46th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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For the equivalent formation in World War I, see 46th (North Midland) Division.
46th Infantry Division
46 inf div -vector.svg
Formation sign of the 46th Infantry Division
Active 1939-1946
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements Battle of France
Tunisia Campaign
Italian Campaign
Greek Civil War

The 46th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army raised in 1939 that saw distinguished service during World War II, fighting in the Battle of France and the Battle of Dunkirk where it was evacuated and later in North Africa, Italy and Greece.

History[edit]

Throughout the spring and summer of 1939, the Territorial Army was ordered to be doubled in size, as the threat of a European war with Nazi Germany was becoming increasingly obvious. As a result, the 46th Infantry Division came into existence in April 1939 as the 2nd Line duplicate of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, although the headquarters of of 46th Division only assumed command on 2 October 1939, slightly less than a month after World War II began. Like its parent 49th Division, the 46th drew men primarily from the North Midlands and the West Riding areas of England.[1]

British tanks and infantry of the 5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters during the advance to the Gothic Line, 27–28 August 1944.

In late April 1940 the 46th Infantry Division, commanded by Major-General H.O. Curtis, was sent to France to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The division arrived on 24 April, came under command of HQ Lines of Communication, British Expeditionary Force, alongside the 12th (Eastern) and 23rd (Northumbrian) divisions. It was poorly trained, however, and was assigned as a labour and training unit and lacked most of its artillery and signals units but ended up suffering very heavy casualties fighting the German Army in the Battle of France and, with the rest of the BEF, was forced to retreat to Dunkirk and was evacuated to Britain. However, a battalion, the 2/6th Duke of Wellington's Regiment, of 137th Brigade were not evacuated with the rest of the division as they had been cut off when the Germans cut through Northern France and were instead attached to 'A' Infantry Brigade, previously 25th Infantry Brigade, of the Beauman Division and later under command of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The battalion later managed to avoid the surrender of the 51st (Highland) and evacuated around 500 men back to the United Kingdom.[2]

Upon returning to the United Kingdom, the 46th Division was sent to Scotland where it joined Scottish Command[3]and, due to the heavy casualties it suffered, was reformed with large numbers of conscripts. In early 1941 it came under command of II Corps. In late 1941 the division was sent to Kent, where it came under command of XII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, in Southern Command, serving alongside the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, on anti-invasion duties. In mid-1942, it was decided to reorganise the division as a 'mixed' division and thus, on 20 July 1942, the 137th Infantry Brigade left the division to begin its conversion to armour as the 137th Armoured Brigade. The following month, however, there was a change of plan; the division was to remain as an infantry division and the 128th Infantry Brigade, from the 43rd (Wessex) Division, was re-assigned to the 46th. The division remained with XII Corps until 15 August 1942, where it came under control of the War Office and, on 24 August, came under command of British First Army.[4]

The division left the United Kingdom on 6 January 1943 to fight in the final stages of the North African Campaign. The 46th landed on 17 January and fought in the Tunisia Campaign - with 128th Brigade in particular bearing the brunt of Operation Ochsenkopf. From there it fought through the Italian Campaign in late 1943 with both the US Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army, fighting in tough battles such as that at the initial Salerno landings in September 1943, followed by fighting at the Winter Line, the Bernhardt Line, First Battle of Monte Cassino and later the Gothic Line. In early 1945, the division was sent with Scobie's III Corps to re-occupy Greece.

The formation sign worn by members of the division bore a Sherwood Forest oak tree.[5]

Order of battle[edit]

137th Infantry Brigade (until 20 July 1942)

138th Infantry Brigade

139th Infantry Brigade

  • 2/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment
  • 2/5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (redesignated 5th Battalion on 1 March 1943)
  • 9th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (to 28 December 1940)
  • 139th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 17 August 1940, disbanded 10 July 1941)
  • 16th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (from 28 December 1940)[6]

137th Armoured Brigade (from 20 July until 14 August 1942)

128th Infantry Brigade (from 15 August 1942 onwards)

  • 1/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
  • 5th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
  • 2/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment (to 9 May 1943)
  • 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment (from 10 May 1943)

Divisional troops

Commanders[edit]

  • Major-General Algernon L. Ransome: October-December 1939
  • Major-General Henry O. Curtis: December 1939-June 1940
  • Major-General Desmond F. Anderson: June-December 1940
  • Major-General Charles E. Hudson: December 1940-May 1941
  • Major-General Douglas N. Wimberley: May-June 1941
  • Major-General Miles C. Dempsey: June-October 1941
  • Major-General Harold A. Freeman-Attwood: November 1941-August 1943
  • Major-General John L.I. Hawkesworth: August 1943-November 1944
  • Major-General Stephen C.E. Weir: November 1944-September 1946
  • Major-General John F.B. Combe: September 1946-1947

Victoria Cross recipients[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]