44th (Home Counties) Division
|Home Counties Division
44th (Home Counties) Division
44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division
44th Infantry Division insignia.
|Active||April 1908 – 3 December 1914
February 1920 – 31 January 1943
January 1947 – 1 May 1961
|Peacetime HQ||Hounslow, Middlesex|
The Home Counties Division was an infantry division of the Territorial Force, part of the British Army, that was raised in 1908. As the name suggests, the division recruited in the Home Counties, particularly Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex.
At the outbreak of World War I it accepted liability for overseas service and was posted to India in 1914 to relieve Regular Army units for service on the Western Front. On arrival in India it was effectively broken up so did not see active service as a complete formation. However, most of its constituent units did serve in active theatres, notably Mesopotamia from 1915 and in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.
Reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920 as the 44th (Home Counties) Division, the division saw active service in World War II in Belgium, France and North Africa (notably in the Battle of El Alamein) before again being disbanded in 1943. Once again, its component units continued to serve, in North Africa, Italy, North-West Europe, and Burma.
The division was again reformed in the Territorial Army in 1947 before being merged with the Home Counties District in 1961, thus ending its separate existence.
The Territorial Force (TF) was formed on 1 April 1908 following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which combined and re-organised the old Volunteer Force, the Honourable Artillery Company and the Yeomanry. On formation, the TF contained 14 infantry divisions and 14 mounted yeomanry brigades. One of the divisions was the Home Counties Division.
As the name suggests, the division recruited in the Home Counties, particularly Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex. It was composed of the Surrey, Middlesex and Kent Infantry Brigades (each of four battalions), four artillery brigades[a] of the Royal Field Artillery recruited in Sussex and Kent, a heavy battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (also recruited in Kent), plus support units of the Royal Engineers (including the Signal Service), Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Service Corps. Two Army Troops battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment were also attached for training, but were not integral to the division. In peacetime, the divisional headquarters was in Hounslow in Middlesex.
First World War
In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw.7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. 2nd Line units performed the home defence role, although in fact most of these were also posted abroad in due course. The Home Counties Division formed the 2nd Home Counties Division in this manner with an identical structure.
The division mobilised on the outbreak of the war. Early in September 1914, the division sent two battalions to Gibraltar to relieve regular battalions; 7th and 8th Middlesex left on 4 and 10 September respectively. On 22 September, India agreed to send 32 British and 20 Indian regular battalions to Europe in exchange for 43 partially trained TF battalions.[b] Accordingly, the division accepted liability for service in India. It was joined by the 4th (Cumberland and Westmorland) Battalion, Border Regiment (from Carlisle) and the 4th Battalion, King's (Shropshire Light Infantry) (from Shrewsbury) to replace 7th and 8th Middlesex, and the Brecknockshire Battalion, South Wales Borderers (from Brecon) as an extra battalion for garrison duties in Aden.
The division sailed from Southampton on 30 October 1914 with 13 infantry battalions and 3 artillery brigades (nine batteries of four 15 pounder BLCs each, but without ammunition columns). The infantry brigade staffs, the IV Home Counties (H) Brigade, RFA, the Home Counties (Kent) Heavy Battery, the engineers, signals, ambulance and train units were all left behind and most were soon posted to other divisions on the Western Front.
The division arrived at Bombay on 1–3 December 1914, with the Brecknockshire Battalion departing again on 9 December for Aden. The divisional commander, Major-General J.C. Young, accompanied the division to India. On arrival, he handed over the units and returned to England, arriving on 22 December. He took command of the 2nd Line 2nd Home Counties Division on 20 January 1915.
The division was effectively broken up on arrival in India in December 1914; the units reverted to peacetime conditions and were dispersed throughout India and Burma. The battalions were posted to Lucknow (2), Cawnpore, Fyzabad, Mhow, Kamptee, Jubbulpore, Jhansi, Dinapore, Fort William, Rangoon and Maymyo and the batteries were posted to Kamptee, Mhow (2), Jullundur, Multan, Ferozepore, and Jubbulpore (3). The battalions and batteries moved around the various garrison stations in India, Burma and Aden from time to time. For example, the 1/4th Buffs[c] moved from Mhow to Aden in August 1915, to Bareilly in January 1916, and to Multan in July 1918 where it remained until the end of the war. The 1/4th KSLI went further afield; on arrival in India, it was posted to Rangoon, with a detachment in the Andaman Islands. On 6 February 1915 it was dispatched to Singapore to help to suppress a mutiny. In April, part of the battalion went to Hong Kong; the battalion was replaced at Rangoon by the 2/4th Border Regiment. Thereafter, it returned to England via Colombo, Durban and Cape Town before landing at Plymouth on 27 July 1917. Two days later, it left Southampton for France to join 63rd (Royal Naval) Division.
The units pushed on with training to prepare for active service, handicapped by the need to provide experienced manpower for active service units. By early 1916 it had become obvious that it would not be possible to transfer the division to the Western Front as originally intended. Nevertheless, individual units of the division proceeded overseas on active service through the rest of the war. All three artillery brigades went to Mesopotamia in 1916 (III Home Counties) and 1917 (I and II Home Counties) and, likewise, so did 1/5th Queen's, 1/5th Buffs, 1/5th East Surrey, 1/9th Middlesex, 1/5th QORWK infantry battalions. In addition, the 1/4th Queen's, the 1/4th and 2/4th Border, and the 1/4th QORWK took part in the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.
The Territorial Force divisions and brigades were numbered in May 1915 in the order that they departed for overseas service, starting with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The Home Counties Division should have been numbered as the 44th (Home Counties) Division, but as the division had already been broken up, this was merely a place holder. Likewise, the Surrey, Middlesex and Kent Brigades were only notionally numbered as 131st, 132nd and 133rd, respectively.
Between the wars
In 1919, the remaining units in India were repatriated to England. The Territorial Force was effectively disbanded in 1919, but started to reform from 1 February 1920 as the units commenced recruiting. From 1 October 1921, it was renamed as the Territorial Army (TA). The division was reformed in 1920.
One major change with the new TA had an effect on the number of infantry battalions. The original 14 divisions were reformed with the pre-war standard of three brigades of four battalions each, for a total of 168 battalions. Infantry were no longer to be included as Army Troops or part of the Coastal Defence Forces so the pre-war total of 208 battalions had to be reduced by 40. This was achieved by either converting certain battalions to other roles, usually artillery or engineers, or by amalgamating pairs of battalions within a regiment. The 44th (Home Counties) Division illustrated both of these processes: the 10th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was converted to the Home Counties Divisional Signals, RCS in 1921 and the 4th and 5th (The Weald of Kent) Battalions, Buffs were amalgamated as the 4th/5th Battalion in the same year. In this way, the division was able to incorporate two Army Troops battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment.
The divisional artillery was reformed with three brigades: 1st Home Counties with 1–4 Sussex Batteries, 2nd Home Counties with 5–8 Sussex Batteries, and 3rd Home Counties with 1–4 Kent Batteries. These were renumbered in 1921 as the 57th (Home Counties), 58th (Home Counties) and 59th (Home Counties) Brigades, later 57th (Home Counties), 58th (Sussex) and 59th (Home Counties)(Cinque Ports) Brigades.
The division underwent a number of changes in the late 1930s. In 1936, it was decided to concentrate Vickers machine guns in specialised machine gun battalions. Rather than resurrecting the Machine Gun Corps, a number of line infantry regiments were converted instead; the Middlesex Regiment was one of four regiments selected for conversion.[d] The 7th and 8th Battalions were converted at the same time. They were replaced by the 22nd and 24th Battalions of the London Regiment, which from 1937 became the 6th (Bermondsey) and 7th (Southwark) Battalions of the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey).
A major reorganization in 1938 saw the TA divisions reduced from twelve to nine battalions. As a result, 9th Middlesex was converted to 60th (Middlesex) Searchlight Regiment, RA, the 4th Queen's to 63rd (Queen's) Searchlight Regiment, RA and 5th East Surreys to 57th (East Surrey) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA The latter remained part of the division. In the same year, the 59th (Home Counties)(Cinque Ports) Field Regiment, RA was converted to 75th (Home Counties)(Cinque Ports) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA. It was replaced by 65th (8th London) Field Regiment, RA from the former 47th (2nd London) Division.
By 1939 it became clear that a new European war was likely to break out, and the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised, with each unit and formation forming a duplicate. The 44th (Home Counties) Division formed the 12th (Eastern) Division.[e]
|Battalion||In 1914||Between the wars||44th Division, 1939||12th Division, 1939|
|Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) – 1921: Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)|
|4th Battalion||Surrey Brigade||1938 – Converted to 63rd (Queen's) Searchlight Regiment, RA|
|5th Battalion||Surrey Brigade||5th Battalion||1/5th Battalion in 131st Brigade||2/5th Battalion in 35th Brigade|
|22nd (The Queen's) London||6th London Brigade||1937 – 6th (Bermondsey) Battalion||1/6th Battalion in 131st Brigade||2/6th Battalion in 35th Brigade|
|24th (The Queen's) London||6th London Brigade||1937 – 7th (Southwark) Battalion||1/7th Battalion in 131st Brigade||2/7th Battalion in 35th Brigade|
|Buffs (East Kent Regiment) – 1935: Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)|
|4th Battalion||Kent Brigade||1921 – Amalgamated as 4th/5th Battalion||4th Battalion in 133rd Brigade||5th Battalion in 37th Brigade|
|5th (The Weald of Kent) Battalion||Kent Brigade|
|East Surrey Regiment|
|5th Battalion||Surrey Brigade||1938 – Converted to 57th (East Surrey) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA|
|6th Battalion||Surrey Brigade||6th Battalion||1/6th Battalion in 132nd Brigade||2/6th Battalion in 36th Brigade|
|Royal Sussex Regiment|
|4th Battalion||attached to HC Division||4th Battalion||4th Battalion in 133rd Brigade||6th Battalion in 37th Brigade|
|5th (Cinque Ports) Battalion||attached to HC Division||5th (Cinque Ports) Battalion||5th Battalion in 133rd Brigade||7th Battalion in 37th Brigade|
|Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) – April 1921: Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment|
|4th Battalion||Kent Brigade||4th Battalion||4th Battalion in 132nd Brigade||6th Battalion in 36th Brigade|
|5th Battalion||Kent Brigade||5th Battalion||5th Battalion in 132nd Brigade||7th Battalion in 36th Brigade|
|Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment) – 1921: Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge's Own)|
|7th Battalion||Middlesex Brigade||1936 – Converted to a Machine Gun Battalion|
|8th Battalion||Middlesex Brigade||1936 – Converted to a Machine Gun Battalion|
|9th Battalion||Middlesex Brigade||1938 – Converted to 60th (Middlesex) Searchlight Regiment, RA|
|10th Battalion||Middlesex Brigade||1921 – Converted to Home Counties Divisional Signals, RCS|
Second World War
The division, by now designated as the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division, was mobilized on 3 September 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War. Initially in Southern and then Eastern Commands, the division, under the command of Major-General Edmund Osborne, was sent overseas where it joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and Belgium on 1 April 1940, and was assigned to III Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Ronald Forbes Adam. It took part in the Battle of St Omer-La Bassée (23–29 May) during the retreat to Dunkirk. At the end of May 1940 they were evacuated at Dunkirk after the German Army threatened to cut off and destroy the entire BEF from the French Army during the battles of France and Belgium.
After returning to England the division, much reduced in manpower and woefully short of equipment, and now under the command of Major-General Arthur Percival (who had taken command in late June 1940, until late March the following year), spent the next nearly two years on home defence, anticipating a German invasion which never arrived, travelling variously through the counties of Kent and Sussex and serving under I and XII Corps. On 29 May 1942, the division, now under the control of the War Office and commanded by Major-General Ivor Hughes, departed the United Kingdom to take part in the North African Campaign. It arrived in Cairo, Egypt on 24 July – the long sea journey being due to transiting via the Cape of Good Hope.
Less than three weeks after its arrival, however, the division was soon ordered by General Sir Harold Alexander (replacing General Sir Claude Auchinleck on 13 August), the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C), Middle East, to be sent forward to join the British Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery, at El Alamein. The 44th Division, serving under XIII Corps under Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks (a former commander of the division between June 1941 and March 1942), fought at the Battle of Alam el Halfa (30 August–7 September) where the 132nd Brigade was temporarily detached to the 2nd New Zealand Division and suffered heavily, with just under 700 casualties being sustained.
On 8 September, the 133rd Brigade was detached from the division. It was briefly assigned to the 8th Armoured Division before being assigned to the 10th Armoured Division on 29 September as a lorried infantry unit. Therefore, as a result of this change, the division started the Battle of El Alamein (23 October–4 November) with just two brigades. It was still assigned to XIII Corps, alongside the 7th Armoured and 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Divisions. The Corps was on the southern flank with the task of tying down enemy reserves while the main thrust was made in the north with XXX and X Corps. The division was further reduced when the 131st Brigade was also detached. It joined the 7th Armoured Division on 1 November, likewise as a lorried infantry brigade, as its original brigade (the 7th Motor) had been transferred to the 1st Armoured Division.
The Battle of El Alamein was the 44th Division's last action; it was disbanded on 31 January 1943.[f] The 132nd and 133rd Brigade were dispersed, with the battalions ending up as British battalions in British Indian Army brigades.[g] The 131st Brigade continued to serve with the 7th Armoured Division for the rest of the war, taking part in the rest of the North African Campaign, culminating in May 1943 with the surrender of almost 250,000 Axis soldiers as prisoners of war, the Allied invasion of Italy from September–November 1943, and in the campaign in North-West Europe from June 1944 until Victory in Europe Day in May 1945.
Post Second World War
The Territorial Army (TA) was formally disbanded at the end of the Second World War. TA units were reactivated on 1 January 1947, though no personnel were assigned until commanding officers and permanent staff had been appointed in March and April 1947. The division, under the command of Major-General Philip Gregson-Ellis, was reformed in 1947; it included the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, and 47th (London), 131st (Surrey), and 133rd (Kent & Sussex) Infantry Brigades.
On 1 May 1961, all ten TA divisions were merged with the districts, and the division became 44th (Home Counties) Division/District, thus ending the division's separate existence. Subsequently, redesignated as South Eastern District, it was used to form the 4th Division on 1 April 1995.
Orders of battle
|Order of Battle – August 1914|
|Surrey Brigade||Royal Artillery
Home Counties Divisional Train, ASC
|Order of Battle – September 1939|
|131st Infantry Brigade||Royal Artillery
Machine Gun Battalion
|132nd Infantry Brigade
|133rd Infantry Brigade|
|Order of Battle – January 1947|
|47th (London) Infantry Brigade||Royal Artillery
|131st (Surrey) Infantry Brigade|
|133rd (Kent & Sussex) Infantry Brigade|
The Home Counties Division had the following commanders, from formation in April 1908 to disembarkation in India:
|April 1908||Major-General||Colin G. Donald|
|January 1909||Major-General||Edward T. Dickson|
|April 1912||Major-General||Charles V.F. Townshend|
|25 October 1912||Major-General||James C. Young||Broken up in December 1914|
When the division was re-established after the First World War, it had the following commanders until it was disbanded in the Middle East on 31 January 1943:
|July 1919||Major-General||Sir John R. Longley|
|June 1923||Major-General||Sir Henry W. Hodgson|
|June 1927||Major-General||Arthur G. Wauchope|
|January 1929||Major-General||Henry R. Peck|
|January 1933||Major-General||John Kennedy|
|April 1934||Major-General||John R. Minshull-Ford|
|April 1938||Major-General||Edmund Osborne|
|25 June 1940||Major-General||Arthur E. Percival|
|27 March 1941||Brigadier||F.C.A. Troup||acting|
|31 March 1941||Brigadier||J.E. Utterson-Kelso||acting|
|8 April 1941||Major-General||Frank N. Mason-Macfarlane|
|25 June 1941||Major-General||Brian G. Horrocks|
|14 March 1942||Brigadier||Ivor T.P. Hughes||acting|
|20 March 1942||Major-General||Ivor T.P. Hughes||Disbanded on 31 January 1943|
When the division was re-established after the Second World War, it had the following commanders until 1 May 1961 when the Territorial Army divisional headquarters were merged with regular army districts:
|July 1946||Major-General||Hugh C. Stockwell|
|July 1947||Major-General||Philip G.S. Gregson-Ellis|
|July 1950||Major-General||Brian C.H. Kimmins|
|March 1952||Major-General||E. Otway Herbert|
|January 1954||Major-General||Robert C.M. King|
|November 1956||Major-General||William F.R. Turner|
|November 1959||Major-General||Paul Gleadell|
|January 1962||Major-General||Ewing H.W. Grimshaw|
|July 1965||Major-General||F. Brian Wyldbore-Smith||Disbanded in 1968|
- 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division for the 2nd Line formation in the First World War
- 12th (Eastern) Division for the duplicate formation in the Second World War
- List of British divisions in World War I
- List of British divisions in World War II
- British Army Order of Battle (September 1939)
- Second Battle of El Alamein order of battle
- The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery. When grouped together they formed brigades, in the same way that infantry battalions or cavalry regiments were grouped together in brigades. At the outbreak of the First World War, a field artillery brigade of headquarters (4 officers, 37 other ranks), three batteries (5 and 193 each), and a brigade ammunition column (4 and 154) had a total strength just under 800 so was broadly comparable to an infantry battalion (just over 1,000) or a cavalry regiment (about 550). Like an infantry battalion, an artillery brigade was usually commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. These figures refer to 6-gun batteries; Territorial Force artillery batteries were organized on a 4-gun basis at the outbreak of the war, so strengths would be approximately two thirds of this. Artillery brigades were redesignated as regiments in 1938.
- The 32 British regular battalions thus relieved formed the bulk of the 27th (10 battalions), 28th (10 battalions), and 29th Divisions (9 battalions, including 3 from Burma) and part of the 8th (3 battalions).
- With the formation of the 2nd Line, the original units and formations were designated with the fractional "1/" and the 2nd Line with "2/".
- The other three regiments selected for conversions to machine gun battalions were the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Cheshire Regiment and the Manchester Regiment.
- Between 3 September and 7 October 1939, the units of the 12th (Eastern) Infantry Divisionwere administered by its parent division.
- 57th and 58th Field Regiments, RA joined British Eighth Army, 65th Field Regiment, RA transferred to 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, 57th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA also joined Eighth Army, and 30th LAA Regiment, RA was assigned to Middle East Command. 6th Cheshires (MG Battalion) and 44th Recce joined the 56th (London) Infantry Division.
- 2nd Buffs joined the 26th Indian Infantry Brigade, 4th QORWK joined the 161st Indian Infantry Brigade and 5th QORWK joined the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade; 2nd Royal Sussex joined the 24th Indian Infantry Brigade, 4th and 5th Royal Sussex were amalgamated as 4th/5th Royal Sussex and joined the 27th Indian Infantry Brigade.
- 1/IV Home Counties (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA remained in England when its parent division went to India in October 1914. It went to France on 21 December 1914 as 27th Division Ammunition Column but returned to the UK, reformed as an artillery brigade and joined 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division in June 1915. It was posted to the Western Front on 10 March 1916, joining the Fourth Army before transferring to the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division on 18 July 1916.
- 2nd Buffs replaced 1/7th Queen's in 131st Brigade from 4 May 1940. 1/7th Queen's joined 132nd Brigade from 1 July 1940 to 1 July 1941 before swopping places with 2nd Buffs.
- 208th Field Company was replaced by 11th Field Company on 4 May 1940.
- 6th Cheshires joined as the divisional Machine Gun Battalion on 11 November 1941 and left on 24 November 1942.
- 44th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps joined as the divisional reconnaissance unit on 6 January 1941, was redesignated as 44th Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps on 6 June 1942 and left on 24 November 1942.
- 1/6th East Surreys was replaced in 132nd Brigade by 1st QORWK on 4 May 1940. In turn, it was replaced by 1/7th Queen's from 131st Brigade on 29 June 1940.
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