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1st (United Kingdom) Division

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Active  1937–1945 1960–present
Branch  British Army
Part of  Land Forces
Country  United Kingdom
Type  Infantry Division
1st (United Kingdom) Division
Size  Second World War 14,964 men 343 tanks.Army 2020 size - around eight brigades, including 102 Logistics Brigade

The 1st (United Kingdom) Division, formerly the 1st Armoured Division, is a division of the British Army, currently the only British division to be stationed in Germany. Originally formed in November 1937 as the Mobile Division, it saw extensive service during World War II and was disbanded afterwards; reconstituted in 1976, it remains in service. It should not be confused with the 1st Infantry Division, which saw service in World War II as a separate formation.



The division was formed in November 1937 on the initiative of General Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). At the time, it was named The Mobile Division. The choice of General Officer Commanding reflected the tensions within the army. The Secretary of State for War (Leslie Hore-Belisha) wanted a Royal Tank Corps (RTC) officer as tanks would be the main force of the division but Montgomery-Massingberd wanted a cavalry officer. Supporters of Montgomery-Massingberd proposed that the tank element of the division should be formed from cavalry regiments equipped only with light tanks and that the tank brigade and its heavier tanks be removed from the division. The compromise was the appointment of Major-General Alan Brooke RA. When Brooke was promoted, his replacement was a cavalry officer.

The Mobile Division was formed with the 1st and 2nd Light Armoured Brigades, the 1st Army Tank Brigade, artillery, engineers and signals. Its paper strength was 620 armoured fighting vehicles but 78 of these were reconnaissance vehicles and some were simulated by trucks. The heavier tanks were in the tank brigade, which had obsolete medium tanks until cruiser tank deliveries began in December 1938. At the same time, the organization of the division was changed to a Light Armoured Brigade (three regiments with light and cruiser tanks), a Heavy Armoured Brigade (three regiments of cruiser tanks) and a Support Group (motorized rifle battalion, motorized artillery regiment and a company of engineers). In practice, with insufficient cruiser tanks to equip the division, there was no difference in numbers and type of tanks between the light and heavy brigades.

Second World War

The 1st Armoured Division first saw service during the Second World War in incomplete form under the command of Major-General Roger Evans when the second British Expeditionary Force (2nd BEF) was sent to France in May 1940. The 1st Armoured Division, consisting of the understrength 2nd and 3rd Armoured Brigades, along with the 1st Support Group, and with no infantry support (which had been transferred in April to form the 30th Infantry Brigade), landed in France on 14 May 1940 and, after suffering heavy tank losses during the Battle of France, was evacuated to England on 16 June, having fought south of the river Somme, isolated from the other British formations.

Until 27 August 1941, the division was stationed in the United Kingdom on anti-invasion duties, anticipating a German invasion, under the command of Major-General Willoughby Norrie, who had taken command on 24 August 1940. It then embarked for Egypt under the command of Major-General Herbert Lumsden and arrived on 13 November 1941. After Major-General Lumsden was wounded, Major-General Frank Messervy took command in January 1942, retaining command until Major-General Lumsden returned in March. The 1st Armoured Division took part in many of the battles of the North African Campaign against Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, the "Desert Fox", including Gazala, Mersa Matruh, First El Alamein, Second El Alamein, Tebaga Gap, Mareth Line, Akarit, El Kourzia and Tunis. In August 1942, Major-General Raymond Briggs was appointed to command and in July 1943 was succeeded by Major-General Alexander Galloway.

From the end of the campaign in Tunisia in May 1943, which saw the surrender of almost 250,000 German and Italian soldiers, the 1st Armoured Division remained in North Africa until May 1944. The division, minus the 18th Lorried Infantry Brigade (previously 7th Motor Brigade, on loan to the 1st Infantry Division in the Anzio beachhead, only rejoining 1st Armoured in August), then transferred to the Italian Front, arriving in Italy in late May.

The division came under command of V Corps, under Lieutenant-General Charles Keightley, of the Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese. The 1st Armoured Division was the only British division, of six in total, to have fought at Alamein under Eighth Army command, to rejoin the army in Italy. During the fighting in front of the Gothic Line throughout August and September, the 2nd Armoured Brigade suffered severe losses in tanks in the Battle of Coriano, with the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), losing 31 tanks, out of 52. Major-General Richard Hull, aged just 37 and three months who became Chief of the General Staff, took over command for this part of the campaign in August 1944. The division was broken up soon after, due to a lack of sufficient drafts to replace casualties; the 2nd Armoured Brigade survived as an independent brigade and the 18th Infantry Brigade was broken up and used to fill gaps in other British divisions, mainly for the 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions. The division was officially disbanded on 11 January 1945.

Order of battle

The 1st Armoured Division was constituted as follows and shows some of the changes that were made to British armoured formations during the war.

3 September 1939

  • 2nd Light Armoured Brigade (3 September 1939 – 14 April 1940)
  • 10th Royal Hussars
  • 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays)
  • 9th Queen's Royal Lancers
  • 1st Heavy Armoured Brigade (3 September 1939 – 14 April 1940)
  • 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 3rd Royal Tank Regiment
  • 5th Royal Tank Regiment
  • 1st Support Group (3 September 1939 – 14 February 1942)
  • Royal Artillery
  • 1st Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
  • 2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
  • Royal Engineers
  • 1st Field Squadron
  • 1st Field Park Troop
  • Infantry
  • 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade
  • 2nd Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • Division Troops
  • 1st Armoured Division Signals, Royal Corps of Signals
  • Royal Army Service Corps
  • Brigade and Division Troops Companies
  • Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 23 October 1942

  • 2nd Armoured Brigade (14 April 1940—29 September 1944)
  • 10th Royal Hussars
  • 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays)
  • 9th Queen's Royal Lancers
  • Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons
  • 7th Motor Brigade (23 September 1942–19 July 1943)
  • 7th Battalion, Rifle Brigade
  • 2nd Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
  • Minefield Task-force
  • 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade
  • 7th, 9th Field, 572nd Army Companies Royal Engineers
  • Detachments from 2nd Armoured Brigade
  • Hammerforce (attached from 8th Armoured Division)
  • 146th Field, 73rd Anti-tank, 56th Light A. A. Regiments Royal Artillery
  • 4th/6th South African Armoured Car Regiment
  • Royal Artillery
  • 2nd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
  • 4th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
  • 11th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (Honourable Artillery Company)
  • 76th Anti-Tank Regiment
  • 42nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
  • Royal Engineers
  • 1st Field Squadron
  • 7th Field Squadron
  • 1st Field Park Squadron
  • Divisional Troops
  • 12th Royal Lancers
  • 1st Armoured Division Signals
  • 2 Companies 1st Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (machine guns)
  • Royal Army Service Corps
  • Royal Army Medical Corps
  • 1st and 15th Light Field Ambulance
  • Other brigades were part of the division for varying lengths of time:

  • 3rd Armoured Brigade (14 April 1940–4 October 1940)
  • 22nd Armoured Brigade (14 April 1940–7 November 1941)
  • 200th Guards Brigade Group Group (12 February 1942–20 May 1942)
  • 201st Guards Brigade Group (21 May 1942–14 June 1942)
  • 18th Infantry Brigade (5 October 1943–16 February 1944; 17 August 1944–28 October 1944)
  • Post Second World War

    It was not until 1960 that the Division re-emerged in the British Army. It was reformed as the 1st Division following the disbandment of the 1st Infantry Division and was initially based with the British Army of the Rhine at Verden an der Aller in West Germany.

    During the 1970s, the division consisted of two "square" brigades, the 7th Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade. It became the 1st Armoured Division in 1976 and served with I (BR) Corps being based at Shiel Barracks in Verden in Germany from 1978. After being briefly reorganised into two "task forces" ("Alpha" and "Bravo") in the late 1970s, it consisted of the 7th Armoured Brigade, the 12th Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade in the 1980s. The divisional badge dates from 1983, and combines the hollow red triangular "spearhead" badge of the 1st Infantry Division with the charging rhinoceros badge of 1st Armoured Division as displayed in the Second World War.

    Divisional formations and units have deployed on many other operations, such as occupation duties in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Belize and United Nations tours in Cyprus, Bosnia and Kosovo. The headquarters of the division was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to command British land forces. It had the 4th Armoured Brigade and 7th Armoured Brigade under command. During the war, it came under the US VII Corps and was part of the great armoured left-hook that destroyed many Iraqi Republican Guard formations. The two brigades in the division alternated heading the advance. The division participated in the Battle of Norfolk. During this engagement the division destroyed several Iraqi companies of T-55 tanks. After 48 hours of combat, the division destroyed or isolated four Iraqi infantry divisions (the 26th, 48th, 31st, and 25th) and overran the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division in several sharp engagements. The British 1st Armoured Division had traveled 217 miles in 97 hours. The British 1st Armoured Division had captured or destroyed about 200 tanks and a very large number of armoured personnel carriers, trucks, reconnaissance vehicles, etc.

    1993 to 2014

    In 1993, HQ 1st Armoured Division was disbanded and the 1st (UK) Armoured Division formed from the 4th Armoured Division. The headquarters were established at Wentworth Barracks in Herford in 1993. The divisional headquarters was deployed in command of the Multi-National Division (South-West) in Bosnia in 1996–1997 and 1998–1999.

    The Division headquarters again deployed to the Persian Gulf area in 2003. It again commanded British forces in the area, this time with three full brigades under its control. Those were 7th Armoured Brigade again, along with 16 Air Assault Brigade, and 3 Commando Brigade. In a combined arms operation, the division secured southern Iraq, including the city of Basra during the invasion. It came under I Marine Expeditionary Force during the 2003 conflict.

    The following brigades made up the 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division during that period:

  • 7th Armoured Brigade (The Desert Rats)
  • 20th Armoured Brigade (The Iron Fist)
  • 1 Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment (ADSR)
  • 1 Regiment Army Air Corps (Lynx)
  • 28 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers
  • 1 Regiment, Royal Military Police
  • The 4th Armoured Brigade (The Black Rats) was part of 1st Armoured Division until the division was reduced to two brigades in 2007.

    Current formation

    Under Army 2020, the division was renamed 1st (United Kingdom) Division in July 2014 and given responsibility for commanding the Adaptable Force which comprises:

  • 4th Infantry Brigade
  • 7th Infantry Brigade
  • 11th Infantry Brigade
  • 38th Infantry Brigade
  • 42nd Infantry Brigade
  • 51st Infantry Brigade
  • 160th Infantry Brigade
  • 102 Logistic Brigade
  • The division moved to Imphal Barracks in York on 1 June 2015.

    General Officers Commanding

    Commanders have been:
    GOC The Mobile Division

  • 1937–1938 Major-General Alan Brooke
  • GOC 1st Armoured Division

  • 1938–1940 Major-General Roger Evans
  • 1940–1941 Major-General Willoughby Norrie
  • 1941–1942 Major General Herbert Lumsden
  • Jan–Mar 1942 Major-General Frank Messervy
  • Mar–Aug 1942 Major General Herbert Lumsden
  • 1942–1943 Major-General Raymond Briggs
  • 1943–1944 Major-General Alexander Galloway
  • Aug–Sep 1944 Major-General Richard Hull
  • GOC 1st Division

  • 1960–1961 Major-General Alan Jolly
  • 1961–1963 Major-General Thomas Pearson
  • 1963–1965 Major-General Miles Fitzalan-Howard
  • 1965–1968 Major-General Richard Ward
  • 1968–1970 Major-General Allan Taylor
  • 1970–1972 Major-General Jack Harman
  • 1972–1973 Major-General Edwin Bramall
  • 1973–1975 Major-General John Stanier
  • GOC 1st Armoured Division

  • 1975–1977 Major-General David Alexander-Sinclair
  • 1977–1979 Major-General Richard Lawson
  • 1979–1982 Major-General Geoffrey Howlett
  • 1982–1983 Major-General Brian Kenny
  • 1983–1985 Major-General David Thorne
  • 1985–1987 Major-General Anthony Mullens
  • 1987–1989 Major-General Richard Swinburn
  • 1989–1990 Major-General Roger Wheeler
  • 1990–1992 Major-General Rupert Smith
  • 1992–1993 Major-General Iain Mackay-Dick
  • GOC 1st (UK) Armoured Division

  • 1993–1994 Major General Anthony Denison-Smith
  • 1994–1996 Major General Roddy Cordy-Simpson
  • 1996–1998 Major General John Kiszely
  • 1998–2000 Major General Redmond Watt
  • 2000–2003 Major General Robin Brims
  • 2003–2005 Major General Peter Wall
  • 2005–2006 Major General John Cooper
  • 2006–2009 Major General Graham Binns
  • 2009–2011 Major General Adrian Bradshaw
  • 2011–2012 Major-General James Bashall
  • 2012–2014 Major-General James Chiswell
  • GOC 1st (United Kingdom) Division

  • 2014–2015 Major-General James Chiswell
  • 2015–Present Major-General Giles Hill
  • References

    1st (United Kingdom) Division Wikipedia

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