Military Organization > United Kingdom > British Army Reconnaissance Squadron (1944-45)

British Army Reconnaissance Squadron (1944-45)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Reconnaissance Squadron of the British Army as of December 1943. These were company-sized reconnaissance units subordinate to the battalion-sized Reconnaissance Regiments organic to Infantry Divisions. These were differentiated from similar Armoured Car Regiments which were Corps-level recon as of late 1943.

The Reconnaissance Regiment provided the Infantry Division with your typical light cavalry reconnaissance functions (intelligence gathering, forward detachments, flank guards, pursuit, etc.). They would often also be used for other things, like traffic control or filling gaps in infantry units, especially when reconnaissance missions weren't plentiful.

 

The next level up was the Reconnaissance Regiment, which consisted of a Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Squadron, and 3 Reconnaissance Squadrons (this).

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Headquarters

    • 3 Scout Troops

    • 1 Assault Troop

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

british recon regiment squadron 1943-01.
 

      Organization      ​​

  • Type: Reconnaissance Company

  • Origin: British Army (United Kingdom)

  • Time Frame: 1944~1945

  • Personnel: 9 Officers and 185 Other Ranks

Squadron Headquarters (2 Officers, 36 Other Ranks, 2 Attached)

Fighting Portion

→ Humber Light Reconnaissance Car*

  • 1× Squadron Commander, Major (OF-3)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Initially Humber IV, mostly replaced through mid-1944 and 1945 with the Daimler. Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver and Bren gun.

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck (No. 1)*

  • 1× Squadron Second-in-Command, Captain (OF-2)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver.

→ 5-cwt 4×4 Car*

  • 1× Squadron Sergeant-Major, Warrant Officer Class 2 (OR-8)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver.

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck*

  • 1× Clerk, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver. A spare No. 19 set, PIAT anti-tank weapon, and Bren light machine gun were also aboard.

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck

  • 1× Medical Officer Orderly, Lance Corporal (OR-3)

  • 1× Batman-Driver, Trooper (OR-1)

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Trooper (OR-1)

Administrative Portion

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Squadron Quartermaster-Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-7)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 2× Cooks (A.C.C.), Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried cooking set, rations, and water tins.

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck*

  • 1× Mechanist Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 2× Vehicle Mechanics, Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried vehicle tools.

→ 15-cwt 4×2 Truck*

  • 1× Batman, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried water.

→ 15-cwt 4×2 Truck*

  • 1× Carpenter and Joiner, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)​

* Carried ammunition.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Sanitary Dutyman, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried ammunition.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Transport Corporal, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried petrol.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 1× Technical Storeman, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Storeman, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Gun Fitter, Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried mechanical transport stores and ammunition.

→ 3-ton 4×4 Lorry*

  • 4× Driver-Operators, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried spare Wireless Set No. 18 manpack radio, PIAT anti-tank weapon, and baggage.

3× Scout Troops (2 Officers, 37 Other Ranks each) 

Troop Headquarters

→ Daimler or Humber Armoured Car*

  • 1× Troop Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver, Bren gun, and Bren gun (AA).

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Troop Second-in-Command, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 2× Driver-Operators, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver, Wireless Set No. 18 manpack radio, and Bren gun.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Troop Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6)

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Trooper (OR-1)

Reconnaissance Section

→ Daimler or Humber Armoured Car*

  • 1× Section Commander, Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver and Bren gun (AA).

→ Daimler or Humber Armoured Car*

  • 1× Vehicle Commander, Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 19 radio transceiver and Bren gun (AA).

→ Humber Light Reconnaissance Car*

  • 1× Vehicle Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Operator, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Bren gun.

→ Humber Light Reconnaissance Car*

  • 1× Vehicle Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Batman, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Bren gun.

2× Carrier Sections

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Section Commander, Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Corporal, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with Wireless Set No. 18 manpack radio and Bren gun.

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Vehicle Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Trooper, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with a 2-inch mortar and Bren gun.

→ Universal Carrier*

  • 1× Vehicle Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Trooper, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Mechanic, Trooper (OR-1)

* Equipped with a PIAT anti-tank weapon and Bren gun.

1× Assault Troop (1 Officer, 38 Other Ranks) 

Troop Headquarters

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck*

  • 1× Troop Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1)

  • 1× Troop Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Batman-Driver, Trooper (OR-1)

  • 2× Mortarmen, Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried No. 19 manpack radio, 2-inch mortar, and PIAT.

→ Motorcycle

  • 1× Orderly, Trooper (OR-1)

4× Sections

→ 15-cwt 4×4 Truck*

  • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Section Second-in-Command, Lance Corporal (OR-3)

  • 1× Driver, I.C., Trooper (OR-1)

  • 5× Troopers, Trooper (OR-1)

* Carried Bren gun.

 

      Discussion      ​​

The unit of action of the Reconnaissance Regiment was the Reconnaissance Squadron — a company sized formation equipped principally with Humber IV or Daimler armoured cars and Humber III light reconnaissance cars. In early- and mid-1944, the Humber IV armoured car was universal in infantry division Reconnaissance Regiments with Daimlers coming in to replace them through mid- and late-1944, with only a couple of Humber IV-equipped Reconnaissance Regiments remaining by the end of the war in Europe. The Squadron could act in concert with fire support from the Regimental level, including 3-inch mortars and anti-tank guns. Each Recce Squadron consisted of a Squadron Headquarters (split into a Fighting Portion and Administrative Portion, or reserve troops), 3 Scout Troops and 1 Assault Troop.

The Squadron Headquarters was the squadron's command and combat support element, led overall by a Major with the assistance of a Captain 2IC (who likely handled more administrative functions). The Fighting Portion contained a Humber Light Reconnaissance Car (for the Squadron Commander, probably so he could be protected to the point where he could actually travel with his subordinate troops), three trucks carrying key personnel (the 2IC, Medical Officer Orderly, and Squadron Clerk primarily), a jeep carrying the Squadron Sergeant-Major, and a solo motorcycle for the Orderly (likely so he could act as a messenger). The Medical Officer Orderly was equivalent to a combat medic. Meanwhile, the administrative portion contained the Company Quartermaster-Sergeant (a Staff Sergeant's appointment) and maintenance and supply personnel, as well as several trucks carrying ammunition, water, rations, fuel, vehicle maintenance equipment, and tools.

The 3 Scout Troops consisted of a Troop Headquarters, Reconnaissance Section, and 2 Carrier Sections. The headquarters contained an armoured car (Humber IV in early 1944 or a Daimler in mid to late 1944) carrying the Troop Commander, a Universal Carrier carrying the Troop Second-in-Command (2IC) who was also a Subaltern, the Troop Sergeant on a motorcycle and an Orderly on a motorcycle. The Reconnaissance Section contained 2 armoured cars and 2 light reconnaissance cars while the Carrier Sections contained 3 Universal Carriers each. Each vehicle had a different niche in the squadron. The armoured cars were the most well protected vehicle in the troop and most heavily armed with either a M3 37mm gun and coaxial 7.92mm Besa machine gun (Humber IV) or 2 pounder QF 40mm gun (Daimler). They also had a high road speed, but were tall, had higher maintenance requirements than the light recce car, and had relatively poor cross country performance. Meanwhile, the light recce car had decent cross country performance, but was more lightly armored (able to be penetrated by armor-piercing small arms fire) and armed (with mainly a Bren gun). Lastly, the Universal Carrier provided good cross country performance, but was slower and more maintenance intensive than the LRCs or armoured cars. Its main function was getting personnel to an advantageous position to gain fire superiority or dismount. Thus, the Scout Troops had a versatile assortment of vehicles to meet a variety of scenarios, but this also made things more complex (thus explaining why the troops had so many officers and NCOs when compared to regular infantry units).

 

The manual on the matter, Military Training Pamphlet No. 60 "The Tactical Employment of Armoured Car and Reconnaissance Regiments", proposes the task organization of the Scout Troops into the Headquarters, 2 Car Patrols, and a single Carrier Force. In the march this would look like 1 Car Patrol with light reconnaissance cars (from the Recce Section), followed by the Troop Leader in his LRC, then by a Dispatch Rider (the Orderly on the motorcycle), and then by the Carrier Force with all of the Universal Carriers under the command of the Troop 2IC (who is meant to ride in the Troop Headquarters Universal Carrier). An alternative task organization provides for mixed Car Patrols, with 1 armoured car and 1 light reconnaissance car per patrol, but organized in the same manner on the march. Given that the armoured car Vehicle Commanders (including the Section Commander) were Sergeants, this would mean each patrol was could be led by a Sergeant with Corporals commanding the LRCs.

 

While it was preferable for the troop to stay together, Recce Sections or Carrier Sections from different troops could be grouped together at the Squadron-level (such as combining 2 of the Scout Troops' Recce Sections together into an 8-car patrol) to accomplish certain tasks. Although by the nature of the organization it may seem as though the Troop Commander was meant to favor travelling with the wheeled vehicles and the Troop 2IC with the tracked vehicles, it was emphasized that both should be prepared to move with either element depending on what best fits the situation. Generally speaking it appears as though the cars and carriers were meant to act distinctly, with either tying down the enemy while the other tries to find a way to outflank them. Although the Recce Section could be task organized into Car Patrols for the march, the manual states that it is not preferable to split up the sections once contact was made.

Meanwhile, the Assault Troop was essentially a motorized infantry platoon. Their main functions were to conduct recon in terrain the vehicles could not traverse or in buildings, set up strongpoints/OPs, remove obstacles, test the depths of water ahead of the Scout Troops, and infiltrate enemy positions. The troop consisted of a Troop Headquarters (with a 15-cwt 4x4 truck for the leadership and a motorcycle for a Dispatch Rider) and 4 Sections (each carried in a 15-cwt 4x4 truck. The trucks were intended to be armored against small arms fire, but a normal unarmored truck could be used in lieu. The Troop HQ also had a 2-inch mortar manned by the mortarmen with a PIAT in reserve. Each section had a Section Commander (Corporal), Section 2IC (Lance Corporal), Driver-Internal Combustion, and 5 Troopers. It is likely that 2 of the Troopers would form a Gun Group from its allotted Bren Gun, leaving the section at 1 SECO, 1 2IC, 1 Driver, 1 Bren No. 1, 1 Bren No. 2, and 3 Riflemen. Given its small size and lack of heavy fires from within the troop itself, the Assault Troop was generally kept in the Squadron's reserve rather spearheading actions as the name might suggest. 

Some general notes on the terminology of this type of unit:

  • Driver, I.C. (Internal Combustion) were basic drivers of vehicles

  • Driver-Mechanics were more qualified/experienced drivers

  • Driver-Operators were drivers who operated the vehicles wireless radio if it had one

  • Trooper was/is both the name of a regular soldier in the cavalry and the cavalry branch equivalent to a Private

  • Regiments in this context are equivalent to infantry battalions in size, Squadrons are equivalent to infantry companies, and Troops are equivalent to infantry platoons.

 

      Sources      ​​

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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