The 2nd Infantry Division was a Regular Army infantry division of the British Army, with a long history. Its existence as a permanently embodied formation dated from 1809, when it was established by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley (later to become the Duke of Wellington), as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, for service in the Peninsular War. (Prior to this, it was common for formations with the same number to be temporarily established for a single campaign and disbanded immediately afterwards; divisions remained a permanent part of the British Army's structure only after the Napoleonic Wars).
The division was associated with the north of England. The divisional insignia, the Crossed Keys of Saint Peter, were originally part of the coat of arms of the Diocese of York, and were adopted before or during the First World War. It was disbanded on 1 April 2012.
2nd Infantry Division
Insignia of the 2nd Division
|Branch||British Army (Regular and Territorial)|
Training and Administration|
Military Aid to the Civil Community
Military Aid to the Civil Power
|Part of||Land Forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Craigiehall, near Edinburgh|
First World War
Second World War
World War 1 Division sign.
In 1811, Major General the Hon. William Stewart became commander of the division. Stewart was apparently a magnificent Lieutenant Colonel, but a disastrous General. The division suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Albuera. For the rest of 1812, the division was part of a detachment (essentially a corps) under Rowland Hill which covered the southern flank of Wellington's main army. It thus acquired the nickname of the "Observing Division", but was also known as the "Surprisers", after taking the French by surprise in engagements at Arroyo Molinos and Almaraz.
In 1813 and 1814, the division remained part of Hill's detachment. It contained three British brigades and one Portuguese brigade. It took part in the Battle of Vitoria on the right flank of Wellington's army. It subsequently was briefly driven from a position at the Battle of Maya after Stewart retired the division prematurely to camp, but fought in the later engagements of the Battle of the Pyrenees and the battles in southern France.
(Battle of Albuera, 16 May 1811)
Commanding General: Major General William Stewart
(from January 1813)
The division fought at the Battle of Waterloo, part of Wellington's II Corps commanded again by Rowland Hill. It consisted at Waterloo of a brigade of British light infantry and riflemen, a brigade of the King's German Legion and a brigade of Hanoverian Landwehr. The division began the day in reserve behind Wellington's right flank, but took part in the defeat of Napoleon's attacks later in the day.
Commander: Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton
3rd British Brigade Major-General Frederick Adam
1st King's German Legion Brigade Lieutenant-Colonel George Charles Du Plat
3rd Hanoverian Brigade Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Halkett
Artillery Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Gold
The division formed part of the British army under Lord Raglan which landed in the Crimea and attempted to capture the port of Sebastopol. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Sir George de Lacy Evans, and fought at the battles of the Alma and Inkerman, where it suffered heavy casualties.
Commanding General: Lieutenant General Sir George de Lacy Evans
In 1882, the division formed part of the Expeditionary Force under Lieutenant General Sir Garnet Wolseley which was sent to Egypt after a rebellion (the Urabi Revolt) threatened British control of the Suez Canal. During the subsequent 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War, the division was commanded by Major General Edward Bruce Hamley. One of its brigades was used as a garrison of Alexandria, and did not take part in the main actions of the war, but the other brigade and the divisional headquarters took part in the decisive Battle of Tel-el-Kebir.
Commander: Lieutenant General Sir Edward Bruce Hamley
3rd (Highland) Infantry Brigade (Major General Sir Edward Alison)
4th Infantry Brigade (Major General Sir Evelyn Wood VC)
The division was part of an Army Corps called the Natal Field Force under General Sir Redvers Buller which was sent to South Africa when the Boer War broke out in 1899. The division's commander was Lieutenant General Sir Francis Clery. The division, or parts of it, suffered defeats at the Battle of Colenso and the Battle of Spion Kop before gaining victory at the Battle of the Tugela Heights during the Relief of Ladysmith. It subsequently took part in operations which drove the Boers from Natal and the eastern Transvaal.
The division was subsequently stationed on Salisbury Plain, and designated to be part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which would be despatched to the continent in the case of a general European war. When the First World War broke out, in August 1914, the BEF was sent to support the French and Belgian armies. The division's commander at this point was Major General Charles Monro. The division took part in the Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, and, along with most of the rest of the original BEF, suffered heavy casualties in the First Battle of Ypres in November.
The division served on the Western Front for the duration of the war. Although most of the division's regulars became casualties or were transferred to other formations, the division never lost its standing and reputation as a Regular Army formation. The 2nd Division fought in most the major battles on the Western Front
After the war the division was part of the occupation force stationed at Cologne.
The following battalions were part of the brigade during 1915.
The following battalions were part of the brigade during 1915.
The 17th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers joined the brigade from the 5th Brigade in February 1918.
19th Brigade (19 August 1915 to 25 November 1915) :
The brigade joined the division from the 33rd Division in November 1915. The following battalions left the brigade shortly afterwards:
Following its return from Germany, the division continued to be a regular army formation stationed in Britain. The division saw numerous changes in units and composition during the interwar period. In September 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, it once again became part of a British Expeditionary Force (BEF), under Field Marshal Lord Gort, sent to fight alongside the French Army. Its General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Major-General Charles Loyd, who had taken command of the division earlier in the year. The division was sent to the Franco-Belgian border, arriving on 21 September 1939, where it came under command of I Corps, and was to remain there for the next few months.
In May 1940, the BEF, including the 2nd Infantry Division, was driven from France during the retreat to Dunkirk, where the division (from 20 May commanded by Major-General Noel Irwin) was evacuated to England, with few casualties but losing almost all its equipment. During the retreat, two members of the division were awarded the Victoria Cross: Second Lieutenant Richard Annand of the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and Company Sergeant Major George Gristock of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. They were the first two of three to be awarded to members of the division throughout the war.
The 2nd Infantry Division was re-equipped in Britain and soon brought up to strength in numbers, although, like most of the British Army after Dunkirk, pitifully short of equipment. The division was stationed in Yorkshire, serving again under I Corps control and in training to repel the expected German invasion, codenamed Operation Sea Lion.
In December 1941, Japan entered the war. After British and Commonwealth forces in the Far East suffered disastrous defeats in late 1941 and early 1942, the division, under War Office control and commanded now by Major-General John Grover, was sent to India, which was threatened by Japanese advances and internal disorder. For some time, the division was involved in internal security operations and training for amphibious operations. In late October 1942 the 6th Infantry Brigade was temporarily detached from the division and reorganised as an independent brigade group, complete with its own supporting units, and served in the failed Arakan Campaign, rejoining the rest of the division in India in June 1943.
In 1944, the Japanese launched an invasion of India. In early April 1944 2nd Division was sent to join the Fourteenth Army's XXXIII Corps at Dimapur to fight its way down the road to relieve the besieged position at Kohima. Kohima was relieved on 18 April but heavy fighting continued in the disputed position until under increasing pressure from a buildup in Allied forces (2nd Division had been joined by the 7th Indian Infantry Division in early May) the Japanese, having run out of food and supplies, were forced to withdraw and the Battle of Kohima was to all intents concluded at the end of May. XXXIII Corps then tasked the 2nd Division to advance south down the road towards Imphal with the 7th Indian Division following up the retreating Japanese forces over the rough terrain to the east of the road. On 22 June the 2nd Division made contact with the 5th Indian Infantry Division advancing northwards from Imphal and the siege of Imphal was relieved. Both battles were some of the fiercest fighting of the war with Kohima labelled a miniature Stalingrad, due to the ferocity of the fighting on both sides. The epitaph carved on the memorial of the 2nd Division in the large cemetery for the Allied war dead at Kohima reads,
The division continued to serve as part of the Fourteenth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William "Bill" Slim, during its offensive into Burma which resulted in another Victoria Cross for the division. Captain John Randle of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment was the recipient. The division, now commanded by Major-General Cameron Nicholson (Major-General Grover had been relieved the previous July), was withdrawn to India at the end of March 1945, as it could not be maintained nor kept up to strength, due to a severe manpower shortage in the British Army at this stage of the war, and all new replacements were being sent to the 21st Army Group in North-western Europe. The division was rebuilt in India and was intended for further amphibious operations, but the war ended before it saw further action.
In September 1945 the divisional headquarters was in Malaya under HQ XXXIV Corps, with the three brigades en route to Japan, in Malaya, and in Burma earmarked for Malaya.
The division was withdrawn to India on 12 April 1945. The division transferred to the command of HQ Allied Land Forces South East Asia on that date, moving back to the Southern Army on 7 June 1945. The 5th Brigade left the division in October 1945 (following reorganisation) to become part of the Brinjap Division within the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The 6th Brigade (again reorganised) sailed to Singapore in December 1945. The division was disbanded in India in October 1946.
The 2nd Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:
The division was amalgamated with the 36th Division and reformed at St. David's Barracks in Hilden in Germany in February 1947. It also amalgamated with the disbanding 6th Armoured Division in 1958 and moved to Tunis Barracks at Lübbecke in September 1959. In the early 1970s, it consisted of the 4th Armoured Brigade and 12th Mechanised Brigade, but in 1976 2nd Division was re-roled as 2nd Armoured Division.
In a major reorganisation of British forces in 1982 and 1983, the 2nd Armoured Division converted back to become 2nd Infantry Division again. Its new headquarters was at Imphal Barracks in York, and it consisted of three infantry brigades: the regular 24th Airmobile Brigade, and the 15th Brigade and 49th Brigade from the Territorial Army.
Each of its two TA brigades had a Fox-equipped reconnaissance regiment. These two yeomanry regiments were regarded as 'mobile anti-armour' reserves for their respective brigades in the Corps rear area.
Following the end of the Cold War, the division disbanded in 1992, but the title was resurrected for the amalgamation of several military districts - North East District and part of Eastern District, when the formation reformed on 1 April 1995. The 1998 Strategic Defence Review led to a reorganisation of Land Command. The 2nd Division absorbed Scotland District and its headquarters moved to Craigiehall, near Edinburgh in April 2000.
Following further reshuffing, 52nd Infantry Brigade was reformed as an operational, rather than regional, brigade consisting of several light infantry battalions, and left the formation to join 3 Division in 2007.
The Division reported to Army Headquarters at Andover. It was tasked with maintaining the infrastructure and resources and the command and control responsibilities, for the training and administration of all Regular Army and Territorial Army units in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of England and as such the deputy commander was always a Territorial Army officer at the rank of Brigadier.
The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded. HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th Division in Shrewsbury were disbanded in April 2012.
Despite the closure of HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh the Army will retain a General Officer Commanding (GOC) Scotland, in addition to a small number of staff, in order to maintain the level of senior representation in Scotland required to oversee the rebasing changes.
The division HQ controlled Catterick Garrison and four Regional Brigades:
Recent Commanders have been:
GOC 2nd Division
GOC 2nd Infantry Division
GOC 2nd Division