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United Kingdom 1939 - 1940:

Eastern Command

Regular Army

There was a large Regular Army garrison based in Colchester, Essex, togther with other locations within Eastern Command. The 4 Infantry Division was based in Eastern Command, with one brigade stationed in Colchester alongside the divisional headquarters, with another brigade stationed in Shorncliffe, Kent, and the third brigade stationed at Dover. At the outbreak of war, the division mobilised and departed for France to join the British Expeditionary Force.

Territorial Army

There were two Territorial Army formations based in Eastern Command, one in the Home Counties Area (44 Division) and the other in the East Anglian Area (54 Division). In April 1939, the two T.A. formations each formed a duplicate (or second line) division. The 44 Division formed the 12 (Eastern) Division and the 54 Division formed the 18 Infantry Division. The 44 Division duplicated on a mirror image basis (that is each first line unit produced a second line unit in the new division), but the 54 Division duplicated on a geographical basis. This meant that first and second line units were to be found in each formation.

The 44 Division travelled to join the B.E.F., as did the 12 Division; the latter for training and labour duties. The 44 Division later saw service in the Middle East, but the 12 Division was disbanded shortly after the evacuation of the B.E.F.. The 54 Division did not see active service during the war, but the 18 Infantry Division, which was originally earmarked for service in the Middle East, was sent to Singapore. With the capitulation of British forces in Singapore on the 15 February 1942, the men from East Anglia faced three and a half years in the captivity of the Japanese, from which many did not return.

In 1940, the Home Counties Area and Chatham Area transferred to the newly formed South Eastern Command. The East Anglian Area was re-organised as the East Central Area (Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire), Essex & Suffolk Area, and Cambridge Area (including Norfolk).

On 14 August 1941, the Regimental Depots ceased to train recruits, and new Infantry Training Centres were opened at Command level. No. 1 I.T.C. at Warley for the Royal Fusiliers and Essex Regiment, No. 2 I.T.C. at Norwich for the Norfolk Regiment and Northamptonshire Regiment, and No. 3 I.T.C. at Bury St, Edmunds for the Suffolk Regiment and Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.

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