1st (United Kingdom) Division

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Mobile Division
1st Armoured Division
1st British Armoured Division
1st (United Kingdom) Division
Insignia of the 1st Armoured Division.
Active 1937–1945
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry Division
Size Second World War
14,964 men[1]
343 tanks[nb 1][nb 2].Army 2020 size - around eight brigades, including 102 Logistics Brigade
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Imphal Barracks, York, United Kingdom

Second World War

First Gulf War
Iraq War
Major General Giles Hill
Willoughby Norrie
Herbert Lumsden
Richard Hull
Rupert Smith

The 1st (United Kingdom) Division, formerly the 1st Armoured Division, is a division of the British Army, currently the only British division to be stationed in Germany. Originally formed in November 1937 as the Mobile Division, it saw extensive service during the Second World War, was disbanded afterward, was reconstituted in 1976, and remains in service today. It should not be confused with 1st Infantry Division which saw service in the Second World War as a separate formation.


The division was formed in November 1937 on the initiative of General Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). At the time, it was named The Mobile Division. The choice of the division's General Officer Commanding reflected the tensions within the army. The Secretary of State for War (Leslie Hore-Belisha) wanted a Royal Tank Corps officer to command, as tanks would be the main force of the division, but Montgomery-Massingberd wanted a cavalry officer. Supporters of Montgomery-Massingberd proposed that the tank element of the division should be formed from cavalry regiments equipped with light tanks only, and that the tank brigade and its heavier tanks be removed from the division. The compromise was the appointment of Major-General Alan Brooke, who was from the Royal Artillery.[3] When Brooke was promoted, his replacement was a cavalry officer.

As formed, the Mobile Division was made up of the 1st and 2nd Light Armoured Brigades, the 1st Army Tank Brigade, artillery, engineers and signals. Its paper strength was 620 armoured fighting vehicles, but 78 of these were reconnaissance vehicles, and of those some were being simulated by trucks. The heavier tanks were in the tank brigade, and until cruiser tanks started deliveries in December 1938 they were obsolete Medium Tanks. At the same time, the organization of the division was changed to a Light Armoured Brigade (three regiments with light and cruiser tanks), a Heavy Armoured Brigade (three regiments of cruiser tanks) and a Support Group (motorized rifle battalion, motorized artillery regiment and a company of engineers). In practice, with insufficient cruiser tanks to equip the division, there was no difference in numbers and type of tanks between the light and heavy brigade.[4]

Second World War[edit]

The 1st Armoured Division first saw service in incomplete form under the command of Major-General Roger Evans when the second British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France in 1940.[5] It landed in France on 14 April 1940 and was evacuated on 16 June, having served south of the River Somme, isolated from the other British formations.

For the rest of 1940 and up until 27 August 1941, the division was stationed in the United Kingdom on anti-invasion duties, anticipating a German invasion, under the command of Major-General Willoughby Norrie. It then embarked for Egypt under the command of Major-General Herbert Lumsden and arrived there on 13 November 1941. After Lumsden was wounded, Major General Frank Messervy took command in January 1942, retaining command until Lumsden returned in March.[6] The 1st Armoured Division took part in many of the major battles of the North African Campaign against Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox", including Gazala, Mersa Matruh, First El Alamein, Second El Alamein, Tebaga Gap, Akarit, El Kourzia and Tunis.[5] In August 1942, Major-General Raymond Briggs took control,[7] and in July 1943 Major-General Alexander Galloway took over the baton.[8]

From the end of the campaign in Tunisia in May 1943, which saw the surrender of almost 250,000 Axis soldiers, the 1st Armoured remained in North Africa until May 1944. The division, minus the 18th Infantry Brigade (previously 7th Motor Brigade, on temporary loan to 1st Infantry Division in the Anzio beachhead, only rejoining 1st Armoured in August), then transferred to the Italian Front. The division came under command of V Corps, under Lieutenant-General Charles Keightley, of the British Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese. The 1st Armoured Division was the only British division, of six in total, to have fought at Alamein under Eighth Army command to rejoin the Army in Italy.[9] During the fighting in front of the Gothic Line throughout August and September, the 2nd Armoured Brigade suffered severe losses in tanks in the Battle of Coriano, [5] with one regiment, the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), losing 31 tanks, out of a total of 52.[10] Major-General Richard A. Hull, aged just 37 and three months, but destined to become Chief of the General Staff, took over command for this part of the campaign in August 1944.[11] The division was, however, broken up into soon after, due to the severe shortage of manpower and a lack of sufficient drafts of battle casualty replacements in the British Army at the time but the 2nd Armoured Brigade survived as an independent brigade and the 18th Infantry Brigade was broken up and used to fill gaps in other British divisions, mainly for the 46th Infantry Division.[12] The division was officially disbanded on 1 January 1945.

Order of Battle during the Second World War[edit]

The 1st Armoured Division was constituted as follows[13][14][15] and shows some of the changes that were made to British armoured formations during the war.

3 September 1939[edit]

23 October 1942[edit]

Other Brigades were part of the Division for varying lengths of time:

Post Second World War[edit]

Ground operations during Operation Desert Storm, showing the 1st Armoured Divisions movements.

It was not until 1960 that the Division re-emerged in the British Army. It was reformed as 1st Division following the disbandment of the 1st Infantry Division and was initially based at Verden an der Aller in Germany.[16]

During the 1970s, the division consisted of two "square" brigades, the 7th Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade.[17] It became the 1st Armoured Division in 1976 and served with I (BR) Corps being based at Shiel Barracks in Verden in Germany from 1978.[18] After being briefly reorganised into two "task forces" ("Alpha" and "Bravo") in the late 1970s, it consisted of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the 12th Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade in the 1980s.[19]

The divisional badge dates from 1983, and combines the hollow red triangular "spearhead" badge of the 1st Infantry Division with the charging rhinoceros badge of 1st Armoured Division as displayed in the Second World War.

Divisional formations and units have deployed on many other operations such as internal security in Northern Ireland, The Falkland Islands, Belize and United Nations tours in Cyprus, Bosnia and Kosovo. The headquarters of the division was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to command British land forces. It had two brigades under its command, 4th Armoured Brigade and 7th Armoured Brigade. During the war, it came under the U.S. VII Corps and was part of the great armoured left-hook that destroyed many Iraqi Republican Guard formations. The two brigades in the division alternated heading the advance.[20]

1993 to 2014[edit]

Structure 1st Armoured Div before the Army 2020 changes.

In 1993, HQ 1st Armoured Division was disbanded and the 1st (UK) Armoured Division formed from the 4th Armoured Division. The headquarters were established at Wentworth Barracks in Herford in 1993.[21]

The Divisional Headquarters was deployed in command of Multi-National Division (South-West) in Bosnia in 1996–1997 and 1998–1999.[22]

The Division headquarters again deployed to the Gulf area in 2003. It again commanded British forces in the area, this time with three full brigades under its control. Those were 7th Armoured Brigade again, along with 16 Air Assault Brigade, and 3 Commando Brigade. In a combined arms operation the division secured southern Iraq, including the city of Basra during the invasion. It came under I Marine Expeditionary Force during the 2003 conflict.[23]

The following brigades made up the 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division during that period:[16]

Additionally 4th Armoured Brigade (The Black Rats) was part of 1st Armoured Division until the division was reduced to two brigades in 2007.[24]

Current formation[edit]

Under Army 2020, the division was renamed 1st (United Kingdom) Division in July 2014 and given responsibility for coommanding the Adaptable Force which comprises:[25][26][27]

The division moved to Imphal Barracks in York on 1 June 2015.[28]

Structure of 1st (UK) Division under Army 2020 (click image to enlarge)

General Officers Commanding[edit]

Herford Army Base

Commanders have been:[29]
GOC The Mobile Division

GOC 1st Armoured Division

GOC 1st Division

GOC 1st Armoured Division

GOC 1st (UK) Armoured Division

GOC 1st (United Kingdom) Division

See also[edit]



  1. ^ 63 light tanks, 205 medium tanks, 24 close support tanks, 25 anti-aircraft tanks, and 8 artillery observation tanks.[2]
  2. ^ These two figures are the war establishment, the on-paper strength, of the division for 1944/1945; for information on how the division size changed over the war please see British Army during the Second World War and British Armoured formations of World War II.


  1. ^ Joslen, p. 129
  2. ^ Joslen, p. 9
  3. ^ AFV Profile Book No. 2 British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations (1919-1946) Profile Publishing p24
  4. ^ AFV Profile Book No. 2 p24–25
  5. ^ a b c Chappell, p.12
  6. ^ Frank Messervy British Military History
  7. ^ Raymond Briggs at Generals.dk
  8. ^ Alexander Galloway at Generals.dk
  9. ^ Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944-45, Gregory Blaxland, p. 167
  10. ^ Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944-45, Gregory Blaxland, p. 182
  11. ^ Richard Hull at Generals.dk
  12. ^ Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944-45, Gregory Blaxland, p. 202-203
  13. ^ Niehorster, Dr. Leo. "1st Armoured Division, British Army, 03-09-1939". World War II Armed Forces. Orders of Battle and Organisations. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  14. ^ Niehorster, Dr. Leo. "1st Armoured Division, 23 October 1942". World War II Armed Forces. Orders of Battle and Organisations. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  15. ^ Joslen p. 13-15
  16. ^ a b British Army Units
  17. ^ Watson, Graham (2005). "The British Army in Germany: An Organisational History 1947-2004". Tiger Lily. p. 95. 
  18. ^ "Shiel Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  19. ^ Black, Harvey. "The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 6.". 
  20. ^ Order of Battle for VII Armored Corps
  21. ^ "Wentworth Barracks". BAOR locations. Retrieved 27 October 2015. 
  23. ^ 1st (UK) Armoured Division in Iraq Field Artillery, January–February 2004
  24. ^ "Quebec Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  25. ^ Army basing plan
  26. ^ "Army 2020 Report" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  27. ^ "Division redesignated to 1 (UK) Division". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  28. ^ "Homecoming of a Yorkshire general". The Press. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Army Commands
  30. ^ Corps Commanders: Five British and Canadian Generals at War, 1939-45 By Douglas E. Delaney, p.128
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h Armoured Division Unit Histories - 1st Armoured Division


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°07′00″N 8°41′49″E / 52.11667°N 8.69694°E / 52.11667; 8.69694