British Order of Battle

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Feb 2022 00:19

Thanks. To/TE are favorite reading.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2022 00:40

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Feb 2022 00:19
Thanks. To/TE are favorite reading.
Sure. Always found that reviewing such material gives a far better idea of how and why certain decisions were made, and what may or may not have been possible in terms of historically-valid alternatives, than 90% of the critical or speculative crap out there.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Feb 2022 17:28

Ya, on paper the Brits had a lot of 'divisions' in the UK. Combat capable is another matter.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 05 Feb 2022 20:21

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
05 Feb 2022 17:28
Ya, on paper the Brits had a lot of 'divisions' in the UK. Combat capable is another matter.
Sure. Couple ways are where they went later in the war; another is the CG. If they were (historically) young and led a given formation overseas, or went on to bigger and better assignments, that's a clue. If they were older and ended up as the District commander in Northern Ireland or something equivalent, that is as well.

Just to start out, the charts from Chapter 13, Book 1 of Their Finest Hour, list the following, with various levels of equipment, in the UK as of 13 July 1940; note the percentages of equipment in the following list are personal estimates, based on the more detailed information presented in the charts.

1st Division - full strength in personnel, small arms, MG carriers; 75% in field artillery and 50% AT artillery;
2nd - full strength personnel, ~50% weapons and heavy equipment;
3rd - same as 1st, except 50% field artillery and 100% AT;
4th - same as 2nd, roughly;
5th - same as 2nd, but 75% in MG carriers;
51st (formerly the 9th) - same as 2nd, but more light weapons;
15th - similar to 2nd;
18th - similar to 2nd;
38th - similar to 2nd;
42nd - similar to 2nd, but less artillery;
43rd - full strength in personnel, field and AT artillery, etc.
44th - similar to 2nd, but less artillery, heavy weapons, etc.
45th - similar to 2nd;
46th - similar to 2nd;
48th - similar to 2nd, fewer heavy weapons;
50th - similar to 2nd, but fewer heavy weapons;
52nd - similar to 2nd;
53rd - similar to 2nd;
54th - similar to 2nd, but more artillery and heavy weapons;
55th - similar to 2nd;
59th - similar to 2nd;
61st - similar to 2nd;
1st London (aka 56th) - similar to 2nd;
2nd London (aka 47th) - similar to 2nd;
1st Canadian - full strength in artillery, heavy weapons; 25% in personnel;
Australian - 50% personnel, limited equipment;
New Zealand - ~30% personnel, limited equipment;

So, just eyeballing it and making very rough "infantry division equivalents" with the above, that's (essentially) two British full strength divisions (1st and 43rd) and 22 more British divisions, all with full personnel strength but far less equipment than at divisional scale, plus what amounts to a reinforced "Commonwealth" Division equivalent; so one could call the Home Forces field force as 14 "IDEs" capable (to an extent) of mobile warfare.

Added to the various local forces at the brigade-level and below, and one sees why if the Germans had tried SEALION, whatever half-drowned, hungry, and out of supply infantry got ashore, how deeply in the sack they would have been, even in July ...

Of the entire group, 16 of the 24 British divisions listed above ended up leaving the UK for service overseas in 1941-45, which suggests that at least two-thirds of the 24 ended up as much more than home defense formations; the same for the three Commonwealth contingents, as well.

There's another table as of 7 Sept. 1940, which includes the same 24 British divisions, but with - generally - better scales of equipment, across the board; the Canadian Division is now at full strength in personnel and equipment, and the Australian and New Zealander contingents are equivalent to a full division by themselves; in addition, the 29th and 31st Brigade Groups have been added to the mobile forces, so in comparison to the first and second paragraphs above, it now looks like a significantly more capable force - something like 15 of the British divisions are full strength in field artillery, for example, and the other seven are at 50% or more. Wonder how much of that had to do with the US emergency shipments of 75mm guns and ammunition, plus the MMGs, BARs, Lewis LMGs, Thompsons, and M1917 .30 rifles? Think the LDV had .30 Ross and various .303s at this point...

Including the two separate brigades, and it's a fair bet the British IDEs are now closer to 18 full divisions, and then some, plus the two Commonwealth division equivalents.

Which makes SEALION even more of a shitshow for the Germans...

One final note: of the two independent brigades available in September, the 29th went overseas for a very active war in 1942, and the 31st became the 1st Airlanding Brigade and was assigned to the 1st Airborne Division, for the same. Both should count as useful formations, one would think.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 06 Feb 2022 04:21, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Feb 2022 03:17

Thanks immensely. I had completely missed the presence to the Australians in the UK that summer. One of the other derivatives of this is the potential strength of the BEF in the Autum 1940, or winter of 1941 had France not collapsed.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 06 Feb 2022 04:50

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
06 Feb 2022 03:17
Thanks immensely. I had completely missed the presence to the Australians in the UK that summer. One of the other derivatives of this is the potential strength of the BEF in the Autum 1940, or winter of 1941 had France not collapsed.
Sure. Of the 24 British divisions named above, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 42nd, 44th, 46th, 48th, 50th, 52nd, as well as elements of the 1st Canadian, the 1st Armoured and the original 51st, had been in France, along with the 12th and 23rd; so, all things being equal, by the end of 1940, the BEF "could" have (presumably) numbered as follows:

1st,
2nd,
3rd,
4th,
5th,
12th,
23rd,
42nd,
44th,
46th,
48th,
50th,
51st (original)
52nd;
Canadian 1st
1st Armoured; with some or all of the following as possibilities:

9th,
15th,
18th,
38th,
43rd,
45th,
47th,
53rd,
54th,
55th,
56th,
59th,
61st;
and perhaps the 2nd Armoured Division;

30 in total. Three field armies, easily, (and nine or 10 corps) which presuming Gort remains in command with Pownall as CoS, and no one gets sacked, that suggests the three original corps commanders (Barker, Brooke, and Adam) as the field army commanders. Presume corps commanders, based on the three BEF corps' assorted CGs in 1940, might have included Alexander, Carr, Montgomery, Osborne, Marshall-Cornwall, and Desmond Anderson, plus (from the historical Home Forces corps CGs in 1940) Auchinleck, Nosworthy, ManNaughton, Franklyn, Holmes, Massy, and Thorne.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Feb 2022 05:18

Thanks again. Been reviewing this thread and looking at time available to collect all the relevant parts into one summary.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 06 Feb 2022 06:05

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
06 Feb 2022 05:18
Thanks again. Been reviewing this thread and looking at time available to collect all the relevant parts into one summary.
Sure. The British organized a number of armored division in 1941, and that required down-rating some infantry divisions, so I''ll take a look at Joslen to see how that played out; maybe post something else tomorrow.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Feb 2022 01:02

So here's a look at the British/Imperial/etc. "army" in 1941 based on Joslen and a couple of other sources, in the following regions, and at the divisional level:

North America (Canada)
Canadian 1st Armoured Division (to UK 1941); Canadian 3rd Division (to UK 1941), 4th Division (converted to armor and to UK in 1942)

UK
British Guards Armoured (formed 1941); 1st Armoured Division (to MENA in 1941); 6th Armoured (formed 1940); 8th Armoured (formed 1940, to MENA 1942); 9th Armoured (formed 1940); 11th Armoured (formed 1941);
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 15th, 18th (to Malaya, 1941), 38th (LE, 1941), 42nd (converted to armor in 1941); 43rd, 44th, 45th (LE, 1941), 46th, 47th (LE, 1941), 48th (LE, 1941), 49th (reformed, 1941), 50th (to MENA, 1941), 51st, 52nd, 53rd, 54th (LE, 1942), 55th (LE, 1942), 56th, 59th, 61st, 76th (formed as LE, 1941), 77th (formed as LE, 1941); 1st Airborne (formed 1941); Canadian 1st Division; Canadian 2nd Division; Polish "Corps" (mixed division in strength); Dorset (LE, disbanded 1941); Durham (LE, disbanded 1941); Essex (LE, disbanded 1941); Hampshire LE, disbanded 1941); Lincolnshire (LE, disbanded 1941); Northumberland (LE, disbanded 1941); Yorkshire LE, disbanded 1941);

Iceland
former 49th Division (2 brigades)

MENA - i.e. North Africa/Balkans/SW Asia (Libya to Iran, basically)
British 2nd Armoured (destroyed 1941); 7th Armoured; 10th Armoured (converted from 1st Cavalry in 1941); 6th Infantry (formed 1941); 4th Indian (Egypt/Libya); 5th Indian (Egypt/Libya); 6th Indian (Iraq); 8th Indian (Iraq/Iran); 10th Indian (Iraq/Iran);
South African 1st (arrived 1941; South African 2nd (arrived 1941); Australian 6th (Greece, then Syria); Australian 7th (Greece, Syria), Australian 9th (Libya/Egypt); New Zealand 2nd (Greece, then Egypt/Libya); French 1st Division (LE; ~2 brigades)

East Africa
11th African (LE, disbanded 1941); ); 12th African LE, disbanded 1943);

West Africa
n/a

South Africa
South African 3rd (formed 1940);

SEAC (India to Malaya)
India
Indian 1st Armoured (formed 1940, 31st in 1941); Indian 2nd Armoured (formed 1941, 32nd in 1941); 7th Indian (formed 1940); 14th Indian (formed 1941); 17th Indian (formed 1941); 19th Indian (formed 1941);
Burma
1st Burma (formed 1941)
Malaya
9th Indian (formed 1940); 11th Indian (formed 1940); Australian 8th (Malaya - 2 brigades; arrived 1941)

Southwest and South Pacific (Australia/Fiji/New Zealand)
Australian 1st Armoured (formed 1941); 1st Cavalry Division (formed Dec., 1941); 2nd Cavalry Division (formed Dec. 1941); 1st Division (same); 2nd Division (same); 3rd Division (same); 4th Division (same); New Zealand: ~3rd NZ Division (one brigade in Fiji);

So, in terms of "deployable" divisions that were raised in 1940 or earlier, in 1941, it looks like 22 British (four armoured, 18 infantry) and 2 Canadian infantry in the UK; 2 armoured (more or less) and 12 infantry (more or less) in MENA; and three in Malaya. Call it ~40, more or less, from the UK to Malaya, and including British, Indian, Australian, Canadian, South African, and New Zealand divisions; from what is readily available, there were - probably - the equivalent of a light, "limited establishment" division each of Poles and Free French, although more suited for limited duty/operational training assignments than anything else.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Feb 2022 03:03

Thanks again. What does 'LE' stand for?

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 14 Feb 2022 04:36

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
14 Feb 2022 03:03
Thanks again. What does 'LE' stand for?
Lower Establishment, so (basically) in terms of British divisions, some variation on a "light" or "county" division - coast area defense or a similar role with 2-3 infantry brigades and a limited amount of field artillery; in 1942-44, that transitioned to more of an operational training role, and eventually being drawn down/cadreed into nothingness.

Based on various sources, seems a safe bet that the LE divisions in the UK were functional home defense formations through 1942-43, but rapidly were drawn down to nothing (in terms of an operational, as opposed to administrative role) because of the need for replacements, especially in the 15th Army Group in 1943-45 and the 21st Army Group in 1944-45. There were also some fairly questionable manpower allocation decisions in the same period, so it's not quite cut and dried, and there were a couple of outliers, but overall, the above seems a fair general approximation.

Look for a mid-to-late 1942 version in the next few days. Some interesting developments.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Feb 2022 18:32

The US had no direct equivalent to the LE during the war Stripping replacements out of formations in the US for combat formations overseas was done in a few cases, but without any formal program. Prewar All the Regular Army & Army of the US or Reserve divisions were severely understrength. The Separate Regiments established 1941 were a vague equivalent as they were mostly used for continental defense & related tasks, then mostly dissolved & their strength used for replacements. Only a handful of the Separate Regiments were actually sent overseas.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by Aber » 14 Feb 2022 19:27

daveshoup2MD wrote:
14 Feb 2022 04:36
Lower Establishment, so (basically) in terms of British divisions, some variation on a "light" or "county" division - coast area defense or a similar role with 2-3 infantry brigades and a limited amount of field artillery; in 1942-44, that transitioned to more of an operational training role, and eventually being drawn down/cadreed into nothingness.
Some useful information on wiki eg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/76th_Infa ... d_Kingdom)

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 14 Feb 2022 21:33

Aber wrote:
14 Feb 2022 19:27
daveshoup2MD wrote:
14 Feb 2022 04:36
Lower Establishment, so (basically) in terms of British divisions, some variation on a "light" or "county" division - coast area defense or a similar role with 2-3 infantry brigades and a limited amount of field artillery; in 1942-44, that transitioned to more of an operational training role, and eventually being drawn down/cadreed into nothingness.
Some useful information on wiki eg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/76th_Infa ... d_Kingdom)
Thanks; yes, that's the sort of detail tried to summarize in the post above. In terms of readiness, seems fair that a British LE Division was comparable to the home service formations the Australians, Canadians, Indians, New Zealanders, and South Africans all formed; useful in home stations for a variety of tasks (and crucial when it came to replacements), but not the equivalent of (for example) the Allied divisions that left home and went overseas.

Having said that, there were partial exceptions, from time to time; the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade, part of ATF 9 for COTTAGE, was drawn from the Canadian 6th Division, a Home Service formation made up largely of NRMA personnel and formed as such in 1942; the South African 7th Infantry Brigade served in Madagascar in 1942, and saw limited action.
Last edited by daveshoup2MD on 15 Feb 2022 00:10, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: British Order of Battle

Post by daveshoup2MD » 14 Feb 2022 21:47

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
14 Feb 2022 18:32
The US had no direct equivalent to the LE during the war Stripping replacements out of formations in the US for combat formations overseas was done in a few cases, but without any formal program. Prewar All the Regular Army & Army of the US or Reserve divisions were severely understrength. The Separate Regiments established 1941 were a vague equivalent as they were mostly used for continental defense & related tasks, then mostly dissolved & their strength used for replacements. Only a handful of the Separate Regiments were actually sent overseas.
Think the closest US Army equivalents would have been the various regiments, groups, and battalions that were a) attached to the four CONUS defense commands in 1941-44 and then went to Replacement & School Command in 1944-45, where the fit were combed out as replacements and those not so available served to augment cadre for the training establishments, including putting the ASTP cadets and similar contingents that had previously been off limits, through infantry training.

That being said, anyone - and any unit - in the US active forces could be deployed overseas in WW II, as long as they were fit; there were not any combat arms units that were "set aside" for home defense, per se (unlike the majority of the AMF in Australia, the NRMA in Canada, the non-African Oath in SA, etc.

Being a GI for the duration+6 months meant just that, which was different than most of the Allies' policies.

In that sense, the only "designated" home defense forces were the state guards; open question on the organized defense reserves and territorial guard in Hawaii, which were organized (at various times) under territorial (state-level) and federal aegis. Possibly the same for the TG in Alaska. Dunno about Puerto Rico, the USVI, American Samoa, Guam, etc. Presume not, if only from practicality, but could be an interesting legal question. The PCA, obviously not; there's a reason the PS were resurrected in 1944-46.

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