78th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)
|78th Infantry Division|
Formation sign of the 78th Infantry Division
|Engagements||World War II|
|Battle honours||Monte Cassino
|Major General Vyvyan Evelegh
Major General Charles Keightley
The 78th Infantry Division, also known as the Battleaxe Division, was an infantry division of the British Army during the Second World War that fought in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy from late 1942-1945.
The 78th Infantry Division was formed specifically for Operation Torch from units that had fought at Dunkirk in 1940, landing at Algiers in 1942. Thereafter it had a prominent role in the Tunisia Campaign, gaining a formidable reputation, then through the Allied invasion of Sicily, up the length of Italy, arriving in Austria for the end of the war. Units also saw action in Greece, Palestine, and Egypt. Notable engagements include in Tunisia the Battle of Longstop Hill, in Sicily the Battle of Centuripe and in Italy the assaults on the Viktor Line (Battle of Termoli), the Barbara Line and the River Sangro (Gustav Line) as well as the Battle of Monte Cassino, the Trasimene Line, the Gothic Line and Battle of the Argenta Gap.
The 78th Division gained notoriety when on rest in Egypt, by starting the Cairo riots. Some divisional signs are known to have included 'Cairo' as a mock battle honour.
The 78th Battleaxe Infantry Division was widely considered as one of the best, if not the best, mountain division of the British Eighth Army. It was also one of the best divisions of the British Army in World War II due to its high morale and excellent leadership. This view was shared by many senior commanders such as Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Walter Allfrey, commander of V Corps, part of the Eighth Army, who claimed the 78th Division was the "finest fighting division of any that I had the privilege to have in 'V' Corps."
To members of the 78th Division were awarded Victoria Crosses during the war. They belonged to Major Wallace Le Patourel of the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, in December 1942, and Fusilier Frank Jefferson of the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in May 1944.
- Maj.Gen. Vyvyan Evelegh (June 1942 – December 1943)
- Maj.Gen. Charles Keightley (December 1943 – August 1944)
- Maj.Gen. Donald Clunes Butterworth (August 1944 – October 1944)
- Maj.Gen. Keith Arbuthnott (October 1944 – 1945)
Order of battle from 1942 composed from units of Force 110.
- 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
- 5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
- 5th Battalion, Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
- 6th Battalion, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment
- 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
38th Infantry Brigade (from 6th Armoured Division, March 1943)
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from August 1944)
- 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (disbanded August 1944)
- 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles
- 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers
- 1st Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment (Machine Gun Battalion)
- 56th Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps
- 17th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 132nd (Welsh) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 138th (City of London) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 64th (Queen's Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 49th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (until November 1944)
- 214th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 237th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 256th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 281st Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
- 21st Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers
- 78th Divisional Signals, Royal Corps of Signals
- 11th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
- 152nd Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
- 217th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
- 47th Field Hygiene Section, Royal Army Medical Corps
- Ford, Ken (1999). Battleaxe Division. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-1893-4.
- Fulton, Fergus (2011). A Waggoner's War. Woodfield Publishing. ISBN 1846831164.
- Ray, Cyril (1952). Algiers to Austria. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. OCLC 6845975.
- Fulton (2011), pp.92-94
- Ford (1999), pp. 274–275.
- British Army Regiments website
- 78 Infantry Division at Orders of Battle.com
- 78 Infantry Division 1944–45