5th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

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5th Division
5th Infantry Division
5th Division
Insignia of the 5th Division
Active 1810–1815
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Copthorne Barracks, Shrewsbury, Shropshire (1995–2012)
Nickname(s) The Globe Trotters
The Gypsies
The Fighting Fifth
Engagements Peninsula War
Battle of Bussaco
Battle of Sabugal
Siege of Almeida (1811)
Battle of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Vitoria
Siege of San Sebastian
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of the Nive
Waterloo Campaign
Battle of Quatre Bras
Battle of Waterloo
First World War
Battle of Mons
Battle of Le Cateau
First Battle of Ypres
Second Battle of Ypres (13th Brigade)
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Passchendaele
Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Épehy
Second World War
Operation Husky
Italian Campaign
North West Europe Campaign
Post War
Battle of Surabaya
Lieutenant-General Thomas Picton
Major-General Herbert Plumer
Major-General Gerard Bucknall
Major-General Thomas Morland
British 5th Infantry Division Insignia.png
1914 – 1918
5 inf div -vector.svg
1939 – 1945

The 5th Infantry Division was a regular army infantry division of the British Army. It was established by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsular War, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, and was active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War and was disbanded soon after. The division was reformed in 1995 as an administrative division covering Wales and the English regions of West Midlands, East Midlands and East. Its headquarters were in Shrewsbury. It was disbanded on 1 April 2012.

Peninsular War

The 5th Division during the Peninsular War under the command of General James Leith was present at most of the major engagements including the Battle of Bussaco, the Battle of Sabugal, the Siege of Almeida, the Battle of Badajoz, the Battle of Salamanca, the Battle of Vitoria, the Siege of San Sebastian, the Battle of Nivelle and the Battle of the Nive.[1]

Peninsular War order of battle

Waterloo Campaign

Black Watch at Quatre Bras.

The Division was also present during the Waterloo Campaign first seeing action at the Battle of Quatre Bras then at the Battle of Waterloo under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton.[2]

Waterloo order of battle

The division's order of battle at Waterloo was as follows:[2]

Second Boer War

Main article: Second Boer War

The 5th Division under the command of General Sir Charles Warren joined up with the Natal Field Force shortly after the Battle of Colenso and were a part of the relieving army of the besieged Ladysmith.[3]

Second Boer War order of battle

The formation was as follows:[4]
11th[5] Infantry Brigade initially commanded by General Edward Woodgate[6] but he was wounded at Spion Kop and died shortly afterwards. He was succeeded by General Arthur Wynne who was later wounded at the Battle of the Tugela Heights and succeeded by Colonel Walter Kitchener.

10th[7] Infantry Brigade commanded by General John Talbot Coke.

First World War

The 5th Division was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for most of the war except for a brief period in Italian Front.[9]

The 5th Division, as a regular army formation (one of the Old Contemptibles) fought in many of the major battles of the Western Front from the Battle of Mons in 1914, the later stages of the Somme offensive, including the first battle using tanks, up to the Battle of the Selle in 1918.[9]

British infantry advance near Ginchy. Possibly 5th Division. Photo by Ernest Brooks.

First World War order of battle

13th Brigade The 13th Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 23 February and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 84th Brigade from that Division.

14th Brigade The 14th Brigade transferred to 32nd Division on 30 December 1915

15th Brigade The 15th Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 3 March and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 83rd Brigade from that division.

95th Brigade 95th Brigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915

  • 12th (Service) Battalion (Bristol), Gloucestershire Regiment (joined December 1915, disbanded October 1918)
  • 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment (joined January 1916)
  • 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (joined January 1916)
  • 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (joined January 1916)



  • 17th Field Company, Royal Engineers (until 26 March 1915)
  • 59th Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 1st South Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 24 March until 10 April 1916)
  • 2/1st North Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers (from 23 March until 19 May 1915)
  • 2nd Home Counties Field Company, Royal Engineers (joined 2 February 1916; became 491st (Home Counties) Field Company 3 February 1917)
  • 2nd Durham Field Company, Royal Engineers (joined 20 September 1916; became 527th (Durham) Field Company 3 February 1917)



The 5th Division was unusual among other British divisions in that no battle patches were worn on their tunics or helmets, aside from those briefly worn by New Army battalions bringing them from their former division.[12]

Second World War

In September 1939 the 5th Infantry Division was a Regular Army formation, commanded by Major-General Harold Franklyn. The division was based at Catterick under Northern Command.[13] Both of its infantry brigades (the 13th and 15th Infantry) went to France to join the rest of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) by early October 1939 as independent infantry brigades, but the 5th Divisional Headquarters crossed to France on 19 December 1939 and by the new year the division was reformed with three infantry brigades – 13th, 15th and 17th.[13]

Globe Trotting

Men of 'D' Company, 1st Battalion, Green Howards, of 13th Brigade of 5th Division, occupy a captured German communications trench during the breakout at Anzio, Italy, 22 May 1944.

In April 1940 the 15th Brigade joined the Norwegian Campaign and did not rejoin the 5th Division until 3 July 1940.[13] In early May the 25th Infantry Brigade was under command.[14] The 5th Infantry Division saw action in the battles of Belgium and France in May–June 1940 including the Battle of Arras, alongside the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, on 21 May 1940 and at the Battle of the Ypres-Comines Canal from 26 to 28 May 1940, and then was withdrawn to Dunkirk, along with the rest of the BEF, where they were evacuated to England, with most of the division arriving on 1 June.[13]

The 5th Infantry Division remained in the United Kingdom for nearly another two years, with most of 1940 being spent in Scotland under Scottish Command, reforming in numbers and being brought up to strength with conscripts, alongside training in anti-invasion duties and preparing for Operation Sea Lion, the German invasion of the United Kingdom which, fortunately, never arrived. In late March 1941 the division was transferred to Northern Ireland, coming under command of British Troops Northern Ireland, and, like it did in Scotland, continued training to repel a German invasion there (see Operation Green).[15]

The division left Northern Ireland on 16 March 1942 and served and travelled in so many regions of the world that they were known as the Globe Trotters, and became the most travelled division of the British Army during the Second World War. In April 1942 the 13th and 17th Infantry brigades and a portion of the Divisional Troops were detached to 'Force 121' for Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Vichy French held Madagascar.[13] The division was not complete again until August 1942. It was sent from the United Kingdom to India for three months and then to Middle East Command, where it spent time under the command of British III Corps, alongside the 56th (London) Infantry Division, as part of the British Tenth Army, under overall control of Persia and Iraq Command.[13] In February 1943 it was sent to Egypt and came under the command of British XIII Corps of the British Eighth Army for the invasion of Sicily.[13]

Sicily, Italy and North-Western Europe

Men of the 5th Division coming ashore at Reggio on 3 September 1943, during the invasion of Italy.

The 5th Infantry Division saw action in the invasion of Sicily, otherwise known as Operation Husky, and then invaded the Italian mainland in Operation Baytown in September 1943, still as part of XIII Corps of the Eighth Army, where, later in the year, the division fought in the Moro River Campaign.[13] In early January 1944 the division transferred to British X Corps, alongside the 46th Infantry Division and 56th (London) Infantry Division, which was part of the U.S. Fifth Army at the time, and they crossed the Garigliano river.[16] In late March 1944 the division was transferred to Anzio where they came under command of U.S. VI Corps and relieved the battered 56th (London) Division in the line, which had served with the 5th in the Middle East, and fought for another two months in the Battle of Anzio in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, participating in Operation Diadem and the Breakout from the Anzio beachhead. During the fighting, Sergeant Maurice Albert Windham Rogers of the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, of 13th Brigade, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the first and only to be awarded to the division during the war. The division was then withdrawn to Palestine in July 1944.[13] They were to remain there for the next eight months, where it saw some changing of units and was brought up to strength largely from anti-aircraft gunners of the Royal Artillery, who had been retrained as infantrymen, and continued training.

The division returned to Italy in early 1945 where they relieved the British 1st Infantry Division, which had fought alongside the Globetrotters at Anzio, but then was transferred to Belgium in March 1945 to participate in the final stages of the fighting in North-western Europe, now under command of VIII Corps, alongside the 3rd Infantry Division, 11th Armoured Division and the 6th Airborne Division, itself part of the British Second Army of the 21st Army Group, and invaded Germany.[13] During the Second World War, the 5th Infantry Division used a 'Y' on a khaki background as its insignia.[13]

Second World War order of battle

The 5th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[13][17]
13th Infantry Brigade (detached to Force 121 in Madagascar from 26 April until 2 August 1942)[18]

15th Infantry Brigade[19]

17th Infantry Brigade (Brigade HQ formed 3 October 1939, detached to Force 121 in Madagascar from 15 March to 30 June 1942)[20]

Divisional Troops

Post Second World War

The 5th Division was disbanded in 1946 and was reformed briefly from the 7th Armoured Division in Germany on 16 April 1958,[13] with the 7th and 20th Armoured brigades but was then redesignated the 1st Armoured Division on 30 June 1960.[34] It was again reformed in the United Kingdom on 1 April 1968, under Army Strategic Command, incorporating the 2nd, 8th, and 39th brigades, but disbanded in February 1971.[35]


Structure 5th Division.

The 5th Division was reformed as an administrative division – effectively a military district – from North West, Wales, and Western Districts on 1 April 1995. It had administrative control over a wide range of regiments, training establishments and cadet corps. It had its permanent headquarters at the Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.[36]

The division was in charge of the majority of British Army units in Wales, the English West Midlands and South West England. The South West was transferred to the 4th Division, replaced by the East Midlands and the East English regions. The division therefore covered the central regions of England as well as Wales. The 5th Division took command of Headquarters Salisbury Plain Area and 43rd (Wessex) Brigade from 3rd Division on 1 April 1999, and 107 (Ulster) Brigade also fell under its responsibility.[37] However, 107 Brigade was shifted back under HQ Northern Ireland, at a later date. HQ 43rd Brigade moved to Bulford by 1 September 1999, and HQ Salisbury Plain Area disbanded by that date. This process freed Headquarters 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division from its administrative and regional responsibilities and it become a deployable or "fly-away" division. The Division reported to Army Headquarters at Andover.[38]

The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded.[39] HQ 2nd Division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th Division in Shrewsbury were both disbanded in April 2012.[40]

Composition 1999–2012

The composition was as follows:

Recent commanders

Recent Commanders have been:[41]
GOC 5th Division

Note the Division was disbanded in 1922 and reformed in 1929
Note the Division, having been disbanded at the end of the War, was reformed in 1958 but the brigades used to form 1st Armoured Division in 1959
Note the Division was briefly reformed in 1968 but disbanded again in 1971
Note the Division was reformed in 1995

See also


  1. Pivka, p. 16
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Battle of Waterloo". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  3. "Ladysmith history and the Boer War". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  4. "The Battle of Val Krantz and Pieters". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  5. Woodgate's 11th Brigade
  6. Kings Own
  7. Coke's 10th Brigade
  8. 10th Battalion
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "The 5th Division in 1914–1918". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  10. Becke, pp. 65–71.
  11. Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War I at Orbat.com
  12. Osprey Publishing MAA 182, p.9
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 "badge, formation, 5th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  14. Joslen, p. 272.
  15. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/61/a1109161.shtml
  16. "5th Division". Battlefields. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  17. Joslen, pp. 47–8.
  18. Joslen, pp. 251-252.
  19. Joslen, pp. 253-254.
  20. Joslen, p. 259-260.
  21. 9 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  22. Litchfield, pp. 152–3.
  23. Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  24. Litchfield, pp. 153–5.
  25. Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  26. Litchfield, pp. 111–2.
  27. Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  28. Litchfield, p. 294.
  29. Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  30. Litchfield, p. 156.
  31. at RA 1939–45.
  32. 18 LAA Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 33.4 33.5 Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War II at Orbat.com
  34. "British Army of the Rhine". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  35. Watson, p. 124
  36. "TA Command Structure 1967 – 2000". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  37. Soldier Magazine, December 1998, p.13
  38. "New Army's HQ Land Forces base is opened in Andover". BBC News. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  39. First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed Defence News, 10 November 2011
  40. House of Commons Library: Standard Note: SN06038
  41. Army Commands
  42. The London Gazette: no. 27436. p. 3384. 23 May 1902.


Further reading

  • A Guide to Appointments and Invitations for High Commissions & Embassies in London, UK Ministry of Defence, June 2006 Edition
  • Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945–70, William Kimber, London, 1971.
  • Readers' Digest, The World At Arms, 1989

External links