The brigade was raised from garrison troops stationed in North Africa in 1938. It was initially known as the Light Armoured Brigade which was part of the Mobile Division in Egypt.
When the Mobile Division became 7th Armoured Division, the Light Armoured Brigade became the 7th Armoured Brigade in February 1940. The 7th Armoured Division had a red jerboa (a nocturnal rodent indigenous to North Africa) as its emblem and became known as 'The Desert Rats'. The 7th Armoured Brigade, meanwhile, had a green jerboa as its emblem. The 7th Brigade became known as the 'Green Rats' or the 'Jungle Rats' after it moved to Burma in 1942.
The Second World War broke out in September 1939, with both Britain and France declaring war on Germany after the German Army invaded Poland. Italy launched an invasion of British-controlled Egypt shortly after entering the war on Germany's side in June 1940. The brigade fought in many of the major battles in North Africa, including Operation Crusader in November, fighting at Sidi Rezegh to try to relieve the Commonwealth forces in the port of Tobruk, besieged by Axis forces.
It moved to fight in the Burma Campaign in early 1942 just as the Imperial Japanese Army were pushing the Allies back. The brigade took part in the fighting retreat to India, successfully completed in May just before the monsoons would have cut them off. The 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the Middle East in 1943, based in Iraq and later Egypt. With Axis forces defeated in North Africa, the brigade's time was a quiet one until it moved to the Italian Front in April 1944 where it remained for the duration of the Second World War; fighting as part of I Canadian Corps, itself part of the British Eighth Army. The brigade, now composed of the 2nd, 6th and 8th Royal Tank Regiments, fought in the final stages of the Battle of Monte Cassino and later the Gothic Line and in Operation Grapeshot, the final offensive in Italy.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the 7th Armoured Brigade was disbanded and the 22nd Armoured Brigade was re-designated as the 7th Armoured Brigade, based in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
After the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded in 1958 the 7th Armoured Brigade adopted its insignia and nickname, perpetuating the history of the famed division. It was one of two "square brigades" assigned to 1st (UK) Armoured Division when this was formed in 1976. After being briefly converted to "Task Force Alpha" in the late 1970s, the brigade was reinstated in 1981, assigned to 1st Armoured Division again and was based at Bournemouth Barracks in Soltau.
The 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the desert when it arrived in Saudi Arabia in October 1990 as part of Operation Granby, intended to protect Saudi Arabia from invasion by Saddam Hussain's Iraq. The brigade, commanded by Brigadier Patrick Cordingley, later took part in the Coalition of the Gulf War ground campaign to liberate Iraqi-occupied Kuwait on 24 February 1991 that began after a sustained air campaign. The Desert Rats, along with the rest of 1st Armoured Division, carried out a left-hook manoeuvre that swung round the Iraqi Republican Guard. The brigade advanced deep into Iraqi territory, encountering some armour of the Republican Guard. The ground campaign formally ended on 28 February with the liberation of Kuwait achieved.
The brigade moved to Campbell Barracks at Hohne in 1993. From there the brigade deployed to Bosnia in May 1994 as part of the NATO IFOR peacekeeping organisation. The brigade returned for another tour-of-duty in April 1997, joining IFOR's NATO replacement known as SFOR. After the Kosovo War in 1999, the 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the Balkans for a tour-of-duty in Kosovo in 2000, based in the capital Pristina.
Just before Operation Telic began (Britain's contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq), the brigade, commanded by Brigadier Graham Binns, moved to Kuwait where it undertook extensive training and was 'desertised' for service in the Middle East. The brigade, consisting of 112 Challenger 2 tanks, 140 Warriors and 32 AS-90 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, entered Iraq on 21 March. The main objective of the Desert Rats was to advance towards Iraq's second largest city, Basra, and help encircle and isolate it. The brigade, led by the 1st Fusiliers Battlegroup, made a rapid advance towards the city and soon reached its outskirts, securing Basra Airport and the critical bridges across the Shatt al-Arab. The advance by the brigade met sporadic though fierce resistance,with The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars, including an engagement between 14 Challenger 2s of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and 14 Iraqi tanks, all of the Iraqi tanks being destroyed; it was the largest tank engagement by the British Army since World War II. Initially the Brigade was faced by very spirited but un-coordinated attacks from Basra and in the town of Az Zubayr. These attacks were initially orchestrated by members of the Iraqi secret police, who used violence and threats against family members to coerce men to attack the Desert Rats and other elements of 1st Armoured Division. As their influence waned, so did the frequency and ferocity of the Iraqi attacks.
The 1st Armoured Division, including 7th Brigade, then undertook a number of raids into the city against specific targets, but in a plan that was very patient bided their time on the outskirts of Basra. On 6 April the Desert Rats, led by Challenger 2s of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Queen's Royal Lancers and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment with Warriors of the 1st Fusiliers, Irish Guards and Black Watch pushed into the city on 6 April and stayed. They met sporadic resistance from Iraqi soldiers and irregulars known as Fedayeen. Basra was, for the most part, now controlled by 1st Division though further engagements did take place. The war was officially declared over on 1 May. The Desert Rats remained in Iraq after the war, acting as peacekeepers and helping to rebuild the country while based in the British sector in the south of Iraq. The brigade began to leave in late June, being replaced by 19th Mechanised Brigade.
In 2011, some elements of the brigade deployed to Afghanistan. In October 2013, 7th Armored Brigade deployed to Afghanistan's Helmand Province, Kandahar, and Kabul.
On 5 March 2013, the British Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, announced that the 7th Armoured Brigade would have its Challenger 2 tanks and heavy armoured battalions removed over the next decade. The Brigade itself was re-designated as the 7th Infantry Brigade, but retains its famed 'Desert Rats' insignia. It will form part of the Adaptable Force under Army 2020. The decision was met with regret by former 7th Armoured Brigade commander Patrick Cordingley, who said that the "changes would still dismay veterans and the general public". On 14 November 2014, the brigade formally stepped out of its armour role into that of an infantry brigade.7th Armoured Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron (207)
32 (Armoured) Regiment Royal Engineers
3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery – (AS-90 155 mm howitzers)
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Battlegroup, including elements of 1st Battalion Irish Guards (Challenger 2 and Warrior)
2nd Royal Tank Regiment Battlegroup, including elements of 1st Battalion The Light Infantry – (Challenger 2's and Warriors)
The Black Watch Battlegroup, including elements of Queen's Royal Lancers (Challenger 2's and Warriors)
1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Battlegroup, including elements of Queen's Royal Lancers (Challenger 2 and Warriors)
7 Close Support Regiment – (2BN Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers)
A(29) Medical Squadron, from 1 Close Support Medical Regiment of the Royal Army Medical Corps
1st Regiment Royal Military Police
7th Armoured Brigade units in 2013
207 Signal Squadron (the brigade headquarters and signal squadron), based at Hohne
9th/12th Royal Lancers (Formation Reconnaissance), based at Hohne
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) (Light Cavalry), based at Bad Fallingbostel
The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (light role infantry), based at Bad Fallingbostel
3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Staffords) (armoured infantry), based at Bad Fallingbostel
2nd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment (light role infantry), based at Cottesmore, UK
Attached units:3 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (self propelled artillery), based at Hohne
32 Regiment, Royal Engineers, based at Hohne
2 Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, based at Bad Fallingbostel
2 Logistic Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, based at Gutersloh
2 Medical Regiment, based at Hohne
Recent commanders have included: