Commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel and with a Major as his Second-in-Command, a wartime British Army infantry battalion in 1942 had a nominal strength of 33 Officers and 753 Other Ranks (excluding attached Army Catering Corps, RAMC and RAOC personnel) and would be organised as followed:

A Battalion HQ of five officers and 50 Other Ranks.

A Headquarters Company of eight officers and 248 Other Ranks, consisting of a Company HQ (one officer, eight Other Ranks) and the following Platoons, which were numbered 1 to 6:

No 1 Platoon, Signals, one Officer, 35 Other Ranks.

No 2 Platoon, Anti-Aircraft, 20 Other Ranks, primary armament four twin Bren guns, this platoon was replaced by a specialist anti-tank platoon (two officers, 53 ORs), equipped with 2-pounder or 6-pounder guns, later in the war.

No 3 Platoon, Mortars, one Officer, 45 Other Ranks, equipped with six 3-inch mortars and their associated Carriers.

No 4 Platoon, Carriers, two Officers, 62 Other Ranks, equipped with 13 tracked Carriers.

No 5 Platoon, Pioneers, one Officer, 21 Other Ranks

No 6 Platoon, Administration, two Officers, 57 Other Ranks.

The four Rifle Companies of the Battalion each had a nominal strength of five Officers and 119 Other Ranks. Each Company was organised with a Company HQ (two Officers, 11 ORs) and three Platoons, each of one Officer and 36 Other Ranks

The Companies were designated:

A Company, with Platoons 7, 8 & 9

B Company, with Platoons, 10, 11 & 12

C Company, with Platoons 13, 14 and 15

D Company, with Platoons, 16, 17 and 18

Each Platoon was further divided into a Platoon HQ (one Officer and six ORs and three consecutively numbered Sections, each of 10 ORs.

The Platoon HQ would be armed with one pistol (the Officer's), six rifles, one Boyes .55-inch anti-tank rifle (replaced in 1943 by the PIAT weapon) and one two-inch mortar.

Each Section consisted of: a Bren light machine gun team of two men (the gunner and the 'No 2', his loader); an NCO in charge of the Bren gun team; a NCO Section Leader; and six riflemen, each equipped with a Lee Enfield bolt-action rifle. Each rifleman would also carry several spare magazines each for the Bren gun.

The Platoon would be commanded by a Lieutenant, with a Sergeant as his Second-in-Command. Each Section would be commanded by a Corporal or a Lance Corporal, these often armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun (the Sten gun was never issued to the 16th DLI).

However in action and after casualties, Platoons would regularly be commanded by Sergeants and Sections by Lance Corporals and even experienced private soldiers.

To see a schematic diagram of a 1942 Infantry Battalion’s numbers, weapons and organisation click here.

Later in the war a reorganisation took place and the six-platoon HQ Company was replaced by a new, smaller HQ Company (four officers, 91 ORs, Signals and Admin Platoons only) and a new Support Company was formed (seven Officers, 185 ORs), which now comprised the Mortar, Carrier, Anti-Tank and Pioneer Platoons. These changes took place for the 16th DLI in mid-1943 at the close of the Tunisian Campaign.

The easiest way to understand Battalion and Company organisation is to look at it in practice, so on the following pages I have transcribed several listings of 16th DLI Officers and NCOs from various stages of the war. Click on the hyperlinks as below:

July 1941, May 1942, November 1942, May 1945

Anatomy of an Infantry Battalion
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