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56th (London) Infantry Division: Wikis


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56th (London) Infantry Division
British 56th (1st London) Division insignia.png
Active First World War
1908 - May 1919;
Second World War
June 1940 - April 1945
1947 - 1968
1987 - 1993
Country United Kingdom
Branch Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Gerald Templer
Montagu Stopford
Claude Liardet

The 56th (London) Infantry Division was a British Territorial Army division of the First and Second World War. The division's insignia was the sword from the coat of arms of the City of London.




First World War

During the First World War, the battalions of the division were initially used for garrison duty overseas (including Malta) or as reinforcements for other divisions. In January 1916 the division was deployed as a unit to France where it served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war. It was demobilised in May 1919.

Second World War

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, the division was mobilised as motorised infantry under the title of the 1st London Division. It was reorganised as an infantry division in June 1940 and redesignated as the 56th (London) Infantry Division on 18 November 1940. The divisional insignia during the Second World War was changed to an outline of a black cat in a red background. The cat stood for Dick Whittington's cat, a symbol of London.

The division remained in the United Kingdom during the Battle of France, moving to the Middle East in November 1942 where it served in Iraq and Palestine until moving to Egypt in March 1943 and thence forward to Libya, and the front, in April. The division sat out the Allied invasion of Sicily (except for the 168th Brigade, which was attached to the understrength 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and moved to Italy in September 1943 and saw service in the Battle of Monte Cassino, in January , serving there until March 1944 and participated in the Anzio Campaign. After being withdrawn to Egypt at the end of March, the division returned to Italy in July 1944 taking part in the Battles along the Gothic Line and remained there until after VE Day.

After crossing the Volturno in October 1943, the division entered the town of Calvi Vecchia. Their attempts to radio the United States Fifth Army to cancel a planned bombing on the town failed. As a last resort, the 56th released an American homing pigeon named G.I. Joe who carried a message that reached the allies just as the planes were being warmed up. The attack was called off and the division was spared.[1][2]

After the war, the division was reformed as the 56th (London) Armoured Division from 1947 until the Territorial Army was reorganised as the TAVR in 1967-8. The Division included 22nd Armoured Brigade and 168th Lorried Infantry Brigade, and the Inns of Court Yeomanry as the divisional reconnaissance regiment.

An echo of the division rose again for a time when the Public duties battalions within London District were grouped as 56th (London) Brigade from 1987 to 1993.

Order of Battle

First World War

August 1914

Second World War

The division comprised four infantry brigades:


First World War

Second World War

  • Enfidaville — 19 April 1943 - 29 April 1943
  • Tunis — 5 May 1943 - 12 May 1943
  • Salerno — 9 September 1943 - 18 September 1943
  • Capture of Naples — 22 September 1943 - 1 October 1943
  • Volturno Crossing — 12 October 1943 - 15 October 1943
  • Monte Camino — 5 November 1943 - 9 December 1943
  • Garigliano Crossing — 17 January 1944 - 31 January 1944
  • Anzio — 22 January 1944 - 22 May 1944
  • Gothic Line — 25 August 1944 - 22 September 1944
  • Coriano — 3 September 1944 - 15 September 1944
  • Rimini Line — 14 September 1944 - 21 September 1944
  • Lamone Crossing — 2 December 1944 - 13 December 1944
  • Argenta Gap — 12 April 1945 - 21 April 1945


  1. ^ Levi, Wendell (1977). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. ISBN 0853900132.  
  2. ^ D. Blechman, Andrew (2006). Pigeons: the fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird. New York: Grove Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-8021-1834-8.  

External links


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