Southern Command (United Kingdom)

Southern Command was a Command of the British Army.

Southern Command
Southern Command (United Kingdom) Badge.jpg
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Size62,000 troops
Garrison/HQPortsmouth (1793-1901)
Tidworth Camp (1901-1949)
Fugglestone St Peter (1949-1972)

Nineteenth centuryEdit

Government House, Grand Parade, Portsmouth, command headquarters from 1793 to 1826
Government House, High Street, Portsmouth, command headquarters from 1826 to 1882
Government House, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth, command headquarters from 1882 to 1901
Tidworth Camp, command headquarters from 1901 to 1949
Erskine Barracks, Fugglestone St Peter, command headquarters from 1949 to 1972

Great Britain was divided into military districts on the outbreak of war with France in 1793.[1] By the 1830s the command included the counties of Kent and Sussex (the original Southern District during the Napoleonic Wars) as well as Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire (the original South Inland District) and Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset (the original South-West District) and Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire (the original Severn District).[2]

The role of South-West District Commander, which was doubled hatted with that of Lieutenant-Governor of Portsmouth, was originally based at Government House in Grand Parade in Portsmouth.[3] This building became very dilapidated and a new Government House was established in the High Street in Portsmouth in 1826.[4][5] In January 1876 a ‘Mobilization Scheme for the forces in Great Britain and Ireland’ was published, with the ‘Active Army’ divided into eight army corps based on the District Commands. 5th Corps was to be formed within Southern Command, based at Salisbury. This scheme disappeared in 1881, when the districts were retitled ‘District Commands.[6] A third Government House, which was built in red brick on Cambridge Road in Portsmouth, was completed in 1882.[3]

Twentieth centuryEdit

The 1901 Army Estimates introduced by St John Brodrick allowed for six army corps based on six regional commands. As outlined in a paper published in 1903, II Corps was to be formed in a reconstituted Southern Command, with HQ at Salisbury Plain.[7] Lieutenant General Sir Evelyn Wood was appointed acting General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOCinC) of Southern Command on 1 October 1901.[8] Southern Command was initially based at Tidworth Camp.[9]

First World WarEdit

At the end of 1914, Lieutenant General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, the GOCinC, left Southern Command to form II Corps in France, and Lieutenant General William Campbell was placed in command.[10]

Second World WarEdit

In 1939 regular troops reporting to Southern Command included 1st Armoured Division, based at Andover, and 3rd Infantry Division, based at Bulford.[11] Other Regular Troops reporting to Southern Command at war time included:[11]

Post WarEdit

The command moved to Erskine Barracks near Fugglestone St Peter in Wiltshire in 1949.[12][13] In 1968, a new command (Army Strategic Command) was formed at Erskine Barracks, largely staffed by the Southern Command personnel already based there. At the same time a new HQ Southern Command was established at Hounslow Barracks, into which was merged HQ Eastern Command (which was thence disestablished as a separate command).[14] This new, expanded Southern Command, with geographical responsibility across the old Eastern and Southern command areas, was itself merged into HQ UK Land Forces (HQ UKLF) in 1972.[15]

Formation sign variantsEdit

During the Second World War and after, Southern Command, in common with other UK Commands, used its formation sign as a badge, (or flash) on uniforms. The HQ sign itself (see top of this article) with its horizontal red, black, red background colouring indicated an army level command, on which were five stars of the Southern Cross. Uniquely in Southern Command the background colour of the shield, and occasionally the stars, was changed to show the colours of the service corps of the personnel, other commands used their formation sign with an arm of service stripe (14 inch (0.64 cm) thick) below it. The various designs and changes for visibility or similarity are shown below.[16]

General Officers Commanding-in-ChiefEdit

GOCs and GOCinCs have included:[17][18][19]
General Officer Commanding South-West District

General Officer Commanding Southern District

Commander Second Army Corps

In 1901 Second Army Corps was formed, with South East District at Dover, Southern District at Portsmouth and Western District at Devonport under command.

General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command


  1. ^ Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan, The British Army Against Napoleon: Facts, Lists and Trivia, 1805–1815 (2010) p. 7.
  2. ^ Adolphus, John (1818). "The political state of the British empire: Containing a General View of the Domestic and Foreign Possessions of the Crown; the Laws, Commerce, Revenues, Offices, and Other Establishments, Civil and Military". University of Michigan Library. p. 363.
  3. ^ a b Quail, Sarah (2014). Portsmouth in the Great War. Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1783462766.
  4. ^ Smythies, p. 442
  5. ^ "Saxe Weimar Road" (PDF). Portsmouth Encyclopaedia. p. 316. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  6. ^ Army List 1876–1881.
  7. ^ Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, London: Methuen, 1938.
  8. ^ "A command for Sir Evelyn Wood". The Times (36552). London. 5 September 1901. p. 4.
  9. ^ General Sir Ian Hamilton at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  10. ^ "William Campbell". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.
  11. ^ a b Patriot Files
  12. ^ 'Fugglestone St Peter', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (1962), pp. 37-50 online
  13. ^ Subterranea Britannica
  14. ^ Kneen, J. M.; Sutton, D. J. (1996). Craftsmen of the Army: The Story of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Volume 2: 1969-1992. London: Leo Cooper. p. 253.
  15. ^ "Army Command Structure (United Kingdom)". Hansard. 17 December 1970. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  16. ^ Cole p. 18
  17. ^ Whitaker's Almanacks 1905 - 1972
  18. ^ Southern Command at
  19. ^ "Army Commands" (PDF). Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  20. ^ Henry Colburn, The United Service Magazine, vol. 29 (1839) p. 111.
  21. ^ "Wood, Sir (Henry) Evelyn (1838–1919), army officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37000. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


External linksEdit