37th Division (United Kingdom)

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37th Division
WW1 Div 37.jpg
Formation sign of the 37th Division.[1]
Active March 1915 – March 1919
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements World War I
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Count Edward Gleichen

The 37th Division was an infantry division of the British Army, raised during World War I. The divisional symbol was a gold horseshoe, open end up.

History

Formed as part of the New Army, the division was established at Andover, Hampshire as the 44th Infantry Division in March 1915. The division was created as a potential replacement for the 16th (Irish) Division as there were doubts, misplaced as it turned out, as to whether sufficient volunteers would be forthcoming in Ireland to complete the 16th Division.

As a result of its early origins, using unallocated battalions from the first three waves of New Army battalions, although the division, renumbered 37th in May 1915, formed part of the sixth and final group of New Army divisions, it was well provided with trained officers and NCOs by New Army standards. The divisional commander was the experienced Major-General Count Edward Gleichen, who had commanded the 15th Brigade in the regular 5th Division in 1914. The division's three infantry brigades were the 110th, composed of four battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment, the 111th, two battalions of the Royal Fusiliers and one each from the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the Rifle Brigade, and the 112th, one battalion each from the Warwick, Bedford, East Lancashire and North Lancashire Regiments. The North Staffordshire Regiment provided the divisional pioneer battalion. The divisional artillery had been raised for the original 31st and 32nd Divisions, which were broken up before being completed.

The division's unusual composition—the majority of higher-numbered New Army divisions were created from weakly officered Pals battalions and lacked any cadre of experienced soldiers—meant that its training at Cholderton in Hampshire proceeded rapidly, and the 37th Division moved to Saint-Omer in France in July 1915, months earlier than other divisions of the fourth and fifth New Armies. The division was to remain on the Western Front for the rest of the war.

Men of the 111th Brigade with trench mortar bombs at Beaumont-Hamel, France, late 1916.

The 37th Division, forming part of VII Corps of the Third Army, played no part in the diversionary Attack on the Gommecourt Salient staged by VII Corps on 1 July 1916, during the first day on the Somme (1 July 1916) which began the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November). The perceived poor performance of some New Army divisions in the fighting and the many losses suffered by the 34th Division, led to changes in the organisation of the 37th Division in the first half of July. The 110th Brigade was posted to the 21st Division and the 63rd Brigade received in return. The 111th and 112th Brigades were loaned to the 34th Division from 6 July to 22 August, to replace the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) and 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigades. While under command of the 34th Division, the brigades took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge and the Battle of Pozières.

Battle traffic seen at Grevillers on 25 August 1918, following the village's capture by the British 37th Division and the New Zealand Division at the start of the Hundred Days Offensive, a few days earlier. Mark V tanks of the 10th Battalion the Tank Corps and British and New Zealand infantry going forward

The division took part in the Battle of the Ancre, the final stage of the Battle of the Somme, under the command of V Corps in the Fifth Army in November 1916. By this time Count Gleichen had left the division and his replacement, Major-General Scrase-Dickens, had fallen sick. Major-General Bruce-Williams had taken over and commanded the division for the rest of the war; the 37th Division brigades once again saw action under the command of other divisions.

Troops of the 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers halted in Arras, France, before going into action, 9 April 1917.

The division participated in the first three phases of the 1917 Battle of Arras, capturing the village of Monchy-le-Preux during the First Battle of the Scarpe; a monument to the division stands at Monchy. The 37th Division fought in the Third Battle of Ypres, under the command of IX Corps of the Second Army, taking part in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, Battle of Polygon Wood, Battle of Broodseinde, Battle of Poelcappelle, the First Battle of Passchendaele and the Second Battle of Passchendaele from September to November 1917.

The division took little part in the fighting begun by the German Spring Offensive in March 1918, but did take part in the first counter-offensive, the April 1918 Battle of the Ancre, which included the world's first tank versus tank combat at Villers-Bretonneux. At this time the division was under the command of Third Army's IV Corps, and remained part of this formation for the rest of the war. The division took part in the Hundred Days Offensive, fighting in the Battle of Amiens, the 1918 Second Battle of the Somme, the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of the Sambre. The war came to an end on 11 November 1918.

Demobilization began on Boxing Day 1918 and the division had ceased to exist by March 1919. During its active service on the Western Front the division had suffered some 29,969 casualties, killed, wounded and missing.

Order of Battle

from [2]

110th Brigade The Leicester Tigers

  • 6th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment
  • 7th (Service) Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment
  • 110th Machine Gun Company (joined 4 March 1916, moved to 37th Battalion M.G.C. February 1918)
  • 110th Trench Mortar Battery (formed on 13 June 1916)

111th Brigade

This brigade was attached to 34th Division between 6 July and 22 August 1916

  • 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (moved to 112th Brigade 4 February 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Rifle Brigade
  • 111th Machine Gun Company (joined 4 March 1916, moved to 37th Battalion M.G.C. 4 March 1918)
  • 111th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 2 July 1916)

112th Brigade

This brigade was attached to 34th Division between 6 July and 22 August 1916

  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (joined from 111th Brigade 4 February 1918)
  • 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment (joined 4 February 1918)
  • 1/1st (T.F.) Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (joined 11 May 1918)

63rd Brigade

This brigade joined from 21st Division in exchange for 110th Brigade on 8 July 1916

Divisional Troops

  • 9th (Service) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment Divisional Pioneer Battalion (was attached to 34th Division with 111th and 112th Brigades in 1916)
  • 16th Motor Machine Gun Battery (joined 26 July 1915, left 9 May 1916)
  • 247th Machine Gun Company (joined 19 July 1917, moved to 37th Battalion M.G.C. 4 March 1918)
  • 37th Battalion M.G.C. ((formed 4 March 1918)
  • Divisional Mounted Troops
  • 37th Divisional Train A.S.C.
    • 288th, 289th, 290th and 291st Companies.
  • 28th Mobile Veterinary Section A.V.C.
  • 234th Divisional Employment Company (joined 16 June 1917)

Divisional Artillery

  • CXXIII Brigade,R.F.A.
  • CXXIV Brigade, R.F.A.
  • CXXV Brigade, R.F.A. (broken up 31 August 1916)
  • CXVI (Howitzer) Brigade, R.F.A. (broken up January 1917)
  • 37th Heavy Battery R.G.A. (raised with the Division but was broken up at home)
  • 37th Divisional Ammunition Column R.F.A.
  • V.37 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, R.F.A. (formed 25 May 1916, left 6 February 1918)
  • X.37, Y.37 and Z.37 Medium Mortar Batteries, R.F.A. (formed May 1916 with 4 x 6-inch weapons each; on 6 February 1918, Z.37 battery broken up, X.37 and Y.37 reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each)

Royal Engineers

  • 152nd Field Company
  • 153rd Field Company
  • 154th Field Company
  • 37th Divisional Signals Company (raised as 40th Divisional Signals Company, joined 17 June 1915)

Royal Army Medical Corps

  • 48th Field Ambulance (joined from 16th (Irish) Division in June 1915)
  • 49th Field Ambulance (joined from 16th (Irish) Division in June 1915)
  • 50th Field Ambulance (joined from 16th (Irish) Division in June 1915)
  • 37th Sanitary Section(left 20 April 1917)

General officer commanding

  • Major-General A. Edward W. Count Gleichen (March 1915 – November 1916)
  • Major-General Hugh Bruce-Williams (November 1916 – March 1919)

Battle Insignia

The practice of wearing battalion specific insignia (often called battle patches) in the B.E.F. began in mid 1915 with the arrival of units of Kitchener's Armies and was widespread after the Somme Battles of 1916.[3] The patches shown were worn by the division during 1917 and 1918.[4] There was an overall division scheme for the battle patches, colours for each brigade and shapes for each battalion.[5] This division also identified the companies within each battalion with an oblong coloured red for A company, dark blue for B Coy, purple for C Coy and green for D Coy, which could be worn above or below the battalion patch, as shown below. The patches were worn on both sleeves.[6]

63rd Brigade battle patches
From left to right, top row: 8th Lincons, 8th S.L.I., 4th Middlesex and 10th York and Lancaster. The D.L.I. patches use regimental colours. Bottom row: 63rd Machine gun Company and 63rd Trench Mortar Battery. The 8th S.L.I. and 4th Middlesex also wore the patch on the back, below the collar, with the 4th Middlesex also wearing it in helmet covers.[5]
111th Brigade WW1 patches
From left to right, top row: 10th, 13th Royal Fusiliers, 13th K.R.R.C., 13th Rifle Brigade. Bottom row: 111th Machine gun Company and 111th Trench Mortar Battery.
112th Brigade WW1 patches
From left to right, top row: 11th Royal Warwicks, 6th Befdords, 8th East Lancs, 10th Loyals. Bottom row: 112h Machine gun Company and 112th Trench Mortar Battery.

In late 1917 or early 1918 the division sign of a yellow horseshoe was added above the other patches (except for the machine gun companies witch wore it below the battle patch).[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ Chappell p. 20
  2. ^ Baker, Chris. "37th Division". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  3. ^ Chappel pp 5-6
  4. ^ Hibbard pp. 4, 42
  5. ^ a b c Hibbard pp. 42-43
  6. ^ Hibbard p. 42

Bibliography

  • Chappell, Mike (1986). British Battle Insignia (1). 1914-18. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9780850457278.
  • James, E. A. (1990) [1924]. A Record of the Battles and Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders 1914–1918 (London Stamp Exchange ed.). Aldershot: Gale & Polden. ISBN 0-948130-18-0.
  • Middlebrook, Martin (2000) Your Country Needs You. Barnsley: Leo Cooper.

External links

  • 37th Infantry Division at 1914-1918.net
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