78th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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78th Infantry Division
78 inf div -vector.svg
Formation sign of the 78th Infantry Division
Active 1942–1945
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Nickname Battleaxe 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.[1]

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.[citation needed]

Commanding officers[edit]


Order of battle from 1942 composed from units of Force 110.[2]

1st Guards Brigade (to 6th Armoured Division, March 1943)

11th Infantry Brigade

36th Infantry Brigade

38th Infantry Brigade (from 6th Armoured Division, March 1943)

Support units


  • 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. 


  1. ^ Fulton (2011), pp.92-94
  2. ^ Ford (1999), pp. 274–275.

External links[edit]