The famous territorial regiments that were incorporated in the division were all drawn from the Scottish Lowlands, and have a history that in some cases goes back more than 300 years. It consisted of three infantry brigades, the 155th (South Scottish) Brigade, 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade, and 157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigades.
Initially assigned to the defence of the Scottish coast, the division moved to Gallipoli (without two of its artillery brigades), arriving there in early July 1915. While moving from Scotland the division suffered the loss of 210 officers and men killed, and another 224 injured in the Quintinshill rail crash, near Gretna, that involved the 1/7th Royal Scots.
During the First World War, the division fought at Gallipoli, in the Middle East (Sinai and Palestine), and on the Western Front in France.
The division began landing at the Helles front, on the Gallipoli peninsula, in June 1915 as part of VIII Corps. The 156th Brigade was landed in time to take part in the Battle of Gully Ravine, where it was mauled, under the notorious Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Advancing along Fir Tree Spur, to the right of the ravine, the brigade had little artillery support and no experience of the Gallipoli battlefield. The brigade suffered 1,400 casualties, or about half its strength, of which 800 were killed.
When the remaining brigades were landed, they attacked towards Krithia, along Achi Baba Nullah, on 12 July. They succeeded in capturing the Ottoman trenches, but were left unsupported and vulnerable to counter-attack. For a modest gain in ground, they suffered 30 per cent casualties and were in no fit state to exploit their position.
The division moved to Egypt as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, where it manned the east-facing defensive fortifications during the Battle of Romani. On the first, and most crucial day, of the battle the division was heavily engaged with the enemy's right flank, while the Australian Light Horse, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and 5th Mounted Brigades fought the centre and left flank in extended order. With insufficient water, the mid-summer conditions proved too much for the infantry ordered to advance the following day and were not heavily involved in the fighting thereafter. Following the battle, they advanced across the Sinai occupying Bir el Abd, El Mazar and El Arish, but remained in a supporting role as the fluid nature of the fighting best suited the mounted troops.
The division fought in the First and Second Battle of Gaza in March and April 1917. The annihilation of Sea Post, a strong Ottoman redoubt west of Gaza, in June 1917, by 1/5th King's Own Scottish Borderers, inaugurated the series of successful raids that did much to harass the enemy during the four months prior to the winter campaign.
As a division of XXI Corps, it played an important part in the final overthrow of the Ottomans at the Third Battle of Gaza and the subsequent advance. The division then participated in the Battle of Jerusalem. The Battle of Jaffa saw the passage of the Nahr El Auja, on the night of 20–21 December 1917, by the division's three Brigades, which according to General Sir Edmund Allenby's despatch "reflects great credit on the 52nd (Lowland) Division. It involved considerable preparation, the details of which were thought out with care and precision. The sodden state of the ground, and, on the night of the crossing, the swollen state of the river, added to the difficulties, yet by dawn the whole of the infantry had crossed. The fact that the enemy were taken by surprise, and, that all resistance was overcome with the bayonet without a shot being fired, bears testimony to the discipline of this division. The operation, by increasing the distance between the enemy and Jaffa from three to eight miles, rendered Jaffa and its harbour secure, and gained elbow-room for the troops covering Ludd and Ramleh and the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road."
In March 1918 the division moved to France where it fought in the Second Battle of the Somme, the Second Battle of Arras, and the Battle of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive.
After the war the division was disbanded along with the rest of the Territorial Force. However it was re-established in 1920 as part of the Territorial Army and was mobilised again in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France.
The division comprised three infantry brigades:155th (South Scottish) Brigade
1/4th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
1/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
1/4th (The Border) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers
1/5th (Dumfries and Galloway) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (left 28 June 1918)
155th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 23 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918)
155th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 24 May 1917)
156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade
1/5th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left November 1914)
1/6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left March 1915)
1/7th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
1/8th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left 28 June 1918)
1/4th (Queen's Edinburgh Rifles) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) (from April 1915)
1/7th Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) (from April 1915)
156th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 16 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918)
156th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 27 June 1917)
157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigade
1/5th (City of Glasgow) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
1/6th (City of Glasgow) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
1/7th (Blythswood) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
1/9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (left November 1914)
1/5th (Renfrewshire) Battalion, Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) (from April 1915 to 28 June 1918)
157th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 14 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918)
157th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 11 June 1917)
The 52nd (Lowland) Division, which had seen numerous changes in composition during the interwar period, was mobilised, along with the rest of the Territorial Army (previously the Territorial Force, reformed in 1920 and soon renamed the TA), in late August 1939, due to the worsening situation in Europe at the time. The Second World War began on 3 September 1939, after both Britain and France declared war on Germany after the latter's invasion of Poland and the 52nd, based in Scotland under the command of Major General James Drew, was serving in Scottish Command, alongside its second line duplicate unit, the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.
The division first saw action in June 1940 where, following the Dunkirk evacuation, the 52nd Division was shipped to France as part of the Second British Expeditionary Force (2BEF) to cover the withdrawal of Allied forces near Cherbourg during Operation Ariel. The division returned to the United Kingdom and, like most of the rest of the British Army after Dunkirk, began training to repel an expected German invasion, which never occurred. From May 1942 until June 1944, the 52nd was trained in a mountain warfare capacity, originally for a proposed invasion of Norway. However, the division was never employed in this role. Following June 1944, the 52nd Division was reorganised and trained in airlanding operations. As part of this new role, the division was transferred to the First Allied Airborne Army. By this time, the 52nd Division, now under the command of Major General Edmund Hakewill-Smith, was the only operational formation in the United Kingdom.
Several operations were planned for the division, following the successful conclusion of the Normandy Campaign. Operation Transfigure planned to have the British 1st and American 101st Airborne Divisions capture landing strips near Rambouillet, for the 52nd Division to land at. The three divisions would have then blocked the German line of retreat towards Paris. Operation Linnet proposed, the usage of most of the First Allied Airborne Army including the 52nd Division, to seize areas in north-eastern France to block the German line of retreat. As part of Operation Market Garden, the British 1st Airborne Division was given a subsidiary mission of capturing Deelen airfield, on which the 52nd Division would land. Due to the disastrous course of events that unfolded during the Battle of Arnhem, where the 1st Airborne Division was virtually destroyed and lost almost 8,000 men, the 52nd Division was not deployed.
The division would never be utilised in either of the roles it had trained for, and was transferred to Belgium via sea landing in Ostend. The 157th Infantry Brigade landed first at the end of the first week of October, and the rest of the division arrived over the course of the following fortnight. On 15 October, the 157th Brigade was, temporarily, attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and relieved the Canadian units in the bridgehead over the Leopold Canal.
At first the Scots of 52nd Division and the Canadians did not see eye to eye, with a cultural clash of untidy and 'undisciplined' Canadians against 'spit and polish' Scots. On taking over some Canadian positions in mid-October, Scottish officers commented: "No one in Scotland would ask a pig to lie in the houses (recently vacated by the Canadians) on the south side of the canal." However, both sides soon came to recognise that high fighting capability could be engendered in both approaches.
From 23 October until December, the 52nd (Lowland) Division was assigned to the Canadian First Army, serving first under II Canadian Corps and then British I Corps. The division's first operation would be to aid in opening the vital Belgian port of Antwerp, in the Battle of the Scheldt. Ironically, the first operation of the division would not be in mountainous terrain or being deployed by air, but fighting below sea level on the flooded polders around the Scheldt Estuary of Belgium and the Netherlands. Operation Vitality and Operation Infatuate were aimed at capturing South Beveland and the island of Walcheren to open the mouth of the Scheldt Estuary. This would enable the Allies to use the port of Antwerp as a supply route for the troops in North-West Europe. It was in this vital operation that the 52nd Division was to fight its first battle with brilliant success that earned them high praise. During the battle, the division was given command "of all the military operations" on Walcheren. This included command of the 4th Commando Brigade, after it had landed on the island, and No. 4 Commando during the assault on Flushing. Following the battle the division would remain on Walcheren until November, when it was relieved by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.
On 5 December, the division was transferred to XXX Corps of the British Second Army. During the month, the 157th Infantry Brigade was temporarily attached to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division for several days.
In January 1945, the 52nd Division, now serving under XII Corps, participated in Operation Blackcock, the clearing of the Roer Triangle between the rivers Meuse and Roer. During the operation, 19-year-old Fusilier Dennis Donnini of the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, part of the 156th Infantry Brigade, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. During the operation, the 155th Infantry Brigade was attached to the 7th Armoured Division, nicknamed The Desert Rats. In February and March, the division was slightly reorganised with battalions being transferred amongst the division’s brigades. Peter White, a second lieutenant within the 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, describes this change due to 21st Army Group commander Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's "aversion to two Battalions of the same Regiment" being in the same brigade as it could result "in one home district or town having disproportionate losses after any sticky action". For most of April, the 155th Infantry Brigade was again attached to the 7th Armoured Division "to drive for the Elbe across Lüneburg Heath". The division (minus the 155th Brigade) took part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany, with its last major action being the Battle of Hamburg, where it ended the war.
The infantry battalions of the division were bolstered with large drafts of soldiers from all over the United Kingdom and were not just drawn from their traditional regimental recruiting areas. This was not uncommon and took place in many units throughout the British Army, especially in the later years when manpower became scarce.7th/9th Battalion, Royal Scots
4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers
5th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (left 12 February 1945)
155th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 12 May 1940, disbanded 7 January 1941)
6th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (from 12 February 1945)
4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
7th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left 13 March 1945)
156th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 5 December 1939, disbanded 7 January 1941)
1st Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders (from 14 March 1945)
1st Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders (left 12 March 1945)
5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
6th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (left 12 February 1945)
157th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (formed 12 May 1940, disbanded 7 January 1941)
5th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (from 12 February 1945)
7th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (from 14 March 1945)
1st/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (Machine Gun Battalion, from 11 November 1941 until 4 May 1942)
7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (from 7 June 1943, became Machine Gun Battalion 19 March 1944)
52nd Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps (formed 8 January 1941 as 52nd Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps, became 52nd Reconnaissance Regiment 6 June 1942, part of the Royal Armoured Corps 1 January 1944)
78th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (left 3 June 1942)
79th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (until 8 June, rejoined 1 July 1940)
80th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (until 8 June, rejoined 1 July 1940)
186th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 27 December 1942)
1st Mountain Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 6 July 1942 until 21 March 1945)
54th (Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
108th (Green Howards) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 12 March 1942)
240th (Lowland) Field Company, Royal Engineers (left 20 September 1939)
241st (Lowland) Field Company, Royal Engineers
242nd (Lowland) Field Company, Royal Engineers (left 19 October 1939)
554th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 7 December 1939)
202nd (East Lancashire) Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 7 June 1940)
243rd (Lowland) Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
17th Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers (from 1 October 1943)
52nd (Lowland) Divisional Signals Regiment, Royal Corps of Signals
During 1946, the First Canadian Army was withdrawn from Germany and disbanded. As it withdrew from Germany, it "turned over its responsibilities" to the 52nd Division.
In 1947-48, the division was amalgamated with 51st (Highland) Infantry Division to become the 51st/52nd Scottish Division.
In 1947 units of the 51st/52nd Division included:
Scottish Horse, Dunkeld
275 Field Regiment, Aberdeen
277 Field Regiment, Greenock
278 Field Regiment, Edinburgh
254 Anti-tank Regiment, Dumbarton
117 Engineer Regiment, Aberdeen
51/52 Divisional Signal Regiment, Aberdeen
51/52 Divisional RASC
51/52 Ordnance Field Park
51/52 Divisional REME
51/52 Divisional RAMC.
153 (Highland) Brigade comprised:
154 (Highland) Brigade comprised only two battalions:
157 (Lowland) Brigade comprised:
In 1950, the 51st/52nd (Scottish) Division was split, restoring the independence of the 52nd Lowland Division, which took regional command of Territorial Army units based in the Scottish Lowlands, including the Territorial infantry battalions of the Lowland Brigade regiments.
In 1967-68, the Division was split into two brigade level districts based in the Highlands and Lowlands, with the Lowland District Headquarters in Hamilton, near Glasgow.