What? Privates? Where?- The Structure of a British Infantry Battalion in the First World War

I’m currently reading Frederic Manning’s ‘Her Privates We’ in an excellent edition published by Serpent’s Tail Classics. It’s a major First World War text, much regarded by great modernist writers such as Hemingway, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound– and I must say that, as I read, I haven’t enjoyed any piece of writing from the period quite so much since I read ‘Goodbye To All That’, long ago. I’m sure I’ll return to it on the blog at some point in the future (together with some posts about Jules Verne’s ‘The Begum’s Fortune’ and Jessie Pope), should I have the chance.

Anyway, I found that, as I read ‘Her Privates We’, I was having trouble with something that I think you, as A-level students, will also have trouble with as you start your course. If you’re studying ‘Journey’s End’, ‘Goodbye to All That’ or any other First World War text, it helps to know the hierarchy of the British Army; to know your Private from your Captain from your Major. I found a simple explanation on the structure of an infantry battalion on the always informative website ‘The Long, Long Trail’, here. Check it out if you want to know your Batman from your Band Sergeant.

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One thought on “What? Privates? Where?- The Structure of a British Infantry Battalion in the First World War”

  1. Yes, a very good appraisal of the life of the lonely private. One never spoke with an officer or sergeant at any time. One could ask permission to speak, but one had to be brave to do so. You did as you were told that way one never knew what was really coming the privates way in the shape of bullets. The War the Infantry Knew, plus Old Soldiers never Die, and any War Diary concerning Passchendaele 1917 opens one’s eyes.

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