The Regular Army of today really traces its origins back to the Restoration of Charles II as King of England in 1660. Parliament, remembering previous power struggles with the Monarchy, kept a tight control on the formation of a standing Army. Regiments of Foot – as infantry units were then called – were raised from time to time and although they had a fixed numerical seniority they were known by the names of the colonels currently in command.
Gradually names fell out of use and numerical titles predominated. This was made the official system in 1751. In 1782 regiments of foot were affiliated to counties, in an attempt to help recruiting.
The next major change came with the Cardwell reforms in 1881 when numbers were dropped and county titles formalised. Additionally, regiments of foot which only had one battalion were amalgamated so that all regiments had two battalions, the idea being that one would be serving overseas and the other at home.
Significant expansions took place during both World Wars but the two-battalion regiment essentially remained until the late 1940s when all second battalions were disbanded.
In the late 1950s further cutbacks in the size of the Army occurred, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd East Anglian Regiments were formed in 1959, 1960 and 1958 respectively. Then on 1 September 1964 those three regiments and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment were merged into one ‘large regiment’, the Royal Anglian Regiment, with four regular battalions. Subsequently, in 1970 and 1992, two of those battalions were disbanded leaving the Regiment with only two regular battalions today.