55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division

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West Lancashire Division
55th (West Lancashire) Division
55th (West Lancashire) Motor Division
55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division
55 inf div -vector2.svg
55th (West Lancashire) Division insignia, Second World War
Active 1908-1915
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Motorised infantry
Size Division
Engagements Battle of the Somme
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Cambrai
Battle of Estaires
Sir William Morgan
Sir Frederick Morgan

The 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. It was raised in 1908 upon the creation of the Territorial Force originally as the West Lancashire Division, gaining its number in 1915. The division served with distinction on the Western Front during the Great War from 1915 to 1918. Disbanded after the war in 1919, it was reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920 and remained in the United Kingdom for World War II and was disbanded in late 1945.


Originally, the division was raised in 1908 as the West Lancashire Division with the North Lancashire Brigade, the Liverpool Brigade and the South Lancashire Brigade under command. In 1915, during the First World War, it became the 55th (West Lancashire) Division and the 164th (North Lancashire) Brigade, the 165th (Liverpool) Brigade and the 166th (South Lancashire) Brigade respectively.

First World War

Between November 1914 and April 1915 the divisional brigades were detached as reinforcements with other divisions already in serving on the Western Front in France and Belgium. The 55th Division was reformed in January 1916. In April 1915 the 164th (North Lancashire) Brigade joined the 51st (Highland) Division as the 154th Brigade, but it returned to the 55th Division less than a year later, in January 1916.

The first Victoria Cross awarded by the reformed division occurred near Arras on the 17 April 1916 when 2nd Lieutenant Edward Felix Baxter won the award while on a raid by the 1/8th (Irish) Battalion, King's (Liverpool) Regiment. The division moved to the Somme on 25 July to take part in that battle. The division took part in the Battle of Guillemont and the Battle of Ginchy, followed by a short rest period before being thrown back into the Battle of Morval. The 55th Division was then moved to the Ypres salient, where it remained for up to a year.

In 1917 the division took part in the Third Battles of Ypres and Cambrai. At Cambrai they lost many men taken prisoner, apparently due to a collapse during a German attack.

Troops of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division blinded by tear gas during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918.

After a rest and a period of retraining, the division took part in the Battle of Estaires in 1918, where it successfully fought the "First Defence of Givenchy" under the leadership of Major-General Hugh Jeudwine. This was to become the single most famous action of the Division, fighting off continuous attacks from three German divisions between 9–16 April. "It was afterwards publicly stated by an officer of the German General Staff that the stand made by the Division on April 9 and the days which followed marked the final ruination of the supreme German effort of 1918", says the Divisional history. Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée was eventually selected as the location of a large memorial to the Division. By the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the division had reached the Tournai area, having advanced fifty miles in eighty days.

Order of battle

Throughout the war the division comprised the following units:[1]

164th (North Lancashire) Brigade (left 18 April 1915, rejoined January 1916)

165th (Liverpool) Brigade

  • 1/5th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 22 February 1915, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/6th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 25 February 1916, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/7th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 8 March 1915, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/8th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left February 1915)
  • 1/9th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (joined January 1916, left February 1918)
  • 165th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 26 February 1916, moved to 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 7 March 1918)
  • 165th Trench Mortar Battery (formed March 1916)

166th (South Lancashire) Brigade

  • 1/9th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 12 March 1915)
  • 10th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left November 1914, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/4th Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) (left 13 February 1915)
  • 1/5th Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) (left 13 February 1915)
  • 2/5th Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) (joined February 1915, left April 1915)
  • 1/5th Battalion, King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) (joined 7 January 1916)
  • 1/5th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (joined January 1916)
  • 166th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 1 March 1916, moved to 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 7 March 1918)
  • 166th Trench Mortar Battery (formed March 1916)
  • 2/10th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (joined April 1918, became 10th Battalion same month)

Divisional Troops

  • 1/4th Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) (joined as pioneers January 1916)
  • 196th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 22 December 1916, moved to 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 17 March 1918)
  • 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (formed 7 March 1918)

Between the wars

The division was disbanded after the Great War when the Territorial Force was disbanded but it was later reformed as the Territorial Army and saw a significant change in units throughout the inter-war years, with many battalions in the division being converted into anti-aircraft or searchlight units of the Royal Engineers or the Royal Artillery, and absorbed numerous units from divisions that were converted or disbanded, such as the three Staffordshire battalions, the 5th and 6th South Staffs and 6th North Staffs, from the 46th (North Midland) Division which was converted into 2nd AA Division.[2] In late 1938 it was converted into a motorised infantry division, of only two infantry brigades.[3]

Second World War

Universal Carriers of the 9th Battalion, King's Regiment (Liverpool), of 164th Brigade, moving through a Sussex village, 3 July 1941.

At the start of World War II, the division was organised as a motorised infantry division with only two infantry brigades and was reorganised as a standard infantry division in June 1940 when the 66th Infantry Division was disbanded, after the BEF was evacuated from Dunkirk, and the 199th Brigade joined the 55th Division and it later became the 166th Infantry Brigade in August 1944. In October 1941, the division was no longer an operation formation to be sent overseas and, in January 1942, was placed on a Lower Establishment but did not become a training division as many others did. In December 1943 it was sent to Northern Ireland and came under command of British Troops Northern Ireland. In May 1944, shortly before the Allies invaded Normandy, the division was again raised to a Higher Establishment and returned to the mainland in July.

On 4 September 1939, the day after war was declared, the 55th (West Lancashire) Division was split up to form the 55th and 59th (Staffordshire) Division. The 59th Division received the 176th (ex 166th) and 177th brigades along with the 61st and 116th Field regiments and the 6th Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). All other units remained with the 55th Division.

Order of battle

The 55th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[4]

164th Infantry Brigade (left 17 June 1945)[5]

165th Infantry Brigade[6]

199th Infantry Brigade (from 23 July 1940, redesignated 166th Infantry Brigade 15 August 1944)[7]

  • 2/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (left 23 July 1944)
  • 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (left 27 May 1942)
  • 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (left 31 October 1942)
  • 199th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (disbanded 26 December 1941)
  • 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment (from 28 May, left 15 September 1942)
  • 2nd Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (from 16 September 1942, left 16 October 1944)
  • 5th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from 11 October 1942, left 1 January 1943)
  • 11th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (from 29 December 1942, left 15 October 1943)
  • 9th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (from 16 October 1943, disbanded 13 July 1944)
  • 1st Battalion, Liverpool Scottish (from 14 July 1944)
  • 1/4th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment (from 24 July 1944)
  • 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (from 28 November 1944)

Divisional Troops

  • 5th Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (Motorcycle Battalion, left 23 June 1940)
  • 55th Independent Company, Reconnaissance Corps (formed 27 December 1941, became 55th Independent Squadron 6 June 1942, left 29 October 1943)
  • 161st Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps (from 23 December 1943, became 161st Reconnaissance Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps 1 January 1944, left 24 July 1944)
  • 1st Royal Gloucestershire Hussars (Reconnaisance Regiment, from 2 August 1944, left 15 June 1945)
  • 5th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (Machine Gun Battalion, from 22 October 1944)
  • 87th (1st West Lancashire) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (left 30 November 1941)
  • 136th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (left 22 August 1942)
  • 109th (Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 1 July 1940)
  • 174th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 25 July 1942, left 7 March 1943)
  • 192nd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 23 February, left 20 December 1943)
  • 170th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 22 May 1943, left 15 March 1944)
  • 5th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 1 August 1944, became 5th Light Regiment 27 June 1945)
  • 141st (Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 1 August 1944, left 11 June 1945)
  • 124th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 14 June 1945)
  • 66th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (left 17 November 1939, rejoined 1 July 1940, left 24 July 1944)
  • 89th (Liverpool Scottish) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 21 October 1944, disbanded 29 August 1945)
  • 103rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 4 February, left 30 November 1942)
  • 149th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 31 August, left 23 December 1943)
  • 150th (Loyals) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (from 1 August 1944, left 24 February 1945)
  • 509th Field Company, Royal Engineers (left 10 January 1940)
  • 510th Field Company, Royal Engineers (left 1 March 1940)
  • 557th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 27 December 1939, left 4 October 1943)
  • 558th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 27 December 1939, left 7 December 1941)
  • 55th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 18 July 1940, left 22 January 1943)
  • 613th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 28 January 1943, left 7 July 1944)
  • 61st Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 30 October 1943, left 7 July 1944)
  • 259th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 1 August 1944, left 22 August 1944, rejoined 15 August 1945)
  • 283rd Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 25 August 1944)
  • 205th (Wessex) Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 1 August 1944)
  • 511th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (left 30 December 1939)
  • 599th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (from 27 December 1939, left 7 December 1941)
  • 108th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (from 30 August 1944)
  • 9th Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers (formed 30 August 1944)
  • 55th (West Lancashire) Divisional Signals Regiment, Royal Corps of Signals



  • Major-General Edward T. Dickson: April 1908-January 1909
  • Major-General Edward C. Bethune: January 1909-June 1912
  • Major-General Walter F.L. Lindsay: June 1912-August 1914
  • Major-General Frederick Hammersley: August–September 1914
  • Major-General John B. Forster: September 1914 – 1915
  • Major-General Sir Hugh S. Jeudwine: January 1916-May 1919
  • Major-General Sir Reginald W.R. Barnes: May 1919-April 1921
  • Major-General Sir Cecil L. Nicholson: April 1921-April 1925
  • Major-General Hugo D. De Pree: April 1925-July 1926
  • Major-General Basil F. Burnett-Hitchcock: July 1926-September 1928
  • Major-General Harold W. Higginson: September 1928 – 1930
  • Major-General James Harrison1930–1932
  • Major-General George Weir: September 1932-December 1933
  • Major-General Sir James N. Cooke-Collis: January 1934-December 1935
  • Major-General Ernest O. Lewin: December 1935-June 1938
  • Major-General Vivian H.B. Majendie: June 1938-June 1941
  • Major-General William D. Morgan: June–October 1941
  • Major-General Frederick E. Morgan: October 1941-May 1942
  • Major-General Hugh B. Hibbert: May 1942-August 1943
  • Major-General Walter E. Clutterbuck: August 1943-July 1944
  • Major-General Horatio P.M. Berney-Ficklin: July 1944 – 1945

See also



  • Coop, J. A. (1919). The Story of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division (N & M Press 2009 ed.). Liverpool: Liverpool Daily Post. ISBN 1-84342-263-8. Retrieved 2 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1-84342-474-6.

External links