Army

The name given to a collection of two or more Corps, acting together under the overall command of a General.

 

Army Group

A group of two or more armies, united under the command of a Field Marshal.

 

Bailey Bridge

Of British design, the Bailey Bridge is a temporary structure that, in only a matter of hours, can be erected to span a river and be strong enough to support the immense weight of a tank. The bridge is broken into assorted parts and can be carried in transport vehicles.

 

Battalion

An infantry unit containing between 500-800 men, and commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel.

 

Brigade

A formation of two or more Battalions acting together under the overall command of a Brigadier.

 

Brigade Group

A Brigade with attached support units; e.g. medical staff, engineers, and anti-tank gunners.

 

C-47 Skytrain / Dakota

A common transport aircraft used by the Allies for towing gliders, and dropping parachutists or supplies. Designed by the USA, the USAAF variant is known as the C-47 Skytrain, but was sold to the British under the name of the Dakota.

 

CG-4A Waco

The standard glider of the US Army. It was cheap and the design was easy to mass produce, however it was not as robust as the British Horsa and was prone to structural failure.

 

CIGS

Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

 

Company

A subdivision of a Battalion, commanded by a Major and consisting of approximately 120 men. Parachute Battalions consisted of three rifle companies (normally designated A, B, and C) and an HQ and Support Company - the latter consisting of specialist groups such as Machine Gun and Mortar Platoons. Airlanding companies, as with all other mainstream infantry, had an extra rifle company within their ranks. Also, whereas parachute companies had three platoons within these companies, other infantry units carried four.

 

Corps

A formation of two or more Divisions acting together as a self-contained unit under the overall command of a Lieutenant-General. An Airborne Corps would consist of a number of Airborne Divisions, coupled with assigned Air Force Groups dedicated to their transport and resupply. Whereas a standard ground-based Corps would consist of a Division or more of tanks and other armoured vehicles, numerous infantry Divisions, additional transport vehicles, and supporting artillery.

 

Coup de main

French. Literally translated as 'stroke of hand', but in a military context it refers to a sudden surprise attack, or in the case of Arnhem, the seizure of a bridge by a small group of lightly armed men who will hold it until the main airborne force arrives on foot.

 

CSM

Company Sergeant-Major.

 

Division

A formation of two or more Brigades and assorted supporting units (e.g. artillery, engineers) acting together as one force under the command of a Major-General. Typically a Division would consist of 10,000 men.

 

Drop Zone

An area of land designated for the dropping of parachutists.

 

DUKW

An American designed 2.5 ton amphibious vehicle, used by the Allies.

 

Hamilcar

The largest of the British gliders, often used to carry the heaviest equipment (e.g. 17-pounder Anti-Tank guns, Bren carriers, or the light Tetrarch tanks as used by the Reconnaissance Squadron of the 6th Airborne Division).

 

Horsa

The standard British glider, capable of carrying 26 men, or heavy equipment such as Jeeps and 6-pounder Anti-Tank guns.

 

Landing Zone

An area designated for the landing of gliders.

 

Lee-Enfield MkIV

Standard British infantry rifle.

 

NCO

Non-Commissioned Officer. Such as sergeants or corporals.

 

PIAT

Projector Infantry Anti Tank. A hand-held gun that fires an armour piercing projectile, most adept at dealing with lightly armoured vehicles.

 

Platoon

Three platoons existed within a Parachute Company, four in an Airlanding or normal infantry battalion, and each was commanded by a Lieutenant. Platoons could consist of as many as 60 soldiers, though the glider-borne units were designed so that they could be transported in a single Horsa glider, and therefore consisted of 26 men. Parachute platoons were somewhat larger.

 

Roman Candle

A term used to describe a parachute that has failed to fully open. This condition would normally arise from a poorly packed chute which, though a highly unlikely eventuality, would cause the parachutist to plummet to his death.

 

RSM

Regimental Sergeant-Major.

 

Sapper

The ordinary infantryman (Private) of the Royal Engineers.

 

Self-Propelled (SP) Gun

A large artillery gun, mounted on its own vehicle like a tank unlike the static artillery guns that were towed behind Jeeps.

 

SHAEF

Supreme HQ Allied Expeditionary Force - the Headquarters of General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander.

 

Shell Shock

Otherwise known as bomb-happy, shell shock is a condition that arises from the fear and ceaseless noise of prolonged artillery barrages. Rendering such cases seemingly child-like or stricken into numbness, the condition can take many years to recover from, if at all.

 

Slit trench

The name given to a one-man trench that infantrymen dig with the shovels they carry. Providing the ground is soft, a trench can be quickly dug so that a single man can place his body as much beneath the level of earth as possible. Not only does this make the man a harder target during gunfights, but it greatly reduces the chance of injury from artillery bombardment.

 

SS

Schutz Staffeln, literally translated as Protection Detachments. The SS were separate to the Wehrmacht and were under the overall control of Himmler. The Waffen-SS were the elite of this Nazi corps.

 

Sten Gun

Light machine gun, usually carried by British officers and NCO's.

 

USAAF

United States Army Air Force. Unlike the RAF, the American air forces during the war were not an independent service, but instead either fell under the jurisdiction of the navy or army.

 

Very light

Flare pistol.

 

Waho Mohammed

While the 1st Parachute Brigade served in North Africa, they noted that whenever the local Arabs shouted messages to each other, they always began by saying "Waho Mohammed". The Brigade adopted it as a war cry, and it spurred men on to great feats, with the added benefit that it helped to distinguish between friend or foe - The Germans couldn't pronounce the phrase.

 

Wehrmacht

German army forces, not including the SS.