36th Indian Infantry Division
36th British Infantry Division
AllegianceBritish Raj British India
 United Kingdom
British Indian Army
 British Army
EngagementsSecond World War
Francis Festing

The 36th Indian Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Indian Army during World War II. The division was subsequently redesignated as a British Army formation, the 36th Infantry Division in September 1944. It served in India and during the Burma Campaign. After the end of the war it was disbanded and its remaining British units were transferred to the British 2nd Infantry Division.


36th Indian Division

The division was formed in India on 15 December 1942. Its constituent formations were the 29th Infantry Brigade Group (under command from 26 January 1943), which had already fought as an independent brigade in the Battle of Madagascar, and 72nd Indian Infantry Brigade confusingly composed of entirely British combat units. 72nd Indian Infantry Brigade was re-designated the new 72nd Infantry Brigade (the previous 72 Inf Bde had become 5th Parachute Brigade on 28 April 1943). Most of the division's engineer, medical and service units were Indian. The division's formation sign was two interlinked rings, one white and one red, on a black square background.[1]

In January 1943, Brigadier Francis Festing was promoted from command of the 29th Brigade to that of the division. (His replacement as commander of 29th Brigade was Brigadier Hugh Stockwell.) Parts of the division were present in the First Arakan campaign in early 1943. It was intended that part of the division was to launch an amphibious assault on Akyab Island, but this operation was cancelled.[2]

The division was initially in reserve for the Second Arakan campaign in early 1944, but was called on to relieve the besieged 7th Indian infantry Division after early setbacks. After the Japanese were defeated at the Battle of Ngakyedauk, 7th Division was withdrawn and 36th Division took over the offensive in the Kalapanzin River Valley. Units of the division captured the vital eastern railway tunnel linking the Kalapanzin valley with the port of Maungdaw.[3]

The division withdrew for a brief rest at Shillong in Assam, and was then despatched to Ledo, where it came under command of the American-led Northern Combat Area Command.[4]

36th Infantry Division

Men of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, 36th Infantry Division, advancing near Pinwe, December 1944.
Men of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, 36th Infantry Division, advancing near Pinwe, December 1944.

Early in July 1944, the division started to fly into Myitkyina airfield in North Burma, with 72nd Brigade being the first formation to land. On 1 September 1944, shortly after the division had started advancing down the "Railway valley" from Mogaung towards Indaw on the right flank of NCAC, the division was renamed the British 36th Division.[1] On 14 December, a third brigade was added to the division; confusingly, this was the first Indian formation that the division commanded (the 26th Indian Infantry Brigade, of one British and two Indian battalions).[5]

The division was distinguished for being the only British division to rely entirely on air supply, mainly by the United States' Tenth Air Force, for an extended period. The United States Army Air Force also provided the division with 12 light aircraft equipped for casualty evacuation and a US Army engineer company to construct its airstrips. Initially, the division was without its own divisional artillery and instead relied on a Chinese artillery group under US command.[6]

Men of the 6th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, 36th Infantry Division, march through Bahe en route for Mandalay, January 1945.
Men of the 6th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, 36th Infantry Division, march through Bahe en route for Mandalay, January 1945.

The division, having linked up with the main body of Lieutenant General William "Bill" Slim's British Fourteenth Army, crossed the Irrawaddy River and advanced independently down the eastern side of the river. Units from the division suffered losses forcing the crossing the 300 yard wide Shweli River,[7][8] but the division continued to advance until the fall of Mandalay in March 1945.[9] On 1 April 1945 the division transferred from NCAC to Fourteenth Army. The 26th Indian Brigade became the 26th British Brigade on 6 April.[10]

As there were now more troops in Burma than could be supplied (and the transport aircraft allocated to NCAC were being withdrawn to China), the division was returned to India, officially arriving on 12 May, and joined XXXIV Corps (India) on 28 May.[11]

In independent India

The division is at Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, as part of I Corps, South Western Command.[12]

Order of battle


  1. ^ a b "Badge, formation, British 36th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  2. ^ Chant, Christopher (2013). The Encyclopedia of Codenames of World War II (Routledge Revivals). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415710879.
  3. ^ Slim 1956, pp. 242–243
  4. ^ Nesbit 2009, p. 157
  5. ^ "26th Indian Infantry Brigade". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  6. ^ Foster
  7. ^ "The British Army in Burma 1945". Imperial War Museum. 1 February 1945. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  8. ^ "36th Infantry Division elephants being urged into the Shweli River, Burma 1945". The National World War II Museum. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Royal Sussex Regiment" (PDF). Queen's Regimental Association. p. 3. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  10. ^ "36th Infantry Division". Unit Histories. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  11. ^ a b "36th Infantry Division" (PDF). British Military History. p. 12. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  12. ^ Renaldi and Rikhye, 2011, p. 53
  13. ^ Sandes, E.W.C. (1956). The Indian Engineers 1939–47. Kirkee, India: Institution of Military Engineers.


Further reading