Template talk:Infobox command structure

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Open questions

Allowing for administrative and tactical parent relationships with units

There's an existing Template:Infobox service record on Wikipedia which 'may be used to summarize information about an individual military unit's or ship's service history', perhaps this should be extended to include tactical command instead a version of Template:Infobox command structure?

I've started editing 21st (Reserve) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, British infantry to test the infoboxes. --Mia (talk) 11:26, 19 November 2014 (PST)

I think Template:Infobox command structure looks closer to what is needed. The other one seems to be more about battle honours and commanders.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:54, 19 November 2014 (PST)

(Continued from Talk:British_Army_Hierarchies) Are there any major disadvantages to leaving the tactical/admin distinction out of the structured data? Is it enough for readers of the page to see the infoboxes grouped under different headings? Is it enough for reusable data to say that a thing is a member of another thing between certain dates and leave it at that? The fact that the dates overlap and the parents lead to different grandparents may be enough to signify the difference.--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:02, 21 November 2014 (PST)

My main concern is not repeating information in too many places so we don't risk replication errors and end up with data out of sync. I think it wouldn't hurt to label the different bits for tactical and administrative units as it'll help cue newer researchers in to the differences between them. --Mia (talk) 08:16, 21 November 2014 (PST)
Good point. I was just trying to challenge my own assumptions. I've thought of some odd cases where something might need 2 administrative parents at the same time or 2 tactical parents at the same time, but I don't think that'll be a problem.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:29, 21 November 2014 (PST)
For now there's nothing to stop you repeating an infobox to allow for two parents - it's one advantage of not modelling directly as database relationships! --Mia (talk) 14:05, 23 November 2014 (PST)
The infobox seems to be working really well for this as you can have as many relationships as you need, and they can be of any type. The only problem is that some units can have huge numbers of administrative children (eg Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), UK) but I'm not sure what to do about that as even if the data was presented as a table instead of a separate infobox for each relationship, the number of children might still be unmanageable for some corps (eg Royal Field Artillery, UK or Royal Engineers, UK). --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Recruitment areas?

I've been wondering whether to include 'recruitment areas' for battalions, as they were often raised in specific regions, towns or even workplaces. It's probably the kind of thing that's best left in text, not least because the data is so variable and messy, so this note is mostly to record the decision (though of course it's open to review if the data supports it).

This is irrelevant for many British units because pre-war regulars and early-war volunteers could choose to join any regiment, and late-war conscripts could be posted to any regiment. For the units where it does apply, it might best be dealt with as part of the creation event if you have an infobox for each major change of organisation. The text could also say whether a unit was part of one of the Kitchener Armies.--GavinRobinson (talk) 06:55, 25 November 2014 (PST)
Sounds like it's simpler to leave it out. Which attribute would Kitchener go under? I've been thinking of it as similar to territorial/regular in terms of regimental history and expectations of recruits but does it need to be a separate field? --Mia (talk) 11:56, 26 November 2014 (PST)
It's conventional to divide the Regular Army into pre-war regulars and Kitchener's New Armies but I now think that's problematic. There are lots of regular units that aren't pre-war because they were created during the war but weren't specifically recruited as part of a Kitchener army. There isn't a common name for this category but it's very significant because it includes all of the Tank Corps, Machine Gun Corps, Labour Corps, Welsh Guards, Guards Machine Gun Regiment, Household Battalion, and various new infantry battalions that were neither Territorial nor New Army. Because of this, I think it's best for the branch field to just say regular, territorial or special reserve.
If you're doing infoboxes for changes of organisation, each battalion will need an instance of this to show when it started to exist and another to show when it ceased to exist. It would be very useful to have a free text field to explain how it was created or disbanded. Did it merge into or split from another battalion? Was it converted to or from something completely different that needs its own page? That field could easily accomodate an explanation of where it was recruited and which Kitchener Army, if any, it was raised as part of.
None of this data will come from WO 95 imports so it can be left until later.--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:03, 27 November 2014 (PST)

Actually I was wrong before and right the first time: New Army should be a branch, because Becke classifies every British division as Regular Army, New Army or Territorial, and some of his regular divisions were formed during the war, so it's clearly possible to make the distinction. Some things will be unknown until someone finds more evidence, but that's no problem at all for a wiki. Anyway, this doesn't affect data structures because it's just a value for an existing parameter. If there's eventually an infobox for organisation changes, it can still record more details about the creation of a unit.--GavinRobinson (talk) 03:02, 13 December 2014 (PST)

All of this section seems more relevant to {{infobox military unit}} now. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Canonical names for battalions that change regiments?

Presumably historians for those units have worked out the best label for them? If not, then what? Names need to be unambiguous at a page title level but redirects and 'see also' can get around some things.--Mia (talk) 11:26, 19 November 2014 (PST)

Not sure. James, British Regiments and TLLT enter them under both regiments - the way they're structured means they don't need to decide a canonical name for a unit page. In the cases I know of, neither name is more or less ambiguous than the other. I suppose it's a toss up between the first and the last, but as you say, there will have to be redirects in any case. There are some cases where a change is so drastic that it justifies a new page, but I don't think an infantry battalion changing regiment is necessarily in that class.--GavinRobinson (talk) 12:52, 19 November 2014 (PST)
I've been thinking about an infobox for names. Are units likely to have more than one nickname in WWI? If it's just one, I can add it to the main military unit infobox, if more than one it might be best in a repeatable infobox. (Or in repeatable pairs within a single infobox) --Mia (talk)
This is resolved, see (diff) --Mia (talk) 11:19, 11 December 2014 (PST)
More information about naming conventions can be found in Category:Naming conventions. Further discussions should probably go on talk pages for the relevant country in that category. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Unit name changes and restructures

Do names ever change without a related re-organisation? If not, one infobox could cover both (and I'll need to investigate the requirements for recording re-structures). --Mia (talk) 16:40, 23 November 2014 (PST)

Most British territorial units and formations changed name at least once during the war without a related change of organisation. Territorial engineer field companies did it twice. There are also changes of organisation that don't result in a name change, eg if a unit absorbs another, or splits off part of itself to form another unit. (I'll answer more questions later.)--GavinRobinson (talk) 04:52, 24 November 2014 (PST)

Having asked this on twitter I've had useful responses from Ashleigh Gilbertson ‏@ACPGilbertson: 'Names of Oz WW1 units static, e.g. 1st-60th Battalion https://www.awm.gov.au/units/ww1/' 'Army - Corps - Division - Brigade - Battalion - Company. Battalions in Brigades stable, but changes above & below this' 'Also note 'doubling of the AIF' in February 1916. Units split to form new ones' http://static.awm.gov.au/images/collection/pdf/RCDIG1069541--1-.PDF

And David Underdown ‏@DavidUnderdown9: 'Army Service Corps gained title Royal… in 1917' (and more)

See also discussion on Template talk:Infobox military unit --Mia (talk) 17:28, 3 December 2014 (PST)

This is resolved, see (diff) --Mia (talk) 11:19, 11 December 2014 (PST)
More information about naming conventions can be found in Category:Naming conventions. Further discussions should probably go on talk pages for the relevant country in that category. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Levels useful?

Are parent_level and subordinate_level useful?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:58, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I think so - sometimes the relationship is specific to the way a particular country organises its units, and the relationship isn't always obvious from the name. --Mia (talk) 06:02, 6 December 2014 (PST)
How will you define the levels and what will they mean?--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:42, 6 December 2014 (PST)
For e.g. 35th Division, the parent would be the 3rd army and the child levels would be 104th, 105th, 106th Infantry Brigades. For the 105th Infantry Brigade, the parent would be the 35th Division and the children would be the 105th Machine Gun Company, 15th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, etc. (ref WO 95/5468 1916 Dec. - 1917 Dec.)
Including the subordinate/child level does mean repeating information (assuming each child unit has a page eventually) so it's a balance between not repeating information and having them easily discoverable on the page --Mia (talk) 10:07, 8 December 2014 (PST)

Levels should work fine for most tactical relationships but need to be optional because there are some units that won't fit (eg hospitals) and British admin hierarchies are just too bizarre to be classified in any more detail than a thing is a parent of another thing.

To make sure that levels work for every nation, I suggest basing them on the continental system used by the US, French and German armies. In the continental system, tactical and administrative hierarchies are completely unified, and the division is the main group for both. A regiment is a level between battalion and brigade, and all battalions of a regiment operate together. Typically a division has 2 brigades, a brigade has 2 regiments and a regiment has 3 battalions. That means that brigades in British Empire forces are equivalent to continental regiments, and the normal British hierarchy has no equivalent to the continental brigade. It might be a bit confusing if British brigades are classified as regiment level, but the alternative is not being able to represent continental brigades. Maybe level could be explicitly labelled "Continental level"?--GavinRobinson (talk) 03:13, 13 December 2014 (PST)

We still haven't finalised what the levels should be. I've mostly been using the continental system as I suggested above but still with {{BritishBrigade}} as a placeholder for brigades in the British Empire. I'm now wondering if level should just be stored once in {{infobox military unit}} instead of repeated here. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Parameter for citation?

Would it be worth adding a parameter for the source of the information shown in this infobox? Could it automatically generate a ref tag?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:58, 6 December 2014 (PST)

You can use the Cite editor function to add references, and the default page template has a Reference tag to make sure they'll show up (and to stop it throwing an error that's confusing for newbies). Or did you mean something else? --Mia (talk) 06:07, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I was thinking of something like:

{{Infobox command structure | name = 107th Infantry Brigade | command_start_date =3/11/1915 | command_end_date =7/2/1916 | parent =4th Division | parent_level = | relationship_type = Tactical | subordinate = | subordinate_level = | references =Becke, Order of Battle, 1, 58 }}

Are you thinking of something like this:

{{Infobox command structure | name = 107th Infantry Brigade | command_start_date =3/11/1915 | command_end_date =7/2/1916 | parent =4th Division<ref>Becke, Order of Battle, 1, 58</ref> | parent_level = | relationship_type = Tactical | subordinate = | subordinate_level = }} --GavinRobinson (talk) 10:41, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I was, partly because doing it as footnotes means more information can be included with less visual clutter, and that means the references might be more newbie-friendly (i.e. not everyone will immediately understand what a reference to Becke's means). --Mia (talk) 10:07, 8 December 2014 (PST)
I'm in favour of that if it works. I just wondered if putting ref tags inside parameter values would screw up the structured data or automatically turning the values into wikilinks. If that's not the case, then it's better than what I suggested because it's more precise: eg a start date and end date might have different sources.
I'm hoping to make some simple templates for citing the most common sources. That would make it easy to link to a page explaining what they are.--GavinRobinson (talk) 08:41, 9 December 2014 (PST)
You can see it in action on The Royal Canadian Regiment (and some earlier ones). A simple template for common sources would be brilliant.

I now think it would be better to have an extra parameter for citing sources, and the template could automatically turn it into a footnote by adding a ref tag. That would make the data cleaner and help users who don't know how to use ref tags. This infobox would probably only need one footnote to cover all the facts in it, but separating footnotes would be more complicated for {{infobox military unit}}. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

I've practically forgotten how to use ref tags myself! Cleaner data and ease-of-use sounds good. --Mia (talk) 14:45, 8 January 2017 (PST)
I've put up a demo using {{infobox command structure2}} and 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, UK.--GavinRobinson (talk) 01:24, 15 January 2017 (PST)
That looks good to me. The '2.0 2.1' in the reference section took me a moment to figure out, but overall it works well. --Mia (talk) 12:17, 15 January 2017 (PST)
Currently only footnotes 5 and 6 on 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, UK are done with the new template parameter. The ones with '2.0 2.1' and similar are old footnotes generated by manually inserted ref tags with optional name attributes so that references to exactly the same source and page can share one footnote. The new way I'm trying with the template won't allow that. I wondered if that might be a disadvantage, but if the shared footnotes are confusing it would be better to get rid of them anyway.--GavinRobinson (talk) 11:38, 16 January 2017 (PST)
Forgot to add - when I followed the link to the Sandall reference at http://www.5thlincs.investigationsofadog.co.uk/introductory.html#p1, the page I landed on didn't have a header to make the link between the reference and the text clear. Would it be possible to repeat the title and author on each page? --Mia (talk) 12:25, 15 January 2017 (PST)
Thanks for pointing that out. It seems so obvious now you've mentioned it but either I never thought of it or the heading got missed the last time I rearranged the XSL and I never noticed. I've fixed it now.--GavinRobinson (talk) 11:38, 16 January 2017 (PST)

Automatic wikilinks?

Might be useful if the template automatically turns the values of these parameters into wikilinks:

  • parent
  • subordinate

(And maybe relationship_type in order to help explain what it means?)--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:58, 6 December 2014 (PST)

Yes. IIRC that's a matter of fiddling with the infobox template code, I've added it to my To Do list. --Mia (talk) 06:05, 6 December 2014 (PST)
This was done last year and makes navigation much easier. The only problem is that now we can't allow footnotes in these fields because they would mess up the links, but see suggestion above for moving refs to a separate parameter. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

Grandparent parameter?

In some cases it would be useful to show the grandparent in the same box as the parent, but in other cases it wouldn't.--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:58, 6 December 2014 (PST)

I'm leaning towards including them in separate infoboxes for tactical relationships. If administrative relationships are both more stable and directly relevant, they could probably go in one infobox. Even tactical relationships are probably more stable for some countries and fronts than for the worst cases, but it's best to allow for the most confusing cases in the default setup. --Mia (talk) 06:09, 6 December 2014 (PST)
I think what works best depends on the relationship changes in specific cases. If a certain unit's tactical parent and grandparent never changed, or if they always changed at the same time as each other, it would be convenient to show them in the same box, but if they changed at different times it would be better to separate them.--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:38, 6 December 2014 (PST)
It'd be best to settle on a consistent method for the documentation, but an optional grandparent field could be included for advanced users who want to record those stable cases more quickly --Mia (talk) 10:07, 8 December 2014 (PST)

The more I think about it, the more I think that showing the grandparent is a bad idea that I shouldn't have suggested. It makes things much more complicated and potentially confusing. I can't imagine how I'd clearly explain the correct use of a grandparent parameter to a new user, and it would probably seem very negative: "don't use it for this, don't use it for that". It's probably not much trouble for human readers to click through to the parent to find out about grandparents, and anyone spidering the structured data will get all the relationships they're interested in automatically.--GavinRobinson (talk) 08:46, 9 December 2014 (PST)

One reason 'level' is there is so that you can include grandparent/grandchildren units on the page. It does mean repeating information that should ideally be on the parent/child unit page so in practice it might never happen. --Mia (talk) 09:35, 9 December 2014 (PST)
I'm not sure how this was supposed to work as there doesn't seem to be any way to do it at the moment. If anything, it seems more complicated and less necessary now, but with the continental system (eg US Army) there could be a case for having an extra infobox to show which division a unit was in. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)

What does name do?

What does the name parameter do?--GavinRobinson (talk) 05:58, 6 December 2014 (PST)

It's the unit name - it should be made consistent with the other infoboxes but I have a feeling it was inherited from the original wikipedia template. --Mia (talk) 06:03, 6 December 2014 (PST)
Does it need to be shown in every infobox?--GavinRobinson (talk) 10:39, 6 December 2014 (PST)
IIRC it can be retrieved from the page name, but that puts more pressure on the page names to both support disambiguation across the whole site and most accurately describe the unit for the structured data retrievable from infoboxes. --Mia (talk) 10:07, 8 December 2014 (PST)
Using a magic word to retrieve the page name would save an awful lot of duplication of effort when editing pages. I can see how a unique id is necessary for the metadata, but could it be hidden from human readers? They probably already know what page they're on, and repeating it just takes up space.
The page names would actually be better suited to this because they're already optimised for it: they necessarily have to be unique but they also get a balance between succinct and descriptive, and they have the nation suffixes, which provide extra information and aren't necessarily found in the actual names of units. The full name of a British battalion would be much longer and perhaps less clear.--GavinRobinson (talk) 08:53, 9 December 2014 (PST)
I'm looking to see whether the command structure and other related infoboxes should be child or subboxes - that'd save repeating the name (though it could still be stored, even if not displayed). The main infobox already uses a magic word to get the unit name. --Mia (talk) 09:35, 9 December 2014 (PST)
I don't think we're using this parameter any more. --GavinRobinson (talk) 06:35, 8 January 2017 (PST)