Italy 1943 - 1945

British Infantry Divisions



Six British infantry divisions fought at varying stages of the Italian campaign.

The 1 Infantry Division was a pre-war Regular Army formation, which was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. In March 1943, it was deployed to Tunisia and then used to secure the Island of Pantelleria. From there, it went on to Italy, arriving on 7 December 1943.  The division landed at Anzio on the 22 January 1944 under the command of the U.S. VI Corps.  It sustained heavy casualties during the battle for Anzio. It remained in the Anzio beach-head until the breakout. It then rested and refitted after its long period on front-line duty. The division was involved in the battle for the Gothic Line between the 25 August and 22 September 1944. It left Italy on 27 January 1945 to transfer to Palestine, where it arrived on the 2 February. It served in Palestine until the end of the war.  The division remained on active service in the Middle East until returning to the United Kingdom in 1955.

The 4 Infantry Division was deployed from Egypt, and arrived in Italy on 21 February 1944. It took part in the second battle for Cassino between the 11 and 18 May 1944, under the command of XIII Corps. It participated in the battle for the Trasimere Line between the 20 and 30 June 1944, the advance to Arezzo between the 4 and 17 July 1944 and the advance to Florence between the 17 July and 10 August. On the 11 August 1944, the division transferred to V Corps and then to I Canadian Corps on the 7 September 1944 for the battle of the Rimini Line which commenced on the 14 September. The battle concluded on the 21 September and the division returned to V Corps on the 1 October 1944. The division left for Greece on 12 December 1944, arriving a day later. It remained in Greece until the end of the war, and was disbanded there in March 1947.

The most widely travelled formation of the British Army in the Second World War, the 5 Infantry Division had previously served in the United Kingdom, France and Belgium, India and Iraq, with elements having also taken part in 1940 campaign in Norway and the invasion of Madagascar. The division took part in the invasion of Sicily, crossing into Italy in the 3 September 1943. It took part in the battle for the River Sangro between the 19 November and 3 December 1943. It was withdrawn from the mainland and landed in the Anzio beach-head on the 12 March 1944, under the command of U.S. VI Corps.  It fought through the battle for Anzio and onto the battle for Rome. The division left for Egypt on 3 July 1944.




The 46 Infantry Division was a second line Territorial Army formation, which was formed in 1939 as a duplicate of the 49 (West Riding) Infantry Division. It was deployed to France in April 1940 on training and labour duties. It remained in the U.K. re-equipping and refitting until leaving for North Africa on the 6 January 1943. It transferred to X Corps in July 1943, and landed with the corps at Salerno in Italy on 9 September 1943.  The division fought in the battles for the capture of Naples, the Volturno Crossing and the capture of Monte Camino, all under command of X Corps.  It left Italy on 16 March 1944 bound for Egypt.  It moved to Palestine in April 1944 and then back to Egypt in June.  The division returned to Italy on 3 July 1944 and fought in the Gothic Line battles. The division was withdrawn from the line and was hurriedly transferred to Greece on 14 January 1945 to fight in the Greek Civil War. It returned to Italy on 11 April 1945. It moved onto into Austria on the 12 May.

The 56 (London) Infantry Division was a pre-war, first line Territorial Army formation. It landed at Salerno in Italy on 9 September 1943, having come from Libya. It was involved in the battles to recapture Naples in September 1943, the Volturno Crossing in October 1943, and Monte Camino in November and December 1943.  In January 1944, it was involved in the battles for the Garigliano Crossing. As the position at Anzio deteriorated, the division was transferred from X Corps to the U.S. VI Corps at Anzio. The division fought in the battle to secure the bridgehead, sustaining heavy casualties. It was withdrawn from Anzio to Egypt on 28 March 1944 to refit. The final offensive in Italy commenced on the 13 April 1945, with the division involved in forcing the Argenta Gap. The division remained in Italy, until it was disbanded in 1947.

The 78 Infantry Division had been deployed to North Africa in November 1942.  It landed in Sicily on 26 July 1943, moving to Italy on 22 September 1943.  It landed at Taranto and advanced up the Adriatic coast under the command of XXX Corps.  The division fought at the Battle for Adrano between the 29 July and 3 August 1943 and then crossing of the River Sangro. It took part in the Second Battle for Cassino and then the advance up the Liri Valley (Cassino III). The division fought at the battle for the Trasimene Line. It left Italy on 18 July 1944 to transfer to Egypt for a period of rest and refitting.  The division returned to Italy on 15 September 1944.  It took part in the final offensive with the crossing of the River Senio and then the forcing of the Argenta Gap. The division entered Austria on the 8 May 1945.  It remained in Austria on occupation duties until it was disbanded in August 1946.