56th (London) Division
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|56th (London) Infantry Division|
|Active||First World War
1908 – May 1919;
Second World War
June 1940 – April 1945
1947 – April 1961
The 56th (London) Infantry Division was a 1st Line Territorial Army infantry division of the British Army that served in both World War I and World War II. 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.
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1st London Division 1908–1914
- 1st London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 2nd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 3rd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 4th London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), T.F.
- 6th London Regiment (City of London Rifles), T.F.
- 7th London Regiment (City of London), T.F
- 8th London Regiment (Post Office Rifles), T.F.
- 9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles), T.F.
- 10th London Regiment (Paddington Rifles to 1912, then became the Hackney Rifles), T.F.
- 11th London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles), T.F.
- 12th London Regiment (The Rangers). T.F.
- 1st City of London Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, T.F.
- 2nd County of London Brigade, R.F.A, T.F
- 3rd County of London Brigade, R.F.A., T.F.
- 4th County of London Brigade, R.F.A., T.F.
- 1st London Field Company Royal Engineers, T.F.
- 2nd London Field Coy., R.E., T.F.
- 2nd County of London Yeomanry, T.F.
World War I
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, consisting of:
167th Infantry Brigade
- 1/1st London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 1/3rd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 1/7th Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own), T.F.
- 1/8th Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own), T.F.
168th Infantry Brigade
- 1/4th London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 1/12th London Regiment (The Rangers), T.F.
- 1/13th London Regiment (The Kensingtons), T.F.
- 1/14th London Regiment (London Scottish), T.F.
169th Infantry Brigade
- 1/2nd London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), T.F.
- 1/5th London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), T.F.
- 1/9th London Regiment (Queen Victoria Rifles), T.F.
- 1/16th London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles), T.F.
- 280th (1/1st London) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, T.F.
- 281st (1/2nd London) Brigade, R.F.A., T.F.
- 282nd (1/3rd London) Brigade, R.F.A., T.F.
- 283rd (1/4th London) Brigade, R.F.A., T.F.
- 56th Divisional Ammunition Column, T.F.
- 416th (1/1st Edinburgh) Field Company, T.F. (joined in April 1916 from Egypt)
- 512nd (2/1st London) Field Coy, T.F.
- 513rd (2/2nd London) Field Coy, T.F.
Royal Army Medical Corps
- 2/1st London Field Ambulance, T.F.
- 2/2nd London Field Ambulance, T.F.
- 2/3rd London Field Ambulance, T.F.
- 1/5th Cheshire Regiment (Earl of Chester's), T.F.
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.
World War II
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.
Order of battle in 1944
- 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
- 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
- 7th Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
- 1st Battalion, London Scottish (Gordon Highlanders)
- 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles (Royal Ulster Rifles)
- 10th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment
- 2/5th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
- 2/6th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
- 2/7th Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment
- 6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment – (Machine Gun Battalion)
- 44th Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps
- 64th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 65th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 113th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 67th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 100th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 220th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 223rd Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 501st Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 563rd Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
World War II
- 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
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:
- 1st Regiment Honourable Artillery Company, Royal Horse Artillery
- 263rd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (6th London)
- 290th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (City of London)
- 624th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (Royal Fusiliers)
- G Locating Battery, Honourable Artillery Company
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. The 56th Division was one of the eight divisions placed on a lower establishment for home defence only. 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. 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. 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.
- 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.
- The British Army in the Great War: The 56th (1/1st London) Division
- 56 Infantry Division (1942–43)
- 56 Infantry Division (1943–45)
- Graham Watson, The Territorial Army 1947