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During the Second World War, the basic tactical formation used by the majority of combatants was the division.[1] On 3 September 1939, at the start of the war, the United Kingdom had seven anti-aircraft, two armoured, and 24 infantry divisions. In total, 85 divisional formations would exist during the war, although not all at the same time.

The British Army was split into two branches: the regular army, which numbered 224,000 men with a reserve of 173,700 at the start of the war, and the part-time Territorial Army, which numbered 438,100 with a reserve of around 20,750 men.[2] The main goal of the regular army, largely built around battalion-size formations, was police and garrison the British Empire. The provision of a multi-division expeditionary force, for a continental war against a European adversary, was not considered for much of the inter-war period as it was deemed unlikely for such a war to occur.[3] In 1939, the regular army consisted of seven infantry divisions and two armoured formations. Two of the infantry divisions had been formed for a colonial police action—the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.[4][5] The Territorial Army, underfunded[according to whom?] for the majority of the inter-war period, was intended to be the primary method of expanding the number of divisions available to the army. At the beginning of 1939, the Territorial Army had twelve field divisions. Following the German occupation of the remnants of the Czechoslovak state in March 1939, the Territorial Army was ordered to double in size to 24 divisions.[6][7][8][9] By the outbreak of the war, some of these divisions had formed while others were still in the process of being created.[10][11]

On 8 September 1939, the British Army announced that it would raise 55 divisions for service against Nazi Germany and to be deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Thirty-two of these formations were to come from the United Kingdom, and rest from the British Dominions and India. The goal was to fully equip and deploy 20 divisions within the first year of the war, and all 55 divisions within two years. The British contingent was to come from the expanded Territorial Army and the regular army divisions based in the United Kingdom.[12] By May 1940, the BEF contained only 13 divisions.[13] A further division was raised, on an ad hoc basis, from rear-area personnel during the latter stages of the campaign in France.[14] As a result of the German victory in France and the return of the BEF following the Dunkirk evacuation, the original deployment of divisions was not realized.[15] The goal of 55 divisions was maintained through to January 1941, when the number was increased to 58. On 6 March, the final goal was changed to 57, with the United Kingdom to provide 36.[16] By the end of the year, there was 37 active divisions (one airborne, nine armoured, and 27 infantry).[17]

The lack of equipment hindered further growth, and an increasing number of divisions based in the United Kingdom were decreased in size to provide men for formations fighting abroad. By 1943, it became necessary for frontline divisions to be cannibalized to provide reinforcements for other frontline formations. By 1944, the United Kingdom still had 35 divisions, of which 18 were for training or a source of reinforcements.[17] By mid-1944, the army did not have enough men to replace the losses suffered by front line infantry units. While efforts were made to address this, such as transferring men from the Royal Artillery and the Royal Air Force to be retrained as infantry, more formations were disbanded to provide reinforcements so combat divisions could remain near full strength.[18][19] By the end of 1944, the army shrank to 26 divisions: five armour and 21 infantry (including airborne), and in the final year of the war the number decreased to 24 divisions.[20][21]

Airborne

British paratroopers during training
British paratroopers during training

Impressed by the German airborne force during the 1940 Battle of France, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, ordered the creation of a paratrooper force of 5,000 men. Early commando successes prompted the expansion of this force, and resulted in an additional requirement for a glider force of 10,000 men to be created.[22][23][24] The recruitment for the size of this force took through to 1943, by which time two divisions had been formed.[25] The airborne division was to comprise three brigades: two parachute brigades, each with three battalions from the Parachute Regiment, and an airlanding brigade with three infantry battalions.[26] The airborne battalions were largely made up of volunteers, whereas the airlanding battalions came from existing infantry units that had been converted into this new role. The latter were flown into battle via gliders, while the former parachuted in.[27]

The war establishment, the on-paper strength, was set at 12,148 men, with a large number of automatic weapons assigned to the division. The establishment called for 7,171 bolt-action Lee Enfield rifles, 6,504 Sten submachine guns, 966 Bren light machine guns, and 46 Vickers machine guns. Each division was also expected to have 392 PIAT anti-tank weapons, 525 mortars, 100 Anti-tank guns, and twenty-seven 75 mm (3.0 in) pack howitzers. Just over 6,000 vehicles—primarily jeeps, motorcycles, and bicycles, but also including 22 tanks—were authorized for each division.[26] Gliders delivered the heavier equipment.[28]

Existing formation or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Notes Source(s)
Airborne divisions
1 November 1941 1st Airborne Division United Kingdom, Tunisia, Italy, Netherlands, Norway Tunisian Campaign, Battle of Arnhem The division did not reach full strength until April 1943. After heavy losses in the battle of Arnhem, the division was reduced from three to one brigades. It ended the war in Norway. [29]
3 May 1943 6th Airborne Division United Kingdom, France, Germany Operation Overlord, Operation Varsity, Western Allied invasion of Germany The division ended the war in Germany [30]

Anti-aircraft

An example of a heavy anti-aircraft gun battery in London
An example of a heavy anti-aircraft gun battery in London

After aerial bombardment was used during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), the British Army planned anti-aircraft divisions. These formations were part of the Territorial Army, and were not intended to be comparable to 'field' formations such as infantry divisions. Anti-aircraft divisions were assigned to a particular area, which could cover hundreds or thousands of square miles, and varied dramatically in manpower, the number of brigades controlled, and the number of weapons assigned. For example, the 1st Anti-Aircraft Division was assigned to defend London, while the 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division was assigned to defend both Scotland and Northern Ireland. In September 1939, the divisions had a combined total of 695 heavy anti-aircraft guns compared to an intended 2,232, and 253 light anti-aircraft guns out of an establishment of 1,200. The divisions also had access to 2,700 searchlights, out of a recommended total of 4,700. By 1941, the divisions had 1,691 heavy guns, 940 light guns, and 4,532 searchlights. At the start of the war, the divisions and their command structure had a total of 106,690 men; manpower increased to 157,319 by July 1940, and was over 300,000 by mid-1941.[31][32][33] All of the divisions were disbanded in October 1942 as part of a reorganization of the anti-aircraft command structure.[34]

Existing formation or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Notes Source(s)
Anti-aircraft divisions
Existing 1st Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][35]
Existing 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][36]
Existing 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][36]
Existing 4th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][36]
Existing 5th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][37]
Existing 6th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][38]
Existing 7th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom Battle of Britain, The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][39]
October 1940 8th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][40]
October 1940 9th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][39]
November 1940 10th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][39]
November 1940 11th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][39]
November 1940 12th Anti-Aircraft Division United Kingdom The Blitz Disbanded in October 1942 [34][39]

Armoured

Main article: British armoured formations of the Second World War

The 1st Armoured Division on manoeuvres, 1940
The 1st Armoured Division on manoeuvres, 1940

Between May 1939 and the end of the Second World War, the armoured division went through nine organisational changes. In 1939, it was intended that an armoured division would have 110 light tanks, 217 cruiser tanks, and 24 tanks equipped with howitzers for close support, as well as 2,500 other vehicles, 9,442 men, and 16 field guns. In 1940, the establishment was changed to 2 light tanks, 304 cruisers, and 36 close support tanks, with 2,600 vehicles, and 10,750 men.[41] The early armoured formations did not reach these proposed tank strengths. For example, the 1st Armoured Division landed in France, in 1940, with 114 light tanks and 143 cruisers. The 2nd Armoured Division, prior to being deployed to the Middle East in late 1940, peaked at a strength of 256 light tanks and 54 cruisers.[42][43] By 1942, a division was to consist of 13,235 men with 230 tanks, of which 183 would be cruisers and the rest would be for support, along with around 3,000 other vehicles and 48 field guns. For the final two years of the war, the establishment was set at 14,964 men, 246 medium tanks, 63 light tanks, 27 tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns, 27 tanks that were outfitted as artillery observation posts, 24 field guns, 24 self-propelled field guns, 54 anti-tank guns, and 24 self-propelled anti-tank guns.[41] In July 1944, for example, the Guards, the 7th, and the 11th Armoured Divisions all averaged 250 medium tanks. The Guards had 15,600 men, the 7th had 15,100, and the 11th had 14,400.[44][45]

The early organisation of the armoured divisions included two armoured brigades (with six armoured regiments) and one support group of two infantry battalions, combat engineers, and artillery. The intent of the division was to exploit gaps in the opposing frontline created by the infantry divisions. The armoured divisions were considered 'tank-heavy', due to the lack of infantry support to guard the tanks. It took repeated setbacks during the Western Desert Campaign before a major reorganisation took place. By 1942, the division had evolved to be based around one armoured brigade containing three armoured regiments and one motorised infantry battalion, the support group was replaced by a three-battalion infantry brigade, and additional support weapons were allocated as divisional assets. However, doctrine still dictated for the artillery, infantry, and tanks to fight separate battles. The artillery would engage opposing anti-tank guns; the infantry would secure captured ground or provide flank protection in confined terrain; and the tanks would move ahead to destroy enemy tanks and disrupt the opposing lines of communication. The division, rather than exploiting gaps, would find itself increasingly being used a battering ram to break through the enemy frontline. Following further setbacks, in July 1944, military planners decided that infantry and tanks should work closely together. Afterwards, an armoured regiment would be paired with an infantry battalion and they would co-operate closely, although on paper they maintained the existing separate brigade structure.[46][47][48]

Existing formation or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Notes Source(s)
Armoured divisions
17 June 1941 Guards Armoured Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany Reorganised on 12 June 1945 as the Guards Division [49]
Existing 1st Armoured Division United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Italian Libya, Tunisia, Italy Battle of France, Western Desert Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign On 5 April 1943, the division was redesignated the 1st British Armoured Division, to distinguish it from its American counterpart. On 26 October 1944, the division ceased to be operational and it was officially disbanded on 11 January 1945. [50]
15 December 1939 2nd Armoured Division United Kingdom, Egypt, Italian Libya Operation Sonnenblume On 8 April 1941, the divisional headquarters was captured. Surviving units were reassigned, and the division was officially disbanded on 10 May 1941. [51]
12 September 1940 6th Armoured Division United Kingdom, Tunisia, Italy, Austria Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign The division ended the war in Austria. [52]
Existing 7th Armoured Division Egypt, Italian Libya, Tunisia, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Western Desert Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign, Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany On the outbreak of the Second World War, the division was redesignated from the Mobile Division to the Armoured Division (Egypt); on 16 February 1940, it became the 7th Armoured Division. It ended the war in Germany. [53]
4 November 1940 8th Armoured Division United Kingdom, Egypt Did not see combat as a division After arriving in Egypt, the division never operated as a single entity and was disbanded on 1 January 1943. [54]
1 December 1940 9th Armoured Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Disbanded on 31 July 1944 [55]
1 August 1941 10th Armoured Division Palestine, Egypt, Syria Western Desert Campaign Formed by the redesignation and reorganisation of the 1st Cavalry Division [56]
9 March 1941 11th Armoured Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany The division ended the war in Germany. [57]
1 November 1941 42nd Armoured Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division was formed from the reorganisation of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division. It was disbanded on 17 October 1943. [58]
14 August 1942 79th Armoured Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Did not see combat as a division In April 1943, the division was tasked with the development of specialised tanks ("Hobart's Funnies") and their usage. The division deployed to France as part of Operation Overlord, where its units were allotted to other formations as needed while the division retained command and administrive control. It ended the war in Germany. [59]

Cavalry

Elements of the division on patrol, 1941.
Elements of the division on patrol, 1941.

The cavalry division was to be formed from Territorial Army units after the outbreak of the war.[6] The war establishment was set at 11,097 men, 6,081 horses, and 1,815 vehicles distributed between three brigades, each containing three cavalry regiments. The division was primarily equipped with rifles, and supported by 203 light machine guns, 36 medium machine guns, and 48 field guns. For anti-tank protection, the establishment called for 247 anti-tank rifles. As the only division type to include horses, it was required to have three mobile sections from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.[26] Doctrine called for the division to be mounted infantry: moving from place to place on horseback, and then dismounting to engage opposing forces.[60]

Existing formation or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Notes Source(s)
Cavalry division
31 October 1939 1st Cavalry Division United Kingdom, France, Palestine, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria Did not see combat as a division On 1 August 1941 the division was redesignated and reorganised as the 10th Armoured Division [61]

County

Main article: British County Divisions

An infantryman, standing among an example of British anti-invasion beach defences, looks out over the English Channel.
An infantryman, standing among an example of British anti-invasion beach defences, looks out over the English Channel.

In 1940, following the Battle of France, the United Kingdom prepared for potential Axis invasion.[62] As the year progressed, the size of the British Army increased dramatically. Newly formed infantry battalions were grouped together to create the county divisions.[63][64] These formations were around 10,000 men strong, and were assigned to defend the coastlines of threatened sectors of the country and man coastal artillery.[63][65] These divisions were largely immobile and lacked divisional assets such as artillery, engineers, and reconnaissance forces.[66] This allowed infantry divisions to be freed up from such duties and to form a reserve further inland for counterattacking enemy forces.[67]

On 22 June 1941, Germany launched a massive attack upon the Soviet Union. British planners considered the possibility that the Soviet Union could collapse under the German onslaught, and the ease in which Germany could transfer troops back to the west and possibly invade the United Kingdom. In late 1941, the arrival of autumn and winter weather meant that the perceived threat of invasion subsided. This, coupled with the production of new equipment for the British Army, allowed the War Office to take steps to better balance the army with the creation of additional armour and special forces units. Consequently, the county divisions were disbanded or redesignated.[68][69]

Existing formation or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Notes Source(s)
County divisions
28 February 1941 Devon and Cornwall County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Redesignated as the 77th Infantry Division on 1 December 1941 [66]
24 February 1941 Dorset County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division first took command of units on 24 April 1941, ceased to function on 24 November 1941, and was disbanded on 31 December 1941. [70]
12 March 1941 Durham and North Riding County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division was redesignated Durham and North Riding Coastal Area on 1 December 1941, and ceased to act as a division. [71]
18 February 1941 Essex County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Formed from the redesignation of the West Sussex County Division, the division was disbanded on 7 October 1941. [72]
28 February 1941 Hampshire County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division was formed from the redesignation of the Hampshire Area command, ceased to function as a division on 25 November 1941, and was disbanded on 31 December 1941. [73]
24 February 1941 Lincolnshire County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division became operational on 27 March 1941, ceased to function as a division on 25 November 1941, and was disbanded on 31 December 1941. [74]
24 December 1940 Norfolk County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Redesignated as the 76th Infantry Division on 18 November 1941 [75]
24 February 1941 Northumberland County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division ceased to function as a division on 1 December 1941, and was disbanded on 21 December 1941. [76]
9 November 1940 West Sussex County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Formed by the redesignation of "Brocforc", the division was redesignated as the Essex County Division on 18 February 1941. [77]
24 February 1941 Yorkshire County Division United Kingdom Did not see combat The division became operational on 19 March 1941, was redesignated as the East Riding District on 1 December 1941, and ceased to function as a division. [78]

Infantry

British infantry on the move, alongside Universal Carriers, 1945.
British infantry on the move, alongside Universal Carriers, 1945.

The infantry were the backbone of the British Army, and were intended to be mobile and with sufficient integrated artillery to be able to overcome opposing forces.[79] At the start of the war, the infantry were separated into two classes: infantry divisions and motor divisions. Each infantry division had three infantry brigades and three artillery regiments. In 1939, these divisions had an establishment of 13,863 men, 72 field guns, and 2,993 vehicles. The motor division had two motorised infantry brigades and two artillery regiments, with an establishment of 10,136 men, 48 field guns, and 2,326 vehicles. The intended offensive use of the infantry division was to penetrate the enemy's defensive line, with the support of infantry tanks from independent tank brigades. Any gap created would then be exploited by armoured divisions, and the subsequent captured territory would be secured by the faster and more mobile motor divisions. The motor division, while being able to transport all of its infantry, was weaker than the infantry division as a result of the decreased amount of manpower and firepower.[80][81] After the Battle of France, the British Army implemented lessons learnt from the campaign in France, which included the decision to base the standard division around three brigades, and the abandonment of the motor division concept.[82][83][84]

The Army was split into two branches: the full-time professional force of regulars, and the part-time Territorial Army. Both branches maintained divisions. By 1939, the Territorial Army's intended role was to be the sole method of expanding the size of the army (in contrast to the creation of Kitchener's Army during the First World War). All members of the Territorial Army were required to take the general service obligation: if the British Government decided, territorial soldiers could be deployed overseas for combat. This avoided the complications of the First World War-era Territorial Force, whose members were initially not required to leave Britain unless they volunteered for overseas service.[85][86][9][87][excessive citations] The pre-war Territorial Army divisions were referred to as 'the first-line'. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the first-line formations were ordered to create new formations in a process called 'duplicating'; the new formations were called 'the second-line'. Planners intended the first-line formations to recruit over their establishments (aided by an increase in pay, the removal of restrictions on promotion which had hindered prior recruiting, construction of better-quality barracks, and an increase in supper rations) and then form second-line formations from cadres around which the divisions could be expanded.[7][88]

In 1941, the divisions were divided between being listed as higher establishment formations, and lower establishment ones. The former were intended for deployment overseas and combat, whereas the latter were restricted to home defence in a static role, and were reduced in size.[89][17] In 1941, the establishment of an higher establishment infantry division was increased to 17,298 men, equipped primarily with rifles but supplemented by 451 sub-machine guns, 768 light machine guns, 48 medium machine guns, 218 mortars, 72 field guns, 48 anti-tank guns, 48 anti-aircraft guns, and 4,166 vehicles. In 1944, the establishment was changed again so that each division was intended to have 18,347 men, 6,525 sub-machine guns, 1,162 light machine guns, 359 mortars, 436 PIAT anti-tank weapons, 72 field guns, 110 anti-tank guns, and 4,330 vehicles.[80] However, this figure could vary considerably. For example, during the Siege of Tobruk in 1941, the 70th Infantry Division was 28,000 men strong; in June 1944, the total combined strength of the remaining five lower establishment divisions was 17,845 men; and in July 1944, the higher establishment 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was 16,970 men strong.[90][91][92]

Existing or date created Formation name Locations served Notable campaigns Branch Notes Source(s)
Infantry divisions
12 June 1945 Guards Division North West Europe Did not see combat Regular Army Formed in Germany following the reorganisation of the Guards Armoured Division [93]
Existing 1st Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Tunisia, Italy, Palestine Battle of France, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign Regular Army The division ended the war in Palestine [94]
24 July 1940
20 August 1941
1st (African) Division British Kenya, Italian Somaliland, Abyssinia East African campaign Regular Army Redesignated as the 11th (African) Division on 24 November 1940, the division was disbanded on 26 July 1941 in Abyssinia, and reformed in Kenya one month later. On 23 November 1941, the division was again disbanded. [95]
Existing 1st London Division United Kingdom, Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Italy, Egypt, Libya Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign First-line Territorial Army At the start of the war, the division was a motor division. It became an infantry division in July 1940, and was redesignated the 56th (London) Infantry Division on 16 November 1940. It ended the war in Italy. [96]
Existing 2nd Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, India, Burma Battle of France, Battle of Kohima Regular Army The division ended the war in India. [97]
19 July 1940 2nd (African) Division East Africa, Italian Somaliland, Abyssinia East African campaign Regular Army The division was redesignated as the 12th (African) Division on 24 November 1940 and was disbanded 18 April 1943. [98]
Existing 2nd London Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 1st London Division. At the start of the war, it was a motor division. It became an infantry division in June 1940, and was redesignated the 47th (London) Infantry Division on 21 November 1940. In December 1941, it became a lower establishment division. It was disbanded on 31 August 1944, and reformed on 1 September as the 47th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation. [99][100]
Existing 3rd Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Battle of France, Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany Regular Army The division ended the war in Germany. [101]
Existing 4th Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Italy, Greece Battle of France, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign, Greek Civil War Regular Army The division ended the war in Greece. [102]
Existing 5th Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, India, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Italy, Palestine, Germany Battle of France, Allied invasion of Sicily, Italian Campaign, Western Allied invasion of Germany Regular Army The division ended the war in Germany. [103]
3 November 1939
17 February 1941
6th Infantry Division Egypt, Palestine, Greece, Syria, Italian-Libya Battle of Crete, Syria–Lebanon Campaign, Siege of Tobruk Regular Army The division was formed by the redesignation of the 7th Infantry Division. It ceased to exist on 17 June 1940, and was then reformed on 17 February 1941. The division was redesignated as the 70th Infantry Division on 10 October 1941. [104][105][106]
Existing 7th Infantry Division Palestine, Egypt Did not see combat Regular Army The division was redesignated as the 6th Infantry Division, on 3 November 1939. [107]
Existing 8th Infantry Division Palestine Did not see combat Regular Army The division was disbanded on 28 February 1940. [108]
2 June 1942 8th Division (Syria) Syria Did not see combat Regular Army The division was an internal security formation, and consisted largely of administration personnel. It was disbanded on 31 October 1943. [109]
Existing 9th (Highland) Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The division was redesignated as the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, on 7 August 1940. [110]
15 February 1943 11th (East Africa) Division East Africa, Ceylon, Burma, India Regular Army Burma Campaign The division ended the war in India [111][112]
10 October 1939 12th (Eastern) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France Battle of France Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division, the division was disbanded on 11 July 1940, after it returned to the United Kingdom. [113]
11 July 1942 12th Division (SDF) Italian Libya Did not see combat Regular Army The division was formed by the redesignation of the 1st Sudan Defence Force Brigade, and served as a security force on the lines of communication behind the Eighth Army. On 12 January 1945, the formation lost its division title when it was redesignated the Sudan Defence Force Group (North Africa). [114]
Existing 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, the division ended the war in Germany. [115]
30 September 1939 18th Infantry Division United Kingdom, India, Malaya, Singapore Battle of Singapore Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division, the division surrendered at the end of the battle on 15 February 1942, and its personnel were taken prisoner. [116]
2 October 1939 23rd (Northumbrian) Division United Kingdom, France Battle of France Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, the division was disbanded on 30 June 1940, following its return to the United Kingdom. [117]
1 September 1944 36th Infantry Division Burma, India Burma Campaign Regular Army The division was formed from the redesignation of the 36th Indian Infantry Division, and ended the war in India. [118]
18 September 1939 38th (Welsh) Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. The division was placed on lower establishment on 1 December 1941, and was disbanded on 15 August 1944. It was reformed as the 38th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation to replace the disbanded 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division, on 1 September 1944. [100][119]
Existing 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium Battle of France First-line Territorial Army On 1 November 1941, the division was redesignated and reorganised as the 42nd Armoured Division. [120]
Existing 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army The division ended the war in Germany. [121]
Existing 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Egypt Battle of France, Second Battle of El Alamein First-line Territorial Army Disbanded on 31 January 1943 [122]
Existing 45th Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, the division was placed on the lower establishment in December 1941, and was disbanded on 30 August 1944. It was reformed as the 45th (Holding) Division on 1 September, to replace the 77th (Holding) Division, and was redesignated as the 45th Division on 1 December 1944. [123]
2 October 1939 46th Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Tunisia, Italy, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, Austria Battle of France, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign, Greek Civil War Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, the division ended the war in Austria. [124]
Existing 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium Battle of France First-line Territorial Army The division was placed on the lower establishment in November 1941. On 20 December 1942, it was redesignated as the 48th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation. [100][125]
Existing 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division United Kingdom, Iceland, France, Belgium, Netherlands Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army The division became "Alabaster Force", for the occupation of Iceland. On return to the United Kingdom, in 1942, it was reformed as the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division. It ended the war in the Netherlands, under Canadian command. [126]
Existing 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Egypt, Cyprus, Iraq, Syria, Italian Libya, Tunisia, Italy, Norway Battle of France, Western Desert Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Allied invasion of Sicily, Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army The division started the war as a motor division, and was reorganized as an infantry division in June 1940. On 16 December 1944, after being withdrawn from Europe, the division was redesignated as the 50th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation. On 1 August 1945, the divisional headquarters moved to Norway, and became British Land Forces Norway. [100][127]
Existing
7 August 1940
51st (Highland) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Egypt, Italian Libya, Tunisia, Italy, Netherlands, Germany Battle of France, Western Desert Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign, Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army Captured in France in 1940, the division was reformed on 7 August 1940, by the redesignation of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division. The division ended the war in Germany. [128]
Existing 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army The division was deployed to France for seven days, during June 1940, following the Dunkirk Evacuation. On return to the United Kingdom, the division retrained a mountain division, and retrained for airlanding operations. The division did not operate in either role, and was deployed in October 1944 as an infantry division. It ended the war in Germany. [129]
Existing 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Operation Overlord, Western Allied invasion of Germany First-line Territorial Army The division ended the war in Germany. [130]
Existing 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat First-line Territorial Army The division was placed on the lower establishment in January 1942, and was disbanded on 14 December 1943. [131]
Existing 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat First-line Territorial Army The division was a motor division at the start of the war, and was reorganised as an infantry formation in June 1940. It was placed on the lower establishment in January 1942, and raised to the higher establishment in May 1944. The division was subsequently drained of manpower until it no longer existed, but the name was maintained for deception purposes. [132][133]
15 September 1939 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division United Kingdom, France Operation Overlord Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division. The division started the war as a motor division, and was reorganised as an infantry division in June 1940. At the end of the Normandy Campaign, the division was broken-up to provide reinforcements for other formations. The division headquarters was placed in 'suspended animation' on 19 October 1944, and was never reformed. [134][135]
Existing 61st Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division. The divisional headquarters deployed to Norway, during the Norwegian Campaign, although the division itself was not deployed. In August 1945, the division was reorganised as a Light Division. [136]
27 September 1939 66th Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Second-line Territorial Army Duplicate of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division, the division was disbanded on 23 June 1940. [137]
10 October 1941 70th Infantry Division Italian Libya, Egypt, India Siege of Tobruk Regular Army The division was formed by the redesignation of the 6th Infantry Division [107]
18 November 1941 76th Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Regular Army The division was formed as a lower establishment formation, by the redesignation of the Norfolk County Division. It was redesignated as the 76th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation, on 20 December 1942. On 1 September 1944, the division was disbanded. [100][138]
1 December 1941 77th Infantry Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Regular Army The division formed as a lower establishment formation, by the redesignation of the Devon and Cornwall County Division. It was redesignated as the 77th Infantry (Reserve) Division, a training formation, on 20 December 1942. On 1 December 1943, it was redesignated as the 77th Holding Division, an organisation to temporarily hold, retrain, and sort personnel. The division was disbanded on 1 September 1944. [100][138]
25 May 1942 78th Infantry Division United Kingdom, Tunisia, Italy, Austria Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign Regular Army The division ended the war in Austria. [139]
1 January 1943 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division United Kingdom Did not see combat Regular Army The division was formed as a training formation, and was disbanded on 1 September 1944. [100][138]
1 March 1943 81st (West Africa) Division Nigeria , India, Burma Burma Campaign Regular Army The division ended the war in India. [140]
1 August 1943 82nd (West Africa) Division Nigeria , India, Burma Burma Campaign Regular Army The division ended the war in Burma. [141]
29 May 1940 Beauman Division France Battle of France Regular Army The division was disbanded following its evacuation from France, on 17 June 1940. [14][142]
August 1940 Royal Marines Division United Kingdom Did not see combat as a division Royal Marines The division was disbanded in April 1943, and the men were either trained to man landing craft, or joined the Commandos and helped raise six new Royal Marine units. [143][144]
Mid-February 1943 Y Division Tunisia Tunisian Campaign Regular Army An ad hoc formation formed during the Tunisia Campaign, and disbanded on 16 March 1943. [145][146]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Dear & Foot 2001, p. 48.
  2. ^ French 2001, pp. 63–64.
  3. ^ French 2001, p. 15.
  4. ^ Perry 1988, p. 49.
  5. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 13–15, 19–21, 35–36, 39–40, 43–53.
  6. ^ a b Butler 1957, p. 27.
  7. ^ a b Gibbs 1976, p. 518.
  8. ^ French 2001, pp. 53–54.
  9. ^ a b Perry 1988, pp. 41–42.
  10. ^ Perry 1988, p. 48.
  11. ^ Levy 2006, p. 66.
  12. ^ Butler 1957, pp. 27, 32.
  13. ^ French 2001, p. 157.
  14. ^ a b Karslake 1979, pp. 249–251.
  15. ^ Fraser 1999, pp. 72–77.
  16. ^ Perry 1988, p. 55.
  17. ^ a b c French 2001, p. 188.
  18. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 122.
  19. ^ Allport 2015, p. 216.
  20. ^ French 2001, p. 189.
  21. ^ Perry 1988, p. 74.
  22. ^ Otway 1990, p. 21.
  23. ^ Harclerode 2006, p. 218.
  24. ^ Tugwell 1971, p. 123.
  25. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 104–107.
  26. ^ a b c Joslen 2003, pp. 132–133.
  27. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 112.
  28. ^ Flint 2004, pp. 28, 46, 56, 106–107, 138.
  29. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 104–105.
  30. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 106–107.
  31. ^ "No. 38149". The London Gazette. 16 December 1947. p. 5973. and "No. 38149". The London Gazette. 16 December 1947. p. 5974.
  32. ^ Forty 2013, The Combat Arms, AA Command.
  33. ^ Gibbs 1976, p. 464.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "No. 38149". The London Gazette. 16 December 1947. p. 5985.
  35. ^ Cole 1950, p. 77.
  36. ^ a b c Cole 1950, p. 78.
  37. ^ Cole 1950, p. 79.
  38. ^ Cole 1950, p. 80.
  39. ^ a b c d e Lord & Watson 2003, p. 251.
  40. ^ Lord & Watson 2003, p. 170.
  41. ^ a b Joslen 2003, pp. 3, 128–129.
  42. ^ Newbold 1988, pp. 422, 426.
  43. ^ Ellis 1954, p. 254.
  44. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 84.
  45. ^ Ellis et al. 2004, p. 336.
  46. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 4–5.
  47. ^ French 2001, pp. 37–42, 269–270.
  48. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 34.
  49. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 11–12.
  50. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 13–15.
  51. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 16.
  52. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 17–18.
  53. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 19–21.
  54. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 22.
  55. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 23.
  56. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 25–26.
  57. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 27–28.
  58. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 29.
  59. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 30–32.
  60. ^ French 2001, pp. 221–222.
  61. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 33.
  62. ^ Fraser 1999, p. 83.
  63. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 53.
  64. ^ Forty 2013, County Divisions.
  65. ^ Churchill & Gilbert 2001, p. 1321.
  66. ^ a b Joslen 2003, p. 108.
  67. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 61.
  68. ^ Goldstein & McKercher 2003, p. 274.
  69. ^ Perry 1988, pp. 53–54, 65.
  70. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 109.
  71. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 110.
  72. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 111.
  73. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 112.
  74. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 113.
  75. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 114.
  76. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 115.
  77. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 116.
  78. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 117.
  79. ^ French 2001, pp. 27, 29, 31.
  80. ^ a b Joslen 2003, pp. 130–133.
  81. ^ French 2001, pp. 37–41.
  82. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 37, 41, 61, 90.
  83. ^ French 2001, pp. 189–191.
  84. ^ Perry 1988, p. 54.
  85. ^ Allport 2015, p. 323.
  86. ^ French 2001, p. 53.
  87. ^ Simkins 2007, pp. 43–46.
  88. ^ Messenger 1994, pp. 47, 49.
  89. ^ Perry 1988, p. 65.
  90. ^ Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 25–26.
  91. ^ Hart 2007, p. 52.
  92. ^ Jackson 2006, p. 123.
  93. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 34.
  94. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 35–36.
  95. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 118.
  96. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 37–38.
  97. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 39–40.
  98. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 119–120.
  99. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 41–42.
  100. ^ a b c d e f g Forty 2013, Reserve Divisions.
  101. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 43–44.
  102. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 45–46.
  103. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 47–48.
  104. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 49–51, 258, 266.
  105. ^ Long 1953, pp. 281–285.
  106. ^ Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 207, 209.
  107. ^ a b Joslen 2003, pp. 49–51.
  108. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 53.
  109. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 54.
  110. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 55.
  111. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 121–122.
  112. ^ "badge, formation, 11th East Africa Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  113. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 56.
  114. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 57.
  115. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 58–59.
  116. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 60–61.
  117. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 62.
  118. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 63–64.
  119. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 65–66.
  120. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 68.
  121. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 69–70.
  122. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 71–72.
  123. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 73–74.
  124. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 75–76.
  125. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 77–78.
  126. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 79–80, 331–332.
  127. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 81–82.
  128. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 83–84.
  129. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 85–86.
  130. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 87–88.
  131. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 89.
  132. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 90–91.
  133. ^ Holt 2004, p. 922.
  134. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 93–94.
  135. ^ Hart 2007, p. 49.
  136. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 95–96.
  137. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 97.
  138. ^ a b c Joslen 2003, p. 99.
  139. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 101–102.
  140. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 123–124.
  141. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 125–126.
  142. ^ "No. 34922". The London Gazette. 13 August 1940. p. 5001. and "No. 37573". The London Gazette. 21 May 1946. p. 2439.
  143. ^ Messenger 1991, p. 123.
  144. ^ Speller 2001, p. 29.
  145. ^ Doherty 1993, p. 41.
  146. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 373.

References