59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division

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For the equivalent formation in World War I, see 59th (2nd North Midland) Division.
59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division
59thDivInsigniaFinal.jpg
The insignia of the 59th Division
Active 1939 - 1944
Country United Kingdom
Branch Infantry
Type Infantry Division
Size Approximately 18,000 men
Battle honours Battle of Normandy
Disbanded August 1944
Commanders
Officer Commanding Major-General Lewis Lyne

The 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division, also known as the "Pithead Division" due to its divisional insignia, was a 2nd Line Territorial Army formation of the British Army during the Second World War. It served as part of the 21st Army Group during the early stages of the North-West Europe Campaign. It was one of two divisions (the other being 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division) of this army group that was disbanded due to the acute shortage of infantry reinforcements.

History[edit]

The 59th Division was reconstituted on 21 August 1939 as a duplicate of the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division. In 1941, the 197th Brigade from the disbanded 66th (East Lancashire) Division was assigned to the 59th Division. Having been kept in Britain until mid-1944, the division's lead units landed in Normandy as part of the British Second Army on 26 June. Attached to I Corps for Operation Charnwood, the division was employed in the north-western outskirts of Caen, fighting heavily against elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division.[1] Subsequently the division was attached to XII Corps in the Odon Valley.

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery named the 59th, along with seven other divisions, as one of the most reliable divisions within his 21st Army Group, bemoaning that units such as the 7th Armoured, 3rd Infantry and 51st (Highland) were not combat worthy after their initial performance, inland, after landing. In August, the division won its first and only Victoria Cross of the war, belonging to Captain David Jamieson of D Company, 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment.

It fought in Normandy until 18 August 1944 when, due to the severe casualties suffered by other British units in the Second Army and the severe shortage of infantrymen throughout the whole British Army, it was disbanded and its men used as badly needed infantry replacements for the rest of the British divisions in France. It was chosen merely because it was the most junior of the British divisions in Normandy, having been formed just weeks before the declaration of war.

The 59th Division's last major action was in the town of Thury-Harcourt, where there is now a road named after the commander at the time: the Avenue du General Lyne. In the time after this period, 197th Brigade (containing 5th East Lancs, 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers and 1/7th Warwicks) became a battlefield clearance brigade, tasked with tidying up parts of the Normandy battlefield and returning any ditched, dumped or lost but serviceable equipment.

Order of battle[edit]

This is the division's order of battle at the time of its disbandment on 18 August 1944.

176th Infantry Brigade

177th Infantry Brigade

  • 5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
  • 1/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
  • 2/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment

197th Infantry Brigade

Divisional Troops

A Vickers machine gun team of 7th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division in position in a field of corn at Someren in Holland, 21 September 1944.

Bibliography and Notes[edit]

See also[edit]