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British 43rd (Wessex) Division

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British 43rd (Wessex) Division

43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division
Active 1908 - August 1945
1947-1968
Branch Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Engagements Operation Overlord
Operation Market Garden
Battle of the Bulge
Operation Blackcock

The 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division was a British Territorial Force division formed in 1908. It was reformed in 1920 as part of the Territorial Army. A second line duplicate, the 45th (Wessex) Infantry Division, was raised on the doubling of the Territorials for both world wars.

The division was reformed in the Territorial Army after the Second World War. Beckett 2008 says that TA units that were in suspended animation were formally reactivated on 1 January 1947, though no personnel were assigned until commanding officers and permanent staff had been appointed in March and April 1947.[1] On 1 May 1961 the division was merged with a district to become 43rd (Wessex) Division/District.[2]

History

The Division was created in 1908 along with the rest of the Territorial Force. On 24 September 1914, it accepted overseas service in India in order to relieve regular units that were required for active service in Europe. The Divisional and Brigade HQs, both artillery and infantry, did not embark for India. The "Division" sailed on 9 October 1914 and arrived in India in November, where it remained throughout the Great War, reverting to peacetime service conditions. However, it supplied battalions and drafts of reinforcements for the divisions fighting in the Middle East.

In the Second World War, it fought in Normandy, where it was initially earmarked as a reserve for Operation Epsom. In July, it launched an attack against the German 9th SS Panzer Division at Hill 112, though it was beaten back after both sides had suffered horrendous casualties. The 43rd performed well, and was considered one of the best British Divisions in the Second World War.

It was the first British formation to cross the Seine river, with an assault crossing at the French town of Vernon opposed by the German 49th Infantry Division (see 'Assault Crossing, The River Seine 1944' by Ken Ford). This crossing enabled the armour of XXX Corps, under Gen. Brian Horrocks, to thrust across northern France into Belgium.

43rd Division later played a major role in Operation Market Garden as the support to the Guards Armoured Division. During Market Garden, a Battalion (4th Dorsets) successfully crossed the Rhine as a diversion, so that 1st Airborne could withdraw more safely; but many men of the 4th Dorsets were themselves left behind on the north Bank of the Rhine when the Division withdrew.

The division later played a small part in the Battle of the Bulge, where it was placed on the Meuse as a reserve, and a large part in the invasion of Germany and the Crossing of the Rhine (Operation Veritable).

By the end of hostilities, the 43rd had reached the Cuxhaven peninsula of northern Germany.

Commanders

The division was reactivated after the Second World War again as part of the Territorial Army. On 1 April 1967 the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers absorbed 43rd Wessex Division RE (TA).[3] All TA divisions were disbanded by 1968.

Order of battle First World War

128th (Hampshire) Brigade

  • 1/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment left March 1915 (Mesopotamia)
  • 1/5th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
  • 1/6th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment left September 1917 (Mesopotamia)
  • 1/7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment left January 1918 (Aden) but remained under Divisional command

129th (South Western) Brigade

130th (Devon & Cornwall) Brigade

Divisional Artillery

  • CCXV (I Wessex) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA) left October 1916 (Mesopotamia)
  • CCXVI (Howitzer) (II Wessex) Brigade, RFA
  • CCXVII (III Wessex) Brigade, RFA
  • CCXVIII (IV Wessex) Brigade, RFA
  • Wessex (Hampshire) Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery did not go to India

Royal Engineers

  • I Wessex Field Company did not go to India (joined 27th Division)
  • II Wessex Field Company did not go to India (joined 27th Division)
  • Wessex Divisional Signals Company did not go to India (joined 27th Division)

Royal Army Medical Corps

  • 1st Wessex Field Ambulance did not go to India (joined 8th Division)
  • 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance did not go to India (joined 8th Division)
  • 3rd Wessex Field Ambulance did not go to India (joined 8th Division)

Other Divisional Troops

  • Wessex Divisional Transport and Supply Column ASC did not go to India (formed 29th Division Train and 27th Divisional Reserve Park)

Order of battle for Normandy landings, WW2

129th Infantry Brigade

  • 4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
  • 4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment
  • 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment

130th Infantry Brigade

214th Infantry Brigade

  • 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
  • 1st Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
  • 5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

Support Units

  • 8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (Vickers machine guns and 4.2" Mortars)
  • 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps
  • 94th (Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 112th (Wessex) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 179th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 59th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
  • 13th Bridging Platoon, Royal Engineers
  • 204th Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 207th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers (from Bath, Somerset)
  • 260th Field Company, Royal Engineers (from Chippenham, Wiltshire)
  • 553rd Field Company, Royal Engineers
  • 54th Company, RASC
  • 504th Company, RASC
  • 505th Company, RASC
  • 506th Divisional Company, RASC
  • 110th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery

See also

Notes

References

  • Ian F.W. Beckett, 'Territorials: A Century of Service,' First Published April 2008 by DRA Printing of 14 Mary Seacole Road, The Millfields, Plymouth PL1 3JY on behalf of TA 100, ISBN 978-0-9557813-1-5, 175, 180.

External links

  • http://www.1914-1918.net/43div.htm
  • http://orbat.com/site/ww2/drleo/017_britain/39_org/div_inf.html
  • Divisional insignia


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