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2nd Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2nd Division
2nd Infantry Division
2nd Armoured Division
British 2nd Infantry Division.svg
ActiveRaised and disbanded numerous times between 1809 and 2012
Country United Kingdom
Flag of the British Army.svg
British Army
EngagementsPeninsula War
Crimean War
First World War
Second World War
Division sign for the British 2nd Division in World War 1

World War 1 Division sign.[2]

The 2nd Infantry Division was a Regular Army infantry division of the British Army, with a long history. Its existence as a permanently embodied formation dated from 1809, when it was established by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later to become the Duke of Wellington), as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, for service in the Peninsular War. The division was raised and disbanded several times during a period of 200 years.

The division was associated with the north of England. The divisional insignia, the Crossed Keys of Saint Peter, were originally part of the coat of arms of the Diocese of York, and were adopted before or during the First World War. It was disbanded on 1 April 2012.

Napoleonic Wars

Peninsular War

During the French Revolutionary Wars and early in the Napoleonic Wars, the largest permanent organised structure within the British Army was the brigade. These consisted of two or more battalions grouped together, and were commanded by a major-general. The brigade suited the small size of the army, and the operations that it conducted. When needed, larger forces were organised on an ad hoc basis. This included multiple brigades grouped into 'lines' or 'columns', with the most senior major-general taking command. As the army and its operations grew, it implemented divisions; a single formation of two or more brigades, usually commanded by a lieutenant-general. The division concept was not new, and had been used by other European armies towards the end of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). On 18 June 1809, Lieutenant-General Arthur Wellesley, commanding British forces in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsula War, ordered the creation of four divisions: the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.[3]

William Barnes Wollen's depiction of the cavalry attack on the division at the Battle of Albuera.
William Barnes Wollen's depiction of the cavalry attack on the division at the Battle of Albuera.

Major-General Rowland Hill was given command of the newly formed 2nd Division, which was around 3,900 men strong. It first saw action at the Battle of Talavera (27–28 July 1809), suffering 888 casualties over two days of fighting.[4][a] The division, now 10,000 strong including embedded Portuguese troops, was present at the Battle of Bussaco on 27 September 1810, but did not see combat.[7] By October, it was manning redoubts in the Torres Vedra defensive line, near Alhandra. While French forces skirmished with the division's pickets, the main position was not engaged.[8] In November, Hill, who was suffering from fever, was replaced by Major-General William Stewart; one of the division's brigade commanders.[9] Detached from Wellesley's main force, the division missed most of the major battles during the 1811-12 period and acquired the nickname: the "Observing Division".[10] However, the division was involved in several notable battles during this period. At the Battle of Albuera, Stewart received criticism for his handling of the division, and ignoring orders. As the division moved to take position alongside engaged Spanish forces, Stewart ordered his lead brigade to strike the flank of the attacking French. Stewart ignored a request by the brigade commander to establish their own flank guard, thus leaving themselves vulnerable. The brigade conducted the move, opened fire, and forced the French to break and retreat. Historian Charles Oman wrote that under cover of a blinding hailstorm, 800 Polish lancers had approached. The lancers charged into the British flank, inflicting 1,248 casualties, or 75 per cent of the strength of the brigade. Total divisional losses in the battle amounted to 2,868.[11] On 28 October 1811, the division (with attached Spanish cavalry) took part in the Battle of Arroyo dos Molinos, where they captured Arroyo dos Molinos, scattered the garrison, and took around 1,300 prisoners for the loss of 101 men.[12] On 19 May 1812, at the Battle of Almaraz, 900 men of the division entered Fort Napoleon by surprise. After a fierce closely fought battle, they forced the garrison to retreat. The fort's guns were then used to subdue the garrison of the nearby Fort Ragusa, which was then occupied securing an important river crossing over the Tagus. Around 400 French casualties were inflicted, for 189 British.[13] In late 1812, while covering the retreat of coalition forces, the division failed to fully destroy a bridge allowing French forces to cross the Tagus faster than anticipated.[14]

The following year, on 21 June, the division fought at the Battle of Vittoria forming part of the British right flank and suffered 1,110 casualties.[15] In July, the division briefly took part in the Siege of Pamplona, before fighting numerous engagements during the Battle of the Pyrenees. The most notable was the Battle of Maya. During the morning, French forces attacked to the south of the division's position. This attracted Stewart's attention and he left to investigate, without leaving instructions or informing anyone where he had gone. Oman wrote Stewart "must also be given the discredit of the very inadequate arrangements that had been made for the defence" of the Maya pass. Making use of terrain, French forces advanced undetected towards the division, attacked, and overran five light infantry companies. The division then conducted several piecemeal counterattacks. In the afternoon, Stewart returned and organised a withdrawal to a new position, fended off new attacks, and ended the day in a strong position that blocked the pass despite having lost possession of it. Despite this, Hill ordered Stewart to withdraw after dark. The fighting had cost 1,320 casualties, including Stewart who was wounded. Oman wrote that he was a "splendid fighting man if a careless and tiresome subordinate."[16] A further 516 casualties were suffered over the rest of July and into August, during the fighting in the Pyrenees.[17][b] The division next defended the Pyrenees passes at Roncesvalles over the following months, before fighting in several engagements during the advance into France. These included the Battle of Nivelle, a bloody engagement at Saint Pierre suffering 903 casualties, and fighting at Orthez and Aire-sur-l'Adour with relatively few casualties.[19] The division played no further major role in the campaign, which largely came to a conclusion following the capture of Toulouse on 12 April 1814. Meanwhile, the Emperor of the French Napoleon had abdicated following the capture of Paris on 31 March. With the War of the Sixth Coalition over, the division was broken up. The troops marched to Bordeaux, where they either returned to the United Kingdom or were transported to North America to take part in the ongoing War of 1812.[20]


A portrait of Frederick Adam, commander of the division's light brigade during the Battle of Waterloo, by William Salter.
A portrait of Frederick Adam, commander of the division's light brigade during the Battle of Waterloo, by William Salter.

At the end of the war, British and Hanoverian troops moved into the Southern Netherlands (previously Austrian Netherlands), as part of an Anglo-Dutch effort to secure the territory while awaiting a political outcome at the Congress of Vienna. Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton arrived in late 1814 to command and train these forces.[21] On 11 April 1815, following the outbreak of the War of the Seventh Coalition upon Napoleon's return to power, elements of this force became the 2nd Division under Clinton's command. This force comprised one brigade of British light infantry and riflemen, one brigade of the King's German Legion (KGL), and one brigade of recently raised Hanoverian Landwehr.[22]

At the Battle of Waterloo, on 18 June 1815, the division formed part of Rowland Hill's 2nd Corps. The division's 6,450 men started the day in reserve, protecting the right flank of the British position.[23][24] During the afternoon, with British cannons under attack from French skirmishers (tirailleurs), the division's light infantry brigade (Major-General Frederick Adam) moved forward to drive them back and protect the guns.[25] Afterwards, it and the KGL brigade advanced to a position behind Hougoumont, an important tactical strongpoint in front of the British line. Formed into infantry squares and under fire from French skirmishers, the brigades assisted in the defense of the château, and fired at French cavalry attacking other British forces. The KGL brigade also fended off several cavalry attacks.[26][27] At around 19:30, the final French attack began when the Imperial Guard's Middle Guard advanced on the British right flank and engaged the British Foot Guard regiments. Adam responded by wheeling his brigade left into line facing the French flank. His troops, particularly the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot, fired volleys into the French in a fierce firefight, before charging. This, in conjunction with the British foot guards, halted the French attack and caused the Middle Guard to retreat. With Hanoverian troops covering their flank, Adam's brigade advanced after the French prior to a general advance by the Anglo-Dutch army.[28][29] With the French in retreat, the Hanoverian and KGL troops cleared the woods around Hougoumont, while other elements of the Hanoverian brigade advanced.[30] Adam's brigade, with one Hanoverian battalion in support, advanced towards the inn La Belle Alliance, the center of the French position. Near the inn, Imperial Guard units, including elements of the Old Guard, had formed square as a rearguard. Adam's troops engaged them and forced them to retreat. Afterwards, they halted with the arrival of dusk and the close of the battle in which the division had suffered 1,563 casualties.[31][32][33]

Following the battle, the division marched into France with the rest of the coalition forces. It arrived at Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, on 1 July.[34] On 7 July, Adam's brigade entered Paris and marched along the Champs-Élysées, the only British troops to enter the capital.[35] In October, the Army of Occupation was formed and included the 2nd Division. By the end of the year, the German elements of the division had left and were replaced by a newly formed British brigade. Clinton remained in command of the division until it and the Army of Occupation were disbanded in December 1818, when they left France for the United Kingdom.[36]

Victoria Era

Crimean War

A depiction of Private John McDermond saving his commanding officer, Colonel William O'Grady Haly, during the Battle of Inkerman by Louis William Desanges. This action resulted in McDermond being awarded the Victoria Cross.
A depiction of Private John McDermond saving his commanding officer, Colonel William O'Grady Haly, during the Battle of Inkerman by Louis William Desanges. This action resulted in McDermond being awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 28 March 1854, in support of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom and the Second French Empire declared war on the Russian Empire. Anglo-French forces then landed at Gallipoli, to be in a position to defend Constantinople if needed.[37] In mid-June, the British forces advanced to Varna, Ottoman Bulgaria. Here, they were reorganised into divisions, and the expeditionary force suffered from a cholera outbreak.[38][39][40] Sir George de Lacy Evans was given command of the division on 20 June, which was around 3,500 men strong. Historian Clive Ponting described him as "the only British commander with even the remotest experience of European war", for his service in the Peninsular War and Spanish Carlist Wars of the 1830s.[41][42][43] During this period, British strategic policy was to destroy the Russian Black Sea Fleet based at Sevastopol to end the war, and carry-out long-term British goals. This immediate goal was also adopted by the French.[44]

On 14 September, the Anglo-French expeditionary landed north of Sevastopol. They marched south encountering the Russians at the Alma River, blocking further progress. Communication between the British and French was poor, and the overall battleplan was not communicated to the division by the British expeditionary force's commander.[45] On 20 September, the division formed the right wing of the British advance with the French on their left. In the afternoon, the division attacked across the river, fended off a counterattack, and pushed the Russians from their positions suffering 498 casualties during the day. This including de Lacy Evans who was wounded.[41][46][47] The advance resumed on 23 September, and the expeditionary force invested the Russian port in October, beginning the Siege of Sevastopol.[48] On 26 October, the division fended off a Russian attack, inflicting around 270 casualties for 100 of their own. During this action, De Lacy Evans fell from his horse and was replaced by Major-General John Pennefather, one of his brigade commanders.[49] On 5 November, under heavy fog, the 2nd Division was assailed by an overwhelming Russian force and played an important role during the Battle of Inkerman. Pennefather ordered the division to counterattack, and they inflicted heavy losses on the Russians that saw close range bayonet fighting. The division continued to fight throughout the day following subsequent Russian attacks, and suffered heavy casualties. While the battle ended in an Allied victory, it created the conditions that dragged the siege on through the winter into 1855.[50][51][52] After the city had been subjected to several major cannonades, the division launched several failed attacks on Russian defensive positions, leading up to, and including the Battle of the Great Redan.[53][54] This marked the division's final effort of the campaign. The expeditionary force remained in the Crimea until the war ended in 1856. After which, the army demobilised.[55][56][c]

Boer War

Following the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), the British Army reviewed and attempted to implement a similar organisation used by the Prussian Army. This resulted in a mobilisation scheme in 1875 that called for 24 divisions spread across eight army corps. However, these formations did not exist, and the scheme looked for scattered units to coalesce in a time of crisis.[61][62] Following rising tensions between the United Kingdom and the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, war broke out on 11 October 1899.[63] In response, and to reinforce the outnumbered British military presence in southern Africa, the British Government mobilised the Natal Field Force, also known as the First Army Corps. This corresponded with the First Army Corps of the 1875 mobilisation scheme, and contained the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Divisions.[64][65] The force soon started to arrive in southern Africa, although there was no strategic plan in place for its use.[66]

The division was placed under the command of Lieutenant-General Francis Clery, and was dispatched to the Colony of Natal arriving at Frere on 2 December.[67][68][69] The division, or parts of it, suffered defeats at the Battle of Colenso and the Battle of Spion Kop[70] before gaining victory at the Battle of the Tugela Heights during the Relief of Ladysmith. It subsequently took part in operations which drove the Boers from Natal and the eastern Transvaal.[71]

World Wars

In 1902 the army was restructured, and a 2nd Infantry division was established permanently as part of the 1st Army Corps, comprising the 3rd and 4th Infantry Brigades.[72]

First World War

The division was subsequently stationed on Salisbury Plain, garrisoned at Aldershot, and designated to be part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which would be despatched to the continent in the case of a general European war. When the First World War broke out, in August 1914, the BEF was sent to support the French and Belgian armies. The division's commander at this point was Major General Charles Monro. The division took part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, and, along with most of the rest of the original BEF, suffered heavy casualties in the First Battle of Ypres in November.[73]

The division served on the Western Front for the duration of the war. Although most of the division's regulars became casualties or were transferred to other formations, the division never lost its standing and reputation as a Regular Army formation. The 2nd Division fought in most of the major battles on the Western Front.[74]

Men of No. 1 Platoon, A Company of the 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the divisional pioneers, breakfasting on their way to the line. Near Le Quesnoy, France, 27 October 1918.
Men of No. 1 Platoon, A Company of the 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the divisional pioneers, breakfasting on their way to the line. Near Le Quesnoy, France, 27 October 1918.

After the war the division was part of the occupation force stationed at Cologne.[74]

Second World War

France and Belgium

Following its return from Germany, the division continued to be a regular army formation stationed in Britain. The division saw numerous changes in units and composition during the interwar period. In September 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, it once again became part of a British Expeditionary Force (BEF), under Field Marshal Lord Gort, sent to fight alongside the French Army. Its General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Major-General Charles Loyd, who had taken command of the division earlier in the year. The division was sent to the Franco-Belgian border, arriving on 21 September 1939, where it came under command of I Corps, and was to remain there for the next few months.[75]

Rifle inspection for men of the 2nd Battalion, Dorset Regiment at Rumegies, France, 14 February 1940.
Rifle inspection for men of the 2nd Battalion, Dorset Regiment at Rumegies, France, 14 February 1940.

In May 1940, the BEF, including the 2nd Infantry Division, was driven from France during the retreat to Dunkirk, where the division (from 20 May commanded by Major-General Noel Irwin) was evacuated to England, with few casualties but losing almost all its equipment. During the retreat, two members of the division were awarded the Victoria Cross: Second Lieutenant Richard Annand of the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and Company Sergeant Major George Gristock of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. They were the first two of three to be awarded to members of the division throughout the war.[76]

India and Burma

The 2nd Infantry Division was re-equipped in Britain and soon brought up to strength in numbers, although, like most of the British Army after Dunkirk, pitifully short of equipment. The division was stationed in Yorkshire, serving again under I Corps control and in training to repel the expected German invasion, codenamed Operation Sea Lion.

In December 1941, Japan entered the war. After British and Commonwealth forces in the Far East suffered disastrous defeats in late 1941 and early 1942, the division, under War Office control and commanded now by Major-General John Grover, was sent to India, which was threatened by Japanese advances and internal disorder. For some time, the division was involved in internal security operations and training for amphibious operations. In late October 1942 the 6th Infantry Brigade was temporarily detached from the division and reorganised as an independent brigade group, complete with its own supporting units, and served in the failed Arakan Campaign, rejoining the rest of the division in India in June 1943.

In 1944, the Japanese launched an invasion of India. In early April 1944 the 2nd Division was sent to join the Fourteenth Army's XXXIII Corps at Dimapur to fight its way down the road to relieve the besieged position at Kohima. Kohima was relieved on 18 April but heavy fighting continued in the disputed position until under increasing pressure from a buildup in Allied forces (2nd Division had been joined by the 7th Indian Infantry Division in early May) the Japanese, having run out of food and supplies, were forced to withdraw and the Battle of Kohima was to all intents concluded at the end of May. XXXIII Corps then tasked the 2nd Division to advance south down the road towards Imphal with the 7th Indian Division following up the retreating Japanese forces over the rough terrain to the east of the road. On 22 June the 2nd Division made contact with the 5th Indian Infantry Division advancing northwards from Imphal and the siege of Imphal was relieved. Both battles were some of the fiercest fighting of the war with Kohima labelled a miniature Stalingrad, due to the ferocity of the fighting on both sides. The epitaph carved on the memorial of the 2nd Division in the large cemetery for the Allied war dead at Kohima reads,[77]

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

Men of the 7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment display a Japanese flag captured on Mount Popa, 16 April 1945.
Men of the 7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment display a Japanese flag captured on Mount Popa, 16 April 1945.

The division continued to serve as part of the Fourteenth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William "Bill" Slim, during its offensive into Burma which resulted in another Victoria Cross for the division. Captain John Randle of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment was the recipient.[78] The division, now commanded by Major-General Cameron Nicholson (Major-General Grover had been relieved the previous July), was withdrawn to India at the end of April 1945.[79]

The division transferred to the command of HQ Allied Land Forces South East Asia on that date, moving back to the Southern Army on 7 June 1945. The 5th Brigade left the division in October 1945 (following reorganisation) to become part of the Brinjap Division within the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The 6th Brigade (again reorganised) sailed to Singapore in December 1945. The division was disbanded in India in October 1946.[80]

Cold War

At the end of the Second World War, the United Kingdom was allocated an occupation zone in northwest Germany. It formed the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) to administer its occupation forces. Following the creation of West Germany in 1949, the BAOR ceased being an occupation force and became part of the UK's contribution to the defence of Western Europe from the Soviet Union.[81][82] This role was reaffirmed at the 1954 London and Paris Conferences, with the promise to commit four divisions to the defence of Europe.[83] While the BAOR fluctuated in size, including the number of divisions, the 2nd Infantry Division was part of it throughout this period.[81] The division reformed in February 1947 at St. David's Barracks in Hilden, West Germany. In doing so, it absorbed the 36th Infantry Division. In 1958, the 6th Armoured Division was disbanded and its personnel were likewise absorbed into the division. In September 1959, the division moved to Tunis Barracks in Lübbecke.[84][85]

By the 1970s, the UK was in the position of having to reconcile decreasing resources with its commitments and the increased threat from the Soviet Union.[86] In 1974, following the general election, Roy Mason became Secretary of State for Defence. He authored the Mason Review, a Government white paper outlining the new defence policy. It reaffirmed the Soviet Union as the primary threat to British national security and the need to concentrate its forces in Western Europe.[87] Mason argued for proposed changes that would "maintain as far as possible the present combat capability of the Army in Europe … while reducing the overall number of men".[88] This would be achieved by disbanding headquarters units, including the elimination of "the brigade level of command" with battalions being "commanded directly by smaller-sized divisional headquarters". The overall aim was to have "fewer formation headquarters overall, and fewer but larger units".[89] These changes were to maintain the BAOR's ability to wage "a mobile and intense armoured battle" against invading Soviet forces.[90]

Historian David Isby wrote that Mason's reforms were promised "with an alleged 25 percent increase in combat power".[86] This increase was to be brought about by more efficient use of manpower, streamlining the logistical elements of the division and improving the ratio of weapons and men.[91] Historian Marc Donald DeVore argued the politically forced change coincided with BAOR doctrinal changes that had started in the 1960s. They were subsequently pioneered by the 1st Armoured Division in the early 1970s: to fight a mobile defensive battle by defending key attack routes that Soviet armoured forces would more than likely take, and then draw them into killing areas where they would suffer disproportionate losses at the hands of anti-tank guided missile equipped infantry and tanks in hull-down defensive positions. The British division would keep on moving, fighting this aggressive delaying battle from the East German border.[92] The restructure saw the BAOR increase to four divisions, each with two armoured regiments and three mechanised infantry battalions.[86] It was believed that this attritional battle, using four divisions, would allow the BAOR to resist a Soviet advance and buy enough time for one of several contingencies: a diplomatic solution to be achieved; reinforcements to arrive to allow further conventional warfare; or a threat made, warning of the use of tactical nuclear weapons.[93] On 1 September 1976, as part of these reforms, the 2nd Infantry Division was re-designated as the 2nd Armoured Division.[94]

2nd Armoured Division 1976 - 1982

Photograph of a Chieftain tank
The Chieftain tank, the main battle tank of the division.

The 2nd Armoured Division was the first of the four BAOR divisions to be reorganised. After the process was completed, it was 8,600 men strong, and equipped with 132 Chieftain tanks (with 12 additional tanks in reserve). In a time of war, the division would be reinforced to a wartime strength of 14,000 men.[95] Divisional headquarters was based in Lübbecke, West Germany, and its signal regiment was in Bünde.[96][97] The 2nd Armoured Division maintained the 2nd Division's insignia, original designed during the Second World War, and used throughout the Cold War.[96][98] The division consisted of an armoured reconnaissance regiment (two squadrons equipped with FV101 Scorpions and a third squadron equipped with FV107 Scimitars); two armoured regiments each with 66 tanks in four squadrons and three mechanised infantry battalions, each with four rifle companies that were carried in FV432 armoured personnel carriers. The pre-reform organisation included pioneer and reconnaissance forces integrated within each infantry battalion. Now all reconnaissance forces were concentrated in the reconnaissance regiment, and all pioneers were allocated to the divisional engineer regiment.[95]

The divisional artillery group included a close support regiment equipped with the Abbot self-propelled artillery system and Blowpipe missiles, a man-portable air-defence system; a general support regiment of self-propelled M109 howitzers; and an anti-tank battery equipped with Swingfire anti-tank missiles. Other divisional assets included a field ambulance unit, a provost company, a transport regiment, an ordnance company, field workshop battalions, and an aviation regiment of scout helicopters.[95] The actual units that comprised the division were not fixed. The British Army rotated units through the BAOR. For example, infantry battalions would generally serve a four-year tour with the army before being rotated to another theatre; armoured units could serve up to eight years.[99] Elements of the division could also be rotated elsewhere from Germany while remaining part of the division. For example, the 2nd Armoured Division Engineer Regiment was deployed to Northern Ireland in December 1979.[100]

With the removal of the brigade level, the division was ideally able to form up to five battlegroups each based around the headquarters of the armoured regiments or infantry battalions. These groups were to be formed for a specific task and allocated the required forces needed. The reforms envisioned that the divisional commander would oversee these battlegroups, but early training found this to be impractical. To compensate, the divisional headquarters was increased to 750 men (war time strength) including two brigadiers, who would each command a flexible task force that would be formed by the GOC.[101] The 2nd Armoured Division's task forces were Task Force Charlie and Task Force Delta. The task forces would allow the GOC to tailor their forces to meet unforeseen events and better execute the killing area doctrine.[102] These task forces were not a reintroduction of a brigade command structure, and they had no logistical responsibilities. Structuring the division in this manner allowed the division to be reduced by 700 men.[101] The historian David Stone commented the system was "designed to allow the commander maximum flexibility and take precise account of the operational or tactical task to be achieved."[103]

In November 1976, the BAOR held Exercise Spearpoint 76. It was designed to test the reorganised 2nd Armoured Division, and included troops from Denmark and the United States.[104] Norman Dodd, a retired British Army officer who attended the exercise and reviewed what took place, wrote: "Exercise Spearpoint proved that the new structure of the corps is workable and an improvement on the old organization." He suggested the new structure may see problems "after some days in combat when fatigue and strain begin to take their toll" on the divisional headquarters and those in charge of the battlegroups.[105] Following the exercise, further refinements to the organisation took place into 1977, as additional armour and infantry units were transferred and brought the formation up to strength.[94] The Task Force concept lasted until the end of the decade. Stone wrote it had "not prove[d] entirely satisfactory".[103] Isby wrote brigades were reintroduced after the flaws of the new system became apparent. It was an issue exacerbated by troop deployments to Northern Ireland that had "caused some armoured and mechanized battalions to reduce their fourth squadrons or companies to cadre status."[86] The division then comprised the 4th and the 12th Armoured Brigades.[106][107]

Further reorganisation

In 1981, John Nott, the Secretary of State for Defence for the government elected in 1979, authored the 1981 Defence White Paper. It, like the Mason review, aimed at balancing the British military in line with the nation's financial resources.[108] Nott's paper called for the BAOR to be restructured from four armoured divisions of two brigades to three divisions of three brigades, saving manpower and money with the loss of one division. Nott also called for a new division to be formed in the United Kingdom, which would be made up primarily of Territorial Army personnel. The new formation would reinforce the BAOR on the outbreak of war.[109]

In July 1981, the 2nd Armoured Division was chosen to be the formation that would be disbanded. It was to be reformed in the United Kingdom as the 2nd Infantry Division, and assigned to reinforce the BAOR during wartime. The new division headquarters would be based at Imphal Barracks, in York.[110] The division's assets were dispersed. For example, the 4th Armoured Brigade was transferred to the 4th Armoured Division.[106] By December 1982, the division ceased to exist.[98]

End of the Cold War

On 1 January 1983, the 2nd Infantry Division was reformed.[98] The reformed division was assigned the territorial 15th (based at Alanbrooke Barracks, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire) and 49th Infantry Brigades (based in Nottingham), and the regular army 24th Infantry Brigade (based at Catterick Garrison) and the 29th Engineer Brigade (based at Newcastle upon Tyne).[98] Each of its two TA brigades had a Fox-equipped reconnaissance regiment. These two yeomanry regiments were regarded as 'mobile anti-armour' reserves for their respective brigades in the Corps rear area.[111] Following the end of the Cold War, the division disbanded in 1992.[112]

Reformed and into the 21st Century

Structure 2nd Division
Structure 2nd Division
2nd Division Headquarters, Craigiehall, in use 2000 to 2012
2nd Division Headquarters, Craigiehall, in use 2000 to 2012

The 2nd Division was reformed as an administrative division – effectively a military district – from North East District and North West District on 1 April 1995.[113] The 1998 Strategic Defence Review led to a reorganisation of Land Command. The 2nd Division absorbed Scotland District and its headquarters moved to Craigiehall, near Edinburgh in April 2000.[114]

The division HQ controlled Catterick Garrison and by 2000 comprised the following Regional Brigades:[115]

Following further reshuffling, 52nd Infantry Brigade was reformed as an operational, rather than regional, brigade consisting of several light infantry battalions, and left the formation to join 3 Division on 1 April 2007.[116] 38th (Irish) Brigade came under command of the 2nd Division on 1 January 2009.[117]

The Division reported to Army Headquarters at Andover from 2010.[118] The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded.[119] HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th Division in Shrewsbury were disbanded in April 2012.[120]

Despite the closure of HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh the Army retained a General Officer Scotland, in addition to a small number of staff, in order to maintain the level of senior representation in Scotland required to oversee the rebasing changes.[119]

General officers commanding

Orders of Battle

Victoria Cross

See also



  1. ^ Historian Ian Fletcher suggested the division was formed in May 1809, and fought at the Second Battle of Porto.[5] Historian Charles Oman detailed the British order of battle at Porto, and noted the entire force comprised eight brigades and no divisions. Oman stated that it was after that battle, when divisions were formed.[6] Historian Philip Haythornthwaite stated that the divisions were formed on 18 June 1809.[3]
  2. ^ A separate 2nd Division, under the command of Major-General John Mackenzie, operated during this period as part of Lieutenant-General John Murrary's independent Army on the Tarragona.[18]
  3. ^ Everard Wyrall, official historian of the 2nd Division during the First World War, described the division's lineage including the Peninsular War, Waterloo, the Crimean War, and the Second Boer War.[57] Other divisions were raised, on an ad-hoc basis, during the 19th Century, which Wyrall did not include. In 1857, an expeditionary force was formed from the Indian Army for service in the Second Opium War,with a 2nd Division commanded by Major-General Robert Napier.[58] In 1879, Major-General Edward Newdegate commanded a 2nd Division during the Anglo-Zulu War, and Lieutenant-General Edward Bruce Hamley commanded a different 2nd Division during the Anglo-Egyptian War.[59][60]


  1. ^ Cole p. 36
  2. ^ Chappell pps. 30, 46
  3. ^ a b Haythornthwaite 2016, The Divisional System.
  4. ^ Oman 1903, pp. 455, 511-512, 525, 531-535, 544-545, 645, 650-651.
  5. ^ Fletcher 1994, pp. 32-33.
  6. ^ Oman 1903, pp. 324ff. and 640-641.
  7. ^ Oman 1908, pp. 359-362, 387, 545, 550.
  8. ^ Oman 1908, pp. 437-442.
  9. ^ Reid 2004, p. 42.
  10. ^ Bamford 2013, p. 205.
  11. ^ Oman 1911, pp. 383-383, 399-400, 631.
  12. ^ Oman 1911, pp. 602-605.
  13. ^ Oman 1914, pp. 326-328.
  14. ^ Oman 1922, p. 99.
  15. ^ Oman 1922, pp. 400, 419, 422, 439-440, 758.
  16. ^ Oman 1922, pp. 469, 529, 626-627, 629-638.
  17. ^ Oman 1922, pp. 769-772.
  18. ^ Oman 1922, p. 762.
  19. ^ Oman 1930, pp. 118 and 167, 175-176, 227 369, 384, 553, 558.
  20. ^ Oman 1930, pp. 496 and 513.
  21. ^ Glover 2015, pp. 11-22, 31.
  22. ^ Glover 2015, pp. 35-46.
  23. ^ Siborne 1900, p. 347.
  24. ^ Glover 2015, pp. 35-46, 165.
  25. ^ Glover 2015, p. 128.
  26. ^ Siborne 1900, pp. 340-342, 467-470.
  27. ^ Glover 2014, pp. 151-153.
  28. ^ Siborne 1900, pp. 473, 529, 531-536.
  29. ^ Glover 2014, pp. 189-191.
  30. ^ Glover 2014, p. 194.
  31. ^ Siborne 1900, pp. 553, 556, 558, 564-565.
  32. ^ Glover 2014, pp. 192-194.
  33. ^ Glover 2015, p. 165.
  34. ^ Siborne 1900, pp. 659, 683, 688, 696, 704, 716, 732, 748.
  35. ^ Moorsom 1860, pp. 270-271.
  36. ^ Glover 2015, pp. 199-200.
  37. ^ Royle 2004, pp. 127-129.
  38. ^ Barthorp 1980, p. 155.
  39. ^ Bowden 1991, p. 16.
  40. ^ Ponting 2006, p. 72.
  41. ^ a b Arnold 2002, p. 62.
  42. ^ Ponting 2006, pp. 53, 145.
  43. ^ "No. 21564". The London Gazette. 22 June 1854. p. 1932.
  44. ^ Lambert 2016, pp. 119-121.
  45. ^ Ponting 2006, pp. 89, 94.
  46. ^ Ponting 2006, p. 94.
  47. ^ "No. 21606". The London Gazette. 8 October 1854. p. 3050. and "No. 21606". The London Gazette. 8 October 1854. p. 3053.
  48. ^ Ffrench Blake 2006, pp. 169-170.
  49. ^ Ffrench Blake 2006, p. 82.
  50. ^ Warner 2001, pp. 75-79.
  51. ^ Ffrench Blake 2006, pp. 86-94, 98-101.
  52. ^ Raugh 2004, p. 187.
  53. ^ Warner 2001, pp. 150-152.
  54. ^ Richards 2006, p. 152.
  55. ^ Ffrench Blake 2006, pp. 143-144, 150-151.
  56. ^ Demchak 2011, p. 127.
  57. ^ Wyrall 1921a, pp. xi-xii.
  58. ^ Butler 1926, pp. 192-194.
  59. ^ Creswicke 1900a, p. 59.
  60. ^ Verner 1905, pp. 236-237.
  61. ^ Furse 1883, pp. 9-11.
  62. ^ "Memorandum Of The Secretary Of State Relating To The Army Estimates, 1887–8: Mobilization". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 19 December 1979. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  63. ^ Raugh 2004, p. 51.
  64. ^ Dunlop 1938, p. 72.
  65. ^ Creswicke 1900b, Chart of Staff Appointments Made at the Commencement of the War.
  66. ^ Kochanski 2013, p. 61.
  67. ^ "No. 27126". The London Gazette. 13 October 1899. p. 6179.
  68. ^ Kochanski 2013, p. 51.
  69. ^ Creswicke 1900b, p. 152.
  70. ^ Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War, p. 284
  71. ^ Creswicke, Louis (2019). South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 3 from the Battle of Colenso, 15 December 1899 to Lord Roberts's advance into the free state 12 February 1900. Alpha Editions. ISBN 978-9353708153.
  72. ^ Rinaldi, p. 30
  73. ^ Smith, Ted; Spagnoly, Tony (1998). Salient Points Two: Ypres Sector, 1914–18. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-0850526103.
  74. ^ a b "2nd Division". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  75. ^ Smart, p. 196
  76. ^ "No. 34928". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 August 1940. p. 5137.
  77. ^ "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow". The Times of India. 26 July 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  78. ^ "No. 36833". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 December 1944. p. 5673.
  79. ^ Luto, James (2013). Fighting with the Fourteenth Army in Burma: Original War Summaries of the Battle Against Japan 1943–1945. Pen and Sword. p. 8. ISBN 978-1783030316.
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  81. ^ a b Isby 1988, p. 336.
  82. ^ Speiser 2016, p. 1.
  83. ^ Rees 2013, p. 57.
  84. ^ "St. David's Barracks". BAOR locations. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  85. ^ "Tunis Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
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  87. ^ Taylor 2010, pp. 6–7.
  88. ^ Mason 1975, p. I-22.
  89. ^ Mason 1975, p. I-23.
  90. ^ Mason 1975, pp. III=8–9.
  91. ^ Dodd 1977, p. 373.
  92. ^ DeVore 2009, p. 279.
  93. ^ DeVore 2009, p. 282.
  94. ^ a b Kneen & Sutton 1996, p. 183.
  95. ^ a b c Dodd 1977, p. 374.
  96. ^ a b Lord & Watson 2003, p. 28.
  97. ^ Stone 1998, p. 225.
  98. ^ a b c d Horseman & Shaw 1983, p. 126.
  99. ^ Hansen 1970, p. 27.
  100. ^ "Baor Units (Ulster Service)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 19 December 1979. Archived from the original on 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  101. ^ a b Dodd 1977, p. 375.
  102. ^ DeVore 2009, pp. 281–282.
  103. ^ a b Stone 1998, p. 224.
  104. ^ Dodd 1977, p. 372.
  105. ^ Dodd 1977, p. 378.
  106. ^ a b Kneen & Sutton 1996, p. 185.
  107. ^ Stone 1998, p. 222.
  108. ^ Taylor 2010, p. 7.
  109. ^ Nott 1981, p. 17.
  110. ^ Blaker, Peter (1981). "1(BR) Corps, Written Answers (Commons), HC Deb 20 July 1981 vol 9 cc57-8W". House of Commons Library: Historic Hansard. Archived from the original on 11 November 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  111. ^ Sanders, T J, "Reconnaissance in the 2020s: An open letter to the author of our article in the May 1989 issue, from Brigadier T J Sanders CBE" Tank: The Journal of the Royal Tank Regiment, p. 8, (February 1990, Vol.72, No.711)
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Further reading

  • Latimer, Jon, (2004) Burma: The Forgotten War, London: John Murray, ISBN 0-7195-6576-6
  • Sale, Nigel (2014). Lie at the Heart of Waterloo: The Battle's Hidden Last Half Hour. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press. ISBN 978-0-75096-276-6.

External links

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