49th (West Riding) Infantry Division

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49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
49th Inf Brigade (Logo Polar Bears).jpg
Active 1908 - 1967
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Branch British Army
Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Armoured from 1945
Nickname The Polar Bears (WWII)
Barker's Bears (WWII)
Engagements First World War
Second World War
Battle honours Somme (1916)
Normandy
The Odon
Scheldt
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Gen.E.H.Barker
Maj.Gen.G.H.A. MacMillan
Insignia
Identification
symbol
British 49th (West Riding) Division insignia.png World War I
Identification
symbol
49th Inf Brigade (Logo Polar Bears).jpg World War II

The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division was formed on 1 April 1908 as the West Riding Division in the Territorial Force of the British Army. The division fought in France & Flanders during the First World War and in the Second World War.

After the Second World War it remained with the Northern Command.

First World War[edit]

In 1915, it was designated the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division and given the White Rose of York as its insignia.

Formation 1914 - 1918[edit]

146th (West Riding) Brigade 
  • 1/5th Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/6th Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/7th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)
  • 1/8th (Leeds Rifles) Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) (until January 1918)
147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade 
  • 1/4th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
  • 1/5th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) (until January 1918)
  • 1/6th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
  • 1/7th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)
148th (3rd West Riding) Brigade 
Pioneers 

Second World War[edit]

Universal Carriers of 49th (West Riding) Division's Reconnaissance Regiment are welcomed by Dutch civilians on the outskirts of Kampen, 19 April 1945

During the Second World war, the division first saw action beginning on 15–17 April 1940 when two of its brigades took part in the short and ill-fated landings in Norway that were intended to retake the ports of Trondheim and Narvik from the Germans. The division withdrew from Norway in May 1940.

The division's 146th Infantry Brigade and 147th Infantry Brigade were thereafter stationed in Iceland.[1] As a result, a new divisional insignia, featuring a Polar Bear standing on an ice floe, was adopted. In 1942, the division was transferred back to the United Kingdom.

Just after D-Day, in June 1944, it moved to Normandy as part of XXX Corps. During the fierce fighting in Normandy, the Nazi propaganda broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw referred to the division as "the Polar Bear Butchers". During the rest of the war, the division was variously under the command of the I Corps, the II Canadian Corps, and the I Canadian Corps. Its last major contribution to the war was the Liberation of Arnhem and the fierce battles that led to it.

Order of Battle 1939 - 1945[edit]

  • 49 Reconnaissance Regiment, RAC
  • 228, 229, 230, 294, 756, 757 Field Company, RE
  • 231 & 289 Field Park Company, RE
  • 23 Bridging Platoon, RE
  • 49 Divisional Signals, RSC
  • 69, 70, 71, 74, 79, 80, 143, 178, 185 Field Regiment, RA
  • 55, 58, 88 Anti-Tank Regiment, RA
  • 89, 118 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA
  • 2nd Battalion, The Kensington Regiment (M.G.)
  • 49 Royal army Service Corps ( R.A.S.C )

146th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939–1945)

147th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939–1945)

148th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(1939-Apr 1940)

70th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(May 1942-Oct 1944)(disbanded in NW Europe)

56th Infantry Brigade[edit]

(Aug 1944-1945)

Commanders[edit]

Dates in British form (dd.mm.yyyy) indicating the date they entered the command (or resumed command when there are multiple dates).

  • Maj. Gen. Pierse J. Macksey - 03.09.1939
  • Maj. Gen. Harry O. Curtis - 10.06.1940
  • Brig. Neville P. Procter - 12.04.1943 (Acting)
  • Maj. Gen. Sir Evelyn W. Barker - 12.04.1943
  • Maj. Gen. Sir Gordon H.A. MacMillan - 30.11.1944, 06.02.1945
  • Brig. R.H. Senior - 27.01.1945 & 24.03.1945 (Acting)
  • Maj. Gen. Stuart B. Rawlins - 28.03.1945, 27.04.1945
  • Brig. Edward N. Crosse - 18.04.1945 (Acting)
  • Brig. H. Wood - 23.08.1945 (Acting)

Post 1945[edit]

The division was disbanded in Germany in 1946, but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1947, having been renamed the 49th (West Riding) Armoured Division. It was based in Nottingham, consisting of (on 1 April 1947):

In 1956, it was renamed the 49th (West Riding and Midland) Infantry Division, its base moved to Leeds, and the 8th Armoured Brigade was removed from its order of battle. Finally, it underwent its last major change in 1961, when it was renamed to the 49th (West Riding and North Midland) Division/District, and the 147th Infantry Brigade was removed from its composition. The Division/District finally disbanded in 1967, becoming simply X District.[2]

The polar bear flash is now worn by 49 Brigade.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]