10th Indian Infantry Division

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

10th Indian Infantry Division
Insignia of the 10th Indian Infantry Division, World War II.
CountryBritish Raj British India
Allegiance British Empire
BranchBritish Raj Red Ensign.svg Indian Army
EngagementsWorld War II:
Battle of Lahore
Battle honoursNorth Africa
William Slim
Wilfrid Lloyd
Denys Reid

The 10th Indian Infantry Division was a war formed infantry division of the Indian Army during World War II. In four years, the division travelled over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) from Tehran to Trieste, fought three little wars, and fought two great campaigns: Anglo-Iraqi War, Invasion of Syria-Lebanon, Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, North African Campaign, and Italian Campaign.


World War II[edit]

The 10th Indian Infantry Division was formed in January 1941, out of the 20th, 21st and 25th Indian Infantry Brigades. Commanded by Major General William "Bill" Slim, it landed in Basra in April, moving up the Euphrates and capturing Baghdad and the oilfields of Mosul as part of the Anglo-Iraqi War. When Iraq's ally Nazi Germany relocated its aircraft to Vichy French Syria, the 10th invaded Syria from Iraq in June. The 21st Brigade advanced towards Aleppo, while the 20th and 25th Brigades guarded the communication lines and the Mosul oilfield respectively. Following the French surrender on 11 July, the division returned to guard duty in Mosul. In August, the division took part in the joint Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. At the conclusion of the Iranian operation it returned to Iraq where it underwent additional training and conducted security duties until May 1942.[1] In March 1942 command of the division passed from Major General Slim to Major General Thomas "Pete" Rees when Slim was ordered to India to take command of Burma Corps, the kernel that would eventually become the British Fourteenth Army.[2]

We had scrambled thought skirmishes of the Iraq rebellion, been blooded, but not too deeply, against the French in Syria, and enjoyed the unrestrainedly opéra bouffe of the invasion of Persia. We had bought our beer in Haifa and drunk it on the shores of the Caspian. We could move, we could fight, and we had begun to build up that most valuable of all assets a tradition of success. We had a good soldierly conceit of ourselves. Now in March 1942, in spite of dust storms....it was stimulating to be in what we all felt was a critical spot, waiting for the threatened German invasion of Turkey.

— Slim – Defeat into Victory[3]

The division then moved on to North Africa reaching Halfaya Pass on 4 June, it was to be take part in the Western Desert Campaign.[4] Initially the 10th Indian Infantry Division was committed piecemeal with units involved El Adem and Sidi Rezegh during the 1942 Battle of Gazala. In June the division, with the 2nd Free French Brigade under command, was ordered by Lieutenant General William Gott, the XIII Corps commander, to hold a position near the Egyptian border with Libya for 72 hours during the British Eighth Army's retreat to El Alamein. Major General Rees responded that the division had only just concentrated and that defensive works were as yet inadequate. He believed therefore that the division was unlikely to be able to withstand a full-scale attack from Rommel. Gott immediately visited Rees and relieved him of command of the division, telling him he lacked resolution.[5] During the course of its retreat from Libya the division was tasked with defending the coastal town of Mersa Matruh. In the ensuing battle it was overwhelmed and forced to retreat. 60% of the men evaded capture, reaching the Allied lines at El Alamein the following day. Most of the survivors were sent to the Nile Delta to recover. However part of the division formed the improvised Robcol formation, which held the Ruweisat Ridge between 2–3 July during the course of the First Battle of El Alamein.[4]

In August, command passed to Major General Alan Bruce Blaxland while the division was sent to Cyprus with the responsibility of protecting the island. In July 1943, Major General Wilfrid Lewis Lloyd took command. In August, the 10th had relocated to the Middle East, now incorporating the 1st Greek Brigade, composed of royalist Greek and Yugoslavian troops along with the 20th and 25th Indian Brigades. During the course of the summer it underwent training for a planned invasion of Rhodes, the Allied defeat in the Dodecanese campaign put an end to those plans. In November in was placed on security duty in Lebanon. On 27 November, it began training for amphibious assault and mountain warfare in preparation for its role in the Italian Campaign.[6] In January 1944, Lloyd was killed in a car accident while overseeing a training exercise in Egypt, command passed to Major General Denys Whitehorn Reid.[7]

A patrol from No. 8 Platoon, 'C' Company of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Gurkha Rifles advances cautiously through the snow, near Castel Bolognese, Italy, 23–24 January 1945.

On 9 March 1944, the division was ordered to transfer to the Italian front. On 22 April, it relieved the 1st Canadian Division at the Ortona sector which it held along with the 4th Indian Infantry Division. There it engaged in frequent patrols in order to prevent the enemy from sending reinforcement to the ongoing Battle of Monte Cassino. On 4 June, the division was moved to Venafro where it continued its training in mountain and urban warfare. The division returned to the front lines on 28 June, replacing the 8th Indian Infantry Division. Advancing through the Tiber valley the division occupied Umbertide on 2 July. Taking advantage of its training in mountain warfare it went on to take Città di Castello and Montone, infiltrating deep into Axis positions and striking from the flanks and the rear. By 1 August, the division's vanguard had reached the north of the Tiber's basin. Further advance was blocked by the Alpe di Catenaia heights, a solid block of ridges and peaks that could only be taken by a set piece assault. On 4 August, troops belonging to the 10th Division captured Monte Altuccia, two days later the Regina height was occupied. The latter was abandoned as the division had to replace the 4th Indian Infantry Division on its former front line sector which spanned 15 miles (24 km). On 19 August, Alpe di Catenaia heights were finally overtaken by the 3/1st Punjabis. On 17 September, the unit was transferred to the Adriatic in an effort to penetrate the Gothic Line.[8]

Numerous mountain battles and river crossings followed with Operation Olive on the Gothic Line and then Operation Grapeshot. The 10th Indian Infantry Division earned many battle honours and decorations and suffered many casualties before final victory in Italy and the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945. Security tasks on the Yugoslav border around Trieste completed the 10th Indian Division's war service.

Order of battle[edit]


Prior to its piecemeal dispatch to Iraq, April 1941[9]


Italy, March 1944-June 1945[10]

Assigned brigades[edit]

In addition to those listed above the following brigades were assigned or attached to the division for relatively short times during World War II.[11]

General Officers Commanding[edit]



  1. ^ Kavanagh 2014, pp. 47–48.
  2. ^ Slim William. Defeat into Victory p. 19
  3. ^ Slim William. Defeat into Victory p. 3
  4. ^ a b Kavanagh 2014, p. 48.
  5. ^ Mead (2007), p. 373
  6. ^ Kavanagh 2014, pp. 48–51.
  7. ^ Kavanagh 2014, p. 57.
  8. ^ Kavanagh 2014, pp. 60–70.
  9. ^ "10th Indian Division 15/04/1941". Orders of Battle. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  10. ^ Palmer, Rob. "10 Indian Division (1944-1945)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 6 December 2015.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "10 Indian Infantry Division Subordinate units". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  12. ^ "10 Indian Infantry Division Appointments". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 7 December 2015.