45th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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2nd Wessex Division
45th (2nd Wessex) Division
45th Infantry Division
45th (Holding) Division
45th Division
45 inf div -vector.svg
Formation sign of the 45th Division in the Second World War
ActiveOctober 1914 – 1919
April 1939 – August 1944
September 1944 – March 1946
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg Territorial Force
Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
ServiceFirst World War
Second World War

The 45th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Territorial Force, part of the British Army. It was formed in the First World War as a duplicate of the 43rd (Wessex) Division and was originally formed as the 2nd Wessex Division in 1914–1915 before later being renamed as the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division and the brigades numbered. It was sent overseas to India in December 1914 to relieve Regular Army units for service in France. The division remained there for the rest of the war, supplying drafts of replacements to the British units fighting in the Middle East and later complete battalions.

It was reformed as 45th Infantry Division in the Territorial Army in 1939, again as a duplicate of the 43rd (Wessex) Division, when another European conflict with Germany seemed inevitable. During the Second World War, the division was active in the United Kingdom throughout its service. It was placed on a lower establishment on 1 December 1941 and disbanded on 30 August 1944.

The division was reformed on 1 September 1944 as 45th (Holding) Division, later 45th Division, for the reception of troops returning from overseas. The division did not see service outside the United Kingdom during the war.


First World War[edit]

In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. 2nd Line units performed the home defence role, although in fact most of these were also posted abroad in due course.[1]

On 15 August 1915, TF units were instructed to separate home service men from those who had volunteered for overseas service (1st Line), with the home service personnel to be formed into reserve units (2nd Line). On 31 August, 2nd Line units were authorized for each 1st Line unit where more than 60% of men had volunteered for overseas service. After being organized, armed and clothed, the 2nd Line units were gradually grouped into large formations thereby forming the 2nd Line brigades and divisions. These 2nd Line units and formations had the same name and structure as their 1st Line parents. On 24 November, it was decided to replace imperial service (1st Line) formations as they proceeded overseas with their reserve (2nd Line) formations. A second reserve (3rd Line) unit was then formed at the peace headquarters of the 1st Line.[2]

The 2nd Wessex Division was formed in October 1914 as a 2nd Line duplicate of the Wessex Division. Most of the units were only raised after the departure of the 1st Line division to India[3] in the same month;[4] officers and men of the 1st Line units left behind formed the core of the new units.[3] In the event, the division did not consist of much more than 12 infantry battalions and 12 artillery batteries; no ammunition columns, signals or train companies were formed. The divisional engineers and signals remained in the UK and later joined 58th Divisional RE.[5]

On 22 September, India agreed to send 32 British and 20 Indian regular battalions to Europe in exchange for 43 partially trained TF battalions.[4][a] Initially, it was intended that the Welsh Division would join the Wessex and Home Counties Divisions in India, but on 25 November, 10 infantry battalions and three field artillery brigades[b] (9 batteries of 15 pounders) of the 2nd Wessex Division were selected instead. On 12 December, the division embarked at Southampton with 263 officers, 9,344 other ranks and 36 guns. The 2/4th DCLI and 2/4th Hampshires landed at Karachi on 9 January 1915 and the rest of the division at Bombay between 4 and 8 January.[3]

The division was effectively broken up on arrival in India in January 1915; the units reverted to peacetime conditions and were dispersed throughout India and Burma. The battalions were posted to Bombay, Poona, Secunderabad (2), Bangalore, Ahmednagar, Karachi, Quetta, Wellington and Meiktila and the artillery brigades at Kirkee, Secunderabad and Bangalore.[3] The Territorial Force divisions and brigades were numbered in May 1915 in the order that they departed for overseas service, starting with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The 2nd Wessex Division should have been numbered as the 45th (2nd Wessex) Division, but as the division had already been broken up, this was merely a place holder.[12] Likewise, the 2nd/1st Hampshire, 2nd/1st South Western and 2nd/1st Devon and Cornwall Brigades were notionally numbered as 134th, 135th and 136th, respectively.[13]

The units pushed on with training to prepare for active service, handicapped by the need to provide experienced manpower for active service units.[3] By early 1916 it had become obvious that it would not be possible to transfer the division to the Western Front as originally intended. Nevertheless, individual units of the division proceeded overseas on active service through the rest of the war.[14]

In 1916 and 1917, the artillery was reorganized; the batteries were initially lettered A, B and C in each brigade, one battery in each brigade was broken up to make the other batteries up to 6 guns and these were then numbered and rearmed with 18 pounders.[14][15]

In 1917, five battalions went to Palestine between April and October, and two more went to Mesopotamia in September. By the beginning of 1918, just five batteries[c] and three battalions remained in India. During 1919, the remaining units were reduced and returned to England and the division ceased to exist.[14]

Second World War[edit]

By 1939 it became clear that a new European war was likely to break out and, as a direct result of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia on 15 March,[17] the doubling of the Territorial Army was authorised, with each unit and formation forming a duplicate.[18] Consequently, the 45th Infantry Division was formed in April 1939 as a duplicate of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.[19] Unusually, it was not a mirror of its parent; instead, the units from Cornwall, Devon and south Somerset (both the original units and their duplicates) joined the new division whereas those from north Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire remained with the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.[20] The units of the division were administered by the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division until 7 September 1939 when 45th Infantry Division took full control.[21]

The division remained in the United Kingdom throughout the Second World War, including a stint in Northern Ireland from 3 February to 20 December 1943.[21] In December 1941, the division was placed on the Lower Establishment.[22] Lower Establishment Infantry Divisions were intended for home service only. The main differences between this and normal infantry divisions were that the Royal Artillery was reduced from three to two Field Regiments and no Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment;[d] the Royal Engineers were reduced from three to two Field Companies and the Field Park Company was replaced by a smaller Field Stores Section; and the reconnaissance unit was reduced from a battalion to a company.[23] In August 1944, the division started to disband, a process that was complete by 30 August.[22]

On 1 September 1944, the 45th (Holding) Division was formed by the transfer of personnel from 77th (Holding) Division which had just disbanded. On 1 December 1944, the formation was redesignated as 45th Division.[22] The division was disbanded in March 1946 and was not reformed.[24]

Orders of Battle[edit]


During the First World War[edit]

Br.-Gen. R.J. Pinney was assigned to command the 2nd Wessex Division on formation on 9 October 1914. He was replaced two days later by Br.-Gen. G.S.McD. Elliot who remained in command until the division embarked for India.[42] Br.-Gen. G.H. Nicholson commanded the division on its voyage; he handed over the troops on disembarkation and returned to England, arriving on 3 February 1915.[3] All three officers had been colonels commanding brigades of the Wessex Division – Devon and Cornwall, South Western and Hampshire Brigades respectively – at the outbreak of the war.[43]

During the Second World War[edit]

The division had the following commanders in the Second World War:[22]

From Rank Name Notes
7 September 1939 Maj-Gen F.V.B. Witts
5 February 1940 Maj-Gen D.F. Anderson
12 May 1940 Maj-Gen E.C.A. Schreiber
25 April 1941 Brig H. de R. Morgan acting
8 May 1941 Maj-Gen H. de R. Morgan
12 January 1943 Maj-Gen J.K. Edwards
1 September 1944 Maj-Gen W.G. Michelmore reformed division

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 32 British regular battalions thus relieved formed the bulk of the 27th (10 battalions),[6] 28th (10 battalions),[7] and 29th Divisions (9 battalions, including 3 from Burma)[8] and part of the 8th (3 battalions).[9]
  2. ^ The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery.[10] When grouped together they formed brigades, in the same way that infantry battalions or cavalry regiments were grouped together in brigades. At the outbreak of the First World War, a field artillery brigade of headquarters (4 officers, 37 other ranks), three batteries (5 and 193 each), and a brigade ammunition column (4 and 154)[11] had a total strength just under 800 so was broadly comparable to an infantry battalion (just over 1,000) or a cavalry regiment (about 550). Like an infantry battalion, an artillery brigade was usually commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel. These figures refer to 6-gun batteries; Territorial Force artillery batteries were organized on a 4-gun basis at the outbreak of the war, so strengths would be approximately two thirds of this. Artillery brigades were redesignated as regiments in 1938.
  3. ^ Becke says just four batteries remained in India by the beginning of 1918.[14] This is an error. Two batteries (1097 and 1104) were with CCXVI Brigade, 43rd Division; two (1098 and 1103) were with CCXXVIII Brigade, 45th Division; and one (1107) was with XXI Brigade, 4th (Quetta) Division.[15]
  4. ^ In fact, the division never had a Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment assigned to it.[22]
  5. ^ a b c d e The following units did not go to India with the division:[25]
  6. ^ a b c d 45th Reconnaissance Battalion was formed in January 1941 from the 134th, 135th and 136th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Companies. It later formed 45 and 54 Columns of the Chindits.[30]
  7. ^ 45th Independent Reconnaissance Company / Squadron was originally part of the 54th Reconnaissance Battalion.[30] Later, it formed part of the 15th Reconnaissance Regiment.[31]
  8. ^ 8th Reserve Regiment, Royal Artillery was an Anti-Aircraft training unit.[39] It is the only such unit listed in Joslen[40] and is not listed in Bellis.[41]


  1. ^ Baker, Chris. "Was my soldier in the Territorial Force (TF)?". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  2. ^ Becke 1937, p. 6
  3. ^ a b c d e f Becke 1936, p. 59
  4. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 47
  5. ^ a b c d e Becke 1936, p. 56
  6. ^ Becke 1935, p. 102
  7. ^ Becke 1935, p. 110
  8. ^ Becke 1935, p. 122
  9. ^ Becke 1935, p. 94
  10. ^ "The Royal Artillery". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  11. ^ Baker, Chris. "What was an artillery brigade?". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
  12. ^ Rinaldi 2008, p. 35
  13. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 58
  14. ^ a b c d Becke 1936, p. 60
  15. ^ a b Becke 1936, p. 57
  16. ^ Perry 1993, p. 64
  17. ^ Westlake 1986, p. 49
  18. ^ "History of the Army Reserve". MOD. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  19. ^ a b Palmer, Rob (22 January 2012). "45th Infantry Division (1939)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 23 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Palmer, Rob (17 November 2009). "43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division (1930–38)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 23 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ a b Joslen 1990, p. 74
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Joslen 1990, p. 73
  23. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 127
  24. ^ a b Palmer, Rob (1 February 2010). "45th Infantry Division (1944)" (PDF). British Military History. Retrieved 23 October 2015.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Becke 1936, pp. 56,58
  26. ^ James 1978, p. 79
  27. ^ Becke, Part 2b, p. 12.
  28. ^ "45 (Wessex) Infantry Division subordinate units". Orders of Battle.com. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  29. ^ Joslen 1990, pp. 320–322
  30. ^ a b Bellis 1994, p. 33
  31. ^ Bellis 1994, p. 32
  32. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 320
  33. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 366
  34. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 321
  35. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 372
  36. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 322
  37. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 323
  38. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 356
  39. ^ Barton, Derek. "Anti Aircraft Training Units". The Royal Artillery 1939–45. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
  40. ^ Joslen 1990, p. 604
  41. ^ Bellis 1995, Contents
  42. ^ Becke 1936, p. 55
  43. ^ Becke 1936, p. 43


  • Becke, Major A.F. (1935). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 1. The Regular British Divisions. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-09-4.
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4.
  • Becke, Major A.F. (1937). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2B. The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th) with The Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions. London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-00-0.
  • Bellis, Malcolm A. (1994). Regiments of the British Army 1939–1945 (Armour & Infantry). London: Military Press International. ISBN 0-85420-999-9.
  • Bellis, Malcolm A. (1995). Regiments of the British Army 1939–1945 (Artillery). London: Military Press International. ISBN 0-85420-110-6.
  • James, Brigadier E.A. (1978). British Regiments 1914–18. London: Samson Books Limited. ISBN 0-906304-03-2.
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H.F. (1990) [1st. Pub. HMSO:1960]. Orders of Battle, Second World War, 1939–1945. London: London Stamp Exchange. ISBN 0-948130-03-2.
  • Perry, F.W. (1993). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 5B. Indian Army Divisions. Newport: Ray Westlake Military Books. ISBN 1-871167-23-X.
  • Rinaldi, Richard A (2008). Order of Battle of the British Army 1914. Ravi Rikhye. ISBN 978-0-97760728-0.
  • Westlake, Ray (1986). The Territorial Battalions, A Pictorial History, 1859–1985. Tunbridge Wells: Spellmount.

External links[edit]