British Reconnaissance units, 1939 to 1945
The British Army fielded a sometimes confusing array of Reconnaissance units during the Second World War, equipped with an equally wide variety of vehicles. To chronicle them all in true detail could easily fill a book, or even two, however there are sufficient gaps in my knowledge to restrict this effort to a general overview.
At the outset of war in 1939, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) included three types of Reconnaissance unit. The first was the Divisional Cavalry Regiment, of which seven saw service in France, plus a single Cavalry Armoured Car Regiment and several Motorcycle Battalions, at least one of which fought dismounted. The first two types of Regiment were drawn from the Cavalry arm, while the Motorcycle Battalions were Infantry. There was something of a shortage of Reconnaissance units in the BEF, with just the sole Armoured Car Regiment properly equipped for the task. April 1940 saw an attempt to address the problem, with four Divisional Cavalry Regiments removed from their formations and paired into two Armoured Reconnaissance Brigades to serve as General Headquarters (GHQ) troops.
Following the defeat in France, the British Army began to review all aspects of itself, including organisation. One of the many 'lessons learned' was the need for an organic Reconnaissance unit in each Infantry and Armoured Division. Developments then split neatly into two distinct paths. Various Cavalry Regiments were mobilised as Armoured Car Regiments, while a new Reconnaissance Corps was created to fulfil the needs of the Infantry Divisions.
At present, only the Infantry Divisional Reconnaissance units are detailed here. Armoured Car Regiments will be joining presently, I hope, and possibly some other types of unit will be covered here in due course.
British Infantry Divisional Reconnaissance Units