15th (Scottish) Infantry Division

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15th (Scottish) Division
British 15th (Scottish) Division Insignia.png
Active 1914–1919
1939–1946
Country United Kingdom
Type Infantry
Engagements Battle of Loos
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Pozieres
Battle of Flers-Courcelette
Third Battle of Ypres
Operation Overlord
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Frederick McCracken(1915–1917)
Oliver Leese (30 Jan 1941 – 17 Jun 1941)
Philip Christison (17 Jun 1941 – 14May1942)
D C Bullen-Smith (14 May 1942 – 14 Aug 1943)
Gordon Holmes MacMillan (27 Aug 1943 – 5 Aug 1944)
Colin Muir Barber (5 Aug 1944–1945)

The 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army that served with distinction in both the First and Second World War. In the Great War the division was formed as part of Kitchener's New Armies and served on the Western Front for three years and was disbanded after the war in 1919. In World War II it was reformed on 2 September 1939, the day before war was declared, as part of the Territorial Army and served in North-West Europe from 1944 to 1945.

First World War[edit]

The division was a New Army unit formed in September 1914 as part of the K2 Army Group. The division moved to France in July 1915 and spent the duration of the First World War in action on the Western Front. The division fought in the Battle of Loos, the Battle of the Somme (1916) which included the battles of Pozieres and Flers-Courcelette, and the Third Battle of Ypres.

44th Brigade[edit]

  • 8th (Service) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (until January 1915)
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (merged with 8th Gordon Highlanders May 1916)
  • 8/10th (Service) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (from May 1916 until June 1918)
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Black Watch (until February 1918)
  • 4/5th Battalion, Black Watch (from June 1918)
  • 1/5th (Buchan and Formartine) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (from June 1918)
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders (from January 1915 until June 1918)

In May 1916 the 8th and 10th Battalions of the Gordon Highlanders merged to form the 8/10th Battalion.

45th Brigade[edit]

The 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers was an original member of the brigade. It merged with the 6th Battalion in May 1916 to form the 6/7th Battalion.

46th Brigade[edit]

  • 10th (Service) Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
  • 12th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (until February 1918)
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (merged with the 8th Battalion, May 1916)
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (merged with the 7th Battalion, May 1916)
  • 1/4th (Ross Highland) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders (from November 1915 until January 1916)
  • 1/4th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (from November 1915 until February 1916)
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Black Watch (from February 1918 until May 1918)
  • 1/9th (Highlanders) Battalion, Royal Scots (from June 1918)
  • 10/11th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (from May 1916 until February 1918)

In May 1916 the 7th and 8th Battalions of the King's Own Scottish Borderers merged to form the 7/8th Battalion.

Second World War[edit]

In mid 1939 the Territorial Army was ordered to be doubled in size as a result of another European conflict with Germany being deemed by many in Britain as inevitable. The 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was subsequently reformed in the Territorial Army as the 2nd Line duplicate of the 52nd (Lowland) Division. The 15th Division served in the Second World War, where, among other actions, it was part of VIII Corps under Lieutenant-General Sir Richard O'Connor in the Battle of Normandy and it ended the war on the Elbe River. From late 1944 to the end of the war the division was commanded by Major-General Colin Barber, the tallest officer of the British Army, at 6 ft 9 inch and ironically nicknamed "Tiny".

Order of Battle World War II[edit]

The division comprised the following formations and units during the war:[1]

44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade[edit]

45th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(until 5 January 1943)

46th (Highland) Infantry Brigade[edit]

227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade[edit]

(from 14 July 1943)

6th Guards Tank Brigade[edit]

(4 January to 9 September 1943)

Royal Artillery[edit]

Supporting units[edit]

Operation Epsom[edit]

Men of the 8th Royal Scots move forward past a Humber Scout car of 31st Tank Brigade during Operation Epsom, 28 June 1944.

After spending many years training in the United Kingdom, the 15th Division landed in Normandy, soon after the initial D-Day landings, in mid June 1944 and immediatelty took part in Operation Epsom. Epsom was an attack by the British Army that was intended to outflank and seize Caen in France during the Battle of Normandy during the Second World War. It did not achieve its overall objective but forced the German Army to abandon their offensive plans and tied most of their armoured units to a defensive role.

To be certain of anticipating any German attack Epsom was launched on 26 June. Although held up on parts of the front by infantry of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, the 15th (Scottish) Division and the 31st Armoured Brigade gained four miles on their left flank. Further to their left the 43rd (Wessex) Division also gained ground.[3]

On 27 June, after repulsing small armoured counter-attacks, the 15th (Scottish) Division gained more ground and captured a bridge over the River Odon. The 11th Armoured Division passed through to capture Hill 112, a mile to the southeast. This deep penetration alarmed the German command and General Hausser was ordered to commit his units to contain and eliminate the Allied salient. German armoured counter-attacks from 27 June–1 July were repulsed and the foothold over the Odon was consolidated. German losses, particularly of armoured vehicles meant that the possibility of a German counter-offensive was eliminated and held the bulk of the remaining German armour in Normandy in the east around Caen, while American troops further west captured Cherbourg.[4]

Hill 112, Operation Jupiter[edit]

The British forces included the men of the 15th Scottish Division, 11th Armoured Division, 43rd (Wessex) Division and 53rd (Welsh) Division. Principal among the units fighting on Hill 112, and the tanks of 7th and 9th Royal Tank Regiments, plus numerous other units. Approximately 63,000 men over a period of seven weeks fought on and around Hill 112.

The first battle for Hill 112 was fought at the end of Operation Epsom, when the tanks of 11th Armoured Division broke out from a bridgehead established by the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Tourmauville. Hill 112 was only an intermediate objective on the way to the Orne River crossings but such was the German reaction that the 23rd Hussars were only able to capture and hold the hill with difficulty.

The main attack on Hill 112 was strategically designed to FIX the German panzers and tactically to gain 'elbow room' in what was still a tight beachhead. The German defenders survived naval bombardment, air attack and artillery fire but held their ground, crucially supported by Tiger tanks from the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. These mighty tanks armed with the 88 mm gun had both greater protection and firepower and outclassed the opposing British Churchill tank and Sherman tank.

Even though the hill was not captured and was left as a no-man's-land between the two armies, important surrounding villages had been taken. Above all, however, the 9th Hohenstaufen SS Panzer Division, which had been in the process of moving out of the line to form an operational reserve, was brought back to contain the British. Therefore, on the strategic level Operation JUPITER was a significant success.

It was not until American troops eventually started to break out from the Normandy lodgement, as Operation Cobra developed momentum, in August 1944, that the Germans withdrew from Hill 112 and the 53rd Welsh Division occupied the feature, with barely a fight. Casualties during that period amounted to approximately 25,000 British troops and 500 British tanks.

Operations Bluecoat and Enterprise[edit]

A motorcycle and infantry of the 2nd Glasgow Highlanders, 46th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, advance along a lane near Caumont, 30 July 1944.

Operation Bluecoat was an attack by the British Second Army in the Battle of Normandy, from 30 July 1944 to 7 August 1944. The objectives of the attack were to secure the key road junction of Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon. Strategically, the attack was made to support the American exploitation of their breakout on the western flank of the Normandy beachhead. Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey, Second Army Commander, was switched westward towards Villers-Bocage adjacent to the American army. Originally, Dempsey planned to attack on 2 August, but the speed of events on the American front forced him to advance the date.

Initially, only two weak German infantry divisions held the intended attack frontage, south and east of Caumont, although they had laid extensive minefields and constructed substantial defences. They also occupied ideal terrain for defence, the bocage.

They fought virtually continuously from then on through Caumont, the Seine Crossing, the Gheel Bridgehead, Best, Tilburg, Meijel, Blerwick, Broekhuizen, the Maas and across the Rhine.

The particular distinction for the 15th Scottish was to be selected to lead the last set piece river crossing of the war, the assault across the Elbe (Operation Enterprise) on 29 April 1945 spearheaded by Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts 1st Commando Brigade, after which they fought on to the Baltic occupying both Lübeck and Kiel. They were the only division of the British Army in World War II to be involved in three of the six major European river assault crossings; the Seine, the Rhine and the Elbe.

On 10 April 1946 the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was finally disbanded. Its battle casualties – killed, wounded and missing – in nearly twelve months of fighting were 11,772 with well over 1,500 men killed.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Joslen, pp. 58–9.
  2. ^ Neal.
  3. ^ McLeod, Toby. "Operation Epsom, Baron-sur-Odon and the Battle for Hill 112". WR2000: The Battle for Normandy 1944. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  4. ^ Ellis et al 1962, p. 277-297.

References[edit]

  • Ellis, Major L.F.; with Allen R.N., Captain G.R.G. Allen; Warhurst, Lieutenant-Colonel A.E. & Robb, Air Chief-Marshal Sir James (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO, 1962]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. Victory in the West, Volume I: The Battle of Normandy. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, East Sussex: Naval & Military Press Ltd. ISBN 1-84574-058-0. OCLC 276814706. 
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1-843424-74-6.
  • Don Neal, Guns and Bugles: The Story of the 6th Bn KSLI – 181st Field Regiment RA 1940–1946, Studley: Brewin, 2001, ISBN 1-85858-192-3.

External links[edit]