54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division

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54th (East Anglian) Division
Active World War I
1908 - 1919?
Country United Kingdom
Branch Territorial Force
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements Battle of Gallipoli
First Battle of Gaza
Battle of Mughar Ridge
Battle of Jerusalem (1917)
Action of Tell 'Asur
Battle of Megiddo (1918)'s Battle of Arara

The 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. Formed in 1908 upon the creation of the Territorial Force as the East Anglian Division, it received its number in 1915 during the Great War. During the First World War the division fought at Gallipoli and in the Middle East. The division was disbanded after the war but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. During the Second World War it was a home service division and did not see any combat service abroad.

Unit History[edit]

First World War[edit]

The division was raised as the East Anglian Division in 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. Under command it had the Essex Brigade, the East Midland Brigade and the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade. In 1915, during the First World War, these later became the 54th (East Anglian) Division, the 161st (Essex) Brigade, the 162nd (East Midland) Brigade and the 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade respectively.

The 54th (East Anglian) Division landed at Suvla on 10 August in the Gallipoli Campaign, as a part of IX Corps under Lieutenant-General Stopford. It was moved to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under General Murray in late 1916 and garrisoned the southern part of the Suez Canal.

Then in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, during the First Battle of Gaza, on 26 March 1917, the 161st Brigade and divisional artillery were in reserve while the 53rd (Welsh) Division carried out the main attack. These reserves were committed as the battle progressed resulting in the British gaining a foothold in the Turkish defences but the British commander called off the attack as night fell. In the Second Battle of Gaza, the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions of the Norfolk Regiment sustained 75 per cent casualties (about 1,200 men).[1] It took part in the successful Third Battle of Gaza as part of XXI Corps led by General Bulfin, and by the end of 1917 General Allenby's forces had taken Jerusalem.

In September 1918 the division took part in the Battle of Megiddo.

Formation in World War I[edit]

The First World War division comprised three infantry brigades:

161st (Essex) Brigade 
162nd (East Midland) Brigade 
  • 1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
  • 1/4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
  • 1/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (left February 1915)
  • 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (left November 1914)
  • 2/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (joined February 1915, left April 1915)
  • 1/10th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (from April 1915)
  • 1/11th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (from April 1915)
  • 162nd Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Company (formed 26 April 1916, moved to 54th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 19 April 1918)
  • 162nd Trench Mortar Battery (formed 5 May 1917)
163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade 

Second World War[edit]

Formation badge for the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division in World War II. The blue conjoined JP stand for the first commander, Maj. Gen. J.H.T. Priestman.

The division was disbanded after the Great War when the whole of the Territorial Force was disbanded. However, it was reformed in 1920 as the Territorial Army and the division was reconstituted.

During the Second World War the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division was a 1st Line Territorial Army division. In 1939 the Territorial Army was doubled in size to meet the threat of Nazi Germany and the division raised a 2nd Line duplicate unit, the 18th (East Anglian) Infantry Division. However, it was not formed as an exact duplicate as most Territorial divisions did and the units were divided by geographical location, with the Essex Regiment, one battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and both battalions of the Hertfordshire Regiment being assigned to the 54th Division. The 18th Division contained units of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the Suffolk Regiment, the Cambridgeshire Regiment and one battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.

The division remained in the United Kingdom as a local defence formation, being downgraded to a Lower Establishment in January 1942. The division was disbanded and broken up on 14 December 1943. Its component units would take part in the Normandy Campaign as support units, with the HQ RA becoming HQ 8th Army Group Royal Artillery and HQ RE becoming HQ RE for the 6th Airborne Division. The divisional HQ was redesignated HQ Lines of Communication (54th Division) for the 21st Army Group.

Order of Battle World War II[edit]

This is the formation of the division throughout the Second World War: NOT COMPLETE

161st Infantry Brigade (to 17 December 1940)

  • 1/4th Battalion, Essex Regiment
  • 1/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment
  • 2/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment

162nd Infantry Brigade (to 10 November 1942 and from 5 September 1943)

163rd Infantry Brigade (redesignated 53rd Infantry Brigade 18 September 1939)

  • 5th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
  • 6th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment
  • 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment

198th Infantry Brigade (from 20 December 1940)

Divisional Troops

  • 54th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps (raised 15 July 1941)
  • 85th (East Anglian) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (to 24 August 1942)
  • 86th (East Anglian) (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (to 9 June 1942)
  • 134th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (to 10 February 1942)
  • 168th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 9 June 1942 to 9 June 1943)
  • 55th (Suffolk and Norfolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (to 21 February 1943)
  • 199th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 21 April 1942 to 9 September 1942)
  • 248th (East Anglian) Field Company, Royal Engineers (to 16 September 1939)
  • 249th (East Anglian) Field Company, Royal Engineers (to 20 May 1943)
  • 286th Field Company, Royal Engineers (to 20 May 1943)
  • 250th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from September to 20 October 1939)
  • 556th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 4 January 1940 to 29 December 1941)
  • 591st Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 1 January 1942 to 20 May 1943)
  • 289th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (to 2 March 1942)
  • 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Signals, Royal Corps of Signals



  • Brigadier-General John H. Campbell: August 1908-October 1910
  • Major-General the Hon. Julian H.G. Byng: October 1910-October 1912
  • Major-General Charles V. F. Townshend: October 1912-June 1913
  • Major-General Francis S. Inglefield: June 1913-April 1916
  • Major-General Sir Steuart W. Hare: April 1916-July 1923
  • Major-General John Duncan: July 1923-February 1927
  • Major-General Sir Torquhil G. Matheson: February 1927-September 1930
  • Major-General Francis J. Marshall: September 1930-September 1934
  • Major-General Russell M. Luckcock: September 1934-September 1938
  • Major-General John H.T. Priestman: September 1938-February 1941
  • Major-General Evelyn H. Barker: February 1941-April 1943
  • Major-General Charles B. Wainwright: April-May 1943
  • Major-General Colin B. Callender: May-December 1943
  • Major-General Cyril E.N. Lomax: 1946-March 1948
  • Major-General Maurice S. Chilton: March 1948-February 1950
  • Major-General Charles E.A. Firth: April 1950-May 1951
  • Major-General Leslie K. Lockhart: May 1951-December 1952
  • Major-General Roger H. Bower: December 1952-May 1955
  • Major-General Reginald P. Harding: May 1955-June 1958
  • Major-General Dennis E.B. Talbot: June 1958-March 1961

Recipients of the Victoria Cross[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eastern Daily Press, "Sunday" section May 5, 2007

External links[edit]