156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade

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Scottish Rifles Brigade
156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade
156th Infantry Brigade
52 inf div -vector.svg
52nd Division insignia, Second World War
Active 1908-1919
1920–1947[1]
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Role Infantry, Mountain, Air Landing
Size Brigade
Part of 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division

The 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade was an infantry brigade formation of the British Army. The brigade saw active service in both World War I and World War II with the 52nd (Lowland) Division. In the First World War the brigade served in the Middle East for most of the war until being sent to the Western Front after the German Army launched their Spring Offensive. During the Second World War it served in France shortly after the Dunkirk evacuation as part of the Second BEF during Operation Ariel, and later in North-western Europe from October 1944 to May 1945.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

The brigade was first raised, as the Scottish Rifles Brigade, in 1908 when the Territorial Force was created, which was formed by amalgamation of the Yeomanry and the Volunteer Force. The brigade was assigned to the Lowland Division, one of thirteen others to form the peacetime Territorial Force. The brigade consisted of four Volunteer battalions of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th.

First World War[edit]

The Lowland Division was mobilised for full-time war service in early August 1914, and most of the men, when asked, volunteered for overseas service. From November 1914 to March 1915, many units of the division were posted elsewhere, mainly to reinforce the Regular Army divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front, most of which had suffered heavy casualties. The 5th and 6th battalions of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) were sent to the Western Front and replaced by the 4th and 7th battalions of the Royal Scots.

In May 1915[2] the division was numbered as the 52nd (Lowland) Division and the brigades were also numbered, the Scottish Rifles Brigade becoming 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade and the battalions were redesignated, becoming '1/7th Royal Scots', to distinguish them from their 2nd Line units being formed in the 195th (2/1st Scottish Rifles) Brigade, part of the 65th (2nd Lowland) Division.

During the war the brigade served with the division in the Middle Eastern theatre, fighting in 1917 in the Battle of Romani, the First Battle of Gaza, Second Battle of Gaza and Third Battle of Gaza during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and, in 1918, served on the Western Front, fighting in the Hundred Days Offensive.

Order of battle First World War[edit]

  • 1/5th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (to November 1914)
  • 1/6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left March 1915)
  • 1/7th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
  • 1/8th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left 28 June 1918)
  • 1/4th Battalion, Royal Scots (from April 1915)
  • 1/7th Battalion, Royal Scots (from April 1915)
  • 156th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 16 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918)
  • 156th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 27 June 1917)[3]

Between the wars[edit]

After the war the brigade and division were disbanded as was the whole of the Territorial Force. The Territorial Force was reformed in the 1920s as the Territorial Army and the 52nd Division was reconstituted as was the brigade which was redesignated as the 156th (Scottish Rifles) Infantry Brigade with the same unit it had pre-war.

In 1921, the 5th and 8th battalions of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) were amalgamated as the 5th/8th Battalion and were replaced by the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers from the 155th (East Scottish) Infantry Brigade. Shortly after, the brigade was redesignated the 156th (West Scottish) Infantry Brigade.

In the late 1930s, however, many of the Territorial Army's infantry battalions were converted into other roles, mainly anti-aircraft and searchlight units. The 5th/8th Cameronians was chosen to be converted and became 5th/8th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (56th Searchlight Regiment). In 1939 the brigade was redesignated 156th Infantry Brigade.[4]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, the brigade served with the division during Operation Ariel in 1940 in France to cover the withdrawal of troops of the British Expeditionary Force which was being evacuated from France. From May 1942 to June 1944 the division was trained in mountain warfare yet were never used in the role. They were then trained in airlanding operations but were again never utilised in this role either, due mainly to the disastrous events that occurred during the Battle of Arnhem where the 1st Airborne Division was virtually destroyed. In October 1944 the 52nd Division was sent to Belgium to join the 21st Army Group and were attached to the First Canadian Army and fought in the Battle of the Scheldt where the 52nd Division gained an excellent reputation. The 156th Infantry Brigade, with the 52nd, took part in Operation Blackcock in 1945 and ended the war by the River Elbe. During Blackcock, Fusilier Dennis Donnini of the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. At age 19, he was the youngest British or Commonwealth soldier to be awarded the VC during the Second World War.

Order of battle[edit]

156th Brigade was constituted as follows during the war: [5]

Commanders[edit]

The following officers commanded 156 Brigade during the war: [6]

  • Brigadier F.G. Chalmer (until 16 April 1940)
  • Brigadier H.J. Simson (from 16 April until 21 May 1940)
  • Brigadier J.S.N. Fitzgerald (from 21 May until 19 August 1940)
  • Brigadier I.C. Grant (from 19 August 1940 until 3 December 1941)
  • Brigadier C.N. Barclay (from 3 December 1941 until 27 August 1943)
  • Lieutenant Colonel J. Greenshields (Acting, from 27 August to 22 November 1943)
  • Brigadier C.N. Barclay (from 22 November 1943 until 2 April 1945)
  • Brigadier G.D. Renny (from 2 April 1945)

Victoria Cross recipients[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Falls, Cyril; A. F. Becke (maps) (1930). Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the End of the War. Official History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. 2 Part II. London: HM Stationery Office. OCLC 256950972.