48th (South Midland) Division

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South Midland Division
48th (South Midland) Division
48th (South Midland) Infantry Division
48th Infantry (Reserve) Division
48th (South Midland) Division insignia (WW1).png
Mike Chappell comments that starting in 1918 the white diamond "was painted on helmets ... with regimental badges superimposed" upon it.[1]
Active 1908–1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Role Infantry, home defense, and training
Engagements Battle of the Somme (1916)
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
48 inf div -vector.svg
Divisional insignia adopted following the Battle of France.[2]

The 48th (South Midland) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, part of the Territorial Force raised in 1908. Originally called the South Midland Division, it was redesignated as the 48th (South Midland) Division in 1915. During the Great War, the division saw service on the Western Front before being transferred to the Italian Front in November 1917 and remained there for the rest of the war. Reformed in 1920 in the Territorial Army as the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division, it saw active service in the Second World War with the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium and France before being evacuated from Dunkirk. It was converted into a training reserve division in late December 1942, remaining in that status for the rest of the war. The division was not reformed again. In both world wars the division raised a 2nd Line reserve division, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division in the Great War, and 61st Division in the Second World War.


As a result of lessons learned from the Second Boer War and diplomatic clashes with the growing German Empire, the United Kingdom—from 1901 onward—sought to reform the military to be able to engage in European affairs if required. The task of reforming the British Army fell to Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane. The subsequent Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, part of the Haldane Reforms, created the new Territorial Force by merging the existing Yeomanry and Volunteer Force in 1908.[3] The reforms resulted in the creation of 14 Territorial Divisions, including the South Midland Division.[4][5]

The 1910 edition of the Hazell's Annual reported that in 1909, "The South Midland Division ... had 13 units up to or over establishment, and the others very little below it."[6] The following year, the Territorial Force peaked at a strength of 276,000 men; 26,000 men short of the peacetime establishment set. Between 1910 and 1914, the overall strength of the force dropped to 250,000, 52,000 short of the peacetime establishment. As part of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, territorials were only liable to serve within the United Kingdom and were not required to serve overseas.[4]

First World War[edit]


Recruiting poster for the South Midland Divisional Cyclist Company

In August 1914, the South Midland Division departed for its annual summer training camp. The 143rd (Warwickshire) Brigade, for example, departed for Rhyl in northern Wales. Following the declaration of war, the division was mobilised and moved south to take up defensive positions along the southern coast. [7][8] Due to German-invasion scares, the division-numbering 6,000 men-moved to Essex. While there was no invasion, the division remained in the area on defensive duties and to continue training.[9][10]

During the opening weeks of the war, as the Territorials were not required to be deployed overseas, the troops were asked to volunteer. By the end of August, over seventy battalions across the Territorial Force had volunteered with the number further raising as the year progressed.[11] The members of the division who had not, or were not able to, volunteered for oversea service were were transferred to newly created second line units intended for home defence. These second line units were eventually formed into the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division and, following the passing of the Military Service Act 1916, deployed to France in February 1916.[12][13] In March 1915, with the threat of a German invasion having subsided, the South Midland Division was dispatched to France with the territorials who had volunteered for overseas service.[14]


On the outbreak of war the division composed the Warwickshire Brigade, the Gloucester and Worcester Brigade and the South Midland Brigade. The division would was redesignated the 48th (South Midland) Division, and it's brigades became the 143rd (Warwickshire) Brigade, 144th (Gloucester and Worcester) Brigade and 145th (South Midland) Brigade respectively. The division was sent to France in March 1915 and served on the Western Front and in Italy during the First World War. It took part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Battle of Pozières and the Third Battle of Ypres.[15]

In November 1917, the division was sent to Italy, where it remained until the end of the War. It fought the Battle of the Asiago Plateau (15–16 June 1918) and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.[15]


After the war, the 48th Divisional Signal Company was posted to Iran as part of Norperforce.[21] The division was disbanded in June 1919, along with the rest of the Territorial Force. However, the Territorial Force was reformed in 1920 as the Territorial Army and the 48th Division was reconstituted as the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division.

During the inter-war period, the British Army envisioned that during future conflicts the Territorial Army would be used as the basis for future expansion so to avoid raising a new Kitchener's Army. However, as the 1920s and 1930s wore on, the British Government prioritized funding for the regular army over the territorials allowing recruitment and equipment levels to languish.[22] Baron Templemore, as part of a House of Lords debate on the Territorial Army, stated the division - on 1 October 1924 - mustered 338 officers and 7,721 other ranks.[23] Historian David French highlights that "by April 1937 the Territorial Army had reached less than 80 per cent of its shrunken peacetime establishment" and "Its value as an immediate reserve was, therefore, limited."[22] Edward Smalley comments that "48th Divisional Signals operated on an improvised organizational structure" for most of the 1930s, due to being below 50 per cent strength. He further highlights how the Territorial Army, and the division in particular, "never kept pace with technological developments." In 1937, the division was operating just two radio sets on a full time basis and had to borrow additional units from the 3rd Infantry Division for annual training camps.[24]

Second World War[edit]

On the outbreak of the Second World War, the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division was mobilised in early September 1939. After spending a few months in England training the division, now commanded by Major-General Sir Andrew Thorne, landed in France in early January 1940[25] and became part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the first complete division of the Territorial Army to do so. The division came under command of I Corps, serving alongside the 1st and 2nd Infantry divisions, both Regular Army formations. Soon after their arrival the 48th Division exchanged some of its units with the Regular divisions. For example, in the 143rd Brigade, the 5th (Huntingdonshire) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment was exchanged with the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, a Regular Army unit, and transferred to the 11th Infantry Brigade, of the 4th Infantry Division. This was official policy within the BEF and was, in theory, intended to strengthen the inexperienced Territorial divisions.[26] This happened with nearly all the Territorial divisions that were sent overseas until May 1940.

France and Dunkirk[edit]

When the Germans invaded France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the BEF moved forward to occupy pre-planned positions in Belgium, but the rapid German breakthrough into France caused it to retreat towards Dunkirk.

On 23 May, 48th Division was pulled out to form a new defence line along the canal between Saint-Omer and the coast. The divisional Commander, Royal Artillery, Brig Hon Edward Lawson, was sent with 'X Force' of artillery, machine guns and infantry ahead of the division to occupy the chosen positions.[27] However, the unexpected surrender of Belgian forces on 27 May 1940 led to a gap appearing between 48th Division in action around Saint-Omer and the coast at Nieuwpoort. Until II Corps could arrive to plug this gap, Lawson was responsible for what the Official History calls 'the most dangerously exposed part of the bridgehead'.[28] He was ordered by the commander of the Dunkirk perimeter, Lt-Gen Ronald Adam to improvise a defence line along the canal and prevent the Germans breaking through to the vital beaches east of Dunkirk where much of the BEF was waiting to be evacuated. At 11.00 on 28 May, advanced German troops reached the canal line, but Lawson seized on the Territorial gunners of 53rd (London) Medium Regiment, RA who were marching towards Dunkirk having fired off all their ammunition and destroyed their guns. Together with detachments of Regular gunners from 2nd Medium Regiment and 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, and sappers from 7th Field Company, Royal Engineers, they fought as infantry to hold the line. They came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire, and the Germans seized a bridgehead at Nieuwpoort, but all subsequent attacks that day were repulsed. Lawson's scratch force was relieved next day and then evacuated to Britain.[28][29][30][31][32]

Home defence and training[edit]

The 48th Division completed its return to the United Kingdom on 1 June. It was subsequently posted to Western Command, Southern Command, and VIII Corps[37] and began training in preparation to repel an expected German invasion of England.

During the war, the divisions of the British Army were divided between "Higher Establishment" and "Lower Establishment" formations. The former were intended for deployment overseas and combat, whereas the latter were strictly for home defence in a static role.[38][39] During November 1941, the division was placed on the "Lower Establishment" and assigned to I Corps District.[37]

During the winter of 1942–43, the army overhauled how it would train new recruits. The 48th was one of three divisions that were changed from "Lower Establishment" units to "Reserve Divisions".[40] On 20 December, the division was renamed the 48th Infantry (Reserve) Division, becoming a training formation in the process. This reorganization took place during 1943, and the division held this training role for the remainder of the war.[37][40][41] These three divisions were supplemented by a fourth training formation, which was raised on 1 January 1943.[42] The 48th Infantry (Reserve) Division was assigned to Northern Command[41] Soldiers who had completed their Corps training were sent to these training divisions.[43][c] The soldiers were given five weeks of additional training at the section, platoon and company level, before undertaking a final three-day exercise. Troops would then be ready to be sent overseas to join other formations.[43] Training was handled in this manner to relieve the "Higher Establishment" divisions from being milked for replacements for other units and to allow them to intensively train without the interruption of having to handle new recruits.[41] During this period, from 17 October 1942 until 30 September 1943, the 10th Tank Brigade was assigned to the division for the holding and training of reinforcements to armoured units.[44] On 7 November 1943, the division's 145th Infantry Brigade was disbanded.[36]

On 30 June 1944, the 48th Infantry (Reserve) Division, along with the other training divisions (the 76th, 77th, and the 80th), had a combined total of 22,355 men. Of this number, only 1,100 were immediately available as replacements for the 21st Army Group, fighting at the time in the Normandy Campaign.[45][d] The remaining 21,255 men were considered ineligible for service abroad due to a variety of reasons, ranging from medical, not being considered fully fit, or not yet fully trained. Over the following six months, up to 75 per cent of these men would be deployed to reinforce the 21st Army Group following the completion of their training and having met the required fitness levels.[47] Stephen Hart comments that, by September, the 21st Army Group "had bled Home Forces dry of draftable riflemen" due the losses suffered during the Normandy Campaign, leaving the army in Britain (with the exception of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division) with just "young lads, old men, and the unfit".[48]

Due to decreased need for such a formation, the division was disbanded after the war on 1 November 1945.[49]


The division was not reformed in the Territorial Army in 1947. However, between 1961 and 1966, 48 Division/District existed in the West Midlands.[51][52]

General officer commanding[edit]

Commanders included:

Appointed General officer commanding
April 1908 Brigadier-General Herbert A. Raitt[53]
September 1911 Major-General Alexander W. Thorneycroft[53]
1 July 1912 Major-General John L. Keir[54]
27 July 1914 Major-General Edward R.C. Graham[54]
5 August 1914 Major-General Henry Heath (sick, 7 May 1915)[54]
7 May 1915 Brigadier-General W.K. McClintock (acting)[54]
31 May 1915 Major-General Sir Robert Fanshawe[54]
20 June 1918 Brigadier-General J Steele (acting)[54]
4 July 1918 Major-General Sir Harold Bridgwood Walker[54]
April 1923 Major-General Sir Percy Radcliffe[53]
April 1926 Major-General Thomas Tait Pitman[53]
April 1930 Major-General Ivo Vesey[53]
June 1931 Major-General Cuthbert Fuller[53]
June 1935 Major-General Stephen S. Butler[53]
June 1939 Major-General Frank Crowther Roberts[53]
8 October 1939 Brigadier Honorable Edward Lawson (acting)[37]
23 October 1939 Major-General Andrew Thorne[37]
7 June 1940 Brigadier James Muirhead (acting)[37]
18 June 1940 Major-General Roderic Loraine Petre[37]
8 October 1941 Major-General Arthur Grassett[37]
14 November 1941 Brigadier James Muirhead (acting)[37]
7 December 1941 Major-General Hayman Hayman-Joyce[37]
29 August 1943 Brigadier Philip Bowden-Smith (acting)[37]
3 September 1943 Brigadier William Leslie Dibben (acting)[37]
6 September 1943 Major-General Horatio P.M. Berney-Ficklin[37]
29 March 1944[37] (until 1946) Major-General W.P.A. Bradshaw
February 1961 (until March 1963) Major-General John Worsley[53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 1/8th Warks, 1/8th Worcs and 1/5th Glosters left the division on 11 and 12 September 1918 and proceeded to the BEF on the Western Front where they joined 75th Brigade, 25th Division.[15]
  2. ^ The divisional artillery was originally organized as 9 batteries of four 15 pounders and 2 batteries of four 5" howitzers. By January 1917 it had been re-armed with modern weapons and reorganized with 6 batteries of six 18 pounders and 2 batteries of six 4.5" howitsers.[15]
  3. ^ Having entered military service, a recruit was assigned to the General Service Corps. They would then undertake six weeks training at a Primary Training Centre and take aptitude and intelligence tests. The recruit would then be posted to a Corps Training Centre that specialized in the arm of the service they were joining. For those who would be joining the infantry, Corps training involved a further sixteen week course. For more specialized roles, such as signallers, it could be up to thirty weeks.[43]
  4. ^ The war establishment—the paper strength—of a "Higher Establishment" infantry division in 1944 was 18,347 men.[46]
  1. ^ Chappell 1986, p. 24.
  2. ^ "Badge, formation, 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Perry 1988, pp. 4–6.
  4. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 6.
  5. ^ FitzM. Stacke 2013, p. xxviii.
  6. ^ Hall 1910, p. 213.
  7. ^ Carter 2011, pp. 26, 30.
  8. ^ Harris & Whippy 2008, p. 8.
  9. ^ Mitchinson 2008, p. 209.
  10. ^ Swan 2015, p. 23.
  11. ^ Simkins 2007, pp. 43–46.
  12. ^ FitzM. Stacke 2013, p. 46.
  13. ^ Ogle 1993, p. 8.
  14. ^ FitzM. Stacke 2013, p. 67.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Becke 1936, pp. 77–83.
  16. ^ Baker, Chris. "The 48th (South Midland) Division in 1914-1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Conrad, Mark (1996). "The British Army, 1914". Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Farndale, p. 94.
  19. ^ Rinaldi, Richard A. "Royal Engineers, World War I" (PDF). Orbat.com. 
  20. ^ Lord & Watson, p. 159.
  21. ^ Haldane.
  22. ^ a b French 2001, p. 53.
  23. ^ "THE TERRITORIAL FORCE: HL Deb 22 July 1925 vol 62 cc243-66". Hansard. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  24. ^ Smalley 2015.
  25. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 77–78.
  26. ^ Palmer, Rob (22 January 2012). "48th (South Midland) Infantry Division (1939)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  27. ^ Ellis, France & Flanders, Ch. VIII [1].
  28. ^ a b Ellis, France & Flanders, Ch. IX [2].
  29. ^ Butler & Bradford, pp. 158–9.
  30. ^ Bryant, pp. 144–5, 149.
  31. ^ Richards.
  32. ^ Chronology at 53rd Regt website.
  33. ^ a b c d e f Joslen 2003, p. 76.
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Joslen 2003, p. 328.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Joslen 2003, p. 329.
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Joslen 2003, p. 330.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax Joslen 2003, p. 77.
  38. ^ Perry 1988, p. 65.
  39. ^ French 2001, p. 188.
  40. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 66.
  41. ^ a b c Forty 2013, Reserve Divisions.
  42. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 103.
  43. ^ a b c French 2001, p. 68.
  44. ^ a b c d e Joslen 2003, p. 198.
  45. ^ Hart 2007, p. 52.
  46. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 130–131.
  47. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 48–51.
  48. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 49–50.
  49. ^ "Territorial Army: HC Deb 27 November 1945 vol 416 cc1248-9W". Hansard. Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  50. ^ a b Joslen 2003, pp. 77, 608.
  51. ^ MOD. "148 (West Midlands) Brigade - History of the Brigade". Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  52. ^ T F Mills (26 May 2006). "West Midland District". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. 
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mackie 2015, p. 207.
  54. ^ a b c d e f g Becke 1936, p. 77.


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