6th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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6th Division
British 6th Infantry Division.svg
Most recent insignia of the 6th Division. A white circle on a black background.
Active 1914 to 1941
As 70th Infantry Division: 1941 – 1945
2008 – 2011
Country United Kingdom
Branch Regular Army
Type Infantry
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ York
Engagements Peninsula War
Battle of Fuentes de Onoro
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of the Pyrenees
Battle of Orthez
First World War
First Battle of Ypres
Battle of the Somme (1916)
Battle of Cambrai (1917)
Battle of Epehy
Commanders
Notable
commanders

Richard O'Connor

WN Congreve VC, May – Nov 1915

The 6th Infantry Division was first established by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsula War as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army and was active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War. The modern division was reformed on 1 February 2008, as a deployable two star Headquarters for service in Afghanistan during Operation Herrick. It was officially reformed with a parade and flag presentation at York on Tuesday 5 August 2008 and then closed in April 2011.

Peninsula War[edit]

The 6th Division was formed for service in the Peninsula War by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, it was present at the Battles of Fuentes de Onoro, Salamanca, Pyrenees and the Battle of Orthez.

Formation during the Peninsula War[edit]

First World War[edit]

The British 6th Division was a Regular Army division that was sent to France on 9 September 1914. It served on the Western Front for the duration of the First World War, first seeing action in the First Battle of Ypres as part of III Corps.

In 1915 the division moved into the Ypres Salient to relieve troops that had fought in the Second Battle of Ypres. The Salient was relatively quiet for the rest of the year, except for an attack on the chateau at Hooge on 9 August.

At the end of July 1916 the division was withdrawn, having suffered 11,000 casualties, and in September it was attached to XIV Corps where it joined in the Battle of the Somme by attacking the German fortification known as the Quadrilateral. It captured this area on 18 September. They then participated in the attacks on Morval and Le Transloy before being withdrawn on 20 October and moved into Corps Reserve. Total casualties on the Somme were 277 officers and 6,640 other ranks. In November the division moved to the relatively quiet La Bassée sector, and in March 1917 it went to the Loos sector where it conducted operations and trench raids around Hill 70.

It was withdrawn on 25 July, shortly before the final assault on the hill. From reserve, it then went to take part in the Battle of Cambrai as part of III Corps. Four days after the battle ended, the division was withdrawn to rest at Basseux. By February 1918 the division was manning the Lagnicourt Sector and was there on 22 March when the Germans launched their Spring Offensive which drove the division back and caused 3,900 casualties out of its 5,000 infantry. On 25 March the division was withdrawn to the Ypres Salient again as part of Second Army.

By September the division was part of IX Corps and took part in the Battle of Epehy, participating in the general attack on St Quentin and The Quadrilateral (not the same as the position of the same name attacked at the Somme (see above)) that began on 18 September and ended with the Quadrilateral's capture on the 25th.

The division's last two major assaults of the war were in October. On the 8th they captured Bohain and on the 18th they took the high ground overlooking the Sambre–Oise Canal that prepared the way for the Battle of the Sambre.[1]

First World War formation[edit]

16th Infantry Brigade 
17th Infantry Brigade (until October 14, 1915) 

The brigade transferred to the 24th Division in October 1915, swapping with the 71st Brigade.

18th Infantry Brigade 
19th Infantry Brigade (until May 31, 1915) 

Originally an independent brigade before being attached to the division, the 19th Brigade moved to the 27th Division in May, 1915 and was not replaced, reducing the division to the standard three infantry brigades.

71st Infantry Brigade (from October 11, 1915) 
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Norfolk Regiment
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (disbanded February 1918)
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment (to 16th Bde. November 1915)
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment (to 18th Bde. October 1915)
  • 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment (from 16th Bde. November 1915)
  • 2nd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (from 18th Bde. October 1915)

The brigade joined from the 24th Division in October 1915, swapping with the 17th Brigade.

Royal Field Artillery
Royal Engineers

Second World War[edit]

Insignia of the 6th Infantry Division during the Second World War. A red four pointed star on white background.

During the Second World War the division did not fight as a complete formation. On 3 November 1939 it was formed in Egypt by the redesignation of the British 7th Infantry Division, under the command of Major-General R.N.O'Connor. On 17 June 1940 Divisional H.Q. became H.Q. Western Desert Force.[2] The Division effectively ceased to exist. The Division reformed in Egypt on 17 February 1941, under the command of Major-General John Evetts. From 7 to 19 April it was temporarily under command of Brigadier C.E.N.Lomax.

On 18 June, when command of the allied forces fighting in the Syria-Lebanon Campaign on the southern front were reorganised, the divisional HQ was placed under Australian I Corps to command the remnants of Gentforce (5th Indian Infantry Brigade and 1st Free French Light Division). Two days later the division was joined from Egypt by 16th Infantry Brigade and on 29 June by 23rd Infantry Brigade. Gentforce force captured Damascus on 21 June. For the rest of the campaign, which ended with the Vichy French surrender on 11 July, the division was engaged with the support of Australian units[3] in attempts to force the Damascus to Beirut road through the Anti-Lebanon mountains the entrance to which was dominated by the 5,000 feet (1,500 m) high Jebel Mazar. Despite intense efforts Vichy forces maintained control of the position and the main allied effort was switched to the advance on the coast.

On 29 September 1941 Major-General Evetts left and Brigadier G.N.C. Martin took acting command. Eleven days later on 10 October that year it was redesignated the 70th Infantry Division, and Major-General Ronald Scobie assumed command.

Second World War formation[edit]

Artillery

  • 60th (North Midland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery 20 Jul – 30 Sep 41

Engineers

  • 2nd Field Company, Royal Engineers 19 Feb – 30 Apr 41 & 29 Jun – 9 Oct 41
  • 12th Field Company, Royal Engineers 20 May – 7 Jun 40, 5 Mar – 6 Apr 41 & 15 Jun – 9 Oct 41
  • 54th Field Company, Royal Engineers 6 Mar – 7 Apr 41 & 11 Aug – 9 Oct 41
  • 219th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers 29 Jul – 9 Oct 41
  • 6th Divisional Signals 3 Nov 39 – 7 Jun 40 & 1 Mar 41 – 9 Oct 41

22nd Infantry Brigade

6 Division 3 Nov 39 – 11 Mar 40 & 10 – 17 Jun 40

22nd Guards Brigade

6 Division 17 Feb – 6 Apr 41

14th Infantry Brigade

6 Division 29 Mar – 30 May 40 & 10 Jul – 9 Oct 41

16th Infantry Brigade

6 Division 23 Mar – 7 Jun 40

23rd Infantry Brigade

6 Division 29 Jun – 9 Oct 41

Twenty-First Century[edit]

On 26 July 2007 the Secretary of State for Defence announced that a new 'HQ 6 Division' would reform to direct the International Security Assistance Force's Regional Command South in Afghanistan.[4] Des Browne said 'In order to meet these temporary demands we have decided to augment the forces’ command structure, and will temporarily establish an additional 2-Star deployable HQ. It will be based in York and will be known as HQ 6 Division, with a core of 55 Service personnel, drawn from existing structures. We will keep our planning assumption under review but currently we assess this HQ will be established until 2011.'[5] Major General J D Page OBE took command of the new HQ with effect from 1 February 2008.

The new divisional headquarters, Headquarters 6th (United Kingdom) Division, marked its formation with a parade and flag presentation in York 5 August 2008.[6] It had a clear focus on preparing brigades for Afghanistan and was based at Imphal Barracks, Fulford, York.During summer 2009, the divisional headquarters was significantly reinforced and transformed into Combined Joint Task Force 6 before deploying to Afghanistan as Regional Command South in November 2009.[7] The division headquarters closed in April 2011.[8]

Afghanistan War Formation[edit]

(November 2009)

Regional Command South[9]Kandahar Airfield

Task Force HelmandBritish 11th Light Brigade

Task Force KandaharCanadian 1st Mechanized Brigade Group

Task Force LeatherneckUS 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Task Force UruzganDutch 11th Airmobile Brigade

Task Force ZabulRomanian 2nd Mountain Brigade

US 5th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division

General Officers Commanding[edit]

Commanders have included:[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Long, Gavin (1953). Greece, Crete and Syria. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 – Army, Volume II (1st ed.). Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 3134080. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-065-3. 
  • 'Orders of Battle Volume I United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War 1939–1945', Lieutenant Colonel HF Joslen. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1960.

External links[edit]