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Tactical organization

JOHN CHILDS


Subject History » Military History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631168485.1994.x


Extract

Modern armies are organized into ‘units’(platoons, companies and battalions) and ‘formations’(regiments, brigades, divisions, corps, armies and army groups). Units of the same size sometimes have different names depending upon the particular branch of the service – ‘company’ in the infantry, ‘squadron’ in the cavalry or armoured forces and ‘battery’ in the artillery are all equivalent commands under a captain or major. The numerical strength of units has varied over the past 500 years. A company contained 1,000 men at the beginning of the sixteenth century, sometimes less than fifty in 1700 and around 150 in 1990. The Soviet army (up to 1991) did not have corps but subordinated its divisions directly to the level of army, the equivalent of a corps in Western forces. Similarly, the Soviets referred to the army group as a ‘front’. In the German land forces of the Second World War, corps and army groups were only battle headquarters and did not possess administrative functions; these were reserved to divisions and armies amongst the higher formations. Similarly, ad hoc formations like battle-groups composed of elements from several different arms do not function as administrative entities. The tactical organization of a particular land force is determined by its weaponry, by the number of men it contains and, to a lesser extent, by the weapons of its opponents. Weaponry decides the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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