Skip to content

Persia & Iraq 1941 - 1947:

Indian Armoured Divisions

Although throughout the Second World War four armoured divisions were formed in the Indian Army, only one saw any form of active service. This formation was the 31 Indian Armoured Division.

This formation had been raised in India in July 1940 as the Mobile Division, being redesignated as the 1 Indian Armoured Division. It originally comprised two armoured brigades, but the supply of tanks from the United Kingdom was slow meaning the division was far from being operationally capable. Late in 1941, the formation was renumbered as the 31 Indian Armoured Division, with the two brigades being redesignated accordingly.

The 252 Indian Armoured Brigade left India for Iraq in late 1941, by which time both Iraq and Persia had been secured by the British and Indian forces. The divisional headquarters opened in Iraq by June 1942. The formation was used as a reserve force during the period of threat of German invasion, being the only armoured formation in Persia and Iraq Command (although the 5 Indian Division was a mixed division whilst deployed in Iraq). As the threat of German invasion receded, the division continued to be deployed on garrison duties.

The infantry brigade was desperately needed in Italy, but there was no requirement for any additional armoured formations. The 43 Infantry Brigade left the division in July 1944, and was not replaced. The remainder of the division moved to Egypt in November 1943. Later it moved to Palestine and finished the war in Syria. The nearest thing to active service the 31 Indian Armoured Division had was dealing with anti-French rioting in Syria in may and June 1945.

Back To Top