One omission from the website for many years has been a detailed look at the many nations which made up the Commonwealth forces. Finally, and thanks primarily to several generous donations from the southern hemisphere, that glaring omission can at least in part be rectified.
The Commonwealth encompassed a variety of nations, but at present coverage is limited to the armies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. I would very much like to add pages for the Indian and South African armies if I can obtain copies of their relevant War Establishment tables, and any advice or offers of help in doing so would be greatly appreciated.
The contribution of the many Commonwealth armies to the Allied cause was immense, their troops being found in theatres as diverse as North Africa, the Far East and Pacific, the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe. While fidelity to the British Crown has long since ceased to be a requirement, the Commonwealth of nations continues to exist today, though its influence has markedly declined in the modern world.
British and Commonwealth unit organisation
To facilitate mobilisation and co-operation, Australia, Canada and New Zealand all adopted the same basic unit organisations operated by the British Army at the outset of war. Gradually, changes were made; Australia devised its own series of War Establishments to deal with the conditions particular to the Pacific theatre, while New Zealand forces in Italy underwent major organisational changes in late 1944. Only the Canadian Army continued to model its official unit organisation on that of the British Army throughout the war.
In the area of weapons and equipment there was also uniformity. The Commonwealth armies used the same range rifles, machine guns, mortars and anti-tank weapons as the British Army, although Australia developed its own submachine gun, the Owen. Field, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns were also of British pattern.
One aspect shared by all three Commonwealth nations covered in this section was the Left Out of Battle system, or LOB. This has emerged during the Great War, and was sometimes known as the Battle Surplus. It allowed for a portion of a unit to be removed before a major engagement as an insurance that, if extreme casualties were incurred, then the LOB segment could be used as a basis to rebuild a unit.
A quick scan of the Internet should illustrate that the precise nature of the LOB system as practised in the Second World War is open to some interpretation and confusion. It would appear to have been generally based on a percentage reduction for subunits such as Rifle Platoons, supplemented by certain officers and NCOs. Whatever system was used however, it meant that even units at full establishment would enter battle below strength to some degree when LOB was in force.
The below links lead to descriptions of the Infantry, and where applicable Motor, Battalions used by the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand armies during the Second World War.
The Australian Army
The Canadian Army
The New Zealand Army
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