70th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)
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|70th Infantry Division|
|Lieut.Gen. Sir Ronald Scobie|
This formation had a brief history during the Second World War. It was formed originally in the Middle East from units stationed in Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus and (later) in Crete, as the regular 6th Infantry Division. It was then redesignated as the 70th Infantry Division on 10 October 1941. (The reason for the change of designation is unknown. The new number was a vacant one in the List of British divisions in World War II; however, 6th Armoured Division had been created on 12 September 1941, and 7th Infantry Division had previously reported to be redesignated to avoid confusion with the 7th Armoured Division.)
Under the command of Major-General Ronald MacKenzie Scobie the 70th Division led the break out from Tobruk during Operation Crusader in order to link up with the British Eighth Army. In the three-day battle the lead battalions of the 70th Infantry Division (the 2nd Black Watch and the 2nd York and Lancs) suffered heavy casualties.
After successfully linking up with the British Eighth Army the Division was sent back to Alexandria and then shipped to India after Japan entered the war by attacking British, Dutch and United States territories in South East Asia and the Pacific Ocean. On arrival in India, the division was first broken up and dispersed through Bengal, Assam and Bihar to perform internal security duties. Once the widespread disorders which resulted from the early British defeats in South East Asia and demands for the British to "Quit India" had died down, the division was concentrated for jungle training. Some units were briefly deployed to the Arakan front after a British offensive there was defeated in early 1943.
Late in 1943, Major General Orde Wingate secured approval for a major expansion of his "Special Force", widely known as the Chindits. As he refused to use British Indian Army units, the 70th Division was broken up on orders from the highest military authorities and absorbed into "Special Force" on October 25, 1943. This was carried out in spite of protests from General Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief in India and Lieutenant-General William Slim, commanding the British Fourteenth Army, both of whom insisted that 70th Division could have far more value fighting as a cohesive, well-trained and battle-hardened formation than as part of the "Chindits".
Nevertheless, the units of 70th Division were reformed into Long Range Penetration formations for the Second Chindit Expedition of 1944 (Codenamed Operation Thursday).
- 10 Oct. 1941 - Maj-Gen Ronald Scobie
- 10 Feb. 1942 (acting) - Brig. C.E.N. Lomax
- 18 Feb. 1942 - Maj-Gen. G.W. Symes
14th Infantry Brigade
70 Infantry Division 10 Oct 41 - 11 May 43 & 27 Jun - 24 Oct 43
- 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
- 2nd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
16th Infantry Brigade
70 Infantry Division 22 Oct 41 - 26 Feb 42 & 8 Feb - 24 Oct 43
- 2nd Battalion, Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)
- 2nd Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)
- 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment
23rd Infantry Brigade
70 Infantry Division 10 Oct 41 - 22 Apr 43 & 15 Jun - 24 Oct 43
- 4th Battalion, Border Regiment
- 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment
- 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 45th Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps (21 Oct 42 - 16 Sep 43)
- 8th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (28 Feb 42 - 30 Sep 43)
- 51st (Westmorland and Cumberland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (1 - 4 Mar 42 & 8 Feb - 29 Sep 43)
- 60th (North Midland) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (31 Dec 41 - 21 Oct 43)
- 56th (King's Own) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (1 Apr 42 - 14 Jul 43)
- 69th Light Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (6 Aug - 30 Sep 43)
- 2nd Field Company, Royal Engineers (10 Oct 41 - 21 Feb 42 & 27 Jun - 24 Oct 43)
- 12th Field Company, Royal Engineers (10 Oct 41 - 24 Oct 43)
- 54th Field Company, Royal Engineers (10 Oct 41 - 24 Oct 43)
- 70th Infantry Division Signal Regiment (10 Oct 41 - 24 Oct 43)
- 'Great Campaigns of World War II', (1980) Phoebus Publishing, London ISBN 0-86288-340-7
- 'Crete, The Battle and the Resistance', Antony Beevor, John Murray (Publishers) Great Britain, 1991. ISBN 0-7195-6831-5
- 'Tobruk, The Story of a Siege', Anthony Heckstall-Smith. (Cereberus Publishing Limited) ISBN 1-84145-051-0
- '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.