10th Indian Infantry Division

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10th Indian Infantry Division
Insignia of the 10th Indian Infantry Division, World War II.
Active 1941–1947
Country British Raj British India
Allegiance  British Empire
Branch British Raj Red Ensign.svg Indian Army
Type Infantry
Size Division

World War II:

Battle of Lahore
Battle honours North Africa
William Slim
Wilfrid Lloyd
Denys Reid

The 10th Indian Infantry Division was a war formed infantry division of the Indian Army during World War II. In four years, the division travelled over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) from Tehran to Trieste, fought three little wars, and fought two great campaigns: Anglo-Iraqi War, Invasion of Syria-Lebanon, Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran, North African Campaign, and Italian Campaign.


World War II[edit]

The 10th Indian Infantry Division was formed during World War II in Iraq in early 1941 under Major General William Fraser. Command was passed in May 1941 to Major General William "Bill" Slim when Fraser fell ill.

As part of Iraqforce, the division first fought in Iraq, in Syria, and in Iran against forces potentially barring the road from Europe to India.

We had scrambled thought skirmishes of the Iraq rebellion, been blooded, but not too deeply, against the French in Syria, and enjoyed the unrestrainedly opéra bouffe of the invasion of Persia. We had bought our beer in Haifa and drunk it on the shores of the Caspian. We could move, we could fight, and we had begun to build up that most valuable of all assets a tradition of success. We had a good soldierly conceit of ourselves. Now in March 1942, in spite of dust storms....it was stimulating to be in what we all felt was a critical spot, waiting for the threatened German invasion of Turkey.

— Slim – Defeat into Victory[1]

In March 1942 command of the division passed from Major General Slim to Major General Thomas "Pete" Rees when Slim was ordered to India to take command of Burma Corps, the kernel that would eventually become the British Fourteenth Army.[2]

The division then moved on to North Africa for the battle for Libya. Initially the 10th Indian Infantry Division was committed piecemeal with units involved El Adem and Sidi Rezegh during the 1942 Battle of Gazala; in June the division, with the 2nd Free French Brigade under command, was ordered by Lieutenant General William Gott, the XIII Corps commander, to hold a position near the Egyptian border with Libya for 72 hours during the British Eighth Army's retreat to El Alamein. Major General Rees responded that the division had only just concentrated and that defensive works were as yet inadequate, he believed therefore that the division was unlikely to be able to withstand a full-scale attack from Rommel. Gott immediately visited Rees and relieved him of command of the division, telling him he lacked resolution.[3] Command passed to Major General John Nichols and as Rees had foretold, the division was overrun at the Mersa Matruh defences. Rees was posted to command 19th Indian Infantry Division in the Burma Campaign. Nichols was soon posted to command of the British 50th Infantry Division.

The division then went to Cyprus for regrouping and hill training under Major General Alan Blaxland and then to Iraq to join the Tenth Army, part of Paiforce. In July 1943, Major General Wilfrid Lloyd took command when Blaxland was promoted and in January 1944, command passed to Major General Denys Reid when Lloyd was killed in an air crash. Reid remained in command until the end of British involvement in the division in 1947.

A patrol from No. 8 Platoon, 'C' Company of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Gurkha Rifles advances cautiously through the snow, near Castel Bolognese, Italy, 23–24 January 1945.

After nearly a year of relative inactivity and training, the 10th Indian Infantry Division, under Major General Reid, was sent to Italy in March 1944 to join the British Eighth Army on the Adriatic front. The division fought the rest of the Italian Campaign, facing hard fighting northwards through central Italy with the Eighth Army. Numerous mountain battles and river crossings followed with Operation Olive on the Gothic Line and then Operation Grapeshot, the 10th Indian Infantry Division earned many battle honours and decorations and suffered many casualties before final victory in Italy and the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945. Security tasks on the Yugoslav border around Trieste completed the 10th Indian Division's war service.

Order of battle[edit]


Prior to its piecemeal dispatch to Iraq, April 1941[4]


Italy, March 1944-June 1945[5]

Assigned brigades[edit]

In addition to those listed above the following brigades were assigned or attached to the division for relatively short times during World War II.[6]

General Officers Commanding[edit]



  1. ^ Slim William. Defeat into Victory p. 3
  2. ^ Slim William. Defeat into Victory p. 19
  3. ^ Mead (2007), p. 373
  4. ^ "10th Indian Division 15/04/1941". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Palmer, Rob. "10 Indian Division (1944-1945)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  6. ^ "10 Indian Infantry Division Subordinate units". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 2015-12-07. 
  7. ^ "10 Indian Infantry Division Appointments". Orders of Battle. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 


Further reading[edit]