The 13th Division was formed as part of the First New Army at Salisbury Plain in August 1914. During the formation of the division, Major-General Robert Kekewich was appointed as its first commander. However, on 5 November 1914, he committed suicide. Although initially meant for service in France, with the rest of the Kitchener New Armies, it was detailed to be sent to the Mediterranean as reinforcements for the Anglo-French expedition at Gallipoli.
The 13th Division landed at Anzac on the Gallipoli peninsula in July 1915 in preparation for the August Offensive that was launched on 6 August. Although all of its component infantry battalions arrived, the Division's artillery did not arrive for some months. Initially in reserve to the main breakout from Anzac by units of the New Zealand and Australian Division, the 38th and 39th Brigades were sent in as reinforcements as the attack stalled.
The 7th Gloucesters and the 8th Royal Welch Fusiliers were sent to support the Wellington battalion of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade when it made the decisive assault on Chunuk Bair on the morning of 8 August.
Battalions of the division formed the core of the force (known as "Baldwin's Brigade" after the commander, Brigadier General Anthony Baldwin) to capture Hill Q on 9 August but were not in position in time and so spent the day encamped on a small plateau beneath Chunuk Bair known as "The Farm". When the Turks counter-attacked on the morning of 10 August the division's troops on Chunuk Bair and at The Farm, about 3000 men, were decimated.
By September 1915, the 13th Division as a whole had suffered nearly 6,000 killed, wounded, or missing out of its original strength of 10,500. Of the thirteen battalion commanders, ten had become casualties. During September, Major-General Sir Stanley Maude had been assigned to take over the shattered 13th Division.
At the beginning of October the Division was moved from Anzac to Suvla Bay. Even though the Division was once again in reserve, it was still taking daily casualties from the Turkish Artillery. However, by this time the high command already realized that the Dardanelles Campaign was a lost cause. To Maude fell the task of making sure that the 13th Division slipped away in the night during the evacuation of the Suvla Bay positions. Maude, the methodical commander, recorded:
I do not think we left behind us £200 worth of stuff worth having. I got away all my guns and ammunition and we even destroyed the sandbags which we had to leave in the parapets by ripping them with bayonets or clasp knives to make them useless. The withdrawal was apparently a complete surprise for the Turks, for nothing happened on either night beyond the usual sniping and firing. In a way I could not help feeling a little sorry that they did not find us out, for my division had two strongly prepared lines, each with an excellent field of fire to fall back upon, and if they had only come on we should have given them a real good dressing.
After being evacuated from Suvla, the 13th Division was ordered to reinforce the British forces at Cape Helles. However, no sooner than the division had arrived through W Beach, than the decision to evacuate this last foothold. As the Division was preparing to fall back to the beaches, it was attacked by Turkish units in the late afternoon and evening of 7 January 1916. The main thrust of the attack, the first action under the Division's new commander, fell on the 39th Brigade, and in particular the 7th North Staffords defending Fusilier Bluff, who drove off the attackers.
The British evacuation from the Helles occurred on the night of 8–9 January 1916. Maude's division, fresh from its defensive victory began to fall back to Gully Beach at 5 p.m. By 1:15 a.m., the last detachments holding the division's trenches were on the beach waiting to be loaded onto the transports. However, at 2:30 a.m., Maude was informed that there were not enough transports coming to Gully Beach to carry off the 13th Division. Maude and his headquarters staff, as well as the pickets that had been covering the beach site, had to make the 2 miles (3.2 km) run in the dark to W Beach in order to be transported out of the Helles.
In evaluating the units under his command, General Birdwood wrote that he considered the 13th Division was the best division in the Dardanelles Army. Following its withdrawal, the 13th Division was sent to Egypt to refit and reequip while higher command decided where it was needed. Upon arrival in Egypt, the 13th Division was finally reunited with its artillery units, many of which had been stationed in Egypt while the rest of the division had been fighting in Gallipoli. By the time the Division was concentrated in Egypt, a need had already been identified for it.
After a brief refit in Egypt where the Division's battalions were being brought back up to strength, the Division was dispatched to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), as reinforcements for Anglo-Indian forces attempting to relief the siege of Kut. It took until the end of March for the entire division to make the journey from Egypt to Basra and then from Basra up to the Tigris to join the rest of the Tigris Corps.
Once in theater, the 13th Division discovered that the logistical situation in Mesopotamia was a mess. The port facilities at Basra were inadequate. Lacking good roads or a railway, virtually everything traveled by river. However, there were insufficient numbers of boats to keep the Anglo-Indian force which the 13th Division was joining adequately supplied. However, what the 13th Division did bring with it was the modern, heavy artillery, including howitzers.
The 13th Division, as the strongest unit available, became the spearhead the Tigris Corps' attempt to relieve the Kut garrison beginning on 6 April 1916. The division fought at Hanna, Fallahiya, and Sanniyat. After taking the first two, the 13th Division was stopped by the Turkish forces under the overall command of Khalil Pasha at the Battle of the Sanniyat on 9 April 1916. During the fighting 5–9 April 1916, four of the 13th Division's soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross. The first was Captain Angus Buchanan for his actions on 5 April 1916. On 9 April 1916, Lieutenant Edgar Myles, Private James Fynn and Chaplain William Addison were all awarded the Victoria Cross for saving wounded soldiers. In three days of battle, the division was reduced to 5328 effectives.
Exhausted by its three days of fighting, the 13th Division became the reserve for the Tigris Corps during the next phase of the operation. On 16 April 1916, it supported the 7 (Lahore) Division on the right bank of the Tigris, as it captured the Bait Isa line, part of the Es Sinn defenses supporting the Sanniyat position on the opposite bank. Taking the Bait Isa line exposed the flank of the Sanniyat position to enfilading artillery and machine-gun fire. However, on the night of 16–17 April 1916, the Khalil Pasha committed his reserves to a counter-attack to retake Bait Isa. The counter-attack struck as the 13th Division was preparing to storm the Turk's next defensive position. Although the 13th Division and 7th (Lahore) Division hung on to their gains, the Turkish counter-attack had taken the steam out of the Anglo-Indian offensive.
With the 13th Division's ranks depleted, it was reduced to providing machine-gun and artillery fire for the 3rd (Meerut) Division when it made the final push to break the Turkish lines at the Sanniyat. On 22 April 1916, the division's artillery and machine-guns were used to support the 3rd (Meerut) Division's doomed attack.
On 29 April 1916, following the Tigris Corps' failure to break the Turkish siege and the sinking of the steamer Julnar as it attempted to steam upriver past the Turkish defenders, the Kut garrison surrendered. The 13th Division spent the rest of the spring, summer, and early fall recovering from the fighting, and preparing for further operations to capture Baghdad.
Between May and December 1916, the 13th Division refitted and re-equipped in preparation for the drive northward to capture Baghdad. In July, Major-General Maude was elevated to command the expanded and renamed Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. In his place, Brigadier General Cayley, formerly the commander of the 39th Brigade, was elevated to command of the division.
On 12 December 1916, the division advanced from Sheik Sa'ad on Kut. At the Second Battle of Kut, the division helped drive the Turkish forces from the town. After a brief pause, the division drove north, crossing the Diyala River, and participated in the capture of Baghdad on 11 March 1917.
Following the capture of Baghdad, the 13th Division fought a number of battles to consolidate British control over the Baghdad vilayet. This included fighting at Dellis Abbas (27–28 March 1917), Duqma (29 March 1917), Nahr Kalis (9–15 April 1917), the passage of the Adhaim (18 Apr 1917) and the Action of the Shatt al ‘Adhaim (30 April 1917). Despite the relative inaction of the British to advance further, the division also fought at the Second and Third Action of Jabal Hamrin (16–20 October 1917 and 3–6 December 1917).
Along with the rest of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, the 13th Division remained in the Baghdad vilayet for the rest of 1917 and the early part of 1918. The division fought its last engagement as a whole at the Action of Tuz Khurmatli on 29 April 1918. In July 1918, the 39th Brigade was detached from the division and be assigned to General Lionel Dunsterville's Dunsterforce. The 40th Brigade was detached from the division, along with all of the division's artillery, to support the drive to Mosul and north.
With the conclusion of the war, the 13th Division remained in the Mosul area on occupation duties until evacuated at the end of 1918. In 1919, two of the division's battalions, 6th East Lancashire and 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, were transferred to the Army of Occupation. The rest of the division proceeded to Amara where it was demobilized on 17 March 1919.
The division consisted of the following brigades (as of April 1916):38th Brigade
(G.O.C.: Brig.Gen. J.W. O'Dowda):
6th (Service) Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
6th (Service) Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment
6th (Service) Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment)
6th (Service) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
(G.O.C. Brig.Gen. J. de S. Cayley):
9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
7th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
9th (Service) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
7th (Service) Battalion, Prince of Wales's (North Staffordshire Regiment)
(G.O.C: Brig.Gen.A.C. Lewin)
8th (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
8th (Service) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
4th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers
5th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire Regiment)
8th (Service) Battalion, Welsh Regiment (Pioneers)
88th Company Royal Engineers
72nd Company Royal Engineers
66th Brigade, RFA
D/69th Battery (Howitzers), RFA
Heavy Brigade, R.G.A. (77th Heavy Battery and 1 section 1/104th Heavy Battery)
26th (Jacobs) Mountain Battery (joined 23 October 1917, left 10 August 1918)
Battle of Gallipoli
Battle of Sari Bair 6–10 August 1915
Battle of Chunuk Bair
Russell’s Top. 7 August 1915
Hill 60. 21 Aug and 27–28 August 1915
Evacuation of Suvla. 19–20 December 1915
Last Turkish attack at Helles. 7 January 1916
Evacuation of Helles. 7–8 Jan 1916
Siege of Kut
Capture of Hanna and Fallahiya. 5 April 1916
Second attack on Sannaiyat. 9 April 1916
Action of Bait ‘Isa. 17–18 April 1916
Third attack on Sannaiyat. 22 April 1916
Fall of Baghdad
Capture of the Hai Salient. 25 January – 5 February 1917
Capture of the Dahra Bend. 9–16 February 1917
Passage of the Diyala. 7–10 Mar 1917
Occupation of Baghdad. 11 March 1917
Dellis Abbas. 27–28 March 1917
Duqma. 29 March 1917
Nahr Kalis. 9–15 April 1917
Passage of the ‘Adhaim. 18 April 1917
Action of the Shatt al ‘Adhaim. 30 April 1917
Second action of Jabal Hamrin. 16–20 October 1917
Third action of Jabal Hamrin. 3–6 December 1917
Tuz Khurmatli. 29 April 1918