Military Organization > United Kingdom > ​British Army Rifle Company—Light Role (1976-1985)

British Army Rifle Company—Light Role (1976-1985) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Rifle Company (Light Role) of the British Army from 1976 to 1985, based on a manual dated 1980. These include all rifle companies in Type B Light Role infantry battalions, including Territorial Army (Reserves) and regular army light role infantry, paratroopers, and the Gurkhas.

The next level up was the Infantry Battalion (Light Role/Type B) which consisted of an HQ Company, 3 Rifle Companies and 1 Support Weapons Company.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company HQ​

    • 3 Platoons

  2. Rifle Section Variations

    • Rifle Section (No Armor Threat)​

    • Rifle Section (Paratroopers)

    • Rifle Section with Fire Teams (Limited Post-Falklands)

  3. Ammo Loads

  4. Discussion

  5. Sources

 

Organization

  • Type: Light Infantry Company

  • Origin: British Army (United Kingdom)

  • Time Frame: 1976 to 1985

  • Personnel: 5 Officers and 93 Enlisted

Company Headquarters (2 Officers and 9 Enlisted)

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

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

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

  • 1× Company Quartermaster Sergeant, Colour Sergeant (OR-7)

  • 1× Company Clerk, a Private (OR-1)

  • 1× Storeman, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Storeman, Lance Corporal (OR-3)

  • 1× Signal NCO, Corporal (OR-4)

  • 1× Signaller, Private (OR-1)

  • 1× Driver-Radio Operator, Lance Corporal (OR-3)

  • 1× Driver, Private (OR-1)

 

→ Attachments

  • 1× Regimental Medical Orderly, Corporal (OR-4)

→ Additional Equipment

  • 2× Land Rovers (3/4 ton, 4x4 GS) 

3× Platoons (1 Officer and 28 Enlisted each)

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 5 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second Lieutenant to Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle or 1 L2A3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

  • 1× Signaller, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle or 1 L2A3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Light Mortar No. 1, Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 2-inch mortar and 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

  • 1× Light Mortar No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

​→ 3× Sections (8 Enlisted each)

  • Rifle Group

    • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • MAW No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L14A1 MAW Recoilless Rifle and 1 L2A3 Submachine Gun

    • MAW No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW) each

  • Gun Group

    • 1× Section Second-in-Command, ​a Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× GPMG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun

    • 1× GPMG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

Rifle Section Variations

​→ Rifle Section (No Armor Threat)

  • Rifle Group

    • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Riflemen, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW) each
  • Gun Group

    • 1× Section Second-in-Command, ​a Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× GPMG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun

    • 1× GPMG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

​→ Rifle Section (Paratroopers)

  • Fire Team

    • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× GPMG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun

    • 1× GPMG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW)

  • Fire Team

    • 1× Section Second-in-Command, ​a Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× GPMG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun

    • 1× GPMG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW)

​→ Rifle Section with Fire Teams (Limited Post-Falklands)

  • Fire Team

    • 1× Section Commander, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • MAW No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L14A1 MAW Recoilless Rifle and 1 L2A3 Submachine Gun

    • MAW No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW)

  • Fire Team

    • 1× Section Second-in-Command, ​a Lance Corporal (OR-3), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • 1× GPMG No. 1, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L7A2 General-Purpose Machine Gun

    • 1× GPMG No. 2, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle

    • Rifleman, Private (OR-1), armed with 1 L1A1 SLR Rifle and 1 L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW)

 
 

Ammo Load

→ Platoon Headquarters

  • All L1A1 SLR-armed personnel allotted 80 rounds held in 4 magazines. The standard load bearing equipment for the British at the time was the Pattern 1958, which had 2 large ammo pouches that could each carry 2 magazines. In theory, this means with standard equipment a total of 5 magazines could be carried (4 in the webbing, 1 in the gun). It seems 4 magazines was pretty standard, and if ammo was needed for certain missions, its be provided in 50-round cloth bandoliers that held 7.62mm in clips of 5 rounds each.

  • If the Platoon Commander and Signaller are issued L2A3 "Sterling" Submachine Guns, the Platoon HQ had enough for 96 rounds per man held in 3 magazines of 32 rounds.

  • The Light Mortar No. 1 and Light Mortar No. 2 carried 18 mortar rounds (51mm) between the 2 of them or spread out across the platoon at a rate of 1-2 per man

​→ Rifle Sections

  • Section Commander (80 Rifle Rounds, 50 GPMG Rounds, 2 Grenades)

    • 80× rounds for L1A1 SLR​ (4 magazines)

    • 50× rounds for L7A2 GPMG​ (1 belt)

    • 2× L2A1 Grenades

  • MAW No. 1 (96 SMG Rounds, 1 Grenade)

    • 96× rounds for L2A3 SMG (3 magazines)

    • 1× L2A1 Grenade

  • MAW No. 2 (80 Rifle Rounds, 2 Grenades)

    • 80× rounds for L1A1 SLR​ (4 magazines)

    • 4× 84mm rounds for L14A1 MAW

    • 2× L2A1 Grenades

  • Riflemen (80 Rifle Rounds, 50 GPMG Rounds, 1 Grenade, 1 LAW)

    • 80× rounds for L1A1 SLR​ (4 magazines)

    • 50× rounds for L7A2 GPMG​ (1 belt)

    • 1× L1A1 Rocket (M72 LAW)

    • 1× L2A1 Grenade

  • Section 2IC (80 Rifle Rounds, 200 GPMG Rounds, 1 Grenade)

    • 80× rounds for L1A1 SLR​ (4 magazines)

    • 200× rounds for L7A2 GPMG​ (2 belts)

    • 1× L2A1 Grenade

  • GPMG No. 1 (200 GPMG Rounds, 1 Grenade)

    • 200× rounds for L7A2 GPMG​ (2 belts)

    • 1× L2A1 Grenade

  • GPMG No. 2 (80 Rifle Rounds, 200 GPMG Rounds, 1 Grenade)

    • 80× rounds for L1A1 SLR​ (4 magazines)

    • 200× rounds for L7A2 GPMG​ (2 belts)

    • 1× L2A1 Grenade

 

Discussion

The overall structure of the light role British Army Rifle Company had not changed significantly from the British Army Rifle Company of World War II. It consisted of a Company Headquarters and 3 Rifle Platoons, with the major changes since WWII coming to the armament. This organization applied to companies within Type B Infantry Battalions, otherwise known as Light Role Infantry. Unlike Mechanised Infantry, which were mounted in FV432s, the Light Role company did not have integral vehicles outside of the 2 Land Rovers in the Company HQ. This would have applied to both standard light role infantry—regular army and units within the Territorial Army (Reserves)—as well as the paratroopers.

Company Headquarters

The Rifle Company was commanded by a Company Commander, nominally a Major. His Second-in-Command was a Captain. The Company Sergeant Major, a Warrant Officer II, was the senior enlisted ("other rank" in Commonwealth parlance) of the company and responsible for its discipline.  The Company Quartermaster was a Colour Sergeant and was the senior NCO responsible for logistics and the mess.  The remainder of the personnel included 1 Company Clerk, 2 Storemen, 1 Signals NCO, 1 Signaller, and 2 Drivers (for the Land Rovers). A Medical Orderly (equivalent to a Combat Medical Technician or Medic) would be attached from the regiment-level to the Company HQ. The Company Headquarters was typically split into a Tactical HQ (led by the Company Commander with the Company Sergeant Major and a Signaller), Control HQ (led by the Company 2IC with the attached Medical Orderly and Signaller), and the Quartermaster's Party (led by the Quartermaster with Storemen). 

The Company HQ was allotted Land Rovers (3/4 ton, 4x4 GS). Typically one was allotted to the Company Commander (and sometimes the Company Sergeant Major) for liaison purposes while the other was allotted to the Company Quartermaster for resupply.

Rifle Platoons

The company's 3 Platoons were its primary fighting components and each consisted of 1 officer and 28 enlisted soldiers. Each was split into the Platoon Headquarters and 3 Sections (henceforth referred to as "Rifle Sections" for clarity). 

The Platoon Headquarters was headed by the Platoon Commander, a Subaltern or grade of Lieutenant. His Second-in-Command was the Platoon Sergeant, the platoon's one authorized Sergeant. The Platoon HQ also had a Signaller and 2 man team serving a 2-inch (51mm) light mortar. The Signaller would stick with the Platoon Commander, while the mortar team may have come under the purview of the Platoon Sergeant.

The mortar team consisted of a Lance Corporal (Light Mortar No. 1) and Private (Light Mortar No. 2). The team carried 18 rounds between the 2 of them. The mortar was the same model used back in World War II, and was capable of firing high explosive, smoke or illumination rounds. Although HE rounds were carried  when it was first implemented at the platoon-level back in WWII, smoke rounds were typically prioritized.

Each Rifle Section consisted of 8 enlisted personnel and was commanded by a Section Commander of the rank of Corporal. The Section was further subdivided into the Rifle Group (5 men) and Gun Group (3 men). The Rifle Group was the maneuver element, consisting of the section's 4 Riflemen and led by the Section Commander. If there was a significant armor threat, 2 of the Rifle Group's riflemen could act as a L14A1 MAW (Carl Gustav recoilless rifle team). In this case, the MAW No. 1 (Gunner) would carry an L2A3 Sterling in lieu of the L1A1 SLR, while the MAW No. 2 (Assistant) would  carry the L1A1 SLR and a pack with 4 cartridges for the L14A1. As assaulting was considered the more difficult task, the Section 2IC (in charge of the Gun Group) was in an ideal position to observe the entire section and learn while executing the less difficult—but still incredibly important—task of controlling the section's general-purpose machine gun (GPMG).

The Gun Group by comparison consisted of the Lance Corporal 2IC, the GPMG No. 1 (the gunner armed with the L7A2 GPMG) and GPMG No. 2 (assistant gunner). Depending on the situation and preferences of the Section Commander, the GPMG No. 2 billet could have remained unfilled, with the man acting as a rifleman in the Rifle Group assuming the section was at full strength (this is typically how L7A2s are served now). The Gun Group was the section's base of fire, and all men—with the exception of a MAW team if one was implemented—would carry a share of the ammo for it on the march. In the assault, the Rifle Group would drop their GPMG ammo on the Gun Group, who would then be placed (and moved) by the 2IC to best cover the Rifle Group throughout an attack. By the book each member of the Gun Group carried 200 rounds each, while each member of the Rifle Group—excluding the MAW men—carried 50 rounds each for a total of 750 rounds for the section. In practice, more could be carried depending on the need. One L7A2 per platoon could be converted from the light role (bipod) to the sustained fire role (tripod, no butt stock) if necessary.

During the Falklands War (1982), the British Paratroopers (a type of light role infantry) implemented a new section organization based around two equally size fire teams, each with their own L7A2 GPMG. This gave the sections a considerable amount of automatic firepower, and the flexibility that came with two equally sized and capable sections. Following the Falklands, the 2x4 fire team set up began to be implemented in some units in the regular infantry, although the Rifle Group and Gun Group set up was still be taught and used until the adoption of the L85A1 and L86A1 LSW in 1986. A fire team set up would not have been in the zeitgeist for the regular infantry prior to the Falklands. As there were not enough GPMGs to go around, and this didn't spark a large change in the doctrine prior to 1986, the fire teams as they existed in the regular army were not equal in capability. What it more resembled was a Rifle Group and Gun Group, with 1 rifleman being shifted to the Gun Group. Although the fire team system had its advantages in terms of flexibility and offering the Section Commander with half-sections, what most likely made the Paras' implementation of fire teams more effective was equal part the additional automatic fire power. The Royal Marines had also supplemented their automatic firepower during the Falklands by replacing one of the riflemen in the Rifle Group with an L4A4 Bren light machine gunner, as opposed to having 2 GPMGs per section. An attempt would be made to replicate the Paras' fire teams by the regular infantry with the L86A1 LSW at a rate of 2 per section, although it proved to be a pitiful squad automatic weapon and was relegated to a pseudo-designated marksman role with the adoption of the L110 (FN Minimi) in the early 2000s. 

 

As an aside, the Rifle Group/Gun Group set up continued on officially as an alternative organization created by grouping a section's LSWs into one fire team.

Sources

 

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

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