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ALS history


Many of the functions of the ALS were once carried out by the Judge Advocate General (JAG), whose own origins can be traced back to Medieval times.

It was however the seventeenth century when the 'Marshal's Court' became the 'court martial' and the 'Advocate of the Army' first took responsibility for one of the main functions of ALS today, namely preparing the case for the prosecution of soldiers under Military Law.

World War I

WW1 saw an increase in legal work resulting from mobilisation. This prompted the JAG to appoint deputies at various force headquarters with responsibility for reviewing the courts-martial proceedings and supervising other officers involved in the legal process. The fact that so many aspects of the courts martial process were in the hands of one man, the JAG, did not go unnoticed. The treasury was however financially opposed to the formation of a separate Army Legal Corps.

A more limited reform was introduced in 1923 with the creation of the the Military Department of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, consisting of several Officers from Captain to Colonel.

The main duties of the new department were as follows:

  • To advise convening officers on Courts Martial.
  • To provide when required a Prosecutor at trials.
  • To advise General Officers on legal questions in respect of summary jurisdiction.
  • To advise on legal questions arising from courts of inquiry.
  • To advise in connection with claims made by the public on military authorities.
  • To conduct periodical courses of instruction in the administration of Military Law.

Although the detail may have changed the above remains at the core of ALS work today.

World War II War Crimes Department

As with the first war, mobilisation provided a great deal of work for the Office. Members of the department were based in Headquarters throughout the UK. The prospect of large number of War Crimes trials prompted the establishment of a separate department dedicated to the investigating, advising on and prosecuting at such trails.

By the end of the war this department was some 32 officers strong. Prosecutions carried out included eighteen members of the staff of Belsen Concentration Camp and several Senior German Officers.

The Directorate of Army Legal Services

The Directorate of Army Legal Services was formed on 1 October 1948. The DALS consisted of a Brigadier, three Colonels, eight Lieutenant Colonels and eight other Officers. Those Officers who were commissioned into the JAG's office, but who elected not to transfer to the DALS, relinquished their commissions.

The Army Legal Corps

On 1 November 1978, the Officers of the Army Legal Services Staff List were transferred by Royal warrant to the new Army Legal Corps. The following years were a busy time for the new Corps with the Falklands Conflict and the Gulf War which saw a substantial number of ALS Officers deployed to Saudi Arabia.


In 1992 the ALC was subsumed into the AGC as the Army Legal Services Branch. On 1st October 2008 the Army Legal Services branch celebrated its 60th Anniversary.

Recent operations

Since 1992 ALS officers have served operationally all over the world, including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

ALS on operations

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