2nd Armoured Division (United Kingdom)

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2nd Armoured Division
Active 15 December 1939 – 10 May 1941[1]
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Armoured
Size Second World War
10,750 men[2]
340 tanks[3][nb 1]
Engagements North African Campaign
Willoughby Norrie

The 2nd Armoured Division was a British Army formation during the Second World War; it was created on 15 December 1939 and disbanded on 10 May 1941, after much of the division was captured at Mechili in Libya by German and Italian forces.



This division had a short and unlucky history; formed in December 1939, it was not until the following month that it received any troops to command, when the 1st Light Armoured Brigade and the 22nd Heavy Armoured Brigade were assigned.[1] The 2nd Support Group was formed in February but no troops were assigned until March.[4] As the 1st Armoured Division had priority for equipment, the 2nd Armoured Division was forced to use the left-overs. The 1st Armoured Brigade, with about 150 Mk VI light tanks, was the most combat-ready part of the division during most of 1940. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was forced to make do with trucks and a few light tanks.[5]

As the threat of invasion receded after the Battle of Britain, the division was reorganized and reinforced for service in the Middle East. It exchanged the 22nd Armoured Brigade for the experienced 3rd Armoured Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division and then the brigades exchanged regiments so that each had a mixture of cruisers and light tanks.[6]

Tank strengths before departure in October 1940
Number Tank Type Units
169 Mk VI 52 each in KDG, 3rd Hussars, 4th Hussars, 4 with 1st RHA
6 A 9 CS 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
12 A 10 CS 6 each in 3rd and 5th RTR
74 A 10 Two squadrons in 2nd RTR, one squadron each in 3rd and 5th RTR
83 A 13 One squadron in 2nd RTR, two squadrons each in 3rd and 5th RTR

Both brigade headquarters and the division headquarters, had three Mk VI light tanks and seven cruiser tanks (mainly A 10s).[5]

In October 1940, the division sailed for the Middle East, arriving in the new year.[7] Two months later, the Hussars converted to a three-battery anti-tank regiment, with one LAA battery re-equipping with 2-pounder anti-tank guns and 'A' Battery, transferring to the 25th LAA Regiment.[8] Following the conversion, the regiment was unofficially considered to be a Royal Horse Artillery unit.[9]

In early 1941, the division was sent to the Western Desert to reinforce troops under General Archibald Wavell, who was on the verge of defeating the Italian 10th Army at the Battle of Beda Fomm, the culmination of Operation Compass.


Unaware that Germany had sent reinforcements to support the Italians in Cyrenaica, Wavell's superiors ordered him to send half his troops to Greece, including the 1st Armoured Brigade and elements from the 2nd Support Group. In April 1941, the 102nd Anti-Tank Regt RA (Northumberland Hussars), and other elements from the 2nd Support Group, joined the 1st Armoured Brigade for Operation Lustre (the move to Greece). At this time, the regiment had a strength of 578 men, 168 vehicles and 48 x 2-Pounders.[10]

After their arrival, the 102nd Anti-Tank Regiment RA was deployed to hold the Metamorphos Pass in conjunction with the Greek Horse Artillery. On 22 April, they were subjected to dive bombing and tank attacks. Together with their New Zealand allies, the 'Hussars' acted as a rearguard. After a 12-hour battle and a 160-mile (260 km) march through the night, they reached Athens on 25 April. The next day, they headed off to the nearby Rafina Beach and waited to be evacuated, having destroyed their guns and equipment. Most of the unit were taken aboard HMS Havoc on 27 April and landed at Suda on the island of Crete.[11] Some elements were evacuated to Alexandria.[12]


General Erwin Rommel's offensive forced Wavell's troops to retreat. On 8 April 1941, the understrength 2nd Armoured Division was caught in a pincer movement by the Italian 10th Bersaglieri Regiment, the 5th Light Division and the 15th Panzer Division - some elements escaped capture and were evacuated from Tobruk. On 10 May 1941, the division was officially disbanded and not reformed. The 2nd Armoured Division also had an RAMC Brigade, but World War II records identifying the unit number are currently unavailable.[13]


Following re-organisation, 2nd Infantry Division was reformed as 2nd Armoured Division and served with I (BR) Corps in Germany in 1976. During 1976 and 1977, the division consisted of two "square" brigades, the 4th Armoured Brigade and 12th Armoured Brigade.[14] At this time the Headquarters was based at the Tax House in Lübbecke[15] with the Signals Regiment, who provided the communications, at Birdwood Barracks in Bunde just a few miles away.[16] After being briefly reorganised into two "task forces" ("Charlie" and "Delta") in the late 1970s, the division was given a new role as an infantry division becoming 2nd Infantry Division with headquarters at Imphal Barracks in York in 1982.[14]


(On 8 April 1941 when it surrendered)

3rd Armoured Brigade

3rd Indian Motor Brigade

( 6 April 1941 – 8 April 1941 )

2nd Support Group

General Officers Commanding

The 2nd Armoured Division had five General Officers Commanding during its Second World War existence, with the final officer being taken prisoner.

Appointed General Officer Commanding
15 December 1939 Major-General F.E. Hotblack[1][20]
17 April 1940 Brigadier C.W.M. Norrie (acting)[1]
10 May 1940 Major-General J.C. Tilly (Died on 5 January 1941)[1]
16 January 1941 Brigadier H.B. Latham (acting)[1]
12 February 1941 Major-General M.D. Gambier-Parry (captured on 8 April 1941)[1]

The Division had three General Officers Commanding in the late 1970s and early 1980s:

Appointed General Officer Commanding
1977 Major-General Frank Kitson[21]
February 1978 Major-General Alexander Boswell[21]
March 1980 Major-General Martin Farndale[21]

See also


  1. These two figures are the war establishment, the paper strength of the division for 1940; for information on how the structure of armoured divisions changed over the war please see British Army during the Second World War and British Armoured formations of World War II.
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Joslen, p. 16
  2. Joslen, p. 129
  3. Joslen, p. 4
  4. Joslen, p. 216
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hughes, et al., p. 35
  6. Joslen, pp. 16, 151, 168–9
  7. "2 Armoured Division". Orders of Battle.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The Northumberland Hussars at regiments.org by T.F.Mills at the Wayback Machine (archived 19 December 2007)
  9. "Artillery Regiments That Served With The 7th Armoured Division". The History of the British 7th Armoured Division. Retrieved 2 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Operation Lustre aid to Greece - file ref WO 106/3132
  11. Playfair et al. 2004, p. 105.
  12. "Brief History: 1939 To 1946". Northumberland Hussars Association QOY web site.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. The Lost years, by RT Cochran
  14. 14.0 14.1 Watson, Graham (2005). "The British Army in Germany: An Organisational History 1947–2004". Tiger Lily. p. 95.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Tax House". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 27 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Birdwood Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 27 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Mackenzie (1951), p. 71
  18. 104 RHA (Essex Yeomanry) (TA)
  19. 102 (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment RA (TA)
  20. Invalided out of the Army following accident in April 1940
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Army Commands


  • Cochran, Russell (1991). The Lost Years. Unpublished autobiography; no ISBN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hughes, David; Broshot, James; Philson, Alan (1999). British Armoured and Cavalry Divisions. The British Armies in World War Two: An Organizational History. I. West Chester, OH: George F. Nafziger. ISBN 1-58545-050-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Joslen, Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. (2006) [1960]. Orders Of Battle Second World War 1939–1945 (Naval & Military Press repr. ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Latimer, Jon (2001). Tobruk 1941; Rommel's Opening Move. Osprey Military Campaign. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-092-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; Flynn RN, Captain F. C.; Molony, Brigadier C. J. C. & Toomer, Air Vice-Marshal S. E. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1956]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Germans Come to the Help of their Ally (1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. II. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-066-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Shales, J. (2015). A Detailed Fighting Account of the 2nd Armoured Division, 9th Australian Division, 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, 7th Support Group and 22nd Guards Brigade in Combat with the Afrikakorps and Units of the Ariete, Brescia, Bologna, Pavia and Trento Divisions: February – May 1941. Infantry, Artillery and Tank Combat in Libya and Egypt. I. Rainham, Kent: Armour. ISBN 0-9931732-0-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links