82nd (West Africa) Division
|82nd (West Africa) Division|
|Active||1941 - 1945|
|Country||British West Africa|
|Branch||Royal West African Frontier Force|
|George McI. S. Bruce
The 82nd (West Africa) Division was formed under British control during World War II. It took part in the later stages of the Burma Campaign and was disbanded in Burma between May and September 1946.
The inspiration for the division's formation came from General George Giffard. He had extensive experience of leading East African troops, and early in World War II became the commander of Britain's West Africa Command. He was eager for troops from Britain's African colonies to play their part in the war. When he was subsequently appointed to command India Command's Eastern Army, facing the Japanese army on the frontier between India and Burma, he requested that the two divisions being organised in West Africa be used in the Burma campaign.
The division was formed from the existing 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade and 2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, both of which had previously taken part in the East African Campaign in 1940 and 1941, and the freshly raised 4th (Nigerian) Infantry Brigade. The Division's headquarters was created on 1 August 1943. It followed the British 81st (West Africa) Division in the numbering sequence of British war-raised infantry divisions. The HQ took control of its sub-units on 1 November 1943.
The division's formation sign was crossed spears on a porter's headband, in black (sometimes white) on a yellow shield.
On 20 May 1944, the division sailed for Ceylon, where the complete division was assembled on 20 July. In August the organisation was slightly changed, with supporting arms which had previously been distributed between the brigades being controlled centrally by the division HQ. The division was organised on a "head load" basis, with porters carrying all heavy equipment and supplies. Although many of the troops were from the savannah of northern Ghana and Nigeria, they were well-trained and effective when operating in jungle and mountains.
After further training, the division took part in the third Arakan campaign in December 1944 under Indian XV Corps. On 15 December the Division captured Buthidaung on the Kalapanzin River and created a bridgehead on the east bank of the river. This allowed allied troops to control the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road which had been contested for three years and enabled the transport of 650 river craft by road through railway tunnels to Buthidaung to supply Indian troops in the Mayu Range.
The 82nd Division then crossed a steep and jungle-covered mountain range to converge with the British 81st (West Africa) Division on Myohaung near the mouth of the Kaladan River. This move forced the Japanese to evacuate the Mayu peninsula which they had held for almost four years and retreat south along the coast. As they retreated, British commandos from the 3rd Commando Brigade and units of the Indian 25th Infantry Division landed in inlets and chaungs ahead of them. Caught between the troops landing from the sea and the pursuing 82nd African Division, the Japanese suffered heavy casualties.
At this point, air supply was withdrawn from the Arakan front to allow the transport aircraft to supply the Allied forces in Central Burma. The 82nd Division's carrier battalions carried all supplies and equipment for the division from this point.
The Japanese 54th Division holding the Arakan was divided into two detachments holding the roads across the Arakan Hills leading from An and Taungup. The 82nd Division was asked to cross the Dalet Chaung and hilly terrain to approach the An Pass from the north west, while being supplied by air. The 1st and 4th (Nigerian) Brigades suffered heavy casualties in opening the routes to Kaw and Kyweguseik in late February. The 4th Brigade even lost two of its commanding officers. By March, the division captured Dalet Chaung and the strategic supply base of Tamandu, in coordination with Indian units.
The Gold Coast 2nd Brigade based at Letmauk subsequently became the target of intense Japanese counter-attacks, sustaining heavy casualties. They were forced to withdraw, covered by the 1st (Nigerian) Brigade. By sending long distance fighting patrols to harass the Japanese flanks, the Nigerian unit was able to force a Japanese retreat and retake An on 13 May, 1945. Meanwhile, the main body of the division, with the East African 22nd Brigade under command, advanced south from Tamandu. By the end of May Kindaungyyi, Taungup and Sandoway had been captured. Campaigning ceased during the monsoon rains but the war ended a few weeks later.
During the third Arakan campaign, the 82nd Division suffered 2,085 casualties, the highest of any unit in XV Corps. Some of those killed were buried in jungle tracts, but many Nigerian graves remain in cemeteries at the Dalet Chaung near Tamandu and the Taukkyan War Cemetery. Others are remembered at the War Memorial in Rangoon.
Other commemorations of the division's (and its component formations') service are the names of Dodan, An, Myohaung, Arakan and Marda Barracks in Lagos; Letmauk Barracks in Ibadan; Dalet, Mogadishu, Colito and Kalapanzin Barracks in Kaduna; and the Chindit Barracks in Zaria;
Order of Battle (as of 1 January, 1945)
General Officer Commanding : Major General George McIlree Stanton Bruce (replaced due to illness by Major General Hugh Charles Stockwell 12/01/1945)
- 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
- 1st Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- 2nd Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- 3rd Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- 2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
- 1st Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
- 2nd Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
- 3rd Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
- 4th (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
- 5th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- 9th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- 10th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
- Divisional Units
- 82nd (West Africa) Infantry Division Regiment (HQ Defence unit)
- 102 Light Regiment West African Artillery
- 1st Light Battery WAA
- 2nd Light Battery WAA
- 4th Light Battery WAA
- 42nd Mortar Regiment WAA
- 22nd Anti-Tank Regiment WAA
- 102 Light Regiment West African Artillery
- 1st Field Company West African Engineers
- 2nd Field Company WAE
- 4th Field Company WAE
- 9th Field Park Company WAE
- Palmer, Rob. "Divisional Histories: 82nd (West Africa) Division" (pdf). British Military History website. p. 50. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- 82 (West Africa) Infantry Division at Orders of Battle.com?
- Burma Star organisation page
- Divisional Histories