52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division

Lowland Division
52nd (Lowland) Division
52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division

Shoulder badge of the 52nd (Lowland) Division, World War II
Active 1908–1919[1]
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Role Infantry, Air Landing, and Mountain
Size Second World War: 18,347 men[nb 1]
Engagements First World War
Battle of Romani
First Battle of Gaza
Second Battle of Gaza
Third Battle of Gaza
Second World War
Battle of the Scheldt
Operation Blackcock
Invasion of Germany
Battle honours The Scheldt
The Rhineland
The Rhine
Neil Ritchie
Edmund Hakewill-Smith

The 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army that was originally formed as the Lowland Division, in 1908 as part of the Territorial Force. It later became the 52nd (Lowland) Division in 1915. The 52nd (Lowland) Division fought in the First World War before being disbanded, with the rest of the Territorial Force, in 1920. The Territorial Force was later reformed as the Territorial Army and the division was again raised, during the inter-war years, as the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division - a 1st Line Territorial Army Infantry Division - and went on to serve during the Second World War. After the war, the division was merged with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in 1948. The history of the division was carried on by the 52nd Lowland Brigade, and later the 52nd Lowland Regiment.

First World War

The famous territorial regiments that were incorporated in the division were all drawn from the Scottish Lowlands, and have a history that in some cases goes back more than 300 years. It consisted of three infantry brigades, the 155th (South Scottish) Brigade, 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade, and 157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigades.

Initially assigned to the defence of the Scottish coast, the division moved to Gallipoli (without two of its artillery brigades), arriving there in early July 1915. While moving from Scotland the division suffered the loss of 210 officers and men killed, and another 224 injured in the Quintinshill rail crash, near Gretna, that involved the 1/7th Royal Scots.

During the First World War, the division fought at Gallipoli, in the Middle East (Sinai and Palestine), and on the Western Front in France.

The division began landing at the Helles front, on the Gallipoli peninsula, in June 1915 as part of VIII Corps. The 156th Brigade was landed in time to take part in the Battle of Gully Ravine, where it was mauled, under the notorious Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Advancing along Fir Tree Spur, to the right of the ravine, the brigade had little artillery support and no experience of the Gallipoli battlefield. The brigade suffered 1,400 casualties, or about half its strength, of which 800 were killed.

When the remaining brigades were landed, they attacked towards Krithia, along Achi Baba Nullah, on 12 July. They succeeded in capturing the Ottoman trenches, but were left unsupported and vulnerable to counter-attack. For a modest gain in ground, they suffered 30 per cent casualties and were in no fit state to exploit their position.

The division moved to Egypt as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, where it manned the east-facing defensive fortifications during the Battle of Romani. On the first, and most crucial day, of the battle the division was heavily engaged with the enemy's right flank, while the Australian Light Horse, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and 5th Mounted Brigades fought the centre and left flank in extended order. With insufficient water, the mid-summer conditions proved too much for the infantry ordered to advance the following day and were not heavily involved in the fighting thereafter. Following the battle, they advanced across the Sinai occupying Bir el Abd, El Mazar and El Arish, but remained in a supporting role as the fluid nature of the fighting best suited the mounted troops.

The division fought in the First and Second Battle of Gaza in March and April 1917. The annihilation of Sea Post, a strong Ottoman redoubt west of Gaza, in June 1917, by 1/5th King's Own Scottish Borderers, inaugurated the series of successful raids that did much to harass the enemy during the four months prior to the winter campaign.

As a division of XXI Corps, it played an important part in the final overthrow of the Ottomans at the Third Battle of Gaza and the subsequent advance. The division then participated in the Battle of Jerusalem. The Battle of Jaffa saw the passage of the Nahr El Auja, on the night of 20–21 December 1917, by the division's three Brigades, which according to General Sir Edmund Allenby's despatch "reflects great credit on the 52nd (Lowland) Division. It involved considerable preparation, the details of which were thought out with care and precision. The sodden state of the ground, and, on the night of the crossing, the swollen state of the river, added to the difficulties, yet by dawn the whole of the infantry had crossed. The fact that the enemy were taken by surprise, and, that all resistance was overcome with the bayonet without a shot being fired, bears testimony to the discipline of this division. The operation, by increasing the distance between the enemy and Jaffa from three to eight miles, rendered Jaffa and its harbour secure, and gained elbow-room for the troops covering Ludd and Ramleh and the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road."

In March 1918 the division moved to France where it fought in the Second Battle of the Somme, the Second Battle of Arras, and the Battle of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive.

After the war the division was disbanded along with the rest of the Territorial Force. However it was re-established in 1920 as part of the Territorial Army and was mobilised again in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France.

First World War Order of battle

The division comprised three infantry brigades:


Second World War

A 3.7 inch Mountain Howitzer of the 1st Mountain Artillery Regiment, Royal Artillery, attached to 52nd Division, on exercise at Trawsfynydd in Wales, sometime in 1942. The gun crew are wearing weatherproof anoraks, mountaineering breeches and woollen stockings.

The 52nd (Lowland) Division, which had seen numerous changes in composition during the interwar period, was mobilised, along with the rest of the Territorial Army (previously the Territorial Force, reformed in 1920 and soon renamed the TA), in late August 1939, due to the worsening situation in Europe at the time. The Second World War began on 3 September 1939, after both Britain and France declared war on Germany after the latter's invasion of Poland and the 52nd, based in Scotland under the command of Major General James Drew,[5] was serving in Scottish Command, alongside its second line duplicate unit, the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.[6]

Stretcher bearers of the 1st Battalion, Glasgow Highlanders in France, 13 June 1940.

The division first saw action in June 1940 where, following the Dunkirk evacuation, the 52nd Division was shipped to France as part of the Second British Expeditionary Force (2BEF) to cover the withdrawal of Allied forces near Cherbourg during Operation Ariel.[7] The division returned to the United Kingdom and, like most of the rest of the British Army after Dunkirk, began training to repel an expected German invasion, which never occurred. From May 1942 until June 1944, the 52nd was trained in a mountain warfare capacity, but was never employed in this role. Following June, the 52nd Division was reorganised and trained in airlanding operations.[5] As part of this new role, the division was transferred to the First Allied Airborne Army.[6] By this time, the 52nd Division, now under the command of Major General Edmund Hakewill-Smith, was the only operational formation in the United Kingdom.

Men of the 5th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry training in the mountains near Inverness, Scotland, 22 October 1942.

Several operations were planned for the division, following the successful conclusion of the Normandy Campaign. Operation Transfigure planned to have the British 1st and American 101st Airborne Divisions capture landing strips near Rambouillet, for the 52nd Division to land at. The three divisions would have then blocked the German line of retreat towards Paris.[8] Operation Linnet proposed, the usage of most of the First Allied Airborne Army including the 52nd Division, to seize areas in north-eastern France to block the German line of retreat.[9] As part of Operation Market Garden, the British 1st Airborne Division was given a subsidiary mission of capturing Deelen airfield, on which the 52nd Division would land.[10] Due to the disastrous course of events that unfolded during the Battle of Arnhem, where the 1st Airborne Division was virtually destroyed and lost almost 8,000 men, the 52nd Division was not deployed.[11]

The division would never be utilised in either of the roles it had trained for, and was transferred to Belgium via sea landing in Ostend. The 157th Infantry Brigade landed first at the end of the first week of October, and the rest of the division arrived over the course of the following fortnight.[12][13] On 15 October, the 157th Brigade was, temporarily, attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division[14] and relieved the Canadian units in the bridgehead over the Leopold Canal.[15]

At first the Scots of 52nd Division and the Canadians did not see eye to eye, with a cultural clash of untidy and 'undisciplined' Canadians against 'spit and polish' Scots. On taking over some Canadian positions in mid-October, Scottish officers commented: "No one in Scotland would ask a pig to lie in the houses (recently vacated by the Canadians) on the south side of the canal." However, both sides soon came to recognise that high fighting capability could be engendered in both approaches.[16]

From 23 October until December, the 52nd (Lowland) Division was assigned to the Canadian First Army, serving first under II Canadian Corps and then British I Corps.[6] The division's first operation would be to aid in opening the vital Belgian port of Antwerp, in the Battle of the Scheldt. Ironically, the first operation of the division would not be in mountainous terrain or being deployed by air, but fighting below sea level on the flooded polders around the Scheldt Estuary of Belgium and the Netherlands. Operation Vitality and Operation Infatuate were aimed at capturing South Beveland and the island of Walcheren to open the mouth of the Scheldt Estuary. This would enable the Allies to use the port of Antwerp as a supply route for the troops in North-West Europe. It was in this vital operation that the 52nd Division was to fight its first battle with brilliant success that earned them high praise. During the battle, the division was given command "of all the military operations" on Walcheren. This included command of the 4th Commando Brigade,[17] after it had landed on the island, and No. 4 Commando during the assault on Flushing.[18] Following the battle the division would remain on Walcheren until November, when it was relieved by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.[19]

Men of 'C' Company of the 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, move up to attack a pillbox, the Netherlands, 11 December 1944.

On 5 December, the division was transferred to XXX Corps of the British Second Army.[20] During the month, the 157th Infantry Brigade was temporarily attached to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division for several days.[14]

In January 1945, the 52nd Division, now serving under XII Corps,[6] participated in Operation Blackcock, the clearing of the Roer Triangle between the rivers Meuse and Roer. During the operation, 19-year-old Fusilier Dennis Donnini of the 4th/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, part of the 156th Infantry Brigade, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. During the operation, the 155th Infantry Brigade was attached to the 7th Armoured Division, nicknamed The Desert Rats.[21] In February and March, the division was slightly reorganised with battalions being transferred amongst the division’s brigades.[22] Peter White, a second lieutenant within the 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, describes this change due to 21st Army Group commander Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's "aversion to two Battalions of the same Regiment" being in the same brigade as it could result "in one home district or town having disproportionate losses after any sticky action".[23] For most of April, the 155th Infantry Brigade was again attached to the 7th Armoured Division[24] "to drive for the Elbe across Lüneburg Heath".[25] The division (minus the 155th Brigade) took part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany, with its last major action being the Battle of Hamburg, where it ended the war.

Order of battle

A Universal Carrier of the 6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) crossing the Dortmund–Ems Canal, Germany, 4 April 1945.

The infantry battalions of the division were bolstered with large drafts of soldiers from all over the United Kingdom and were not just drawn from their traditional regimental recruiting areas. This was not uncommon and took place in many units throughout the British Army, especially in the later years when manpower became scarce.

155th Infantry Brigade[24]

156th Infantry Brigade[26]

157th Infantry Brigade[14]

Divisional troops

Post Second World War

During 1946, the First Canadian Army was withdrawn from Germany and disbanded. As it withdrew from Germany, it "turned over its responsibilities" to the 52nd Division.[28]

In 1947-48, the division was amalgamated with 51st (Highland) Infantry Division to become the 51st/52nd Scottish Division.[29]

In 1947 units of the 51st/52nd Division included:

Scottish Horse, Dunkeld
275 Field Regiment, Aberdeen
277 Field Regiment, Greenock
278 Field Regiment, Edinburgh
254 Anti-tank Regiment, Dumbarton
117 Engineer Regiment, Aberdeen
51/52 Divisional Signal Regiment, Aberdeen
51/52 Divisional RASC
51/52 Ordnance Field Park
51/52 Divisional REME
51/52 Divisional RAMC.[29]
153 (Highland) Brigade comprised:
11 Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, Golspie
4/5 Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, Inverness
Lovat Scouts, Beauly
4/7 Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, Aberdeen,
5/6 Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, Bucksburn
154 (Highland) Brigade comprised only two battalions:
7 Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Stirling
8 Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Dunoon
157 (Lowland) Brigade comprised:
4/5 Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers, Ayr
6 Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), Glasgow
7 Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), Glasgow
5/6 Battalion, Highland Light Infantry, Glasgow
Glasgow Highlanders at Glasgow

In 1950, the 51st/52nd (Scottish) Division was split, restoring the independence of the 52nd Lowland Division, which took regional command of Territorial Army units based in the Scottish Lowlands, including the Territorial infantry battalions of the Lowland Brigade regiments.[30]

In 1967-68, the Division was split into two brigade level districts based in the Highlands and Lowlands, with the Lowland District Headquarters in Hamilton, near Glasgow.

General Officer Commanding

Commanders included:

Appointed General Officer Commanding
April 1908 Brigadier-General Henry Kelham[31]
March 1910 Major-General James Spens[31]
March 1914 Major-General Granville George Algernon Egerton[31]
September 1915 Major-General The Honourable Herbert A. Lawrence[31]
June 1916 Major-General Wilfrid E.B. Smith[31]
September 1917 Major General John Hill[31]
September 1918 Major-General Francis J. Marhsall[31]
June 1919 Major-General Sir Philip Rynd Robertson[31]
June 1923 Major-General Hamilton Lyster Reed[31]
June 1927 Major-General Sir Henry F. Thullier[31]
March 1930 Major-General Sir Walter J Constable-Maxwell-Scott[31]
March 1934 Major-General Andrew J. McCulloch[31]
September 1935 Major-General Victor Fortune[31]
August 1936 Major-General Sir Andrew J. McCulloch[31]
March 1938 Major-General James Drew[5]
29 March 1941 Major-General Sir John Laurie[5]
1 September 1942 Brigadier G. P. Miller (acting)[5]
11 September 1942 Major-General Neil Ritchie[5]
11 November 1943 Brigadier Edmund Hakewill-Smith (acting)[5]
19 November 1943 Major-General Edmund Hakewill-Smith[5]
December 1948 Major-General Robert Urquhart[31]
February 1950 Major-General George H. Inglis[31]
1952 Major-General Richard George Collingwood[31]
October 1955 Major-General Rohan Delacombe[31]
October 1958 Major-General John F.M. Macdonald[31]
October 1961 Major-General John Frost[31]
February 1964 Major-General Henry Leask[31]
May 1966 – 1968 Major-General Sir Francis James Bowes-Lyon[31]

See also


  1. This is the war establishment, the on-paper strength, of a British infantry division for 1944/1945.[3]
  1. http://www.britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk/webeasycms/hold/uploads/bmh_document_pdf/52_Division__1930_38_.pdf
  2. http://www.britishmilitaryhistory.co.uk/webeasycms/hold/uploads/bmh_document_pdf/52-Infantry-Division-1944-45-.pdf
  3. Joslen, p. 129
  4. http://www.1914-1918.net/52div.htm
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Joslen, p. 85
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Joslen, p. 86
  7. Chappell, p. 34
  8. Buckingham, p. 64
  9. Buckingham, p. 65
  10. Buckingham, p. 79
  11. Ellis, p. 30
  12. Joslen, pp. 342-345
  13. Stacey, p. 388
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Joslen, p. 344
  15. Stacey, p. 398
  16. Monty's Men - The British Army and the Liberation of Europe, p. 248, John Buckley.
  17. Stacey, p. 412
  18. Stacey, p. 414
  19. Stacey, p. 430
  20. Stacey, p. 436
  21. Lindsay, p. 108
  22. Joslen, pp. 342-344
  23. White, p. 157
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Joslen, p. 342
  25. White, p. 367
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 Joslen, p. 343
  27. http://www.unithistories.com/units_british/52InfDiv.html
  28. Stacey, p. 622
  29. 1 2 Graham Watson (10 March 2002). "United Kingdom: The Territorial Army 1947". orbat.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  30. Reorganizing Territorials, the Times, 21 July 1960
  31. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Mackie, Army Senior Appointments, p.156

References/further reading

  • George Blake, Mountain and flood: the history of the 52nd (Lowland) Division, 1939–1946, Jackson, Son, 1950
  • Buckingham, William F. (2004) [2002]. Arnhem 1944. Tempus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7524-3187-1. 
  • Chappell, Mike (1987). British battle insignia (2): 1939–1940. Men-At-Arms. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-739-4. 
  • Ellis, Major L. F.; Warhurst, Lieutenant-Colonel A. E. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1968]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. Victory in the West: The Defeat of Germany. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. II. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-059-7. 
  • Joslen, Lt-Col H.F. (2003) [1960]. Orders of Battle: Second World War, 1939–1945. Uckfield: Naval and Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1. 
  • Lindsay, Captain Martin; Johnson, Captain M. E. (2005) [1945]. History of 7th Armoured Division: June 1943 – July 1945. MLRS Books. ISBN 978-1-84791-219-0. 
  • Mackie, Colin. "British Armed Forces (1900-): Army Senior Appointments". Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  • Stacey, Colonel Charles Perry; Bond, Major C. C. J. (1960). The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-West Europe 1944–1945 (PDF). Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. III. Ottawa: The Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery. OCLC 155106767. Retrieved 16 November 2015. 
  • Thompson, R. R. (1923). The Fifty-Second (Lowland) Division, 1914–1918. Glasgow: Macklehose, Jackson, & Co. OCLC 6284100. 
  • White, Peter (2003) [2001]. With the Jocks: A soldier's struggle for Europe 1944–45. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-3057-8. 

External links

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