59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division
|59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division|
The insignia of the 59th Division
|Active||1939 - 1944|
|Size||Approximately 18,000 men|
|Battle honours||Battle of Normandy|
|Officer Commanding||Major-General Lewis Lyne|
The 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division, also nicknamed the "Pithead Division" due to its divisional insignia, was an infantry division of the British Army, part of the Territorial Army, that saw active during World War II. The division served as part of the 21st Army Group during the early stages of the Normandy Campaign after the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. It was one of two divisions, the other being the 50th Infantry Division later in the year, of this army group that was disbanded due to an acute shortage of British infantry replacements.
The 59th (Staffordshire) Division was formed on 21 August 1939 as a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 1st Line 55th (West Lancashire) Division as, by this time, another European conflict against Germany was deemed inevitable. The 55th Division was split in two and sent the 166th and the 177th infantry brigades, along with the 61st and 116th Field regiments RA, to help form the 59th Division. The 166th Brigade was subsequently redesignated as the 176th Infantry Brigade. The 59th Division was originally raised as a motorised infantry division of only two motorised infantry brigades. In June 1940, the 197th Brigade from the disbanded 66th (East Lancashire) Division, along with the 110th Field Regiment and the 68th Anti-Tank Regiment, was assigned to the 59th Division and it was reorganised as a standard infantry division. Despite being a 2nd Line duplicate formation, the division also contained many 1st Line units.
Having spent many years training in Britain until mid-1944, the division's lead units landed in Normandy, France as part of the British Second Army on 26 June. Attached to I Corps for Operation Charnwood, the division was employed in the north-western outskirts of Caen, fighting heavily against elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division. Subsequently the division was attached to XII Corps in the Odon Valley.
Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery named the 59th, along with seven other divisions, as one of the most reliable divisions within his 21st Army Group, bemoaning that units such as the 7th Armoured, 3rd Infantry and 51st (Highland) were not combat worthy after their initial performance, inland, after landing. The most reliable divisions of the 21st Army Group in Normandy were the 15th, 43rd, 49th, 50th, 53rd, 59th, 11th Armoured and 6th Airborne.
The division fought in Normandy until 18 August 1944 when, due to the severe casualties suffered by other British units in the Second Army and the severe shortage of infantrymen throughout the whole British Army, it was disbanded and its men were used as badly needed infantry replacements for the rest of the British divisions in France, all of which had suffered heavy casualties during the attritional fighting in Normandy. The 59th Division was chosen merely because it was the most junior of all the British divisions fighting in the Normandy Campaign, having been formed just two weeks before the declaration of war on 3 September 1939. The divisional headquarters was placed in suspended animation and, being a 2nd Line formation, it was not reformed in the Territorial Army after the war.
The 59th Division's last major action was in the town of Thury-Harcourt, where there is now a road named after the commander at the time: the Avenue du General Lyne. In the time after this period, the 197th Brigade (containing 1/7th Royal Warwicks, 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers and 5th East Lancs) became a battlefield clearance brigade, tasked with tidying up parts of the Normandy battlefield and returning any ditched, dumped or lost but serviceable equipment.
Order of Battle World War II
- 7th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 6th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment
- 7th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment (to September 1942)
- 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment (from October 1942)
- 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 1/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 2/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment (from 13 August 1944)
197th Infantry Brigade (from 22 June 1940)
- 2/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 2/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (to October 1942))
- 5th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment
- 1/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (from October 1942)
- 6th Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (Motorcycle Battalion) (until April 1941)
- 7th Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers - (Machine Gun Battalion) (from 18 November 1941)
- 59th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps (from 27 January 1941, redesignated 59th Reconnaissance Regiment 6 June 1942)
- 61st (North Midland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 110th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 10 July 1940)
- 116th (North Midland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 66th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (to 1 July 1940)
- 68th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 1 July 1940)
- 68th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 19 April 1943)
- 257th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 23 June 1940)
- 509th Field Company, Royal Engineers (joined between 30 December 1939 and 2 March 1940)
- 510th Field Company, Royal Engineers (joined between 30 December 1939 and 2 March 1940)
- 511th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (joined between 30 December 1939 and 2 March 1940)
- 24th Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers (from 1 October 1943)
- 59th (Staffordshire) Divisional Signals, Royal Corps of Signals
Bibliography and Notes
- Knight, Peter (1954). The 59th Division: Its War Story. London: Frederick Muller (for 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division Reunion Organisation). OCLC 11398674.
- 59th Division History and Order of Battle
- History of the 59th Division on memorial-montormel.org
- 59 (Staffordshire) Infantry Division at Orders of Battle.com
- British World War II Military Data Base
- Operation Charnwood
- Second Battle of the Odon
- List of British divisions in World War II
- British Army Order of Battle - September 1939