52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division

The British 52nd (Lowland) Division was a Territorial Army division that was originally formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908.

World War I

Initially assigned to the defence of the Scottish coast, the Division moved to Gallipoli (less two of its artillery Brigades) arriving there by early July 1915. While moving from Scotland, the Division lost 210 officers and men killed, and another 224 injured, in the Quintinshill rail crash near Gretna that involved the 1/7th Bn, the Royal Scots.

During the First World War the division fought at Gallipoli, in the Middle East (Sinai and Palestine) and on the Western Front in France.

The division began landing at the Helles front on the Gallipoli peninsula in June, 1915 as part of VIII Corps. The 156th Brigade was landed in time to be mauled in the Battle of Gully Ravine. Advancing along Fir Tree Spur, to the right of the ravine, the brigade had little artillery support and no experience of the Gallipoli battlefield. The brigade suffered 1400 casualties, or about half its strength, of which 800 were killed.

When the remaining brigades were landed, they were sent in to attack towards Krithia along Achi Baba Nullah on July 12. They succeeded in capturing the Turkish trenches but were left unsupported and vulnerable to counter-attack. For a modest gain in ground, they suffered 30% casualties and were in no fit state to exploit their position.

The division moved to Egypt as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, where it manned the east-facing defensive fortifications during the Battle of Romani but was not heavily involved in the fighting which was concentrated on the Australian light horse and New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade to the south. Following the battle they advanced across the Sinai but remained in a supporting role as the fluid nature of the fighting suited the mounted troops best.

The Division fought in the First Battle of Gaza and Second Battle of Gaza in March and April 1917. The annihilation of Sea Post, a strong Turkish redoubt west of Gaza, in June 1917, by 1/5th King's Own Scottish Borderers, inaugurated the series of successful raids that did much to harass the enemy during the four months prior to the winter campaign.

As a Division of XXIst Corps it played an important part in the final overthrow of the Turks at the Third Battle of Gaza and the subsequent advance.

The Division then participated in the Battle of Jerusalem. According to General Sir Edmund Allenby's despatch, the passage of the Nahr El Auja on the night of December 20th-21st, 1917 by the Division's three Brigades "reflects great credit on the 52nd (Lowland) Division. It involved considerable preparation, the details of which were thought out with care and precision. The sodden state of the ground, and, on the night of the crossing, the swollen state of the river, added to the difficulties, yet by dawn the whole of the infantry had crossed. The fact that the enemy were taken by surprise, and, that all resistance was overcome with the bayonet without a shot being fired, bears testimony to the discipline of this division. The operation, by increasing the distance between the enemy and Jaffa from three to eight miles, rendered Jaffa and its harbour secure, and gained elbow-room for the troops covering Ludd and Ramleh and the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road."

In March 1918 the division moved to France where it fought in the 2nd Battle of the Somme, the 2nd Battle of Arras and at the Battle of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive.

After the war the Division was disbanded along with the rest of the Territorial Force. However it was re-established in 1920 as part of the Territorial Army and was mobilised again in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Composition during World War I

The division comprised three infantry brigades and one mounted (yeomanry) brigade:

155th (South Scottish) Brigade

156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade

  • 1/4th (Queens Edinburgh Rifles) Battalion, the Royal Scots
  • 1/7th Battalion, the Royal Scots
  • 1/5th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
  • 1/6th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
  • 1/7th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
  • 1/8th Battalion, the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigade

Lowland Mounted Brigade

World War II

After evacuation from France in 1940 having been part of the 'Second BEF' that remained in France after Dunkirk, eventually being evacuated in late June 1940 during Operation Ariel, it trained as a mountain warfare formation but was never used in that role. In August 1944, it became part of the First Allied Airborne Army. (As a mountain formation, it had little heavy equipment and transport, and could therefore operate as an air-transportable formation.)

On 9 October 1944, soon after the division arrived on the Continent, Montgomery asked Brooke to assign the 52nd Lowland Division to the First Canadian Army to help open the vital port of Antwerp. Therefore the first major operations of the 52nd were not in mountainous terrain or through the air, but deployed below sea level on the flooded polders around the Scheldt Estuary of Belgium and the Netherlands. Operation Vitality and Operation Infatuate were aimed at capturing South Beveland and the island of Walcheren to open the mouth of the Scheldt estuary. This would enable the Allies to use the port of Antwerp as a supply route for the troops in North-West Europe. It was in this vital operation that the 52nd Division was to fight its first great battle with brilliant success.

In January 1945 the 52nd Division participated in Operation Blackcock, the clearing of the Roer Triangle between the rivers Meuse and Roer. Divisional Commanders during World War II included Major General J.S. Drew, Major General J.E. Laurie, Major General E Hakewell Smith, late of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and Major General Neil Ritchie, the former Eighth Army commander.

The famous territorial Regiments that were incorporated in the 52nd Lowland Division, were all drawn from the Scottish Lowlands, and have a history that in some cases goes back more than 300 years. It consisted of 3 Brigades, the 155th, 156th, and 157th Brigades.

Component Units during World War II

(on 1 November 1944 soon after arrival in the North-West Europe theatre.)

155th Infantry Brigade

156th Infantry Brigade

157th Infantry Brigade

It should be noted that these Scottish Territorial battalions were bolstered with large drafts of soldiers from all over Great Britain and were not just drawn from their traditional Regimental recruiting areas.

Divisional Units

  • 52 Reconnaissance Regiment RAC
  • 7th Bn. The Manchester Regiment (divisional machine gun unit)
  • 79 Field Regiment RA
  • 80 Field Regiment RA
  • 186 Field Regiment RA
  • 1 Mountain Regiment RA
  • 54 Anti-Tank Regiment RA
  • 108 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA
  • 202 Field Company RE
  • 241 Field Company RE
  • 554 Field Company RE
  • 243 Field Park Company RE
  • 17 Bridging Platoon RE

Post World War II

After the war the Division was returned to the Territorial Army order of battle. In 1948 the 52nd Lowland Division was amalgamated with 51st (Highland) Division to become the 51st/52nd Scottish Division until 1967, when the Division was split into two brigades with 52nd Lowland Brigade carrying on the lineage of the division's number and the lineage of the Divisions' constituent infantry Battalions were continued after they were all amalgamated together to form what would eventually become the 52nd Lowland Regiment.

See also

External links

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