49th (West Riding) Infantry Division

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49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
49th Inf Brigade (Logo Polar Bears).jpg
Active 1908 - 1967
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Branch British Army
Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Armoured from 1945
Nickname The Polar Bears (WWII)
Barker's Bears (WWII)
Engagements First World War
Second World War
Battle honours Somme (1916)
Normandy
The Odon
Scheldt
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Gen.E.H.Barker
Maj.Gen.G.H.A. MacMillan
Insignia
Identification
symbol
British 49th (West Riding) Division insignia.png World War I
Identification
symbol
49th Inf Brigade (Logo Polar Bears).jpg World War II

The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division was formed on 1 April 1908 as the West Riding Division in the Territorial Force of the British Army. The division fought in France & Flanders during the First World War and in the Second World War.

After the Second World War it remained with the Northern Command.

First World War[edit]

In 1915, it was designated the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division and given the White Rose of York as its insignia.

Formation 1914 - 1918[edit]

146th (West Riding) Brigade 
  • 1/5th Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/6th Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) (until January 1918)
147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade 
  • 1/4th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
  • 1/5th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) (until January 1918)
  • 1/6th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
  • 1/7th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
148th (3rd West Riding) Brigade 
Pioneers 

Second World War[edit]

Universal Carriers of 49th (West Riding) Division's Reconnaissance Regiment are welcomed by Dutch civilians on the outskirts of Kampen, 19 April 1945

During the Second World War, the 49th Division first saw action beginning on 15–17 April 1940 when two of its brigades took part in the short and ill-fated landings in Norway that were intended to retake the ports of Trondheim and Narvik from the German Army. The division withdrew from Norway in May 1940.

The division's 146th and 147th Infantry Brigades were thereafter stationed in Iceland and the 148th Infantry Brigade became a training brigade and was no longer a part of the division.[1] As a result, a new divisional insignia, featuring a Polar Bear standing on an ice floe, was adopted. The idea was from the divisional commander, Major General Evelyn Barker. In 1942, the division was transferred back to the United Kingdom where the 70th Brigade, from the disbanded 23rd Division, was assigned to the 49th Division.

Just after D-Day, in June 1944, the 49th Division moved to France as part of XXX Corps. During the fierce fighting in Normandy, the Nazi propaganda broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw referred to the division as "the Polar Bear Butchers". In October 1944 the 70th Brigade was disbanded due to a shortage of trained infantrymen in the British Army and the 56th Independent Infantry Brigade Group was assigned to the division, remaining with it for the rest of the war. During the rest of the war, the division served mainly with the First Canadian Army and was variously under the command of I Corps, the II Canadian Corps, and the I Canadian Corps. The 49th Division's last major contribution to the Second World War was the Second Battle of Arnhem and the fierce battles that led to it.

Order of Battle 1939 - 1945[edit]

  • 49th Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps,
  • 228th, 229th, 230th, 294th, 756th, 757th Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 231th and 289th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
  • 23rd Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers
  • 49th Divisional Signals, RSC
  • 69th, 70th, 71st, 74th, 79th, 80th, 143, 178th, 185th Field Regiments, RA
  • 55th, 58th, 88th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA
  • 89th, 118th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA
  • 2nd Battalion, Princess Louise Kensington's Regiment (Machine Gun Battalion)
  • 49th Royal Army Service Corps ( R.A.S.C )

146th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939–1945)

147th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939–1945)

  • 1/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment (Disbanded and merged into 1/7th Battalion on 17 August 1944, due to heavy losses during Operation Martlet)
  • 1/7th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment
  • 11th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
  • 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (Replaced 1/6th Duke of Wellington's Regiment)

148th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939 - Apr 1940)

  • 1/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment
  • 1/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
  • 8th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters

70th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(May 1942 - Oct 1944) (disbanded in North West Europe)

56th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(Aug 1944-1945)

Commanders[edit]

Dates in British form (dd.mm.yyyy) indicating the date they entered the command (or resumed command when there are multiple dates).

  • Maj. Gen. Pierse J. Macksey - 03.09.1939
  • Maj. Gen. Harry O. Curtis - 10.06.1940
  • Brig. Neville P. Procter - 12.04.1943 (Acting)
  • Maj. Gen. Sir Evelyn W. Barker - 12.04.1943
  • Maj. Gen. Sir Gordon H.A. MacMillan - 30.11.1944, 06.02.1945
  • Brig. R.H. Senior - 27.01.1945 & 24.03.1945 (Acting)
  • Maj. Gen. Stuart B. Rawlins - 28.03.1945, 27.04.1945
  • Brig. Edward N. Crosse - 18.04.1945 (Acting)
  • Brig. H. Wood - 23.08.1945 (Acting)

Post 1945[edit]

The division was disbanded in Germany in 1946, but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1947, having been renamed the 49th (West Riding) Armoured Division. It was based in Nottingham, consisting of (on 1 April 1947):

In 1956, it was renamed the 49th (West Riding and Midland) Infantry Division, its base moved to Leeds, and the 8th Armoured Brigade was removed from its order of battle. Finally, it underwent its last major change in 1961, when it was renamed to the 49th (West Riding and North Midland) Division/District, and the 147th Infantry Brigade was removed from its composition. The Division/District finally disbanded in 1967, becoming simply X District.[2]

The polar bear flash is currently worn by 49 Brigade, which will be re-structured in 2015 to become Headquarters 7th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East in Chilwell.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]