The Organizational Structure and Strength of Late Qing and Early Republican Armies
Regulations issued by the Commission for Army Reorganization in 1904 set the general standards for the organizational structure of the late Qing New Armies, which was in turn adapted by most military forces in the early Republican period. According to these regulations, each army division (zhen ) was composed of two infantry brigades, one cavalry regiment, one artillery regiment, one engineering battalion, a transport corps battalion, and a band. Each brigade (xie ) consisted of two regiments (biao ), each of which contained three battalions (ying ). Each battalion consisted of four companies (dui ), which were in turn divided into three platoons (pai ). While this basic structure was continued in the early Republic, there was a change in the nomenclature for divisions (from zhen to shi ), brigades (from xie to lü ), and regiments (from biao to tuan ). In contrast to a division, a mixed brigade (huncheng xie/lü ) contained two infantry regiments, along with artillery and cavalry battalions, and engineering and transport companies. The regulation strength of a division, including officers and men, was around 12,500 men. The number of soldiers in each type of military unit (minus officers and service staff) was as follows: brigade—3,024, regiment—1,512, battalion—504, company—168, platoon—42. (See Fung, Military Dimension , 21–22; Powell, 178–79.)
Although New Army regulations set the standard for late Qing and early Republican military forces, few forces in either period actually met these standards. Most New Armies in the late Qing era were under strength. Undermanning became even worse in the Republican period, inasmuch as unit designations were often granted to, or assumed by, commanders to enhance their status, regardless of the actual strength of their troops. As a result of this undermanning, many
division and mixed brigade commanders also neglected to establish the full contingent of units required by their designation. Since it was not in the interest of these commanders to publicize the deficiencies of their forces, it is difficult to ascertain the actual troop strength of military forces in the warlord period.