23rd (Northumbrian) Division

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For the equivalent formation in World War I, see 23rd Division (United Kingdom).
23rd (Northumbrian) Division
Active 2 October 1939 – 30 June 1940
Country  United Kingdom
Allegiance British Crown
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division

Second World War

Battle of France

The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was a 2nd Line Territorial Army duplicate of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division during the Second World War.


The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was being raised on the outbreak of war and became operational in October 1939. It was sent to join the British Expeditionary Force in France on 22 April 1940 on labour and training duties, without any of its artillery, signals, or administration units.[1][2][3]

After the German breakthrough in May 1940, the partly-trained division was ordered up to defend a frontage of 16 miles along the Canal du Nord. Outflanked, and faced with five German Panzer divisions, the infantry and engineers fell back towards Arras, doing what they could to hold up the enemy and suffering heavy casualties in the process. The division played a peripheral part in the Battle of Arras and by 27 May had retreated into the Dunkirk perimeter, by which time it was incapable of further action. [2][4][5][6][7][8][9]

On its return to Britain, after the Dunkirk evacuation, the 23rd Division was disbanded due to the heavy losses it had suffered. Its component units, however, would go on to see further action; the 69th Infantry Brigade (with 233 Field Company, Royal Engineers) was assigned to 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, the division's 1st-Line counterpart, and the 70th Infantry Brigade was assigned to 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division.[2]

Its Machine Gun and Motorcycle battalions, the 8th (Motorcycle) and 9th (Machine Gun) Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, would also survive with the 9th surviving until February 1942 as the Machine Gun Battalion for the 18th (East Anglian) Infantry Division until its capture at Singapore and the 8th would survive until the end of the war having been converted to the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps under the 3rd Infantry Division right up till the end of the war. The remaining engineer companies continued as part of Home Forces.[4]


  • Maj.Gen. W.N. Herbert

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