56th (London) Division

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56th (London) Infantry Division
British 56th (1st London) Division insignia.png
Active First World War
1908 – May 1919;
Second World War
June 1940 – April 1945
1947 – April 1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
(Armoured 1947–55)
Size Division
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Gerald Templer
Montagu Stopford
Claude Liardet

The 56th (London) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. It was raised in 1908 upon the creation of the Territorial Force. The division served in the trenches of the Western Front during the Great War. Now part of the Territorial Army, the division saw active service in World War II in Tunisia and Italy. The division's insignia in the First World War was the sword of Saint George from the coat of arms of the City of London; in the Second World War the insignia was changed to a black cat.

History[edit]

1st London Division 1908–1914[edit]

The 1st London Division was created on the formation of the Territorial Force of the British Army in 1908. Its pre-war formation was:

1st London Infantry Brigade
2nd London Infantry Brigade
3rd London Infantry Brigade
  • 9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles), T.F.
  • 10th Battalion, London Regiment (Paddington Rifles to 1912, then became the Hackney Rifles), T.F.
  • 11th Battalion, London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles), T.F.
  • 12th Battalion, London Regiment (The Rangers). T.F.
Support Units

World War I[edit]

On the outbreak of the conflict, the Division's pre-war establishment units were mobilised individually, rather than in their divisional formation and were initially used for garrison duty overseas in Malta or as reinforcements for other divisions on the Western Front. In January 1916, the Division was re-constituted as a fighting formation in the Abbeville district in France, and numbered the 56th (1/1st London) Division, so numbered as it was the last 1st Line TF division to serve overseas. For the remainder of the war, the Division saw action on the Western Front, taking part in all of the major campaigns and seeing severe fighting. It was demobilised in May 1919.

Order of Battle First World War[edit]

167th (1st London) Brigade
  • 1/1st Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (left May 1915, rejoined February 1916)
  • 1/2nd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (left February 1915)
  • 1/3rd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (left May 1915, rejoined February 1916, left January 1918)
  • 1/4th Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (left January 1915)
  • 1/7th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment) (from February 1916)
  • 1/8th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment) (from February 1916)
  • 4th Battalion, Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire Regiment) (from October to November 1917)
  • 167th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 22 March 1916, moved to 56th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 1 March 1918)
  • 167th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 14 June 1916)
168th (2nd London) Brigade
  • 1/5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) (left November 1914)
  • 1/6th Battalion, London Regiment (City of London Rifles) (left November 1914)
  • 1/7th Battalion, London Regiment (left November 1914)
  • 1/8th Battalion, London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) (left November 1914)
  • 1/4th Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (from February 1916)
  • 1/12th Battalion, London Regiment (The Rangers) (from February 1916 to January 1918)
  • 1/13th Battalion, London Regiment (The Kensingtons) (from February 1916)
  • 1/14th Battalion, London Regiment (London Scottish) (from February 1916)
  • 168th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 16 March 1916, moved to 56th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 1 March 1918)
  • 168th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 13 June 1916)
169th (3rd London) Brigade
  • 1/9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria's) (left November 1914, rejoined February 1916, left February 1918)
  • 1/10th Battalion, London Regiment (Paddington Rifles) (left April 1915)
  • 1/11th Battalion, London Regiment (Hackney) (left April 1915)
  • 1/12th Battalion, London Regiment (The Rangers) (left December 1914)
  • 1/2nd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) (from February 1916)
  • 1/5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) (from February 1916)
  • 1/16th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles) (from February 1916)
  • 169th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 17 March 1916, moved to 56th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 1 March 1918)
  • 169th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 17 June 1916)
Divisional Troops
  • 1/5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment (joined as divisional pioneer battalion February 1916)
  • 193rd Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (joined 24 December 1916, moved to 56th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 1 March 1918)
  • 56th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (formed 1 March 1918)[1]
Royal Artillery
Royal Engineers
  • 416th (1/1st Edinburgh) Field Company (joined in April 1916 from Egypt)
  • 512nd (2/1st London) Field Coy
  • 513rd (2/2nd London) Field Coy
Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 2/1st London Field Ambulance
  • 2/2nd London Field Ambulance
  • 2/3rd London Field Ambulance

Between the wars[edit]

The Territorial Force was disbanded after the war but started to reform in early 1920 and was later renamed the Territorial Army and the division was reformed, as the 56th (1st London) Infantry Division, with much the same composition as before the First World War.

However, between the wars, the division saw many changes as many of its units were transferred and converted into other roles, eventually leading to the division being reorganised as a motorised infantry division.

World War II[edit]

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the division was mobilised as motorized infantry under the title of the 1st London Division. It was reorganised as an infantry division in June 1940 and renamed the 56th (London) Infantry Division on 18 November 1940. The divisional insignia during the Second World War was changed to an outline of a black cat in a red background. The cat stood for Dick Whittington's cat, a symbol of London.

The division remained in the United Kingdom during the Battle of France, moving to the Middle East in November 1942, where it served in Iraq and Palestine, until moving to Egypt in March 1943 and thence forward to Libya and the front, in April. This involved the division travelling some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) by road, a notable achievement and testament to the organization of the division and the ability of its mechanics and technicians. The division sat out the Allied invasion of Sicily (except for the 168th Brigade, which was attached to the understrength 50th Infantry Division) and moved to Italy in September 1943, where they fought in the landings at Salerno under the command of the US Fifth Army. During this time the 201st Guards Brigade joined the division, to replace the 168th Brigade. In January 1944, the 56th Division saw service in the Battle of Monte Cassino, serving there until March 1944 and participated in the Anzio Campaign. After being withdrawn to Egypt at the end of March, the division returned to Italy in July 1944, where it took part in the Battles along the Gothic Line and remained there until after Victory in Europe Day. During the fighting of 1944 and 1945, some of the infantry battalions that suffered heavy casualties were disbanded, to make up for an acute manpower shortage. The division also took part in Operation Grapeshot, the Allied offensive which ended the war in Italy.

After crossing the Volturno in October 1943, the division entered the town of Calvi Vecchia. Their attempts to radio the US Fifth Army to cancel a planned bombing on the town failed. As a last resort, the 56th released an American homing pigeon named G.I. Joe, which carried a message that reached the allies just as the planes were being warmed up. The attack was called off and the town was saved from the planned air assault.[2][3]

Order of Battle Second World War[edit]

1st London Infantry Brigade
(became 167th (London) Infantry Brigade 18 November 1940)
2nd London Infantry Brigade
(became 168th (London) Infantry Brigade 18 November 1940) (detached from division between 8 April 1943 and 17 September 1943, disbanded 26 September 1944)
35th Infantry Brigade
(from 8 July to 27 November 1940, became 169th (London) Infantry Brigade 28 November 1940)
  • 2/5th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
  • 2/6th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
  • 2/7th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
  • 35th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Regiment (formed 2 October 1940 to 27 November 1940)
  • 169th (London) Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (from 28 November 1940 to 7 April 1941)
201st Guards Motor Brigade
(from 23 July to 17 September 1943)
24th Guards Brigade
(from 10 March 1945)
Divisional Troops

World War II battles[edit]

  • Enfidaville – 19 April 1943 – 29 April 1943
  • Tunis – 5 May 1943 – 12 May 1943
  • Salerno – 9 September 1943 – 18 September 1943
  • Capture of Naples – 22 September 1943 – 1 October 1943
  • Volturno Crossing – 12 October 1943 – 15 October 1943
  • Monte Camino – 5 November 1943 – 9 December 1943
  • Garigliano Crossing – 17 January 1944 – 31 January 1944
  • Anzio – 22 January 1944 – 22 May 1944
  • Gothic Line – 25 August 1944 – 22 September 1944
  • Coriano – 3 September 1944 – 15 September 1944
  • Rimini Line – 14 September 1944 – 21 September 1944
  • Lamone Crossing – 2 December 1944 – 13 December 1944
  • Argenta Gap – 12 April 1945 – 21 April 1945

Post War[edit]

In 1946, the 56th Division was demobilised then re-constituted as the 56th (London) Armoured Division, T.A. The new formation included the 22nd Armoured Brigade and the 168th (Lorried) Infantry Brigade, with the Inns of Court and City Yeomanry acting as the divisional reconnaissance unit. The divisional artillery comprised:[5][6]

On 20 December 1955, the Secretary of State for War informed the House of Commons that the armoured divisions and the 'mixed' division were to be converted to infantry.[7] The 56th Division was one of the eight divisions placed on a lower establishment for home defence only.[8] The territorial units of the Royal Armoured Corps were reduced to nine armoured regiments and eleven reconnaissance regiments by amalgamating pairs of regiments and the conversion of four RAC units to infantry.

On 20 July 1960, a further reduction of the T.A. was announced in the House of Commons. The Territorials were to be reduced from 266 fighting units to 195. The reductions were carried out in 1961, mainly by the amalgamation of units. On 1 May 1961, the T.A. divisional headquarters were merged with regular army districts and matched with Civil Defence Regions, to aid the mobilisation for war.[9] The division ceased to exist as an independent entity and was linked to London District.

The 4th Battalion, Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment was formed in 1961, by the amalgamation of the 6th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment and the 23rd London Regiment, with a Battalion HQ and HQ Company at Kingston upon Thames.[10] It formed part of 47th (London) Infantry Brigade (56th London Division/District). An echo of the 56th Division emerged again from 1987–1993, when the public duties battalions in the London District were grouped as the 56th Infantry Brigade.

Commanders[edit]

  • Major-General Alfred E. Codrington: March 1908-December 1909
  • Major-General Arthur H. Henniker-Major: December 1909-February 1912
  • Major-General William Fry: February 1912-January 1915
  • Major-General C. P. Amyatt Hull: February 1916-July 1917
  • Major-General W. Douglas Smith: July-August 1917
  • Major-General Frederick A. Dudgeon: August 1917-April 1918
  • Major-General Sir C.P. Amyatt Hull: May 1918-June 1919
  • Major-General Sir Cecil E. Pereira: June 1919-June 1923
  • Major-General Sir Geoffrey P.T. Feilding: June 1923-June 1927
  • Major-General Hubert Isacke: June 1927-June 1931
  • Major-General Winston Dugan: June 1931-June 1934
  • Major-General Percy R.C. Commings: June 1934-June 1938
  • Major-General Claude F. Liardet: June 1938-January 1941
  • Major-General Montagu G.N. Stopford: January-October 1941
  • Major-General Eric G. Miles: October 1941-May 1943
  • Major-General Douglas A.H. Graham: May-October 1943
  • Major-General Gerald W.R. Templer: October 1943-July 1944
  • Major-General John Y. Whitfield: July 1944-September 1946
  • Major-General Gerald L. Verney: September 1946-September 1948
  • Major-General Robert H.B. Arkwright: September 1948-August 1949
  • Major-General Harold E. Pyman: August 1949-April 1951
  • Major-General Richard W. Goodbody: April 1951-March 1954
  • Major-General David Dawnay: March 1954-April 1957
  • Major-General Robert N.H.C. Bray: April 1957-March 1959
  • Major-General Cecil M. F. Deakin: March 1959-1960

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.1914-1918.net/56div.htm
  2. ^ Wendell.
  3. ^ Blechman, pp. 35–6.
  4. ^ http://battlefieldsww2.50megs.com/56th_division.htm
  5. ^ Litchfield, Appendix 5.
  6. ^ Watson, TA 1947
  7. ^ Yourdemocracy.newstatesman.com
  8. ^ Beckett 2008, p. 180.
  9. ^ Beckett 2008, pp. 183, 185.
  10. ^ National Archives

References[edit]

  • Ian F.W. Beckett, Territorials: A Century of Service, first published April 2008 by DRA Printing of 14 Mary Seacole Road, The Millfields, Plymouth PL1 3JY on behalf of TA 100, ISBN 978-0-9557813-1-5.
  • D. Blechman, Andrew (2006). Pigeons: the fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1834-8. .
  • Jackson, General Sir William & Gleave, Group Captain T. P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO:1986]. Butler, Sir James, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: Victory in the Mediterranean, Part 2 – June to October 1944. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series VI. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-071-8. 
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing. ISBN 0-85390-013-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dudley Ward, C. H. (1921). The Fifty Sixth Division 1914–1918 (1st London Territorial Division) (N & M Press 2001 ed.). London: Murray. ISBN 1-84342-111-9. 

External links[edit]