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North West Europe 1944 - 1947:

British Infantry Formations

There were ten British infantry divisions deployed during the campaign in North West Europe.

The 3 Infantry Division was a pre-war Regular Army formation, based in Southern Command. It was mobilised and sent to France in late 1939 to join the British Expeditionary Force. After evacuation from Dunkirk, the division remained in the U.K. until it landed in Normandy on D-Day (6 June 1944) as one of the assault formations. It fought throughout the campaign, crossing the Rhine with 2 Army in early 1945.

The 5 Infantry Division arrived in Germany in early 1945, having transferred from Italy.

The 15 (Scottish) Infantry Division was a second-line Territorial Army infantry formation, raised in 1939 as the duplicate of the 52 (Lowland) Division. It had not seen action before joining the 2 Army in Normandy in June 1944. During 1943, it had been reduced in scale and placed on the lower establishment, and was then brought up to strength for deployment to Europe. It is an interesting question why this division joined 2 Army, instead of either the 48 Infantry Division, 54 Infantry Division or 55 Infantry Division, all of which were first-line formations. It meant that three Scottish divisions saw service in North West Europe.

The 43 (Wessex) Infantry Division was a first line T.A. formation. It has not seen action before deployment to Normandy, not being sent to France in 1940. It was heavily involved in most of the major battles of the campaign.

The 49 (West Riding) Infantry Division was another first-line T.A. formation, which was deployed to Iceland and sent brigades to Norway in 1940. It was placed under the command of I Corps, and so fought with I Canadian Army up the French and Belgium coast into the Netherlands.

Two first-line T.A.infantry divisions were brought back by MONTGOMERY from Sicily to join 2 Army. The 50 (Northumbrian) Infantry Division had seen significant action in the Western Desert, Tunisia and Sicily before returning to the U.K.. It was chosen as one of the assault divisions on D-Day. It was reduced to a cadre in late 1944 being sent back to the U.K.. The 51 (Highland) Infantry Division was the other division that had seen action in the Western Desert, Tunisia and Sicily. It landed on D-Day as the initial follow-up formation. The division did not perform well in Normandy, leading to its divisional commander being sacked by General MONTGOMERY. Once rested and refitted, it rejoined the campaign for the Channel Ports and the Rhine Crossing.

The 52 (Lowland) Infantry Division had seen service in France in 1940, but after the evacuation from Dunkirk. During 1943 and 1944, it was trained and equipped as an air-portable formation. It was never deployed as such, seeing active service as a ground formation in the clearing of the River Scheldt. The 53 (Welsh) Infantry Division was another first-line T.A. formation, but like the 43 Division, it had not seen action before 1944 being sent to Northern Ireland in 1940. It fought throughout the campaign. The 59 (Staffordshire) Infantry Division was a second-line formation, raised in 1939 as a duplicate of the 55 (West Lancashire) Infantry Division. It first saw action in Normandy in June 1944, but was broken up and disbanded in October 1944 to provide reinforcements for 2 Army.

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