80th Infantry (Reserve) Division (United Kingdom)

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80th Infantry (Reserve) Division
British 80th Infantry (Reserve) Badge.svg
The shoulder insignia of the division
Active 1 January 1943 – 1 September 1944[1]
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Infantry
Role Training

The 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division was a British Army division formed at the beginng of 1943, during the Second World War. For the next two years it was a training formation, and used as a source of reinforcements for the 21st Army Group that was fighting in Normandy. As the British army, within the United Kingdom, decreased in size due to all available infantry being sent to France, the division was disbanded.

In addition to the actual formation, a phantom 80th Infantry Division was formed to aid the deception effort that supported the invasion of France. This phantom division was part of the notional British Fourth Army, which was part of the threaten Allied landing at the Pas de Calais. The overall deception plan was successful, delaying large numbers of German troops from being deployed against the Allied armies in Normandy.

Divisional history[edit]

Training formation[edit]

Infantry training at Western Command's weapon training school.

During the Second World War, the divisions of the British Army were divided between "Higher Establishment" and "Lower Establishment". The former were intended for deployment overseas and combat, whereas the latter were strictly for home defense in a static role.[2][3] During the winter of 1942/43, three existing infantry divisions were placed on the Lower Establishment and renamed 'Reserve Divisions'. These three divisions were supplemented by the raising of a new reserve division.[4] The 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division was formed on 1 January 1943, and placed under the command Major-General L. H. Cox.[1] These four divisions were assigned a training role.[4] Soldiers who had completed their Corps Training [a] were assigned to these divisions for additional training, which included "five weeks of section, platoon, and company training" culminating "in a strenuous three-day exercise". Troops would then be ready to be sent overseas to join other formations.[5] Training was handled in this manner to relief the Higher Establishment divisions of being used as a source of replacements for other units, and to allow them to "undergo uninterrupted intensive training."[6]

During its existence, the 80th Division was assigned to Western Command.[6] The Imperial War Museum comments that the division insignia of a troopship, was derived from "one of the prime functions of the Division [that being] to find drafts for overseas postings". The design included "two long and prominent bow waves from the ship" resulting in the troops giving it the nickname the "torpedoed troopship".[7]

By 30 June 1944, these training divisions (the 48th, 76th, 77th Holding, and the 80th) had a combined total of 22,355 men between them. Of these men, only an estimated 1,100 were available to be used as replacements for 21st Army Group.[8] The remaining, were ineligible for service abroad due to age or medical reasons.[9] In comparison, the war establishment - the on-paper strength - of an infantry division in 1944 was 18,347 men.[10] By September, Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group "had bled Home Forces dry of draftable riflemen" due the losses suffered during the Normandy Campaign, leaving the army in Britain (with the exception of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division) with just "young lads, old men, and the unfit."[11] On 1 September 1944, the division was disbanded. Major-General Cox took command of the 38th Infantry (Reserve) Division, which took over the role the 80th had undertaken.[12][6]

Deception formation[edit]

An outline of the Operation Bodyguard deception plans.

Operation Bodyguard was the overall codename for the deception plan designed to protect Operation Overlord.[13] Fortitude North was part of the overall deception plan, and aimed to make the Germans believe that the notional Fourth Army, based in Scotland, would assault Norway. The deception plan aimed to keep German units based there.[14] Following the invasion of Normandy, the Fourth Army was notionally transferred south to reinforce the First United States Army Group (FUSAG), another fictitious formation.[15] Fortitude South aimed to convince the Germans that FUSAG would launch the main Allied invasion in the Pas De Calais region, 45 days after the Normandy landings. The ultimate goal of the operation was to persuade the Germans not to move their 15th Army, and to delay it being launched upon the Allied forces in Normandy.[16]

The Fourth Army included the imaginary VII Corps, which after being transferred south to FUSAG, included the fictitious British 80th Infantry Division that was notionally based in Canterbury.[17][18] The phantom 80th, retaining the insignia of the actual division, notionally consisted of the 50th, 208th, and 211th Brigades.[18] Joan Pujol Garcia, the British double agent known as Garbo who played a vital role in Fortitude,[citation needed] reported to the Germans that the 80th Division was undertaking assault training.[17][b] To aid in the deception, signalers from the 61st Infantry Division maintained wireless traffic to give the Germans the impression of the 80th Division's presence.[20] Fortitude South has been credited with ensuring the German 15th Army was not deployed against the Allied invasion force too soon and ensuring the success of Operation Overlord, however historian Mary Kathryn Barbier - writing in 2006 - comments that "it is time to consider that the importance of the deception has been overrated."[21] Following the Battle of Normandy, the phantom division was notionally transferred around the east coast of England, moving back and forth between VII Corps and the equally imaginary II Corps. The division was eventually 'disbanded' in April 1945.[18]

General officer Commanding[edit]

Appointed General Officer Commanding
1 January 1943 Major-General L. H. Cox[1]

Order of Battle[edit]

Notes[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ Having entered military service, a recruit was assigned to the General Service Corps. They would then undertake six weeks training at a Primary Training Centre, and take aptitude and intelligence tests. Following which, the recruit would be posted to a Corps Training Centre that specialized in the arm of the service they were joining. For those who would be joining the infantry, Corps Training involved a further sixteen weeks of training. For more specialized roles, such as signalers, it could be up to thirty weeks.[5]
  2. ^ To simulate the amphibious assault training of a whole division required the work of just eight officers and 28 other soldiers. [19]
Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Joslen 2003, p. 103.
  2. ^ French 2001, p. 188.
  3. ^ Perry 1988, p. 65.
  4. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 66.
  5. ^ a b French 2001, p. 68.
  6. ^ a b c Forty 2013, Reserve Divisions.
  7. ^ "badge, formation, 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division". Imperial War Museum. 4 October 2010. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Hart 2007, p. 52.
  9. ^ Hart 2007, p. 48.
  10. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 130–131.
  11. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 49-50.
  12. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 65 and 103.
  13. ^ Crowdy 2008, p. 323.
  14. ^ Crowdy 2008, pp. 323 and 232.
  15. ^ Crowdy 2008, p. 293.
  16. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 172.
  17. ^ a b Harris & National Archives 2004, p. 221.
  18. ^ a b c Holt 2004, p. 924.
  19. ^ Mann 2012, p. 145.
  20. ^ Hesketh 2000, p. 296.
  21. ^ Buckley 2006, p. 182.
  22. ^ a b c d e f Joslen 2003, p. 290.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i Joslen 2003, p. 374.

References[edit]