2nd Armoured Division (United Kingdom)
|2nd Armoured Division|
|Active||15 December 1939 – 10 May 1941
|Size||Second World War
340 tanks[nb 1]
|Engagements||North African Campaign|
The 2nd Armoured Division was a British Army formation during the Second World War; it was created on 15 December 1939 and disbanded on 10 May 1941, after most of the division was captured at Mechili in Libya by German and Italian forces.
This division had a short and unlucky history; formed in December 1939, it wasn't until the following month that it received any troops to command - when the 1st Light Armoured Brigade and the 22nd Heavy Armoured Brigade were assigned. Similarly, the 2nd Support Group was formed in February, but no troops were assigned until March. As the 1st Armoured Division had priority for equipment, the 2nd was forced to use whatever was available. The 1st Armoured Brigade, with its 150-odd Mk VI light tanks, was the most combat-ready element of the division during most of 1940. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was forced to make do with trucks and a few light tanks.
As the threat of invasion receded after the Battle of Britain, the division was reorganized and reinforced for service in the Middle East. It exchanged the 22nd Armoured Brigade for the 1st Armoured Division's veteran 3rd Armoured Brigade and then the brigades exchanged regiments to ensure that each had both cruisers and light tanks.
The following table lists tank strengths before departure in October 1940:
|169||Mk VI||52 each in KDG, 3rd Hussars, 4th Hussars, 4 with 1st RHA|
|6||A 9 CS||2nd Royal Tank Regiment|
|12||A 10 CS||6 each in 3rd and 5th RTR|
|74||A 10||Two squadrons in 2nd RTR, one squadron each in 3rd and 5th RTR|
|83||A 13||One squadron in 2nd RTR, two squadrons each in 3rd and 5th RTR|
In addition, both brigade headquarters (as well as the division headquarters) had three Mk VI light tanks and seven cruiser tanks (mainly A 10s). In October 1940, the division set sail for the Middle East, arriving in the new year. Two months later, the 'Hussars' converted to a three-battery anti-tank regiment, with one LAA battery re-equipping with 2pdrs and the other, 'A' Battery, transferring to the 25th LAA Regiment. Following the conversion, the regiment was unofficially considered to be a Royal Horse Artillery unit.
In early 1941, the division was sent to the Western Desert to reinforce troops under General Archibald Wavell, who, at the time, was on the verge of defeating the Italian forces.
Unaware that Germany had sent reinforcements to support the Italians in Cyrenaica, Wavell's superiors ordered him to send half his troops to Greece, including the 1st Armoured Brigade and elements from the 2nd Support Group. In April 1941, the 102nd Anti-Tank Regt RA (Northumberland Hussars), and other elements from the 2nd Support Group, joined the 1st Armoured Brigade for Operation Lustre (the move to Greece). At this time, the regiment had a strength of 578 men, 168 vehicles and 48 x 2pdrs.
After their arrival, 102 Anti-Tank Regiment was deployed to hold the Metamorphos Pass in conjunction with the Greek Horse Artillery. On 22 April, they were subjected to dive bombing and tank attacks. Together with their New Zealand allies, the 'Hussars' acted as a rearguard. After a 12-hour battle and a 160-mile march through the night, they reached Athens on 25 April. The next day, they headed off to the nearby Rafina Beach and waited to be evacuated, having by now, destroyed their guns and equipment. Most of the unit were taken aboard HMS Havoc on 27 April and landed at Suda on the island of Crete. However, some elements were evacuated to Alexandria.
In the desert
General Erwin Rommel's offensive forced Wavell's troops to retreat. On 8 April 1941, the understrength 2nd Armoured Division was caught in a pincer movement by the Italian 10th Bersaglieri Regiment, the 5th Light Division and the 15th Panzer Division - some elements escaped capture and were evacuated from Tobruk. On 10 May 1941, the division was officially disbanded and not reformed. The 2nd Armoured Division also had an RAMC Brigade, but World War II records identifying the unit number are currently unavailable.
Following re-organisation, 2nd Infantry Division was reformed as an armoured formation in I (BR) Corps in Germany from 1976 to 1983. In this incarnation, it had two armoured regiments, each nominally with 74 tanks, and three mechanised infantry battalions, and probably incorporated Task Force Charlie and Task Force Delta. Following further reorganisation in 1983, it was converted back into an infantry division.
General Officers Commanding
The 2nd Armoured Division had five General Officers Commanding during its Second World War existence, with the final officer being taken prisoner.
|Appointed||General Officer Commanding|
|15 December 1939||Major-General F.E. Hotblack|
|17 April 1940||Brigadier C.W.M. Norrie (acting)|
|10 May 1940||Major-General J.C. Tilly (Died on 5 January 1941)|
|16 January 1941||Brigadier H.B. Latham (acting)|
|12 February 1941||Major-General M.D. Gambier-Parry (captured on 8 April 1941)|
The Division had three General Officers Commanding during its existence in the late 1970s and early 1980s:
|Appointed||General Officer Commanding|
|1977||Major-General Frank Kitson|
|February 1978||Major-General Alexander Boswell|
|March 1980||Major-General Martin Farndale|
(On 8 April 1941 when it surrendered)
3rd Armoured Brigade
- 5th Royal Tank Regiment
- 6th Royal Tank Regiment
- 1st King's Dragoon Guards
- 3rd (The King's Own) Hussars
3rd Indian Motor Brigade
( 6 April 1941 - 8 April 1941 )
- 2nd Lancers (Gardner's Horse)
- 11th Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (Frontier Force)
- 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry
2nd Support Group
- 1st The Tower Hamlets Rifles, The Rifle Brigade
- 104th (Essex Yeomanry) Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery - (Until 4 April 1941)
- 102nd (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (1941)
- These two figures are the war establishment, the on-paper strength, of the division for 1940; for information on how armoured divisions changed over the war please see British Army during the Second World War and British Armoured formations of the Second World War.
- Joslen, p. 16
- Joslen, p. 129
- Joslen, p. 4
- Joslen, p. 216
- Hughes, et al., p. 35
- Joslen, pp. 16, 151, 168-9
- "2 Armoured Division". Orders of Battle.
- The Northumberland Hussars at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 19 December 2007)
- "Artillery Regiments That Served With The 7th Armoured Division". The History of the British 7th Armoured Division. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Operation Lustre aid to Greece - file ref WO 106/3132
- "Brief History: 1939 To 1946". Northumberland Hussars Association QOY web site.
- The Lost years, by RT Cochran
- Invalided out of the Army following accident in April 1940
- Army Commands
- Mackenzie (1951), p. 71
- 104 RHA (Essex Yeomanry) (TA)
- 102 (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment RA (TA)
- Cochran, Russell (1991). The Lost Years. Unpublished Autobiography of Russell T. Cochran
- Hughes, David; Broshot, James and Philson, Alan (1999). British Armoured and Cavalry Divisions. The British Armies in World War Two: An Organizational History One. George F. Nafziger.
- Joslen, Lieutenant-Colonel H.F (1960) . Orders Of Battle Second World War 1939-1945. Naval & Military Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1.
- Latimer, Jon (2001). Tobruk 1941; Rommel's Opening Move. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.
- MacKenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic. London: Chatto & Windus.
- 2 Armoured Division at Orders of Battle.com