23rd Division (United Kingdom)

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For the equivalent formation in World War II, see 23rd (Northumbrian) Division.
23rd Division
British 23rd Division insignia.png
Active World War I
September 1914 – March 1919
Country United Kingdom
Branch New Army
Type Infantry
Engagements Battle of the Somme
Battle of Albert
Battle of Bazentin Ridge
Battle of Pozières
Battle of Flers–Courcelette
Battle of Morval
Battle of Le Transloy
Battle of Messines
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Vittorio Veneto

The 23rd Division was an infantry division of the British Army raised in 1914 in the Great War as part of Kitchener's Army. The division was sent to France in August 1915 under the command of Major-General Sir James Melville Babington C.B. C.M.G.. During the war the division fought on the Western Front until October 1917 when it moved to the Italian Front.

Unit History[edit]


The division formed part of Kitchener's third New Army, with concentration of units beginning on 16 September, the 68th Brigade at Bullswater and the 69th and 70th brigades, together with Royal Engineers companies at Frensham.[1] It was commanded by Maj. Gen. James Melville Babington, who was at first hampered by a lack of clerks, a means of communicating orders, other than verbally and cooks. Together with other New Army divisions, uniforms of any description were not received until mid October, by which time many of the civilian clothes the men wore were reduced to rags.[2] Division artillery began to be formed in early November. Initial weapons training was carried out with small numbers of Lee-Metford rifles and French 90mm guns.[3] The division was concentrated at Aldershot in January 1915, where the division train was formed. Khaki uniforms were received at the end of February and the division moved to the Shorncliffe area in March and continued training.[4] In May the division moved to Borden where 18 pounders and 4.5 inch howitzers were issued to the division artillery and in June the Infantry received its rifles.[5] On 16 August the division was inspected by the King and next day received its orders for embarkation.[6]

Order of Battle[edit]

The following units served in the Division.[7]

68th Brigade
'69th Brigade 
70th Brigade 

Between October 1915 and July 1916 the brigade transferred to the 8th Division, swapping with the 24th Brigade.

24th Brigade

Between October 1915 and July 1916 the brigade joined from the 8th Division, replacing the 70th Brigade.

Machine Gunners 
  • 68th Machine Gun Company (from 3 March 1916)
  • 70th Machine Gun Company (from 3 March 1916)
  • 71st Machine Gun Company (from 15 July 1916)
  • 194th Machine Gun Company (from 16 December 1916)

Reorganised into the 23rd Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps in April 1918.

  • 102nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
  • 103rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
  • 104th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (left February 1917)
  • 105th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (broken up 3 September 1916)
  • X/23 Trench Mortar Battery (joined from Corps early 1916)
  • Y/23 Trench Mortar Battery (joined from Corps early 1916)
  • Z/23 Trench Mortar Battery (formed from Division artillery March 1916, disbanded September 1917)
  • V/23 Trench Mortar Battery (formed from Division artillery March 1916, broken up March 1918)
  • 101st Field Company, R.E.
  • 102nd Field Company, R.E.
  • 128th Field Company, R.E.
  • 69th Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C.
  • 70th Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C.
  • 71st Field Ambulance, R.A.M.C.
Division Troops
  • 23rd Divisional Ammunition Column
  • 23rd Divisional Signal Company
  • 23rd Divisional Train
    • 190th – 193rd Companies, A.S.C.
  • 35th Mobile Veterinary Section
  • 223rd Division Employment Company (formed June 1917)



Between 1915 and 1918 the officers and men of the division won the following:[8]

Victoria Cross 9
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath 1
Companion of the Order of the Bath 3
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George 1
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George 18
Distinguished Service Order 105 (including 16 bars)
Officer of the Order of the British Empire (military) 19
Member of the Order of the British Empire 31
Military Cross 464 (including 38 bars and 2 second bars)
Distinguished Conduct Medal 279 (including 9 bars and 1 second bar)
Military Medal 1907 (including 106 bars and 3 second bars)
Meritorious Service Medal 154

Related formation[edit]

The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 1st Line 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division that was formed shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War and was disbanded in July 1940 after suffering heavy losses in the Battle of Dunkirk.


  1. ^ Sandilands p. 6
  2. ^ Sandilands p. 7
  3. ^ Sandilands pp. 9, 12
  4. ^ Sandilands p. 14
  5. ^ Sandilands pp. 16–17
  6. ^ Sandilands p. 18
  7. ^ Sandilands 1925, pp. 349–351.
  8. ^ Sandilands 1925, p. 361.

See also[edit]


  • Sandilands, H. R. (1925). The 23rd Division 1914–1919 (N & M Press 2003 ed.). Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood. ISBN 1-84342-641-2. 

External links[edit]