48th (South Midland) Division

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
South Midland Division
48th (South Midland) Division
48th (South Midland) Infantry Division
48th Infantry (Reserve) Division
48th (South Midland) Division insignia (WW1).png
First World War division sign
Active 1908–1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements Battle of the Somme (1916)
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
48 inf div -vector.svg World War II

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 World War II 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 World War II.


First World War[edit]

On the outbreak of war the division was known as the South Midland Division and had the Warwickshire Brigade, the Gloucester and Worcester Brigade and the South Midland Brigade under command, later the 48th (South Midland) Division, 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.[1]

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.[1]

The Division's 2nd Line units, formed from those men who did immediately volunteer for overseas service, raised in 1914 formed the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division.[2]

First World War order of battle[edit]

The composition of the division during the war was as follows:[1][3]

143rd (Warwickshire) Brigade 
  • 1/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • 1/6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • 1/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • 1/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (until September 1918)
  • 143rd Machine Gun Company (formed 8 January 1916, moved to 48th Bn MGC on 22 March 1918)
  • 143rd Trench Mortar Battery (formed 14 June 1916)
144th (Gloucester and Worcester) Brigade 
  • 1/4th (City of Bristol) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
  • 1/6th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
  • 1/7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
  • 1/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment (until September 1918)
  • 144th Machine Gun Company formed (23 January 1916, moved to 48th Bn, MGC on 22 March 1918)
  • 144th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 14 June 1916)
145th (South Midland) Brigade 
Divisional Troops 
Recruiting poster for the South Midland Divisional Cyclist Company
Mounted Troops
Royal Artillery[1][4]
  • 240th (1/1st South Midland) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
    • 1/1st, 1/2nd, 1/3rd Gloucester Batteries, RFA
    • I South Midland Brigade Ammunition Column, RFA
  • 241st (1/2nd South Midland) Brigade, RFA
    • 1/1st, 1/2nd, 1/3rd Worcester Batteries, RFA
    • II South Midland BAC, RFA
  • 242nd (1/3rd South Midland) Brigade, RFA (until January 1917)
    • 1/1st, 1/2nd, 1/3rd Warwick Batteries, RFA
    • III South Midland BAC, RFA
  • 243rd (1/4th South Midland) (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA
    • 1/4th, 1/5th Warwick (H) Batteries, RFA
    • IV South Midland (H) BAC, RFA
  • South Midland (Warwicks) Battery, RGA (left 16 April 1915)
  • 48th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA
  • V/48 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA (formed 21 April 1916, disbanded 10 November 1917)
  • X/48, Y/48 and Z/48 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA (formed 15 March 1916)
Royal Engineers[5]
  • 48th Division RE
    • 474th (1/1st South Midland) Field Company, RE (left December 1914, rejoined May 1915)
    • 475th (1/2nd South Midland) Field Company, RE
    • 7th Field Company, RE (joined April 1915, left June 1915)
    • 419th (1st West Lancashire) Field Company, RE (attached 18–28 April 1915)
    • 476th (2/1st South Midland) Field Company, RE (joined June 1915)
    • 48th (South Midland) Divisional Signal Company, RE[6]
Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 1/1st South Midland Field Ambulance, RAMC
  • 1/2nd South Midland Ambulance, RAMC
  • 1/3rd South Midland Field Ambulance, RAMC
  • 48th (1/1st South Midland) Sanitary Section, RAMC (formed 21 February 1915, left for III Corps 4 April 1917)
Army Service Corps
  • 48th (1/1st South Midland) Divisional Train, ASC
    • 459th (HQ) Horse Transport Coy, ASC
    • 460th (Warwick Bde) Horse Transport Coy, ASC
    • 461st (Gloucester & Worcester Bde) Horse Transport Coy, ASC
    • 462nd (South Midland Bde) Horse Transport Coy, ASC
    • 328th Motor Transport Coy, ASC
Other units
  • 1st South Midland Mobile Veterinary Section Army Veterinary Corps
  • 48th Divisional Ambulance Workshop (absorbed into Divisional Supply Column 4 April 1916)
  • 242nd Divisional Employment Company (joined June 1917)


After the war, the 48th Divisional Signal Company was posted to Iran as part of Norperforce.[7] 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

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[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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'.[11] 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.[11][12][13][14][15]

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[20] 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.[21][22] During November 1941, the division was placed on the "Lower Establishment" and assigned to I Corps District.[20]

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".[23] 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.[20][23][24] These three divisions were supplemented by a fourth training formation, which was raised on 1 January 1943.[25] The 48th Infantry (Reserve) Division was assigned to Northern Command[24] Soldiers who had completed their Corps training were sent to these training divisions.[26][a] 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.[26] 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.[24] 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.[27] On 7 November 1943, the division's 145th Infantry Brigade was disbanded.[19]

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.[28][b] 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.[30] 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".[31]

Due to decreased need for such a formation, the division was disbanded after the war on 1 November 1945.[32]


The division was not reformed in the Territorial Army in 1947. However, between 1961 and 1966, 48 Division/District existed in the West Midlands.[34][35]

General officer commanding[edit]

Commanders included:

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.[26]
  2. ^ The war establishment—the paper strength—of a "Higher Establishment" infantry division in 1944 was 18,347 men.[29]
  1. ^ a b c d Becke, Pt 2a, pp. 77–83.
  2. ^ Becke, Pt 2b, pp. 33–9.
  3. ^ The British Army in the Great War
  4. ^ Farndale, p. 94.
  5. ^ Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War I at Orbat.com
  6. ^ Lord & Watson, p. 159.
  7. ^ Haldane.
  8. ^ Joslen, pp. 77–8.
  9. ^ http://www.britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk/webeasycms/hold/uploads/bmh_document_pdf/48-Infantry-Division-1939-.pdf
  10. ^ Ellis, France & Flanders, Ch. VIII [1].
  11. ^ a b Ellis, France & Flanders, Ch. IX [2].
  12. ^ Butler & Bradford, pp. 158–9.
  13. ^ Bryant, pp. 144–5, 149.
  14. ^ Richards.
  15. ^ Chronology at 53rd Regt website.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Joslen 2003, p. 76.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Joslen 2003, p. 328.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Joslen 2003, p. 329.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Joslen 2003, p. 330.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Perry 1988, p. 65.
  22. ^ French 2001, p. 188.
  23. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 66.
  24. ^ a b c Forty 2013, Reserve Divisions.
  25. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 103.
  26. ^ a b c French 2001, p. 68.
  27. ^ a b c d e Joslen 2003, p. 198.
  28. ^ Hart 2007, p. 52.
  29. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 130–131.
  30. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 48–51.
  31. ^ Hart 2007, pp. 49–50.
  32. ^ "Territorial Army: HC Deb 27 November 1945 vol 416 cc1248-9W". HANSARD 1803–2005. Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Joslen 2003, pp. 77, 608.
  34. ^ MOD. "148 (West Midlands) Brigade - History of the Brigade". Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  35. ^ T F Mills (26 May 2006). "West Midland District". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2007. 


  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2a: The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56), London: HM Stationery Office, 1935/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-847347-39-8.
  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-847347-39-8.
  • Sir Arthur Bryant, The Turn of the Tide, 1939–1943, London: Collins, 1957.
  • Lt-Col Ewan Butler and Maj J.S. Bradford, The Story of Dunkirk, London: Hutchinson/Arrow, nd.
  • Major L.F. Ellis, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War in France and Flanders 1939–1940, London: HM Stationery Office, 1954. (Online at [3].)
  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Western Front 1914–18, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986, ISBN 1-870114-00-0.
  • Forty, George (2013) [1998]. Companion to the British Army 1939–1945 (ePub ed.). Spellmount. ISBN 978-0-750-95139-5. 
  • French, David (2001) [2000]. Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War against Germany 1919–1945. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-199-24630-0. 
  • Hart, Stephen Ashley (2007) [2000]. Colossal Cracks: Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944–45. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-3383-1. OCLC 70698935. 
  • Haldane, J. Aylmer L. Sir (2005). The insurrection in Mesopotamia, 1920. London: The Imperial War Museum in association with The Battery Press. ISBN 1904897169. OCLC 60688896. 1904897169. 
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H.F. (2003) [1st pub. HMSO:1960]. Orders of Battle: Second World War, 1939–1945. Uckfield: Naval and Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1. 
  • Cliff Lord & Graham Watson, Royal Corps of Signals: Unit Histories of the Corps (1920–2001) and its Antecedents, Solihull: Helion, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-92-2.
  • Perry, Frederick William (1988). The Commonwealth Armies: Manpower and Organisation in Two World Wars. War, Armed Forces and Society. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-719-02595-2. 
  • Huw Richards, 'Lawson, Edward Frederick, fourth Baron Burnham (1890–1963)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: University Press, 2004–15.

External links[edit]