20th (Light) Division

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20th (Light) Division
20th (Light) Division sign World War 1.svg
20th (Light) Division sign, used on notice boards and signs.
Active September 1914 - May 1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry

World War I

Battle of Loos
Battle of Mont Sorrel
Battle of the Somme (1916)
Battle of Guillemont
Battle of Flers-Courcelette
Battle of Morval
Battle of Le Transloy
Battle of Messines (1917)
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Cambrai (1917)

The 20th (Light) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, part of Kitchener's Army, raised in the First World War. The division was formed in September 1914 as part of the K2 Army Group. The division landed in France July 1915 and spent the duration of the First World War in action on the Western Front.



Formation and Training[edit]

The 20th (Light) Division was authorised on 11 September 1914 and was to be composed of newly raised battalions from quick marching rifle and light infantry regiments.[1] The 59th[a] and 60th[b] Brigades were concentrated at Blackdown with the Division Headquarters and other division troops. The 61st Brigade[c] was concentrated at Aldershot, where the medical component also trained, the Artillery was formed near Deepcut, the engineers were trained at Chatham.[2] Clothing, in the form of emergency Kitchener Blue uniforms did not arrive until November, together with a few old rifles for drill practice, the artillery had only two 90mm guns and two 15 pounders per brigade. The supply situation had improved by February 1915 when the Division moved to Whitley, by which time the 11th DLI, which had a large number or miners in it had become the Division pioneer battalion, trading places in the 61st Brigade with the 12th King's Regiment, the original divisional troops battalion.[3] In April the Division marched to Salisbury Plain to complete its training and were joined by the field ambulances after their training in June. the Division was inspected by the King at the end of that month, and embarked for France in the later part of July.[4]


Leaving Amesbury on 20 July, by 26 July the Division was concentrated in the Lumbres area 22 miles (35 km) east of Boulogne-sur-Mer. By 30 July the Division was part of III Corps of the First Army, and was billeted in the area between Hazebrouck and Armentières. Training now began in trench warfare, with officers and N.C.O.s being posted to the 8th and 27th Divisions, and bombing (grenades), machine gun and gas mask training for the other troops. The units of the Division were rotated though the 8th and 27th Divisions in turn to experience trench warfare first hand between 2 and 17 August. The engineers and pioneers were employed at various tasks behind the lines.[5]

Ammunition column carts of the 20th (Light) Division, Estaires, August 1915

At the end of August the Division went into the front line in front of Levantie, 5 miles (8.0 km) south west of Armentiers, 59th and 60th Brigades in the line and the 61st in reserve. In this area the high water table meant that breastworks were required for defence.[6] During September mining and counter mining were carried out and snipers were trained in response to losses from German snipers. The 61st Brigade moved into the line on 5 September, relieving a brigade of the 8th Division. In the early hours of 13 September a mine was exploded by the Germans under a small salient held by 7th S.L.I., the crater was occupied by others from the battalion in spite of German shelling and mortaring, and 12 of the soldiers buried by the explosion were rescued alive. The division history records the first gallantry awards earned by men of the Division during this action, a Military Cross and a Distinguished Service Medal.[7]

Men of the 11th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry being taken forward by light railway near Elverdinghe, during the Third Battle of Ypres, 31 July 1917.

Order of Battle[edit]

59th Brigade
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps (disbanded February 1918)
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade (disbanded February 1918)
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade
  • 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (from February 1918)
  • 59th Machine Gun Company (joined 3 March 1916, left to form 20th MG Battalion 15 March 1918)
  • 59th Trench Mortar Battery (formed July 1916)
60th Brigade
61st Brigade
Divisional Troops
  • 12th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool Regiment) ( to 61st Brigade January 1915)
  • 11th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (pioneers) (from 61st Brigade January 1915)
  • 9th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment (left April 1915)
  • 14th Motor Machine Gun Battery (26 January 1915 — 22 April 1916)
  • HQ, D Sqn and MG Section, Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry (24 June 1915 — 29 April 1916)
  • 20th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps (formed 22 December 1914, left 17 May 1916)
  • 217th Company, MGC ( March 1917, moved into 20th Machine Gun Battalion 15 March 1918)
  • 20th Battalion Machine Gun Corps (formed 15 March 1918)
  • 20th Divisional Train Army Service Corps
    • 158th, 159th, 160th and 161st Companies
Royal Artillery
  • XC Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA) (broken up 30 August 1916)
  • XCI Brigade, RFA
  • XCII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA (left 8 January 1917)
  • XCIII Brigade, RFA (broken up 8-9 September 1916)
  • 20th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA
  • 20th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) (raised with the Division but moved independently to France in August 1915)
  • V.20 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA (formed May 1916, broken up 2 February 1918)
  • X.20, Y.20 and Z.20 Medium Mortar Batteries RFA (formed May 1916; Z battery broken up in February 1918, and distributed to X and Y batteries)
Royal Engineers
  • 83rd Field Company
  • 84th Field Company
  • 96th Field Company (from 26th Division in January 1915)
  • 20th Divisional Signals Company
Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 60th Field Ambulance
  • 61st Field Ambulance
  • 62nd Field Ambulance
  • 33rd Sanitary Section (left 24 April 1917)

Victoria Cross Recipients[edit]

Main article: Victoria Cross


Memorial to the division close to Delville Wood in the Somme

General Officer Commanding[edit]


  1. ^ 10th and 11th battalions King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), 10th and 11th battalions Rifle Brigade (Rifles)
  2. ^ 6th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Ox & Bucks), 6th battalion King's Own Shropshire Light Infantry (KSOLI), 12th battalion KRRC and 12th battalion Rifles
  3. ^ 7th battalion Somerset Light Infantry, 7th battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI), 7th battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) and (initially) the 11th battalion Durham Light Infantry] (DLI)


  1. ^ Inglefield p. 1
  2. ^ Inglefield pp. 3-4
  3. ^ Inglefield pps. 3, 5
  4. ^ Inglefield pp. 6-7
  5. ^ Inglefield pp. 7-9
  6. ^ Inglefield pp. 11-12
  7. ^ Inglefield pp. 12-14


  • Inglefield, Capt. V.E. The History of the Twentieth (Light) Division. Naval and Military Press. ISBN 9781843424093. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]