The Royal Navy began with the formal establishment of
the Royal Navy as the national naval force of the Kingdom
of England in 1660, following the Restoration of
King Charles II to the throne. However, for more than a
thousand years before that there had been English naval
forces varying in type and organization. In 1707 it became
the naval force of the Kingdom of Great Britain after the
Union between England and Scotland which merged the
English navy with the much smaller Royal Scots Navy,
although the two had begun operating together from the
time of the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
Before the creation of the Royal Navy, the English navy had no defined moment of formation; it started out as a motley assortment of "King's ships" during the Middle Ages assembled only as needed and then dispersed, began to take shape as a standing navy during the 16th century, and became a regular establishment during the tumults of the 17th century. The Navy grew considerably during the global struggle with France that started in 1690 and culminated in the Napoleonic Wars, a time when the practice of fighting under sail was developed to its highest point.
The ensuing century of general peace saw considerable technological development, with sail yielding to steam and cannon supplanted by large shell-firing guns, and ending with the race to construct bigger and better battleships. That race, however, was ultimately a dead end, as aircraft carriers and submarines came to the fore and, after the successes of World War II, the Royal Navy yielded its formerly preeminent place to the United States Navy. The Royal Navy has remained one of the world's most capable navies, however, and currently operates a fleet of modern ships.
The British Infantry traditionally has been divided into two parts - the Foot Guards and the Infantry of the Line.
The oldest Regiment of the Line is the The Royal Scots Borderers (1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) which was formed in 1633 when King Charles I warranted Sir John Hepburn to raise a Scottish Regiment for service in France.
The Foot Guards have traditionally provided protection to the Monarch and trace themselves back to Bruges in 1656, when the Royal Regiment of Guards was raised by the exiled King Charles II. This Regiment went on to become the Grenadier Guards.
Thereafter Regiments were raised by prominent members of society, often in response to calls from the monarch for support to meet a particular threat. Originally most Regiments were known by their royal or distinctive title, or by the name of their Colonel.
In the twentieth century, the Infantry expanded and contracted significantly on a number of occasions. There were massive increases for Kitchener's volunteer Army and the later conscript Army of the First World War.
Large reductions followed the end of the War, only for the whole procedure to be repeated for the Second World War. After the end of National Service there were further reductions throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The RAF was founded in April 1918. It has always been known as the 'junior service' because it was the last to be formed of the three services.
The RAF fought in every major theatre of the Second World War. Its most famous campaign was the Battle of Britain, when between July and September 1940, the RAF fought off a hugely superior German air force, denying the Luftwaffe air supremacy over southern England and therefore preventing the German invasion of Britain.
During the Second World War, the RAF reached a total strength of 1,208,000 men and women, of whom 185,000 were aircrew. About 70,000 RAF personnel were killed.
Today the Royal Air Force maintains an operational fleet of various types of aircraft. Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the British Army's Army Air Corps also deliver air power.