5th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

5th Division
5th Infantry Division
5th Division
5th UK Infantry Division.svg
Insignia of the 5th Division
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Part ofLand Forces
Garrison/HQCopthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury, Shropshire (1995–2012)
Nickname(s)The Globe Trotters
The Gypsies
The Fighting Fifth
EngagementsPeninsula War
Battle of Bussaco
Battle of Sabugal
Siege of Almeida (1811)
Battle of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Vitoria
Siege of San Sebastian
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of the Nive
Waterloo Campaign
Battle of Quatre Bras
Battle of Waterloo
First World War
Battle of Mons
Battle of Le Cateau
First Battle of Ypres
Second Battle of Ypres (13th Brigade)
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Passchendaele
Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Épehy
Second World War
Operation Husky
Italian Campaign
North West Europe Campaign
Thomas Picton
Herbert Plumer
Thomas Morland
Harold Franklyn
Richard Hull
British 5th Infantry Division Insignia.png
5 inf div -vector.svg

The 5th Infantry Division was a regular army infantry division of the British Army. It was established by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsular War, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, and was active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War and was disbanded soon after. The division was reformed in 1995 as an administrative division covering Wales and the English regions of West Midlands, East Midlands and East. Its headquarters were in Shrewsbury. It was disbanded on 1 April 2012.

Peninsular War[edit]

The 5th Division during the Peninsular War under the command of General James Leith was present at most of the major engagements including the Battle of Bussaco, the Battle of Sabugal, the Siege of Almeida, the Battle of Badajoz, the Battle of Salamanca, the Battle of Vitoria, the Siege of San Sebastian, the Battle of Nivelle and the Battle of the Nive.[1]

Peninsular War order of battle[edit]

The order of battle in summer 1813 was:[2]

Waterloo Campaign[edit]

Black Watch at Quatre Bras

The division was also present during the Waterloo Campaign first seeing action at the Battle of Quatre Bras then at the Battle of Waterloo under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton.[3]

Waterloo order of battle[edit]

The division's order of battle at Waterloo was as follows:[3]

Second Boer War[edit]

The 5th Division under the command of General Sir Charles Warren joined up with the Natal Field Force shortly after the Battle of Colenso and were a part of the relieving army of the besieged Ladysmith.[4]

Second Boer War order of battle[edit]

The formation was as follows:[5]
11th[6] Infantry Brigade initially commanded by General Edward Woodgate[7] but he was wounded at Spion Kop and died shortly afterwards. He was succeeded by General Arthur Wynne who was later wounded at the Battle of the Tugela Heights and succeeded by Colonel Walter Kitchener.[8]

10th[9] Infantry Brigade commanded by General John Talbot Coke.

First World War[edit]

Men of the 12th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment ("Bristol's Own") moving up in support in open order near Ginchy, France, 25 September 1916.

The 5th Division was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France as part of the original British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for most of the war except for a brief period on the Italian Front[11] from 27 November 1917 to 1 April 1918.[12] The 5th Division, as a Regular Army formation (one of the Old Contemptibles) fought in many of the major battles of the Western Front from the Battle of Mons in 1914, the later stages of the Somme offensive, including the first battle using tanks, up to the Battle of the Selle in 1918.[11]

Order of battle[edit]

The order of battle was as follows:[11]
13th Brigade The 13th Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 23 February and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 84th Brigade from that Division.

14th Brigade The 14th Brigade transferred to 32nd Division on 30 December 1915

15th Brigade The 15th Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 3 March and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 83rd Brigade from that division.

95th Brigade 95th Brigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915





The 5th Division was unusual among other British divisions in that no battle patches were worn on their tunics or helmets, aside from those briefly worn by New Army battalions bringing them from their former division.[15]

Interwar period[edit]

During the interwar period, the division spent time based in Egypt and then in Palestine. The latter occurred during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.[16]

Second World War[edit]

Men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers disembarking at Cherbourg, France, from the steamer 'Royal Sovereign', 16 September 1939.

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939, the 5th Infantry Division was a Regular Army formation, commanded by Major-General Harold Franklyn,[17] who had been in command since 1938. The division was based at Catterick under Northern Command.[18] Both of its infantry brigades (the 13th and 15th) went to France to join the rest of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in early October 1939 as independent infantry brigades, but the divisional Headquarters crossed to France on 19 December 1939, coming under the command of Lieutenant-General Alan Brooke's II Corps from 23 December.[19] By the new year of 1940 the division was reformed with three infantry brigades –the 13th, 15th and 17th, all commanded by men who would achieve high rank in the next few years.[18] The 13th was commanded by Brigadier Miles Dempsey,[20] the 15th by Brigadier Horatio Berney-Ficklin,[21] and the 17th by Brigadier Montagu Stopford.[22]

Globe Trotting[edit]

A 25-pounder of 361 Battery, 91st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Oppy near Vimy, France, 7 January 1940.

Throughout the early months of 1940 the division saw some changing of units, as the Territorial Army (TA) divisions began to arrive in France from the United Kingdom. This was part of official BEF policy, based on experience from the Great War, and was intended to strengthen the inexperienced TA formations with experienced Regulars, although at the same time diluting the strength of the Regular divisions with inexperienced TA units.[18] Despite this, the division still maintained its integrity as a Regular formation.[18] The next few months were spent in training, although this was hampered by severe shortages of modern equipment. Due to the lack of immediate action many soldiers believed the war would amount to very little. Despite this, morale in the division was high. This period of inactivity was known as the "Phoney War".[18]

General Alphonse Georges of the French Army, accompanied by General Lord Gort, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the BEF, inspecting men of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Bethune, France, 23 April 1940.

In mid-April the 15th Brigade was sent to Norway and fought, very briefly, in the unsuccessful Norwegian campaign, evacuating from there and arriving in the United Kingdom in early May, although it did not rejoin the 5th Division until 3 July 1940.[18] In early May the 25th Infantry Brigade came temporarily under command of the division in France.[23] The German Army launched its attack in the West on 10 May 1940 and the 5th Division saw action in the battles of Belgium and France in May–June 1940 including the Battle of Arras, supported by the 1st Army Tank Brigade, on 21 May 1940 and at the Battle of the Ypres-Comines Canal from 26 to 28 May 1940, and then was withdrawn to Dunkirk, along with the rest of the BEF, where they were evacuated to England, with most of the division arriving on 1 June.[18] Lieutenant-General Brooke, commanding II Corps, wrote in his diary that there "is no doubt that the 5th Div in its fight on the Ypres-Comines canal saved the II Corps and the BEF".[24]

The division, having sustained very heavy losses, remained in the United Kingdom for the next 21 months, with most of 1940 being spent in Scotland under Scottish Command, reforming in numbers and being brought up to strength with large numbers of conscripts, alongside training in anti-invasion duties and preparing for Operation Sea Lion, the German invasion of the United Kingdom which never arrived. In late March 1941 the division, now under the command of Major-General Horatio Berney-Ficklin,[17] who had taken over in July 1940 (and previously commanded the 15th Brigade), was sent to Northern Ireland, coming under command of Lieutenant-General James Marshall-Cornwall's III Corps, under overall control of British Troops Northern Ireland, and, as in Scotland, continued training to repel a German invasion there (see Operation Green).[25]

An infantry section of the 6th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, creep forward during exercises at Crum Castle in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, November 1941.

The division left Northern Ireland on 16 March 1942 and served and travelled in so many regions of the world that they were known as the Globe Trotters, and became the most travelled division of the British Army during the Second World War. In April 1942 the 13th and 17th Infantry Brigades and a portion of the divisional troops were detached to 'Force 121' for Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Vichy French held Madagascar.[18] The division was not complete again until August 1942. It was sent from the United Kingdom to India for three months and then to Middle East Command, where it spent time under the command of British III Corps,[19] now under Lieutenant-General Desmond Anderson, as part of the British Tenth Army, under overall control of Persia and Iraq Command, where it trained in mountain warfare.[18]

In mid-February 1943 the division was sent to Syria, remaining there for the next four months, and later Egypt, where it came under the command of British XIII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey (who earlier had commanded the 13th Brigade in France and Belgium in 1940), which was part of the British Eighth Army, under General Sir Bernard Montgomery. The division, serving again alongside the 50th Division, began training in amphibious operations in preparation for Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily.[18]

Sicily, Italy and North-Western Europe[edit]

Universal carriers of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment pass through Pedara, Sicily, 9 August 1943.

The 5th Division saw action during the invasion of Sicily where, towards the end of the campaign, in early August, the divisional commander, Major-General Berney-Ficklin, who had commanded the division since July 1940, was replaced by Major-General Gerard Bucknall.[17] The division was pulled out of the line and absorbed replacements, and invaded the Italian mainland in Operation Baytown on 3 September (four years since Britain's entry into the war), still as part of XIII Corps of the Eighth Army, but now serving alongside the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, and advanced up the spine of Italy. Later in the year, the division fought in the Moro River Campaign, although sustaining relatively light casualties in comparison to the other Allied formations involved.[18]

Men of the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) climbing a track in mountainous terrain, Italy, 21 November 1943.

Progress for the Allied Armies in Italy (AAI), commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander, towards the end of 1943 had slowed down considerably, due mainly to a combination of worsening weather, stiffening German resistance and the Winter Line (also known as the Gustav Line, a series of formidable defences the Germans had created). The Eighth Army, operating on the Adriatic coast, had already pierced the Gustav Line at its eastern end. However, the appalling weather conditions forbade further progress and so operations there were closed down. As a result, the relatively intact 5th Division was available elsewhere. Therefore, in early January 1944 the division was transferred from the Eighth Army, now under Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese, to the western side of Italy to join Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery's British X Corps.[19] X Corps, stationed along the Garigliano river, was part of Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark's U.S. Fifth Army at the time. The division, now commanded by Major-General Philip Gregson-Ellis[17] after Bucknall returned to the United Kingdom to command XXX Corps, and with the veteran 201st Guards Brigade under command,[26] crossed the Garigliano river as part of the First Battle of Monte Cassino, where it gained considerable territory.[27]

Infantrymen of the 1st Battalion, Green Howards trudge down a snow-covered hillside, Italy, on New Year's Day, 1 January 1944.

In March 1944 the division, after holding its positions that it gained during the battle, was transferred again, this time to the Anzio bridgehead (or, more appropriately, beachhead) where they came under command of Major General Lucian Truscott's U.S. VI Corps[19] and relieved the battered 56th Division, which was returning to the Middle East. Although by this time the major battles for the Anzio beachhead were over, the division was involved in minor skirmishing and operating in conditions more reminiscent of the trench warfare of the First World War. In May the division participated in Operation Diadem and the breakout from Anzio, which led to the capture of the Italian capital of Rome in early June. During the fighting, Sergeant Maurice Rogers of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the first and only to be awarded to the 5th Division during the Second World War. Soon afterwards the division, having sustained just under 3,000 casualties since its arrival at Anzio three months before, was then withdrawn to Palestine, arriving there in mid-July.[18] The division came under command of Persia and Transjordan Command.[19]

Infantrymen of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers advance in single file during operations to outflank German resistance in Uelzen, Germany, 16 April 1945.

The division, now commanded by the relatively young Major-General Richard Hull,[17] who, at the age of 37, was the youngest division commander in the British Army (and later destined to become Chief of the General Staff and Chief of the Defence Staff), returned to Italy in early 1945[19] where they relieved the 1st Infantry Division, which had fought alongside the Globetrotters at Anzio. Soon afterwards, however, the division was transferred to the Western Front in March 1945 to participate in the final stages of the North West Europe campaign. Arriving in Belgium just after the British crossing of the Rhine, the division came under command of VIII Corps,[19] under Lieutenant-General Evelyn Barker, part of the British Second Army, under Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey, and took part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany, closely supported by elements of the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade.[18]

Throughout the Second World War, the British 5th Infantry Division used a 'Y' on a khaki background as its insignia.[18]

Order of battle[edit]

The 5th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[18][28]
13th Infantry Brigade (detached to Force 121 in Madagascar from 26 April until 2 August 1942)[29]

15th Infantry Brigade[30]

17th Infantry Brigade (Brigade HQ formed 3 October 1939, detached to Force 121 in Madagascar from 15 March to 30 June 1942)[31]

Divisional Troops

Post Second World War[edit]

The 5th Division was disbanded in 1947 and was reformed briefly from the 7th Armoured Division in Germany on 16 April 1958,[18] with the 7th and 20th Armoured brigades but was then redesignated the 1st Armoured Division on 30 June 1960.[45] It was again reformed in the United Kingdom on 1 April 1968, under Army Strategic Command, incorporating the 2nd, 8th, and 39th brigades, but disbanded in 1970.[46]


Structure 5th Division.
5th Division Headquarters, Shrewsbury, in use 1995 to 2012

The 5th Division was reformed as an administrative division – effectively a military district – from Wales and Western Districts on 1 April 1995.[47] It had its permanent headquarters at the Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.[48] It additionally inherited the units that had formerly made up South West District, that is, Headquarters Salisbury Plain Area and 43rd (Wessex) Brigade from 3rd Division on 1 April 1999.[49]

By 2000 the division comprised the following Regional Brigades:[50]

Following further reshuffling, 43rd (Wessex) Brigade was transferred to 4th Division on 1 April 2007 and 49th (East) Brigade came under the command of the 5th Division from 1 April 2007.[51]

The Division reported to Army Headquarters at Andover from 2010.[52] The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded.[53] HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th Division in Shrewsbury were both disbanded in April 2012.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pivka, p. 16
  2. ^ Lipscombe, Nick (2014). Bayonne and Toulouse 1813–14: Wellington invades France. Osprey. p. 23. ISBN 978-1472802774.
  3. ^ a b "The Battle of Waterloo". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Ladysmith history and the Boer War". Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  5. ^ "The Battle of Val Krantz and Pieters". Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  6. ^ Woodgate's 11th Brigade
  7. ^ Kings Own
  8. ^ Manning, Stephen (2020). Bayonet to Barrage: Weaponry on the Victorian Battlefield. Pen and Sword. p. 196. ISBN 978-1526777218.
  9. ^ Coke's 10th Brigade
  10. ^ 10th Battalion
  11. ^ a b c d "The 5th Division in 1914–1918". Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  12. ^ Williamson, Howard J.; Bate, Chris (2020). The award of the Military Medal for the campaign in Italy 1917-1918. privately published by Anne Williamson. ISBN 978-1-8739960-5-8. The book includes: – A detailed overview of the Italian Campaign and its battles. – Notes on the [five] Divisions engaged in Italy.
  13. ^ Becke, pp. 65–71.
  14. ^ Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War I at Orbat.com Archived 24 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Osprey Publishing MAA 182, p.9
  16. ^ "Reinforcements For Palestine: Organization Of The 5th Division". The Times. No. 47480. 15 September 1936. p. 7.
  17. ^ a b c d e Joslen, p. 47
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "badge, formation, 5th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Joslen, p. 48
  20. ^ "Miles Dempsey". Generals.dk. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  21. ^ "Horatio Pettus Mackintosh Berney-Ficklin". Generals.dk. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Montagu Stopford". Generals.dk. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  23. ^ Joslen, p. 272.
  24. ^ War Diaries 1939-45, Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, p. 73
  25. ^ "Journey of the Globetrotters' by Dennis March". BBC. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  26. ^ Joslen, p. 266
  27. ^ "5th Division". Battlefields. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  28. ^ Joslen, pp. 47–8.
  29. ^ Joslen, pp. 251-252.
  30. ^ Joslen, pp. 253-254.
  31. ^ Joslen, p. 259-260.
  32. ^ "9 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  33. ^ Litchfield, pp. 152–3.
  34. ^ "Rgt at RA 1939–45". Archived from the original on 22 August 2004. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  35. ^ Litchfield, pp. 153–5.
  36. ^ "Rgt at RA 1939–45". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  37. ^ Litchfield, pp. 111–2.
  38. ^ Rgt at RA 1939–45. Archived 14 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Litchfield, p. 294.
  40. ^ Rgt at RA 1939–45. Archived 30 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ Litchfield, p. 156.
  42. ^ at RA 1939–45.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ "18 LAA Rgt at RA 1939–45". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  44. ^ a b c d e f Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War II at Orbat.com Archived 4 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ "British Army of the Rhine". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  46. ^ Watson, p. 124
  47. ^ "TA Command Structure 1967–2000". Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  48. ^ "Barracks about to beat the retreat". The Leader. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  49. ^ Soldier Magazine, December 1998, p.13
  50. ^ Heyman, Charles (2001). The British Army: a pocket guide. Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9780850527100.
  51. ^ Tanner, James (2014). The British Army since 2000 (PDF). Osprey. p. 13. ISBN 978-1782005933.
  52. ^ "New Army's HQ Land Forces base is opened in Andover". BBC News. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  53. ^ First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed Defence News, 10 November 2011
  54. ^ House of Commons Library: Standard Note: SN06038


Further reading[edit]

  • A Guide to Appointments and Invitations for High Commissions & Embassies in London, UK Ministry of Defence, June 2006 Edition
  • Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945–70, William Kimber, London, 1971.
  • Reader's Digest, The World At Arms, 1989

External links[edit]