3rd Infantry Division (United Kingdom): Wikis


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3rd (United Kingdom) Division
British 3rd Infantry Division2.png
Insignia of the 3rd Division
Active Since 18 June 1809
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Infantry
Size Five Brigades
Part of Land Command
Garrison/HQ Bulford, Wiltshire
Nickname Iron Sides
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Sabugal
Battle of Orthez
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of Fuentes de Onoro
Battle of Vitoria
Battle of Bussaco
Battle of the Pyrenees
Battle of Quatre Bras
Battle of Waterloo
Crimean War
Battle of Alma
Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855)
Second Boer War
First World War
Battle of Mons
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Ancre
Battle of Delville Wood
Battle of Arras 1917
Second World War
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
D-day landings
Battle of Normandy
Operation Market Garden
Overloon and Venraij
Rhine crossing
Major General J R Everard CBE
Thomas Picton
Charles Alten
Bernard Montgomery
William Ramsden
British Army Infantry Divisions (1914–present)
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2nd Infantry Division 4th Infantry Division

The 3rd Infantry Division, known at various times as the Iron Division, 3rd (Iron) Division or as Iron Sides[1]; is a regular army division of the British Army. It was created in 1809 by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsular War, and was known as the Fighting 3rd under Sir Thomas Picton during the Napoleonic Wars. The division is also sometimes referred to as the Iron Division, a nickname earned during the bitter fighting of 1916, during the First World War. The division's other battle honours include: the Battle of Waterloo, the Crimean War, the Second Boer War, the Battle of France (1940) and D-Day (1944). It was commanded for a time, during the Second World War, by Bernard Montgomery. The division was to have been part of a proposed Commonwealth Corps, formed for a planned invasion of Japan in 1945-46, but was disbanded when the war was ended by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During the Second World War, the insignia became the "pattern of three" — a black triangle trisected by an inverted red triangle.


Napoleonic Wars


Peninsular War

The Division was part of the British forces that took part in the Peninsular War and fought in the Battle of Sabugal, Battle of Orthez, Battle of Badajoz (1812), Battle of Salamanca, Battle of Nivelle, Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, Battle of Vitoria, Battle of Bussaco and the Battle of the Pyrenees

Peninsular War Formation

Battle of Vitoria example
Commanding General: Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton (7,500)

According to Picton, the fighting by the 3rd was so intense at the Battle of Vitoria, that the division lost 1,800 men (over one third of all Allied losses at the battle) having taken a key bridge and village, where they were subjected to fire by 40 to 50 cannons, and a counter-attack on the right flank (which was open because the rest of the army had not kept pace).[2] The 3rd held their ground and pushed on with other divisions to capture the village of Arinez.

Waterloo Campaign

Map of the Battle of Waterloo the 3rd Division holding the centre under Alten

The 3rd Division was also present at the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo.in the Waterloo campaign under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Alten K.C.B. (Count Carl von Alten)

Battle of Waterloo formation

5th Brigade

Major-General Sir Colin Halkett K.C.B.

2nd Brigade, King's German Legion

Brevet Colonel Baron Christian Freiherr von Ompteda

  • 1st Light Battalion
  • 2nd Light Battalion
  • 5th Line Battalion
  • 8th Line Battalion

1st Hanoverian Brigade

Major-General Friedrich, Graf von Kielmansegge

  • Field Battalion Bremen
  • Field Battalion 1st Duke of York's
  • Light Battalion Grubenhagen
  • Light Battalion Lüneburg
  • Field Battalion Verden
  • Field Jaeger Battalion (two companies)


Lieutenant Colonel John Samuel Williamson

  • Lloyd's Field Brigade R. A. 5/390 5x9lb guns 1x5.5inch Howitzer
  • Cleeves' Field Brigade King's German Legion 6/209 5x9lb guns 1x5.5inch Howitzer

Crimean War Formation

The 3rd Division took part in the Crimean War and fought in the Battle of Alma and the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855)

First World War

During the First World War it was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France at the outbreak of the war. It served on the Western Front for four years. During this time, it was nicknamed "The Iron Division". Its first commander during the war, Major-General Hubert Hamilton, was killed by shellfire near Béthune in October 1914.

First World War formation

7th Brigade (to 18 October 1915) 

The brigade moved to the 25th Division in October 1915 and was replaced by the 76th Brigade.

8th Brigade 

The following battalions joined the brigade for periods in 1914 and 1915.

The following battalions joined the brigade for periods in 1915 and 1916.

The following battalions left the brigade for the 76th Brigade when it joined the division in October 1915:

9th Brigade 

Other battalions to serve with the brigade were:

The brigade moved to the 28th Division for a brief period in early 1915.

76th Infantry Brigade (from 15 October 1915) 

The brigade joined the division from the 25th Division in October 1915.

After the end of the First World War, the division was stationed in southern England where it formed part of Southern Command. In 1937, one of its brigades was commanded by Bernard Montgomery. He assumed command of the division shortly before Britain declared war on Germany.

Second World War

The Division was part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk early in the Second World War.

After the evacuation, the Division spent four years training in the UK, in preparation for an eventual assault landing in Europe.

The Third Division was the first British division to land at Sword Beach on D-Day and fought through the Battle of Normandy, the Netherlands and later the invasion of Germany. For the campaign in Normandy, the division was commanded by Major General Thomas Rennie until 13 June 1944; Major General L.G. Whistler, a highly popular commander, took command on 23 June 1944.

During the often intense fighting from Sword Beach to Bremen, the Division suffered 2,586 killed. [3]

Post-Dunkirk Second World War formation

8th Brigade 
9th Brigade 
185th Brigade 
Divisional Troops

Post Second World War

Post war, the Division was reformed on 1 April 1951, in the Suez Canal Zone, under the command of Sir Hugh Stockwell. The division became part of Middle East Land Forces. It consisted of three recently reraised brigades, the 32nd Guards, the 19th Infantry, and the 39th Infantry. It served in the UK for many years; in 1968 it was part of the Army Strategic Command, comprising 5th, 19th, and 24th Brigades.[4] It was an armoured division in the British Army of the Rhine from 1976 to 1991. When its sub-units were Task Force Echo (TFE) and Task Force Foxtrot (TFF), these changed around 1980 to 6 Armoured Brigade and 33rd Armoured Brigade.

Current formation

Structure of 3rd Mechanized Div.

On 1 September 1999 the Division was freed from its administrative and regional responsibilities and it become a deployable or "fly-away" division.[5]

As 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division it is now the only division at continual operational readiness in the United Kingdom (the other at operational readiness being 1st (UK) Armoured Division in Germany). It is based at Bulford in Wiltshire and reports to the Commander Field Army within Headquarters Land Command at Wilton, Wiltshire.

Under the divisional command are four ready brigades and one logistics support brigade:

Recent Commanders

Recent Commanders have been:[6]


  1. ^ Delaforce, Patrick (1995). Monty's Iron Sides. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Allan Sutton Publishing. pp. ix. ISBN 0-7509-0781-9. 
  2. ^ Historical Record of the Seventy-fourth Regiment (Highlanders), Richard Cannon, Published by Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1847
  3. ^ Delaforce, Patrick (1995). Monty's Iron Sides. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Allan Sutton Publishing. pp. 206. ISBN 0-7509-0781-9. 
  4. ^ Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945-70, William Kimber, London, 1971.
  5. ^ Soldier Magazine, December 1998, p.13
  6. ^ Whitaker's Almanacks

External links


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