Neha Patil (Editor)

70th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)

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Country  United Kingdom
Type  Infantry
Nickname(s)  "The Polar Bears"
Branch  British Army
Size  Brigade
70th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)
Active  1914–1919 1939–1944 1950–?

The 70th Infantry Brigade was an infantry brigade of the British Army that saw service during both World War I and World War II and postwar.


World War I

Originally part of the 23rd Division (and briefly 8th Division) during World War I.

Order of battle

  • 11th (Service) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (until September 1918)
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
  • 1/8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (from October 1915 until February 1916)
  • 70th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed July 1916, moved to 23rd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 1 April 1918)
  • 70th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 18 June 1916)
  • World War II

    The brigade was reformed in 1939 in the Territorial Army (or TA, the British Army's part-time reserve component) as the 70th Infantry Brigade just before the end of the interwar period, originally as part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, when the TA was ordered to be doubled in size, due to the increasing likelihood of another war with Germany. The brigade was formed as a 2nd Line duplicate of the 151st Infantry Brigade and was composed of the 10th, 11th and 12th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry, containing many former members of those battalions. The brigade was transferred to the 23rd (Northumbrian) Division, the 2nd Line duplicate of the 50th Division, on 2 October 1939, just under a month after the start of World War II.

    The brigade, serving with the 23rd Division in Northern Command, was, although poorly trained and equipped, ordered to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), under General Lord Gort, then serving on the border between France and Belgium, as lines of communication troops under GHQ BEF. The brigade arrived in France on 25 April 1940. Together with the rest of the BEF, the brigade was, under a month after its arrival in France, involved in the Battle of France in May 1940 and the retreat to Dunkirk from where it took part in the Dunkirk evacuation.

    After escaping from Dunkirk, the brigade, which had sustained extremely heavy losses, was serving in South East England under Southern Command, when the 23rd Division was disbanded in late June 1940 due to the heavy losses it suffered, with the 70th Brigade becoming an independent formation, with the title of 70th Independent Infantry Brigade, on 27 June 1940 and the 187th Field Ambulance, RAMC under command. The brigade, now reformed as a standard infantry brigade, was sent to Iceland in October 1940 on garrison duties, before being sent to Scotland in late December 1941, shortly after the United States entered the war. After serving in South Wales District and Western Command, the 70th was, on 18 May 1942, assigned to the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division. The 49th Division, nicknamed "The Polar Bears", had also been serving in Iceland alongside the brigade.

    The brigade, together with the rest of the 49th Division, spent the remaining two years in England training for offensive action before landing in Normandy shortly after D-Day on 6 June 1944, as part of Battle of Normandy (codenamed Operation Overlord) six days later.

    During Operation Martlet, the preparatory attack for Operation Epsom that took place on 25 June 1944, the brigade was heavily engaged around the village of Rauray with elements from the 12th SS Panzer and 26th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiments of 12th SS Panzer Division. The 70th Brigade then fought a bloody battle around Rauray as Kampfgruppe Weidinger of 2nd SS Panzer Division counter-attacked between 29 June and 1 July. For this it was given the battle honour of 'The Odon'

    Thereafter it fought south of Tilly-sur-Seulles, before following the 49th Division's initial drive during I Corps' drive to the River Seine in late August. On 19 August, the brigade was withdrawn from the frontline and began to disband to fill the increasing gap in available infantry replacements as the British Army was suffering from a severe lack of available infantrymen at the time. By 19 October 1944, the brigade ceased to exist. Its place in the 49th Division was taken by the 56th Independent Infantry Brigade.

    Order of battle

    The 70th Brigade was constituted as follows during the war:

  • 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
  • 11th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
  • 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (until 31 December 1939)
  • 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)) (from 1 January 1940)
  • During the period 27 June to 17 October 1940 the following additional unit was under command:

  • 187th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
  • Commanders

    The following officers commanded the 70th Brigade during the war:

  • Brigadier P. Kirkup (until 26 September 1941, again 22 October 1941 until 24 July 1942)
  • Lieutenant Colonel C.D. Marley (Acting, from 26 September until 22 October 1941)
  • Brigadier P.P. King (from 24 July 1942 until 20 January 1944)
  • Brigadier E.C. Cooke-Collis (from 20 January 1944)
  • Post-World War II

    During the Mau Mau uprising, East Africa Command controlled 39th Infantry Brigade, 49th Infantry Brigade, and 70th (East African) Infantry Brigade. Later 70th (East African) Brigade became the basis for the newly independent Kenya Army. Brigade headquarters was at Nyeri where the Brigade Signals Troop was also located. May have operated from 1953 onwards.


    70th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom) Wikipedia

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