Difference between a Battalion HQ and a Headquarters Company

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Gourami, Jun 10, 2020.

  1. Gourami

    Gourami Faugh a Ballagh

    From reading the appendix of a battalion's war diary, what was the difference between serving in a Battalion HQ and in the Headquarters Company in the British army in the war? As an NCO or infantryman.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

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  3. Gourami

    Gourami Faugh a Ballagh

  4. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    To elaborate based on my experience of confusing mentions in war diaries. The role of the Bn HQ in battle is to support the fighting elements (sometimes referred to as F Echelon) by coordinating the plan, signals, resupply, casualty clearing, etc. To do that it tends to be based with A Echelon behind the battle line (2-3 miles back). Command will be the 2ic or Intelligence Officer and the RSM.

    Exceptions are:
    The CO will form a Tactical HQ of appropriate essential personnel to run the battle with F Echelon. Size, members, vehicles and equipment will change according to the requirements of the battle plan.

    Parts of HQ and the Admin Platoons will be at B Echelon with other Div HQ elements (c.5 miles back). The cooks, sanitary men, pay clerks, etc with anyone 'left out of battle'. These will be with paperwork and equipment and personal kit not needed in the battle. Commanded by the Adjutant or an LoB Subaltern with the CQMS.
    There will be a certain amount of traffic between the elements - ammunition, food, casualties and such.
    I trust that this helps.
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  5. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    In peacetime, Battalion Headquarters was where the Commanding Officer sat. With him were his Second in Command, or Senior Major as some Regiments call them, his Captain & Adjutant who was effectively his Private Secretary, his Regimental Sergeant Major and the Chief Clerk.

    On operations, Battalion Headquarters split three ways. The Commanding Officer issued orders at Battalion Main HQ and then deployed forward to form Battalion Tac HQ. He often took his Int Officer, his Mortar Officer, his Anti-Tank Offr and the Battery Commander of the Artillery Battery that was supporting the Battalion with him. From Bn Tac HQ, he could speak to the Company Commanders and coordinate their employment because he was well forward.

    Meanwhile, behind Tac HQ and the Companies, Battalion Main HQ was manned by the Adjutant, the Signals Officer, the Regimental Sergeant Major and the Support Company Commander. Their role was to carry out any administrative requirements that supported the operation - movement of troops, bringing forward of ammunition and rations, information passage up to Brigade HQ and down to Companies, processing of prisoners.

    The Second in Command/Senior Major and Chief Clerk went to B Echelon.

    In peacetime, HQ Company was the sub-unit that administered the array of support tasks in a battalion: the Quartermaster’s world of supply, repair and accommodation, the Motor Transport Platoon, the Catering Platoon, the Signals Platoon, the Battalion clerks, the Training Wing, the Band, the Intelligence Cell, the Mess staff and the Regimental Police.

    On operations, these support tasks were spread across the battalion as and where the Commanding Officer decided. They were split into two Echelons behind the fighting troops - A Echelon tended to be the Motor Transport Platoon and the Rifle Company administrative teams led by a Colour Sergeant and, further back, B Echelon tended to be the Quartermaster, Second in Command and the Chief Clerk.

    There were always subtleties to these arrangements depending on the type of operation and the particular wishes of the Commanding Officer but that was the general framework.


    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
  6. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Everyone who works BHQ will also be a member of HQ Company for administrative purposes. A BHQ clerk or driver will appear in front of OC HQ Company if they are naughty boys. They will attend HQ Company training activities and social events and the HQ Company clerk will hold their company records. OC and CSM HQ Company may have to exercise diplomacy to negotiate with the CO when his driver or servant does his small arms and fitness training, but a good CO will probably be there as well.
  7. Gourami

    Gourami Faugh a Ballagh

    I've seen records where the battalion's Pipe Major was attached to HQ Company, during peacetime, and in the field. What role might he have during operations?
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    For those Scots and Irish regiments with pipers, the role of the pipes is to instil iron in the soul of the infantry and fear into the hearts of the enemy.

    Read George Macdonald Fraser's "Mclauslan" Books about his service in the Gordon Highlanders post war. He had a chapter or two on piping. (They are also very funny) He gives an account of the Seaforths attacking a Japanese held village in Burma behind the pipes.
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