4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East

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Heavy Armoured Brigade (Egypt)
4th Armoured Brigade
4th Armoured Brigade Group
4th Mechanized Brigade
4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East
4th Mechanized.svg
Current insignia of the 4th Mechanized Brigade.
Active 1939–1945
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Mechanized
Size Brigade
Part of 7th Armoured Division
1st (United Kingdom) Division
Garrison/HQ Catterick, North Yorkshire
Nickname(s) The Black Rats
Engagements Second World War
North African Campaign
Invasion of Sicily
Battle of Normandy
North West Europe Campaign
Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo Campaign
Iraq War
Brigadier Charlie Herbert
Michael Carver

The 4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East (The Black Rats), previously known as 4th Mechanized Brigade (The Black Rats) is a brigade formation of the British Army, currently based in Catterick, North Yorkshire as part of 1st (United Kingdom) Division.[1] The brigade, now known as the 'Black Rats', was formed in 1939 and fought in the Second World War in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa. The Black Rats were subsequently involved in the invasion of Sicily and fighting in Italy before taking part in the Battle of Normandy and the advance through Belgium, Holland and into Germany.[2]

More recently, the Brigade took part in the First Gulf War and completed a number of tours to the Balkans during the 1990s. The Black Rats have since deployed twice to Iraq and once before to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 12 in 2010. The Brigade returned to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in October 2012 for Operation Herrick 17 to take over as the lead formation of British troops. The roulement tour saw the brigade working in support of the Afghan Army's 3/215 Brigade and elements of the Afghan National Police.


World War II

In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War this brigade changed its title from Heavy Armoured Brigade (Egypt) to 4th Armoured Brigade.[3]

On 27 July 1941 it handed over its units to the 1st Army Tank Brigade and received new units from Egypt. It was reformed again when the HQ arrived in Sicily and it took control of new units there. The 4th Armoured Brigade saw service in the North African Campaign, Allied invasion of Sicily, Italian Campaign and in North-western Europe. Although it served under many different formations it was most famous as part of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats.[3]

The 4th Armoured Brigade left the 7th Armoured Division in North Africa in 1943 for the Allied Invasion Force for Normandy. In June 1944 Brigade troops landed in Normandy and served with distinction in the Battle of Normandy during the Battle for Caen. From Normandy until the end of the war the 4th Armoured Brigade was composed as follows:

The 4th Armoured Brigade was the first to cross the Rhine into Germany.[4]

Order of battle World War II

Cold War Era

The Brigade spent many years in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine. The brigade was one of two "square" brigades assigned to 1st Armoured Division when it was formed in 1976.[5] After being briefly converted to "Task Force Charlie" in the late 1970s, the brigade was reinstated in 1981, assigned to 3rd Armoured Division[6] and was based at York Barracks in Münster.[7] The Brigade deployed to the First Gulf War on Operation Granby in 1990/91 and was involved in the liberation of Kuwait. It moved to Quebec Barracks at Osnabrück in 1993 to replace 12th Armoured Brigade as part of 1st (UK) Armoured Division.[8]

Post-Cold War

A soldier with the 4th Mechanized Brigade in Afghanistan.

4th Armoured Brigade deployed to Bosnia in October 1995 as UNPROFOR HQ Sector South-West and subsequently as the leading UK element of the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR).[9] On its return to the United Kingdom in 2007 it was transferred from 1st (UK) Armoured Division to 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division.[9] The Black Rats have since deployed twice to Iraq and once before to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 12 in 2010. The Brigade returned to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in October 2012 for Operation Herrick 17 to take over as the lead formation of British troops. The roulement tour saw the brigade working in support of the Afghan Army's 3/215 Brigade and elements of the Afghan National Police.[10]

2013 Formation

Brigade units in 2013 were:

Current formation

Under Army 2020, the brigade lost its armour and converted to an infantry brigade. The units to be under its control include:[11][12]

The Brigade was re-established in its current form on 1 December 2014.[15]

World War II Commanders

During World War II[16]

  • 3 September 1939 - 1 November 1939 Lieutenant-Colonel HRB Watkins
  • 1 November 1939 - 16 November 1939 Brigadier JAL Caunter
  • 16 November 1939 - 5 December 1939 Lieutenant-Colonel HRB Watkins
  • 5 December 1939 - 8 May 1941 Brigadier JAL Caunter
  • 8 May 1941 - 26 June 1942 Brigadier AH Gatehouse
  • 26 June 1942 - 7 July 1942 Brigadier AF Fisher
  • 7 July 1942 - 4 October 1942 Brigadier WG Carr
  • 4 October 1942 - 18 November 1942 Brigadier MG Roddick
  • 18 November 1942 - 10 December 1942 Colonel RCG Joy
  • 10 December 1942 - 24 January 1943 Brigadier CBC Harvey
  • 24 January 1943 - 27 February 1943 Brigadier DS Newton-King
  • 27 February 1943 - 30 December 1943 Brigadier JC Currie
  • 30 December 1943 - 16 March 1944 Brigadier HJB Cracroft
  • 16 March 1944 - 26 June 1944 Brigadier JC Currie
  • 26 June 1944 - 27 June 1944 Colonel JL Young
  • 27 June 1944 - 25 January 1945 Brigadier RMP Carver
  • 25 January 1945 - 22 February 1945 Lieutenant-Colonel GC Hopkinson
  • 22 February 1945 - 31 August 1945 Brigadier RMP Carver

Brigade Commanders

Recent commanders have included:[17]

Notable former soldiers

Former BBC Motor sports commentator Murray Walker served with 4th Armoured Brigade during the Second World War as a member of The Royal Scots Greys. After the war he started a motorcycle club, organising trials and scrambles for the soldiers within the Brigade.[22]

See also


  1. 4th Mechanized Brigade (Official British Army website)
  2. Brigadier RMP Carter (1945). The History of the 4th Armoured Brigade. ISBN 978-1470119645.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brief History Of The British 4th Armoured Brigade
  4. Desert Rats Association website (accessed 28 Aug 12)
  5. 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>
  6. Black, Harvey. "The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 6".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "York Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 24 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 4th Mechanized Brigade Global Security
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Blue Beret (December 2000/January 2001)
  10. "4th Mechanized Brigade to replace 12 Mechanized Brigade in Helmand". MoD. 11 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Famed Desert Rats to lose their tanks under Army cuts". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-04-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. page 9
  13. 13.0 13.1 Army 2020 Update, page 9
  14. Regular Army basing matrix by formation and unit
  15. "4th Infantry Brigade and HQ North East". Retrieved 20 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Orders of Battle
  17. Army Commands
  18. 5,000 'Rats' spotted in Basra Defence News, 11 December 2007
  19. Brigadier salutes move to Garrison Northern Echo, 17 February 2009
  20. 4th Mechanized Brigade 11 April 2011
  21. New man takes over the Black Rats Northern Echo, 12 June 2013
  22. Murray Walker (2003). Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken. ISBN 0-00-712697-2.

Further reading

External links