42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division

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East Lancashire Division

42nd (East Lancashire) Division
42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division
42nd Armoured Division

42nd (Lancashire) Division
British 42nd (East Lancashire) Division Insignia.png
Active 1908–1918/9, 1920–1941, 1947–61
Branch Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Motto Go One Better[1]
Engagements Battle of Gallipoli
* Second Battle of Krithia
* Third Battle of Krithia
* Battle of Krithia Vineyard
Battle of Romani
Third Battle of Ypres
First Battle of the Somme (1918)
* First Battle of Bapaume
Second Battle of the Somme (1918)
* Battle of Albert (1918)
* Second Battle of Bapaume
Battle of the Canal du Nord
Battle of the Selle
A Solly-Flood

The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division was a Territorial Force division of the British Army. Originally called the East Lancashire Division, it was redesignated as the 42nd Division on 25 May 1915.[2] It was the first Territorial division to be sent overseas during the First World War. The division fought at Gallipoli, in the Sinai desert and on the Western Front in France and Belgium. In World War II it served as the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division with the British Expeditionary Force in France, was then reformed in Britain in November 1941 as the 42nd Armoured Division which was disbanded in October 1943 without serving overseas.

The division was reformed in the Territorial Army after the Second World War. Beckett 2008 says that TA units that were in suspended animation were formally reactivated on 1 January 1947, though no personnel were assigned until commanding officers and permanent staff had been appointed in March and April 1947.[3] From December 1955, the division was placed on a lower establishment, for home defence purposes only.[4] On 1 May 1961 the division was merged with North West District to become 42nd Lancashire Division/North West District.[5]

First World War[edit]

The division was embodied upon the outbreak of war. The war station was intended to be Ireland, but due to its pacific state, the intended move did not materialise. After a brief period at their drill halls, the various units proceeded to large tented camps at Turton Bottoms (near Bolton), Chesham (near Bury) and Holingworth Lake, Littleborough (near Rochdale). The personnel were asked to volunteer for overseas service, and the overwhelming majority did so, the deficiences made up of men from the National Reserve and other re-enlistments. The 'home service' men formed the cadre of duplicate units, intended to train the rush of volunteers at the drill halls. These would form the divisional reserve.

In 1914 the East Lancashire Division was one of fourteen infantry divisions and fifty–three mounted regiments called the Yeomanry which made up the Territorial Force. Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, described these divisions and regiments of mainly white–collar workers as "a town clerk's army." Their junior officers were trained at the Officer Training Corps set up at the universities and large public schools such as Eton and Harrow and Kitchener sent these forces to the peripheral campaigns; to the Sudan, Mesopotamia, Egypt, to the Caucasus to release Regular British Army soldiers for duty on the Western Front because he thought these amateur soldiers 'might not be able to hold their own with the German Army.'[6]


Suez Canal zone and Sinai, WWI

The East Lancashire Division arrived in Egypt on 25 September 1914 and served in the interior, around Cairo (with some elements stationed in Cyprus and the Sudan) together with some Yeomanry units, and the Australian and New Zealand contingents before going to Gallipoli.[7]

The division was sent to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal against anticipated Turkish attacks. The 15 pounder gun batteries were deployed at key points on the west bank in support of Indian Army and New Zealand troops manning guardposts. The 20th Battery (Bolton Artillery) fired the Division's first artillery rounds of the Great War, and the first of the Territorial Force of the campaign, near El Ferdan on 2 February 1915.[8] The 19th Battery (Bolton Artillery) was in action in support of Indian and New Zealand troops between Tussum and Serapeum on the night and morning of 3–4 February 1915, against the attempted crossing of the canal by the 74th Regiment, Turkish 25th Division.[9]


A boat carrying Lancashire Fusiliers, bound for Gallipoli. Photo by Ernest Brooks.
Area of operations of 42nd Division on Gallipoli

Beginning in early May 1915 the division joined the British Army Corps, from June known as VIII Corps, at Cape Helles following the failure of the Allies to achieve the anticipated swift success at Gallipoli during April.

The 4th (Blackburn) battery, 1 section of the 6th (Burnley) battery, and 19th and 20th (Bolton) batteries did not join the division on Gallipoli until 23/24 September, and the 1st/2nd East Lancs Brigade RFA (Manchester Artillery) arrived in Egypt in May from Britain and remained in Egypt.[10]

The 125th Brigade landed in time to participate in the Second Battle of Krithia on 6 May. The 126th Brigade arrived on 11 May. The entire division was involved in the Third Battle of Krithia on 4 June.

The division carried out the Helles diversion at the start of the Battle of Sari Bair in what became known as the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. Captain William Thomas Forshaw of the 1/9th Manchesters was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in this battle from 7 to 9 August.

Second Lieutenant Alfred Victor Smith of the 1/5th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his action at Helles on 23 December.

The division remained at Gallipoli until the final evacuation of Helles in January 1916 but was severely depleted by casualties and illness.

42nd Division's casualties at Gallipoli were 395 officers and 8152 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.[11]

Egypt and the Sinai Campaign[edit]

After the evacuation of Gallipoli, the division returned to Egypt, and was renamed the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division.[12] As such the participated in the Battle of Romani and the advance from Romani to Katia.

The 42nd Division served at Kantara on the Suez Canal in No. 3 Section of the Suez Canal Defences under General Lawrence until they were entrained for railhead at Pelusium on the first day of the Battle of Romani 4 August 1916.[13][14][15]

Map of Romani Battlefield

On arrival late in the day, the 127th Brigade of the 42nd Division took over outpost duties at 1930 hours while the New Zealand Mounted Rifle and 5th Mounted Yeomanry Brigades, which had been heavily involved in fighting during the day, withdrew to water and rest at Pelusium.[16][17]

On the second day of battle, 5 August 1916, the 42nd Division along with the 52nd (Lowland) Division which had fought the previous day from their entrenched position, were ordered to move out to support the Australian Light Horse and New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigades in a pursuit of the enemy.[18][19] The 42nd Division was not prepared for the conditions they found in the Sinai desert. They had not been trained to operate in heavy sand in mid summer heat, and with insufficient water, extreme distress and tragedy followed. The mounted troops alone, were unable to stop the enemy making a disciplined withdrawal to water at Katia and to fall back in good order, the following day.[20][21][22][23]

The 127th Brigade, 42nd Division eventually reached Katia the next day, 6 August; 800 men had died in the two–day march from Pelusium Station. The 125th Brigade of the 42nd Division and the 155th, and 157th Brigades of the 52nd Division also had many men fall victim to thirst and the blazing sun; the infantry pursuit could not go on.[24][25][26]

Robert Bethel, Army Service Corps, and McPherson, an officer in the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps, worked to transport provisions and water to the 125th and 127th Brigades. They recorded what they saw of these terrible days.[27][28] Nearly fifty years after serving with the 42nd Division in the Sinai, one veteran, gunner J. Thompson, confessed that the "sight of a leaking tap" made him "squirm."[29]

By December 1916, the 42nd Division was furnishing units to protect the lines of communication at Salmana, Abu Tilul and the railway station Maadan and took part in a practice attack on 13 December. On 21 December 42nd and 52nd Divisions marched from Kilo 128 to Bardawil and continued to move eastwards towards Masaid.[30]

On 17 January 1917, the 42nd Division was no longer in the Sinai Campaign having been among the first of the Territorial Force to receive orders for the Western Front. The division was replaced in Desert Column by another Territorial Division, the 53rd (Welsh) Division commanded by Dallas. The two other Territorial infantry divisions; the 52nd at Rafa and the 54th (East Anglian) Division ordered out to Romani from the Suez Canal, were put directly under General Dobell commander of Eastern Force.[31][32][33] The 42nd Division departed Egypt early in February 1917.[34]

Western Front[edit]

42nd Division 8 April – 22 August 1917, and 23 March – 11 November 1918

In March 1917 the division moved to France and joined 3 Corps in Fourth Army.

Area of 42nd Division's operations near Ypres, 23 August – 29 September 1917
  • 23 August – 1 September 1917 : Joined 5 Corps in Fifth Army. Infantry in Poperinghe area behind Ypres for training.
    Divisional artillery entered line immediately in support of 15th Division near Potijze Chateau.
  • 1–18 September 1917 : Ypres. Infantry relieved 15th Division in the line to the right of Potijze Road near Frezenberg Ridge. On 6 September 125 Brigade made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the fortified Iberian, Borry and Beck Farms. (Third Battle of Ypres)
  • 18 September 1917 : Infantry relieved by 9th Division and retired to Poperinghe area.
    Divisional artillery remained in the Line until 29 September, participated in heavy fighting from 20 September and advanced to exposed positions on Frezenberg Ridge on 25 September. (Battle of the Menin Road Ridge)
  • 26 September – November 1917 : Relieved 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division. Divisional artillery rejoined. Held line at Nieuport
Trench message dog of 10th Manchesters waits while message is written, Cuinchy, 26 January 1918
Men of the 4th East Lancs at a sap-head, Givenchy, 28 January 1918
Positions on 5 April 1918
  • 26 March 1918 : Retired ErvillersBucquoy. Together the 42nd and 62nd Division held the Rossignol Wood – Bucquoy sector under heavy shelling against 6 attacks by the German 3rd Guards Infantry Division, the last with assistance of 11 Mk. IV tanks.[36]
  • 27 March – 5 April 1918 : Held line until end of final German assault on 5 April at Bucquoy.
Bucquoy Crossroads, held by 125 Brigade in heavy fighting on 5 April 1918
Graves of 42nd Division's fallen in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line, near Bilhem Farm, Trescault – Ribecourt Road, photographed in 1919 (Today known as Ribecourt Road Cemetery)
42nd Division's attack through the Hindenburg Line 27/28 September 1918
Trench in the Hindenburg Line near Havrincourt taken by 42nd Division
  • 27–28 September 1918 : Attacked and advanced Havrincourt Wood through the Siegfried Stellung section of the Hindenburg Line via successive planned objectives denoted Black, Red, Brown, Yellow, Blue Lines, to Welsh Ridge. The Hindenburg Line was attacked in enfilade, or diagonally, as can be seen from the map. Many casualties were sustained from machine guns situated in Beaucamps to the right of the Division's front. (Battle of the Canal du Nord)
  • 29 September – 8 October 1918 : Infantry relieved by New Zealand Division and withdrew to Havrincourt Wood for rest.
    Divisional artillery remained in action in support of the New Zealand Division in the Pursuit to the Selle
  • 9–12 October 1918 : Infantry marched up to the front through Lesdain, Esnes, Beauvois and relieved New Zealand Division, who had established a bridgehead across the River Selle at Briastre.
  • 12–23 October 1918 : Defended Briastre against heavy German counterattacks and shelling. Advanced across River Selle to Marou, Virtigneul and Belle Vue Farm (Battle of the Selle).
    Private Alfred Robert Wilkinson of the 1/5th Manchesters was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions on 20 October at Marou. The Division's opponent in these actions was the German 25th Division.[37]
  • 24 October – 3 November 1918 : Relieved by New Zealand Division. Withdrew to Beauvois for rest.
  • 3–6 November 1918 : Moved up though Le Quesnoy and Forest of Mormal in support of the advance of 37th and New Zealand Divisions.
  • 6–9 November 1918 : Relieved New Zealand Division in line of attack on eastern edge of Forest of Mormal. Attacked and advanced to Hautmont in the Arrondissement of Avesnes-sur-Helpe.
  • 11 November 1918 : Stood fast on line MaubeugeAvesnes-sur-Helpe Road

First World War battles[edit]

First World War composition[edit]

The infantry were equipped with the obsolescent Long Magazine Lee-Enfield (MLE) rifle from embarkation in 1914 until arrival in France in March 1917, when they were re-equipped with the standard modern Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE).[38]


The division comprised three infantry brigades:

125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade[39]

  • 1/5th Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers from Bury, outlying detachments at Radcliffe and Heywood.
  • 1/6th Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers from Rochdale, outlying detachments at Middleton and Todmorden.
Disbanded February 1918. Men transferred within 42nd Division and to 66th Division.
  • 1/7th Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers from Salford
  • 1/8th Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers from Salford

126th (East Lancashire) Brigade

Disbanded February 1918. Men transferred within 42nd Division and to 66th Division.
Disbanded February 1918. Men transferred within 42nd Division and to 66th Division.
  • 1/10th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment from Oldham
  • 1/8th (Ardwick) Battalion, The Manchester Regiment
Transferred from 127th Brigade February 1918.

127th (Manchester) Brigade[40]

  • 1/5th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment from Wigan, outlying detachments at Haydock, Atherton, Patricroft, and Swinton.
  • 1/6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment from Manchester and suburbs including Cheshire
  • 1/7th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment from Manchester and suburbs including Cheshire
  • 1/8th (Ardwick) Battalion, The Manchester Regiment from Ardwick and East Manchester
Transferred to 126th Brigade February 1918.

Pioneers and Cavalry[edit]

Joined the 42nd Division from 50th Division on 12 February 1918 near Bethune after being converted from an infantry battalion.[41] 3 companies
Did not proceed to Gallipoli; remained in Egypt and fought in the Western Desert expedition against the Senussi. Rejoined 42nd Division after it returned to Egypt from Gallipoli. Transferred to 53rd Division January 1917 and fought at Gaza, then served with 60th and 52nd Divisions in Palestine and Syria.

Divisional Artillery[edit]

Originally each of the field gun batteries was equipped with four obsolescent BLC 15 pounder field guns (referred to somewhat inaccurately by Ian Hamilton as "relics of South Africa"[42]). They were replaced on 29 February 1916 with modern QF 18 pounder guns handed over by 29th Division in Egypt.[43]

  • 1st East Lancs Brigade R.F.A. (Blackburn Artillery)
    Renamed 210 Brigade 6 May 1916[43]
    • 4th Lancashire Battery from Blackburn. Renamed A Battery 6 May 1916.
    • 5th Lancashire Battery from Church. Renamed B Battery 6 May 1916.
    • 6th Lancashire Battery from Burnley. Renamed C Battery 6 May 1916.
  • 2nd East Lancs Brigade R.F.A. (Manchester Artillery)
    Arrived Egypt May 1915, did not go to Gallipoli.
    Renamed 211 Brigade 29 May 1916[43]
    • 15th Lancashire Battery from Manchester. Renamed A Battery 29 May 1916.
    • 16th Lancashire Battery from Manchester. Renamed B Battery 29 May 1916.
    • 17th Lancashire Battery from Manchester. Renamed C Battery 29 May 1916.
  • 3rd East Lancs Brigade R.F.A. (Bolton Artillery)
    Renamed 212 Brigade 29 May 1916[43]
    • 18th Lancashire Battery from Bolton and district. Renamed A Battery 29 May 1916.
    • 19th Lancashire Battery from Bolton and district. Renamed B Battery 29 May 1916.
    • 20th Lancashire Battery from Bolton and district. Renamed C Battery 29 May 1916.
  • 4th East Lancs (Howitzer) Brigade R.F.A. (Cumberland Artillery)
    Originally each of the 2 batteries was equipped with 4 obsolescent BL 5 inch Howitzers ("some of them Omdurman veterans"[42][44]).
    Joined Division on Gallipoli in July 1915 from Egypt. However, only limited supplies of the new 40 pound 5-inch shells were sent from Mudros (older shells were 50 pounds). No range tables for the lighter and hence longer-range shell were available, and they had a new pattern fuse for which no fuse keys were available. Hence use of these howitzers on Gallipoli became very limited.[44]
    Renamed 213 Brigade in May 1916.
    Re-equipped in June 1916 with modern QF 4.5 inch Howitzers.[45]
    • 1st Cumberland (Howitzer) Battery from Carlisle. Renamed A Battery May 1916.
    • 2nd Cumberland (Howitzer) Battery from Workington. Renamed B Battery May 1916.

1917 field artillery reorganization[edit]

In February 1917 the Cumberland Artillery / 213 Brigade was disbanded and its two howitzer batteries merged into the 18-pounder brigades in accordance with the new artillery brigade philosophy. Existing four-gun, 18-pounder batteries in each of 210, 211 and 212 Brigades were merged into six-gun batteries, and the four brigades replaced by new 210 and 211 Brigades each with 3 six-gun, 18-pounder batteries and one howitzer battery.

Gibbon's divisional history states that the above occurred on paper on Christmas Day 1916, when the division was on manoeuvres at Al Mazar, and the reorganization actually occurred in February 1917 on return to the canal zone.[46]

Hence from February 1917 to 11 November 1918 the divisional artillery consisted of 210 and 211 Brigades, each with 3 six-gun batteries of 18-pounders (A,B,C) and one battery of four 4.5-inch howitzers (D).

Trench mortar batteries[edit]

  • V/42 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery. Formed in France March 1917
    Equipped with 4 9.45 inch Heavy Mortars. Part of Divisional Artillery until 15 February 1918 when it remained in La Bassée sector under Corps command when the Division departed.
  • Medium Trench Mortar Batteries. Formed in France March 1917
    Initially 3 batteries, each equipped with 4 Newton 6 inch Mortars, and 2 batteries of 6 from February 1918, following the disbanding of Z Battery. Part of Divisional Artillery
    • X/42 Battery
    • Y/42 Battery
    • Z/42 Battery. Broken up February 1918. Redistributed to X and Y Batteries.
  • Light Trench Mortar Batteries. Formed in France March 1917. Equipped with the 3 inch Stokes Mortar. Attached to the 3 infantry brigades and named after them.

42 Battalion Machine Gun Corps[edit]

Formed 23 February 1918 from the previous four separate companies. One company was attached to each of the three infantry brigades and one company in Divisional Reserve.

Royal Engineers[edit]

  • 1st East Lancashire Field Company renamed 427 Field Company February 1917
  • 2nd East Lancashire Field Company renamed 428 Field Company February 1917
  • 3rd East Lancashire Field Company joined Division June 1916 in Egypt. Renamed 429 Field Company February 1917
  • 42nd Division Signal Company. See: Major I G Kelly, 42 Squadron History World War One (external link)

Combat Service Support[edit]

  • Army Service Corps: 3 Companies
  • Transport and Supply Column ASC. Left and joined 53d Division in March 1917 and served in the operations against Gaza, then joined 74th Division. A new Divisional Train was formed in England and joined the 42nd Division in France after previously serving in France with the 3rd (Lahore) Division.
A surgery of one of the division's field ambulances. A surgeon removes a bullet from a soldier wounded during fighting at Cape Helles. Photo by Ernest Brooks.
  • 1/1st East Lancashire Field Ambulance attached to 127 Brigade
  • 1/2nd East Lancashire Field Ambulance did not proceed to Gallipoli; attached to 126 Brigade
  • 1/3rd East Lancashire Field Ambulance; attached to 125 Brigade
  • 19th Mobile Veterinary Section
  • 239th Divisional Employment Company

Second World War[edit]

The division was deployed as part of the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of France. After the evacuation of Dunkirk the Division was regrouped but then reorganised as 42nd Armoured Division on 1 November 1941. It was later disbanded on 17 October 1943 without seeing action as an armoured formation. The name of the division was later used for the purpose of military deception.[47]

Post 1945[edit]

In 1947, the 42nd and 55th Divisions were amalgamated to form the 42nd (Lancashire) Division as part of the post-war Territorial Army but this was disbanded by 1968 with changes to the Territorial Army structure.[48]

In the modern British Army the 42 North West Brigade has adopted the former 42nd (Lancashire) Division badge.

Memorials and Monuments[edit]

The 42nd Division Memorial stands on the north edge of Trescault village (Multimap external link) on the left of the road to Havrincourt. It was unveiled by Major-General Solly-Flood on Easter Sunday, 1922.

The inscription reads: "In memory of all ranks of the 42nd East Lancashire Territorial Division who gave their lives for King and Country during the Great War and in commemoration of the attack and capture of the Hindenburg line at Trescault by the Division on 28 September 1918"

On the north-east side of Trescault, 274 metres to the east of the monument, is Ribecourt Road Cemetery, which the 42nd Division called the Divisional Cemetery, Trescault.

Further details and photographs can be found on the World War One Battlefields: Cambrai page (external link).

There is also a memorial at Bucquoy, France.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The motto "Go One Better" was bestowed on the division by its commander Major-General A. Solly-Flood on 1 March 1918, as part of his address to the officers and N.C.O.s in anticipation of the German Spring Offensive. Gibbon 1920, page 125
  2. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 33
  3. ^ Beckett 2008, 169.
  4. ^ Beckett 2008, 180.
  5. ^ Beckett 2008, 183, 185, and regiments.org (archive), Lancashire District and North West District, 1905–1995.
  6. ^ David R. Woodward, Hell in the Holy Land World War I in the Middle East (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006) pp. 2–3
  7. ^ Powles, C. Guy, The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine Volume III Official History New Zealand's Effort in the Great War (Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, 1922) p. viii; Field Marshal Earl Wavell, The Palestine Campaigns 3rd Edition thirteenth Printing Series: A Short History of the British Army 4th Edition by Major E.W. Sheppard (London: Constable & Co., 1968) p. 27
  8. ^ Farndale 1988, page 5
  9. ^ Bean, page 156-162. See map of positions page 156
  10. ^ Farndale 1988, page 39
  11. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 62
  12. ^ Baker, Chris. "42nd (East Lancashire) Division". The Long Long Trail. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  13. ^ Bruce 2002, p. 43
  14. ^ Hill 1978, p. 74
  15. ^ Kinloch 2007, p. 81
  16. ^ Powles 1922, pp. 32–3
  17. ^ Keogh 1955, p. 53
  18. ^ Powles 1922, p. 35
  19. ^ Keogh 1955, p. 54
  20. ^ Powles 1922, pp. 33–4
  21. ^ Bruce 2002, p. 46 & 47
  22. ^ Carver 2003, pp. 190–1
  23. ^ Keogh 1955, p. 55
  24. ^ Woodward 2006, pp. 48–9
  25. ^ Keogh 1955, pp. 55–6
  26. ^ Bruce 2002, p. 47
  27. ^ Bethel Papers, The National Army Museum 1994-10-56-2 in Carver 2003, pp. 191–2
  28. ^ McPherson MSS 80/25/1; War letter 105, Vol. 11, Imperial War Museum in Woodward 2006, pp. 48–9
  29. ^ Woodward 2006, p. 52
  30. ^ Anzac Mounted Division War Diary AWM4-1-60-10 pages 13, 18 & 23
  31. ^ Powles 1922, p. 85
  32. ^ Keogh 1955, p. 78 & 84
  33. ^ Woodward 2006, p. 20
  34. ^ Bruce 2002, p. 89
  35. ^ Gray 2002, page 57
  36. ^ Gray 2002, page 62
  37. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 180
  38. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 86-87
  39. ^ Fusiliers' Museum, Lancashire
  40. ^ Museum of The Manchester Regiment. History Territorial Force 1914 – 1919
  41. ^ Captain Francis Buckley, Extract from "War History of The Seventh Northumberland Fusiliers"[dead link]
  42. ^ a b Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary Volume I 1920
  43. ^ a b c d Farndale 1988, page 71
  44. ^ a b Simpson-Baikie 1920
  45. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 70
  46. ^ Gibbon 1920, page 83, 85
  47. ^ Thaddeus Holt. The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War. Phoenix. 2005. ISBN 0-7538-1917-1
  48. ^ History of 42 (North West) Brigade, official British Army website


External links[edit]