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82nd (West Africa) Division
Active 1941 - 1945
Country British West Africa
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch Royal West African Frontier Force
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements Burma Campaign
Commanders
Notable
commanders
George McI. S. Bruce
Hugh Stockwell

The 82nd (West Africa) Division was formed under British control during World War II. It took part in the later stages of the Burma Campaign.

Contents

History

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Formation

The inspiration for the division's formation came from General George Giffard. He had extensive experience of leading East African troops, and early in World War II became the commander of Britain's West Africa Command. He was eager for troops from Britain's African colonies to play their part in the war. When he was subsequently appointed to command British India Command's Eastern Army, facing the Japanese army on the frontier between India and Burma, he requested that the two divisions being organised in West Africa be used in the Burma campaign.

The division was formed from the existing 1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade and 2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade, which had previously taken part in the East African Campaign in 1940 and 1941, and the 4th (Nigerian) Infantry Brigade, which was freshly raised. The Division's headquarters was created on 1 August, 1943. It followed the British 81st (West Africa) Division in the numbering sequence of British war-raised infantry divisions. The HQ took control of its sub-units on 1 November that year.

The division's formation sign was crossed spears on a porter's headband, in black (sometimes white) on a yellow shield.

Burma campaign

On 20 May, 1944, the division sailed for Ceylon, where the complete division was assembled on 20 July. In August the organisation was slightly changed with supporting arms (which had previously been dispersed between the brigades) being controlled by the division HQ. The division was organised on a "head load" basis with porters carrying all heavy equipment and supplies. Although many of the troops were from the savannah of northern Ghana and Nigeria, they were well-trained and effective when operating in jungle and mountains.

After further training, the division took part in the third Arakan campaign in December 1944 under Indian XV Corps. On 15 December the Division captured Buthidaung on the Kalapanzin River and created a bridgehead on the east bank of the river. This allowed allied troops to control the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road which had been contested for three years and enabled the transport of 650 river craft by road through railway tunnels to Buthidaung to supply Indian troops in the Mayu Range.

The 82nd Division then crossed a steep and jungle-covered mountain range to converge with the British 81st (West Africa) Division on Myohaung near the mouth of the Kaladan River. This move forced the Japanese to evacuate the Mayu peninsula which they had held for almost four years and retreat south along the coast. As they retreated, British commandos and units of the Indian 25th Infantry Division landed in inlets and chaungs ahead of them. Caught between the troops landing from the sea and the pursuing 82nd African Division, the Japanese suffered heavy casualties.

At this point, air supply was withdrawn from the Arakan front to allow the transport aircraft to supply the Allied forces in Central Burma. The 82nd Division's carrier battalions carried all supplies and equipment for the division from this point.

The Japanese 54th Division holding the Arakan was divided into two detachments holding the roads across the Arakan Hills leading from An and Taungup. The 82nd Division was asked to cross the Dalet Chaung and hilly terrain supplied by air to approach the An Pass from the north west. The 1st and 4th (Nigerian) Brigades suffered heavy casualties in opening the routes to Kaw and Kyweguseik in late February. The 4th Brigade even lost two of its commanding officers. By March, in coordination with Indian units the division captured Dalet Chaung and the strategic supply base of Tamandu.

The Gold Coast 2nd Brigade based at Letmauk subsequently became the target of intense Japanese counter-attacks, sustaining heavy casualties. They were forced to withdraw, covered by the 1st (Nigerian) Brigade. By sending long distance fighting patrols to harass the Japanese flanks the Nigerian unit was able to force a Japanese retreat and retake An on 13 May, 1945. Meanwhile, the main body of the division with the East African 22nd Brigade under command, advanced south from Tamandu. By the end of May Kindaungyyi, Taungup and Sandoway had been captured. Campaigning ceased during the monsoon rains but the war ended a few weeks later.

Memorials

During the third Arakan campaign, the 82nd Division suffered 2,085 casualties, the highest of any unit in XV Corps. Some of those killed were buried in jungle tracts, but many Nigerian graves remain in cemeteries at the Dalet Chaung near Tamandu and the Taukkyan War Cemetery. Others are remembered at the War Memorial in Rangoon.

Other commemorations of the division's (and its component formations') service are the names of Dodan, An, Myohaung, Arakan and Marda Barracks in Lagos; Letmauk Barracks in Ibadan; Dalet, Mogadishu, Colito and Kalapanzin Barracks in Kaduna; and, the Chindit Barracks in Zaria;

Order of Battle (as of 1 January, 1945)

General Officer Commanding : Major General George McIlree Stanton Bruce (replaced due to illness by Major General Hugh Charles Stockwell 12/01/1945)

1st (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
1st Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
2nd Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
3rd Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
2nd (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
1st Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
2nd Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
3rd Bn. The Gold Coast Regiment
4th (West Africa) Infantry Brigade
5th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
9th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
10th Bn. The Nigeria Regiment
Divisional Units
82nd (West Africa) Infantry Division Regiment (HQ Defence unit)
102 Light Regiment West African Artillery
1st Light Battery WAA
2nd Light Battery WAA
4th Light Battery WAA
42nd Mortar Regiment WAA
22nd Anti-Tank Regiment WAA
1st Field Company West African Engineers
2nd Field Company WAE
4th Field Company WAE
9th Field Park Company WAE

References

External links



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