Road space and speed of British Army units

Road space

It is sometimes difficult to visualise the size of the army and the various units of formations of which it was composed. This table might help. It is the officially defined length of road that a unit or formation would take up if it was on the march and laid out in the approved format.

All distances are in miles (1 mile = 1.6 km) unless stated
Unit or formation Fighting portion 1st Line Transport Transport and Ambulances
Division 8 5 1.67
Cavalry Division 6 4.87 0.62
Infantry Brigade 1.5 0.75
Infantry Battalion 590 yards 210 yards
Field Artillery Brigade 1230 yards 860 yards
RE Field Company 400 yards 90 yards
Divisional Train 1755 yards


Imperial War Museum image Q1084. A column of motor lorries on the Contay-Amiens road in September 1916.

Road speed

Units and formations were constantly on the move in the rear areas behind the battlefield: new ones arriving; formations going into action; formations coming out of action and moving out for rest; formations being redeployed from one sector to another. Planning these movements by road and rail required much work and expertise, for not only did the road space taken up vary by type of unit, but they moved at different speeds. The table below shows the standard rate, but of course in practice the rate of movement would vary:

1 mile = 1.6 km; 1760 yards = 1 mile
Arm Yards per minute Minutes required to cover a mile Miles covered per hour inclusive of rest halts
Infantry 98 18 3
Mounted – at the walk 117 15 3.5
Mounted – at the trot 235 8 7
Wheeled transport 2.5
Motor lorries 6


Other aspects of the Order of Battle