France & Norway 1940
As soon as war was declared on 3 September 1939, the British
Army sent an expeditionary force to France in order to defend
France against German invasion. Initially, the War Office planned
for the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) to consist of two
corps, each comprising two Regular Army infantry divisions. By May
1940, the B.E.F. had grown to be equivalent to an Army Group in
terms of its command structure, as it was intended to reached the
size of two Armies, each comprising two Corps, albeit the Germans
invaded before that scale was reached.
The first formations arrived in France in September 1939, and the strength of the B.E.F. increased steadily throughout the period known as the 'Phoney War'. The German's launched their invasion on 10 May 1940, and quickly swept aside the French Army. The coast was reached at Abbeville on 20 May 1940. The British and French garrisons at Boulogne and Calais fell on 25 May and 27 May respectively. The Royal Navy started evacuating the B.E.F. on 27 May 1940, successfully rescuing the majority of the B.E.F. before Dunkirk fell on 4 June 1940.
Dunkirk was not the end of British involvement in the battle for France. The 51 Infantry Division was serving with the French 3 Army on the Maginot Line. It fell back to the coast at St. Valery, where the bulk of the division was captured on 12 June 1940. The 1 Armoured Division, 52 Infantry Division and 1 Canadian Infantry Division served in France until the middle of June.
The campaign in Norway was a spontaneous reaction to the threat to this independent country by Germany in connection with the supply of iron ore to the German war economy. German naval and ground forces began invading both Norway and Denmark on 9 April 1940. Denmark quickly capitulated, but Norway resisted. British forces were sent to Andalsnes (Sickle Force) on 18 April to 1 May 1940, Namsos (Maurice Force) on 16 April to 3 May 1940, and Narvik (Scissors Force and Avon Force) from 15 April to 8 June 1940.
British Expeditionary Force
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the planning assumption was a German invasion through the Low Countries and into France, the same scenario as occurred in 1914. As the likelihood of war grew in 1938, plans were formulated for the creation of another expeditionary force to be sent ...view details
Aldershot Command was the home of the 1 Infantry Division and 2 Infantry Division. Together they formed the ‘Spearhead Corps’ for deployment overseas at times of crisis, although there was no separate corps headquarters. On the outbreak of war, Aldershot Command formed the Headquarters, I Corps, which was mobilised and ...view details
II Corps was formed at the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939. Its first commander was Lieutenant General Alan Francis BROOKE, who was appointed as General Officer Commanding on 1 September 1939. The corps was deployed to France with the 3 Infantry Division and 4 Infantry Division under command. ...view details
III Corps was formed on 25 October 1939. It opened in France in April 1940 taking command of the 5 Infantry Division on 8 April 1940, the division transferring from II Corps. The 42 (East Lancashire) Division arrived in France on 12 April 1940 to join III Corps on 29 ...view details
Lines of Communication
In addition to the five first line Territorial Army divisions deployed to France, three second line divisions were also sent to join the British Expeditionary Force. These were the: 12 (Eastern) Infantry Division on the 12 April 1940; 23 (Northumbrian) Infantry Division on the 22 April 1940; 46 Infantry Division ...view details