British Army Reforms

  • Created by: lwilson23
  • Created on: 10-03-19 11:58

The Duke of York Reforms (1795)

- after the failure that he experienced during the 1793 Flanders campaign, the Duke of York as Commander-in-Chief made changes (Conservative government): 

  • restricted commissions system - could now only buy up to leftenant. 
  • created a training college for the military (Sandhurst
  • Increased pay and reduced flogging as punishment
  • created the light infantry regiments (new tactics)

- these changes were subtle but big, allowing for Wellington to have better trained men for the Pen wars. 

- also made the army more appealing

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Aberdeen/Palmerston Reforms (1854-55)


  • separated War and Colonial Office into the War Office and the Colonial Office
  • SOS for War became a Cabinet position. 


  • War Office took control of supply rather than the Board of Ordinance - supply themselves. 
  • Army medical department created. 
  • Army Clothing Department created (improved uniform quality). 
  • Improved educational requirements to improve military knowledge. 

- the purchase system (which maintained the class divide and reduced the chance of a coup from within the army) still persisted however, at much detriment to the army. 

- increased importance was now being placed on training and good supply after Crimea. 

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Cardwell Reforms (1871)

- the Palmerston reforms made the army adequate, not good. After Crimea changes were refused due to the fact that a Conservative government was in charge and there was no war

- however the disturbance of the status quo in Europe by the Prussians meant that Britain had to get on their level. William Gladstone's liberals taking power in 1868 also impacted the changes. 

- as SOS for War, Cardwell: 

  • centralised the power of the War Office. 
  • abolished the commissions system (however most old-timers held on to their titles). 
  • reduced severity of army discipline (banned flogging and branding). 
  • banned 'bounty money' to prevent men from being tricked into joining the army.
  • passed Army Enlistment (Short Service) Act which meant men spent 6 years in active service then 6 years in reserves at home. 
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The Elgin Report/Esher Committee (1904)


- exposed deficiences of Boer War - SOS for war - Lansdowne - admitted that 'no plan of campaign had ever existed' etc. Force of 400,000 British against 70,000 Boers should have won easily


- SOS for war - Hugh Arnold-Forster, appointed a small committee headed by Lord Esher to report on reform proposals to the War Office. 

- These proposals - presented in March 1904, were as follows:

  • a 'clean sweep' of War Office should happen - removing Roberts as C-in-C. 
  • C-in-C should be replaced by Inspector General with direct link to govt - faster decision making.
  • an Army Council should be formed similar in structure to the Admiralty.
  • Defence planning would now be undertaken by the Committee of Imperial Defence.

These proposals were all accepted by Conservative PM, Arthur Balfour. 

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The Haldane Reforms (1906)

- Germany began to pose a threat - so the liberal Haldane (new SOS for War) had to make changes to the Army - given a budget of £28 million to do this - not enough!

- The reforms:

  • created the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which were ready to be deployed whenever, wherever. 
  • created the Territorial Army - reinforcements for the BEF who defended Britain. 
  • created the Officer Training Corps (OTC) - which educated schoolchildren in military affairs training them to be future soldiers.
  • created Army Council/General Staff.
  • introduced new rifles (SMLEs) and improved training quality

- the reforms' success was highly dependent on Douglas Haig (training) and Henry Wilson (logistics) - Generals of the Army. 

- did wonders at preparing Britain for WWI - but traditional tactics such as cavalry charges still persisted. Britain only had 6 divisions compared to Germany's 84 however - but they were trained.

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