The British Army has existed for over three and a half centuries and fought in numerous European wars, colonial wars and two World Wars. The Army traces its origins to the New Model Army of the English Civil War set up in 1645 by Parliament. The union of Scotland and England in 1707 brought together Scottish and English Regiments in a British Army. Unlike European Armies that were based on mass conscription the British remained a small professional force and the defence of the nation relied on the powerful Royal Navy.
It was this small army that was sent to France in 1914 as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and dismissed as “a contemptible little army” by the Germans. The Contemptibles would form the core of what would be a war winning force in 1918. Similarly in 1940 following the evacuation at Dunkirk the survivors of the British Army would help train and develop a force that would fight and win across the globe.
The British Army has long been at the forefront of new military developments. It was the first in the world to develop and deploy the tank, and what is now the Royal Air Force (RAF) had its origins within the British Army as the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The amalgamation of infantry regiments over the years and the reduction in the strength of the Armed Forces in general has not damaged the continuity and longevity of several of its institutions and military traditions. The armed forces of many of the former British colonies who served beside the British Army in wars and campaigns across the world have retained traditions, ranks and values that they inherited from the British Army
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