54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division

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East Anglian Division
54th (East Anglian) Division
54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division
54 inf div -vector.svg
Shoulder sleeve insignia of the 54th (East Anglian) Division, World War II.
Active 1908–1919
1920–1943
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements World War I
*Battle of Gallipoli
*First Battle of Gaza
*Battle of Mughar Ridge
*Battle of Jerusalem (1917)
*Action of Tell 'Asur
*Battle of Megiddo (1918)'s Battle of Arara
World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
the Hon. Julian Byng
Charles Townshend
Evelyn Barker
Cyril Lomax
Sir Ian Freeland

The 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. During the First World War the division fought at Gallipoli and in the Middle East. The division was disbanded after the war but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. During the Second World War it was a home service division and did not see any combat service abroad and was disbanded in late 1943 but many of its component units went to see service in the Normandy Campaign and North-western Europe from June 1944 to May 1945.

Formation

The division was raised as the East Anglian Division in 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. Under command it had the Essex Brigade, the East Midland Brigade and the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade. In 1915, during the First World War, these later became the 54th (East Anglian) Division, the 161st (Essex) Brigade, the 162nd (East Midland) Brigade and the 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade respectively.

First World War

The 54th (East Anglian) Division landed at Suvla on 10 August in the Gallipoli Campaign, as a part of IX Corps under Lieutenant-General Stopford. It was moved to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under General Murray in late 1916 and garrisoned the southern part of the Suez Canal.

Then in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, during the First Battle of Gaza, on 26 March 1917, the 161st Brigade and divisional artillery were in reserve while the 53rd (Welsh) Division carried out the main attack. These reserves were committed as the battle progressed resulting in the British gaining a foothold in the Turkish defences but the British commander called off the attack as night fell. In the Second Battle of Gaza, the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions of the Norfolk Regiment sustained 75 per cent casualties (about 1,200 men).[1] It took part in the successful Third Battle of Gaza as part of XXI Corps led by General Bulfin, and by the end of 1917 Edmund Allenby's forces had taken Jerusalem.

In September 1918 the division took part in the Battle of Megiddo.

Order of battle

The division was constituted as follows during the war:[2][3]

161st (Essex) Brigade

162nd (East Midland) Brigade

  • 1/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
  • 1/4th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
  • 1/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (left February 1915)
  • 1/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (left November 1914)
  • 2/1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment (joined February 1915, left April 1915)
  • 1/10th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Hackney) (from April 1915)
  • 1/11th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles) (from April 1915)
  • 162nd Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Company (formed 26 April 1916, moved to 54th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 19 April 1918)
  • 162nd Trench Mortar Battery (formed 5 May 1917)

163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade

Divisional Artillery The divisional artillery did not accompany the division to Gallipoli. On 17 November 1915 it embarked for France, where it joined 33rd Division, a 'Kitchener's Army' division whose artillery were still under training. It rejoined 54th Division in Egypt in May 1916.

  • 1/I East Anglian Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (numbered CCLXX Brigade on 26 May 1916)
    • 1/1st Norfolk Battery
    • 1/2nd Norfolk Battery
    • 1/3rd Norfolk Battery
    • 1/I East Anglian Brigade Ammunition Column
  • 1/II East Anglian Brigade, RFA (numbered CCLXXI Brigade on 26 May 1916)
    • 1/1st Essex Battery
    • 1/2nd Essex Battery
    • 1/3rd Essex Battery
    • 1/II East Anglian Brigade Ammunition Column
  • 1/III East Anglian Brigade (Howitzers), RFA (numbered CCLXXII (H) Brigade on 28 May 1916)
  • 1/IV East Anglian Brigade, RFA (numbered CCLXXIII Brigade on 29 May 1916)

After reorganisation in August 1916:

  • CCLXX Brigade, RFA
    • A, B, C (H) Batteries
  • CCLXXI Brigade, RFA
    • A, B, 440 (H) Batteries
  • CCLXXIII Brigade, RFA
    • A, B, C (H) Batteries
  • East Anglian (Essex) Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, (left in England when division went to Gallipoli; later served in France)
  • 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Ammunition Column (detachment accompanied division to Gallipoli)
  • 54th Divisional Trench Mortar Brigade (joined on 3 October 1917, left 2 March 1918)
    • X.54 Medium Trench Mortar Battery
    • Y.54 Medium Trench Mortar Battery
    • Z.54 Medium Trench Mortar Battery

Engineers

  • 1st East Anglian Field Company, Royal Engineers (joined 2nd Division in France on 5 January 1915)
  • 2nd East Anglian Field Company, RE (renumbered 484th Field Company on 1 February 1917)
  • 2/1st East Anglian Field Company, RE (formed after mobilisation; renumbered 485th Field Company on 1 February 1917)
  • 1st Kent Fortress Field Company, RE ( joined 1 July 1916; renumbered 495th (1st Kent) Field Company on 1 February 1917)
  • 54th (East Anglian) Divisional Signal Company, RE

Medical

  • 1st East Anglian Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps (joined 29th Division in January 1915)
  • 2nd East Anglian Field Ambulance, RAMC
  • 3rd East Anglian Field Ambulance, RAMC
  • 2/1st East Anglian Field Ambulance, RAMC (formed after mobilisation)

Between the wars

The division was disbanded after the Great War when the whole of the Territorial Force was disbanded. However, it was reformed in 1920 as the Territorial Army (TA) and the division was reconstituted, initially with a similar composition to before the First World War but, over the next few years, with a much different composition.

In 1939 the TA was doubled in size to meet the threat of Nazi Germany and the division raised a second-line duplicate unit, the 18th Infantry Division. However, it was not formed as an exact duplicate as most Territorial divisions did and the units were divided by geographical location, with the Essex Regiment, one battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment and both battalions of the Hertfordshire Regiment being assigned to the 54th Division. The 18th Division contained battalions of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the Suffolk Regiment, the Cambridgeshire Regiment and a single battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.[4]

Second World War

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the 54th Division, commanded by Major General John Priestman, a Regular Army officer, and serving under Eastern Command, was mobilised for full-time war service.[5] Comprising still the 161st, 162nd and 163rd Infantry Brigades and divisional troops, the division absorbed hundreds of conscripts and spent the first few months of the war, after guarding various designated 'vulnerable points', training for eventual overseas service.[4]

The division remained in the United Kingdom as a local defence formation, being downgraded to a Lower Establishment in January 1942. The division was disbanded and broken up on 14 December 1943. Its component units would take part in the Normandy Campaign as support units, with the HQ Royal Artillery becoming HQ 8th Army Group Royal Artillery and HQ Royal Engineers becoming HQ Royal Engineers for the 6th Airborne Division. The divisional HQ was redesignated HQ Lines of Communication (54th Division) for the 21st Army Group. The division was not reformed in the post-war Territorial Army in 1947 but the 161st and 162nd Infantry Brigades both survived until disbandment in the 1960s.[4]

Order of battle

The 54th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[5]

161st Infantry Brigade (until 17 December 1940)[6]

  • 1/4th Battalion, Essex Regiment (left 20 July 1940)
  • 1/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment (until 14 December 1940)
  • 2/4th Battalion, Essex Regiment (to 163rd Brigade 18 September 1939)
  • 2/5th Battalion, Essex Regiment
  • 5th (Hackney) Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (to 163rd Brigade 18 September 1939)
  • 7th (Hackney) Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (to 163rd Brigade 18 September 1939)
  • 161st Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 10 July 1940)

162nd Infantry Brigade (until 10 November 1942 and from 5 September 1943)[7]

163rd Infantry Brigade (redesignated 53rd Infantry Brigade 18 September 1939)[8]

  • 5th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment (until 17 September 1939)
  • 6th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment (until 17 September 1939)
  • 7th Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment (until 17 September 1939)
  • 2/4th Battalion, Essex Regiment (from 18 September 1939 until 11 April 1943)
  • 5th (Hackney) Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (from 18 September 1939 until 1 November 1943)
  • 7th (Hackney) Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment (from 18 September 1939, disbanded 10 October 1942)
  • 163rd Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 1 February 1940, disbanded 14 July 1941)
  • 6th Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) (from 16 October until 11 December 1942)
  • 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (from 12 December 1942 until 30 May 1943)
  • 5th Battalion, King's Regiment (Liverpool) (from 18 July 1943 until 1 November 1943)

198th Infantry Brigade (from 20 December 1940)[9]

Divisional Troops

Commanders

The following officers commanded the division during its existence:

  • Brigadier-General John H. Campbell: August 1908 – October 1910
  • Major-General the Hon. Julian Byng: October 1910 – October 1912
  • Major-General Charles Townshend: October 1912 – June 1913
  • Major-General Francis S. Inglefield: June 1913 – April 1916
  • Major-General Sir Steuart W. Hare: April 1916 – July 1923
  • Major-General John Duncan: July 1923 – February 1927
  • Major-General Sir Torquhil Matheson: February 1927 – September 1930
  • Major-General Francis J. Marshall: September 1930 – September 1934
  • Major-General Russell M. Luckcock: September 1934 – September 1938
  • Major-General John Priestman: September 1938 – February 1941
  • Major-General Evelyn Barker: February 1941 – April 1943
  • Major-General Charles Wainwright: April–May 1943
  • Major-General Colin Callender: May–December 1943
  • Major-General Cyril Lomax: 1946 – March 1948
  • Major-General Maurice Chilton: March 1948 – February 1950
  • Major-General Charles E.A. Firth: April 1950 – May 1951
  • Major-General Leslie K. Lockhart: May 1951 – December 1952
  • Major-General Roger Bower: December 1952 – May 1955
  • Major-General Reginald P. Harding: May 1955 – June 1958
  • Major-General Dennis E.B. Talbot: June 1958 – March 1961

Victoria Cross recipients

See also

References

  1. ^ Eastern Daily Press, "Sunday" section May 5, 2007
  2. ^ Becke 1936, pp. 125–32.
  3. ^ Baker 2010.
  4. ^ a b c IWM 2017.
  5. ^ a b Joslen 1990, p. 89.
  6. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 349.
  7. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 350.
  8. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 351.
  9. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 382.
  10. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 89 (Note typo: 19th not 199th).
  11. ^ 19 LAA Rgt at Ra 39–45.

Bibliography

  • "Badge, Formation, 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division & 162nd Infantry Brigade". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  • Baker, Chris (2010). "The 54th (East Anglian) Division of the British Army in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  • Becke, Major A. F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4. 
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H. F. (1990) [1st. Pub. HMSO:1960]. Orders of Battle, Second World War, 1939–1945. London: London Stamp Exchange. ISBN 0-948130-03-2. 

External links

  • badge, formation, 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division and 162nd Infantry Brigade
  • 54th (East Anglian) Division
  • Royal Artillery 1939–1945 (archive site)
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