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 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.

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[edit]

2nd London Infantry Brigade[edit]

3rd London Infantry Brigade[edit]

  • 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.

Support Units[edit]

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, consisting of:

167th Infantry Brigade[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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.

Support Units[edit]

Artillery[edit]

  • 56th Divisional Ammunition Column, T.F.

Royal Engineers[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 2/1st London Field Ambulance, T.F.
  • 2/2nd London Field Ambulance, T.F.
  • 2/3rd London Field Ambulance, T.F.

Pioneers[edit]

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[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 redesignated as 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 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 1944, the 56th Division saw service in the Battle of Monte Cassino, in January 1944, 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 some of the fierce fighting in 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.[1][2]

Order of battle in World War II[edit]

167th (London) Infantry Brigade

168th (London) Infantry Brigade (disbanded in 1944)

  • 1st Battalion, London Scottish (to 167th Brigade in 1944)
  • 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles (to 167th Brigade in 1944)
  • 10th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (disbanded in 1944)
  • 1st Battalion, Welch Regiment (from May 1944, to 1st Guards Brigade when 168th Brigade disbanded)

169th (London) Infantry Brigade

201st Guards Motor Brigade (replaced 168th Brigade fighting in Sicily and during initial invasion of Italy)

24th Guards Brigade (from 18 February 1945)

Divisional Troops

  • 6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment - (Machine Gun Battalion)
  • 44th Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps
  • 64th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 65th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 113th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 67th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 69th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 57th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 100th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 42nd Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 220th Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 221st Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 563rd Field Park Company, Royal Engineers

Battles[edit]

World War II[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 division's reconnaissance unit. The divisional artillery comprised:[3][4]

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.[5] The 56th Division was one of the eight divisions placed on a lower establishment for home defence only.[6] The territorial units of the Royal Armoured Corps were also reduced in number to nine armoured regiments and eleven reconnaissance regiments. This was effected by the amalgamation of pairs of regiments, and the conversion of four RAC units to an infantry role.

On 20 July 1960, a further reduction of the TA 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 TA divisional headquarters were merged with regular army districts and matched with Civil Defence Regions to aid the mobilisation for war.[7] Thus 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.[8] It formed part of 47th (London) Infantry Brigade (56th London Division/District).

An echo of the 56th Division emerged again from 1987 to 1993, when the public duties battalions in the London District were grouped as the 56th Infantry Brigade.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wendell.
  2. ^ Blechman, pp. 35–6.
  3. ^ Litchfield, Appendix 5.
  4. ^ Watson, TA 1947
  5. ^ Yourdemocracy.newstatesman.com
  6. ^ Beckett 2008, p. 180.
  7. ^ Beckett 2008, pp. 183, 185.
  8. ^ 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, Volume VI: Victory in the Mediterranean, Part 2 – June to October 1944. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. 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 Co, Inc. ISBN 0-85390-013-2. 

External links[edit]