutive numbers.

In practice, it is impossible to exercise all the administrative functions of a true regiment when the regiment consists of a single unit. Soldiers, and particularly officers, cannot spend a full career in one battalion. Thus in the Armoured Corps, the traditional administrative "regiment" tends to play more of a ceremonial role, while in practise, its members are administered by their corps or "branch" as in the Artillery. Thus soldiers and officers can serve in many different "regiments", changing hat badges without too much concern during their career. Indeed, in the artillery, all regiments wear the same badge.

In the UK, there exist administrative "divisions" in the infantry that encompass several regiments (e.g. the Guards Division, the Scottish Division, or the Light Division). The down-sizing and consolidation of British infantry regiments announced in 2004 suggests that the administrative divisions may evolve into something very similar to Canada's three Regular Force administrative regiments that have 4 or 5 battalions each, a band, etc. (See Royal 22e Régiment as an example). Similarly, in Australia there is but one administrative infantry regiment, the Royal Australian Regiment, consisting of all six regular infantry battalions in the Army.


The British Army also has battalion-sized tactical regiments of the Royal Engineers, Royal Corps of Signals, Army Air Corps, Royal Logistic Corps, Royal Military Police, and formerly of the Royal Corps of Transport.

See also

da:Regiment de:Regiment fr:Régiment nl:Regiment ja:連隊 no:Regiment pl:Pułk ru:Полк sl:Polk fi:Rykmentti zh:团


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