XIII Corps (United Kingdom)

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This article is about the United Kingdom Army unit. For other units of the same name, see XIII Corps.
XIII Corps
Active 1915-18; 1940-45
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Field corps
Part of British Expeditionary Force
Eighth Army
United States Fifth Army

First World War[1]

Second World War

XIII Corps was a British infantry corps during the First and Second World Wars.

First World War[edit]

XIII Corps was formed in France on 15 November 1915 under Lieutenant-General Walter Congreve to be part of Fourth Army.[1] It was first seriously engaged during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.[1] On the First day on the Somme, the corps held the southern flank of the British line. The corps objective was the village of Montauban. The two assault divisions — the 18th (Eastern) and 30th Division, both New Army formations — seized all their objectives.[2]

Second World War[edit]

On 1 January 1941, while the Western Desert Force was fighting the Italian Tenth Army during Operation Compass, it was redesignated "XIII Corps". It then included British 7th Armored Division, Australian 6th Infantry Division and 4th Indian Infantry Division.[3] During the initial attack, Matilda infantry tanks of the 7th Royal Tank Regiment along with the 11th Indian Brigade of the 4th Indian Division, exploited a hole in the Italian defensive positions and attacked the Nibiewa camp from the rear. The Maletti Group was destroyed and General Pietro Maletti was killed in action while trying to stop the sudden attack.

By February 1941, Operation Compass was a complete victory.[4] When Operation Compass came to an end with the surrender of the Italian Tenth Army, XIII Corps HQ was deactivated in February and its responsibilities taken over by HQ Cyrenaica, a static command. Allied forces in the Western Desert took a defensive posture as Middle East Command focused on the Battle of Greece.

The Italian forces in North Africa were reinforced with the Afrika Corps. Axis forces now commanded by Rommel counterattacked. Lieutenant-General Philip Neame, the commander in Cyrenaica,[5] was captured during Rommel's advance. XIII Corps was reactivated as Western Desert Force HQ on 14 April to take command of British and Commonwealth forces (composed primarily of Australian, Canadian, Indian and New Zealand forces) in the Western Desert.[3]

In August 1941 Archibald Wavell was replaced as C-in-C Middle East by Claude Auchinleck and the British and Commonwealth forces were reinforced to create in September 1941 the British Eighth Army. During this reorganisation, Western Desert Force was once again redesignated as XIII Corps and became part of the new army.[3]

The Corps remained part of the Eighth Army throughout the rest of the North African Campaign, which finally ended in May 1943.

Still part of the Eighth Army, XIII Corps, now under command of Miles C. Dempsey, then took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. By now it had the 5th and 50th Infantry divisions under command.

Now with the British 5th and 1st Canadian Infantry divisions, XIII Corps took part in the Allied invasion of Italy, executing Operation Baytown on 3 September 1943.[3] XIII Corps then fought as the right wing of the Eighth Army along the Adriatic coast until the end of 1943, participating in the Moro River Campaign.

In May 1944, XIII Corps was shifted to the left-centre of the Allied front. During the fourth Battle of Monte Cassino XIII Corps elements, composed of the British 4th Division and 8th Indian Infantry Division with supporting fire from the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade,[6] made a successful strongly opposed night crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido rivers, and broke into the heart of the German defenses in the Liri valley. This victory was of enormous significance as it collapsed or bypassed the German defenses of Gustav Line and led to the capture of Rome.[7]

On 17 August 1944, XIII Corps was transferred to the U.S. Fifth Army to become its right wing.[8] Under the Fifth Army, XIII Corps fought in the Apennines mountains to break the Gothic Line.

On 18 January 1945, XIII Corps returned to the Eighth Army.[8] XII Corps was the left wing of Eighth Army in the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy, which ended in May 1945 with the surrender of Axis forces in Italy. 2nd New Zealand Division, operating with the corps, confronted Yugoslav troops at Trieste, entering and capturing the city.[9] The corps restored order in the strife-ridden city and enforced the Morgan Line from May 1945 to mid-1946.

XIII Corps assignments[edit]

Start End Superior body
01-Jan-1941 15-Feb-1941 HQ British Troops Egypt
26-Sep-1941 17-Aug-1944 British Eighth Army
17-Aug-1944 18-Jan-1945 U.S. Fifth Army
18-Jan-1945 31-May-1945? British Eighth Army

General Officers Commanding[edit]

Commanders included:[10]

Henry Hughes Wilson, who had been liaising with French GQG during the Nivelle Offensive but now without a job, declined Haig’s offer of XIII Corps[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Baker, Chris. "The British Corps of 1914-1918". The Long, Long Trail: The British Army of 1914-1918. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  2. ^ Battles of the Somme
  3. ^ a b c d XIII Corps (Western Desert Force) British Military History[dead link]
  4. ^ Walker, Ian W. (2003). Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts : Mussolini's elite armoured divisions in North Africa. Marlborough: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-646-4., pg. 64
  5. ^ Military Career of Philip Neame (British) VC, CB, DSO, accessed December 2008
  6. ^ Badsey, p.150
  7. ^ Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino - Operation Diadem
  8. ^ a b Orders of Battle.com XIII Corps.
  9. ^ Heathcote, T.A., p.170
  10. ^ Army Commands
  11. ^ Jeffery 2006, pp 193-5
  12. ^ Robbins, p.65
  13. ^ Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives


  • Heathcote, T.A. (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736-1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5
  • Jeffery, Keith (2006). Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820358-2. 
  • Robbins, Simon (2005). British Generalship on the Western Front 1914–18: Defeat into Victory. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-35006-9
  • Badsey, Stephen (2000). The Hutchinson atlas of World War Two battle plans: before and after. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1-57958-265-6.