150th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)

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For the equivalent formation in World War I, see 150th (York and Durham) Brigade.
150th Infantry Brigade
50 inf div -vector.svg
Insignia of the 50th Division, Second World War
Active 1939–1942
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Size Brigade
Part of 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
Engagements Battle of France (1940)
Battle of Gazala
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Twin overlapping red "T T" on a black background

The 150th Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army that saw active service in World War II. A 1st Line Territorial Army formation, the brigade was part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division. It was overrun and forced to surrender during the Battle of Gazala in the North African Campaign. For almost 72 hours (29–31 May 1942) during the battle the 150th Brigade and the 44th Royal Tank Regiment held out against Erwin Rommel's concentrated attacks, without any support. On 1 June the German Army finally forced their surrender.

The brigade was not rebuilt.

Order of Battle[edit]

The following units constituted 150 Bde during World War II:[1]

The brigade was detached from 50th Division from 27 November 1941 to 22 February 1942 and formed into a brigade group for operations in Libya. The following additional units formed part of the brigade group:

North Africa[edit]

In April 1941 the 150th Brigade, as part of 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, was dispatched to the Middle East first via Cyprus, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and then into Libya as part of XIII Corps in the British Eighth Army.

Battle of Gazala[edit]

Main article: Battle of Gazala
The Battle of Ghazala in May 1942, in vicinity of Tobruk

The "Gazala Line" was a series of occupied "boxes" each of brigade strength set out across the desert with minefields and wire watched by regular patrols between the boxes. The Free French were to the south at the Bir Hakeim box. The line was not equally staffed with a greater number of troops covering the coast leaving the south less protected.

By late May Rommel was ready. Facing him on the Gazala defences were 1st South African Division, nearest the coast, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (on their left) and 1st Free French Brigade furthest left at Bir Hakeim. The British 1st and 7th Armoured divisions waited behind the main line as a mobile counter-attacking force while 2nd South African Division formed a garrison at Tobruk and 5th Indian Infantry Division (which had arrived in April to relieve 4th Indian Infantry Division) were held in reserve.

The 150th Infantry Brigade position at the start of the battle can be seen in the map (right), it was during this battle that they were overrun and destroyed in The Cauldron by the Afrika Corps and never reformed.[2] 232nd (Northumbrian) Field Company, Royal Engineers was captured at the same time.[3][4]

27 May. German advance spotted by the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment, at first light, at about 8:30 am on the morning of 27th they overran the 7th Armoured Divisional HQ. This scattered the 7th Motor Brigade. The 7th Motor Brigade, withdrew to the Retma Box, fifteen miles east of Bir Hakheim, while 4th Armoured Brigade, fought all day to stem the attackers. By the afternoon of the 27th, the German attack had shattered the 7th Armoured Division and they were in position to assault the 201st Guards Motor Brigade, in the Knightsbridge Box.

The Germans now attacked the Box at Retma, which was garrisoned by the Rangers (9th King's Royal Rifle Corps), 2nd Rifle Brigade, C Bty 4th RHA, and a Rhodesian anti-tank unit. Accompanied by heavy artillery fire the Panzers swarmed in, swiftly overrunning the 9th KRRC, with the rest of the garrison then moving back to east of Bir El Gubi. The Germans now pushed their Panzers on to the north, moving behind the Gazala Boxes, British resistance was now stiffened. To enable them to maintain their supply route round the south flank, the Germans cleared two paths through the minefield either side of the 150th Infantry Brigade Box and very heavy fighting took place in this area which was to become known as The Cauldron. 150th Infantry Brigade, with field and anti-tank artillery, held the Sidi Muftah box between the Trigh el Abd and Trigh Capuzzo, along which the enemy cut supply lines through the British minefields. The brigade kept the supply lines under artillery fire and, although it was unable to stop the flow of traffic, it made the route so ineffective that the enemy armoured divisions to the east of the minefields were reduced to a parlous state for petrol, ammunition and food. Their water ration was down to half a cup a man. Against this isolated brigade, the enemy committed parts of German 15th Panzer Division, 101 Motorised Division Trieste and German 90th Light Infantry Divisions, supported finally by heavy bombing attacks.

Panzerarmee Afrika said in its daily battle report. "The encircled enemy, supported by numerous infantry tanks, again resisted most stubbornly", "Each separate element within the fortress-like strengthened defences had to be fought for. The enemy suffered extraordinary heavy, bloody losses. Eventually the operation, which also caused considerable losses to our troops, ended in complete success"[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Joslen, p. 334.
  2. ^ Ramsden, Colin (2005-09-05). "Major General W. H. C. Ramsden C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C.". Archived from the original on 17 May 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  3. ^ Joslen, p. 81.
  4. ^ Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War II at Orbat.com
  5. ^ Agar-Hamilton & Turner 1952, p. 38.

References[edit]