The Making of an Army

Transformation of the British Army

Britain’s renowned army was founded 362 years ago. Ever since, a permanently raised, standing army has persisted, participating in all of Britain’s conflicts. From Musket to Minimi, Redcoats to radio, John Ash and Callum Dickson examine the centuries of change that saw the British Army develop from war-born fledging to a force for the future. With the assistance of Craig Allen and Oliver Thébault

1660 Standing To

Before the English Civil Wars, armies were raised the old way, with levies or militia mustered as necessary by officials or nobles. It was not until 1645 that legislation was passed to raise an army funded by parliament – the New Model Army.

England’s first standing army disbanded with the Restoration, but it was on this basis successor armies formed. Standing forces were raised in England from November 1660 shortly followed by Scots units, which merged with the 1707 Act of Union.

Britain’s oldest units are decided by order of precedence. The Coldstream Guards (raised 1650) is identified as the oldest continuously serving regular regiment, but the Scots Guards date to 1642 and the Honourable Artillery Company received its royal charter in 1537. Moreover, the Grenadier Guards traces its formation to 1656 yet is the senior foot guards’ regiment.

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