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British Army 1660–1790 | British Army during the Napoleonic Wars |British Army during the Eighteenth Century | British Army during World War I | British Army in the Interwar Period | British Army during World War II | British Army during the Cold War | British Army since 1990

The British Army during the Second World War was, in 1939, a volunteer army, that introduced conscription shortly after the declaration of war with Germany. During the early years of the war, the army suffered defeat in almost every theatre it deployed. With mass conscription, the expansion of the army was reflected in the formation of larger armies and army groups. From 1943, the larger and better equipped British Army hardly suffered a strategic defeat.

The pre-war British Army was trained and equipped to garrison the British Empire and as became evident during the war was woefully unprepared and ill-equipped for a war with multiple enemies on multiple fronts. The army at the start of the war remained small in comparison to its enemies and up to 1939, would remain an all volunteer force; by the end of the war over 3.5 million men had served in the army.

The army was called upon to fight around the world, starting with campaigns in Europe in 1940, and after the Dunkirk evacuation fought on in Africa the Mediterranean and the Far East. After a series of setbacks, retreats and evacuations, the British Army eventually with its Allies gained the upper hand. This started with victory in Africa and then Italy was forced to surrender after the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy itself. In the last years of the war, the army returned to France, driving the German Army back into Germany and in the Far East forced the Japanese back from the Indian border into Burma. Both the Germans and Japanese were defeated by 1945, and surrendered within months of each other.

With the expansion of the British Army to fight a world war, new armies had to be formed, and eventually army groups were created to control even larger formations. In command of these new armies, eight men would be promoted to Field Marshal rank. The army commanders not only had to manage the new armies, but also a new type of soldier in formations like the Special Air Service, Army Commandos and the Parachute Regiment.

Contents

Organisation

Left to right Bernard Montgomery, Archibald Wavell and Claude Auchinleck who all rose to prominence during the war

Prior to the war the British Army was a small, professional army, designed to be able to win quick victories by utilising superior mobility and using technology in the place of manpower.[1] Nevertheless, its effectiveness was hampered by the doctrine of casualty avoidance - a measure adopted due to the high losses sustained in the First World War and because the army knew society, and the soldiers themselves, would never again allow them to recklessly throw away lives,[2][3] and a conservative tendency to consolidate gains made on the battlefield instead of aggressively exploiting its successes.[1] The structure of the army had been organized in such a way that it sacrificed fire power for mobility and removed the fire support weapons that were needed to advance, over the battlefield, away from its commanders.[1]

The army had analysed the lessons of the First World War and adopted them into inter-war doctrine, at the same time trying to predict how advances in weapons and technology might effect any future war.[4] In 1919, the Ten Year Rule was introduced, it stipulated, that the armed forces should draft their estimates "on the assumption that the British Empire would not be engaged in any great war during the next ten years". In 1928, Winston Churchill then Chancellor of the Exchequer, successfully urged the government to make the rule self-perpetuating and hence it was in force unless specifically countermanded.[5]

In the 1920s and much of the 1930s the General Staff tried to establish a small mechanized professional army, (see Experimental Mechanized Force) but with the lack of any identified threat the Army's main function was to garrison the British Empire.[6] During this time the army suffered from a lack of funding; the Royal Navy being the first line of defence, received the major proportion of the defence budget.[7] Second priority was the creation of a bomber force for the Royal Air Force (RAF), to retaliate against the expected attacks on British cities.[7] The development of Radar in 1935, and its ability to identify enemy aircraft, provided additional funding for the RAF to build a fighter aircraft force.[7] This lack of funding, and seeing no requirement for a large armoured forces to police the Empire, was reflected in the fact that no large scale armoured formations were formed until 1938;[7] by the outbreak of the war two armoured divisions had been formed,[8] in comparison to the seven armoured divisions of the German Army.[9]

In September 1939, the army had 892,697 officers and men. However the regular army could only muster 224,000 men who were supported by a reserve of 173,700 men; of these only 3,700 men were fully trained and the remainder had been in civilian life for up to 13 years.[10] The regular army was built around 30 cavalry or armoured regiments and 140 infantry battalions.[11] They were supported by the 438,100 strong Territorial Army with a reserve of around 20,750 men.[12] This force comprised 29 yeomanry regiments (eight still to be fully mechanized), 12 tank and 232 infantry battalions.[11] In April 1939, an additional 34,500 men had been conscripted into the regular Army and had only completed their basic training on the eve of war.[12]

On 3 September 1939, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 was rushed through parliament and conscription was introduced.[13] By the end of 1939, the Army had risen to 1.1 million men, by June 1940 it stood at 1.65 million men,[14] and further increased to 2.2 million men by the following June. The size of the Army peaked in June 1945 at 2.9 million men.[12] By the end of the war and the final demobilisations in 1946, over 3.5 million men had served in the British Army.[15]

By 1944, the army had seriously underestimated the casualties their forces would suffer in North West Europe, and the number of divisions that would be required to win the campaign. British manpower shortages became so grave that two infantry divisions (50th and 59th) had to be disbanded, and men from the anti-aircraft regiments of the Royal Artillery were retrained as infantry.[16]

The pre-war army had allowed recruits to be assigned to the corps of their wishes. This led to men being allocated to the wrong or unsuitable corps. The Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha attempted to address these problems, and the wider problems of the British army.[13] The process of allocating men would remain ad hoc at the start of the war. The army would be without the quotas of men required from skilled professions and trades, which modern warfare demanded. With the army being the least popular service compared to the navy and air force, a higher proportion of army recruits were said to be dull and backwards.[17]

The following memorandum to the Executive Committee of the Army Council highlighted the growing concern.

"The British Army is wasting manpower in this war almost as badly as it did in the last war. A man is posted to a Corps almost entirely on the demand of the moment and without any effort at personal selection by proper tests."[18]

Only with the creation of the Beveridge committee in 1941, and their subsequent findings in 1942, would the situation of skilled men not being assigned correctly be addressed. The findings led directly to the creation of the General Service Corps, and would remain in place long after the war.[19] In early 1939, conscription was introduced to meet the threat of Nazi Germany, with the Military Training Act of 27 April 1939. Initially, the Act required all men aged 20 and 21 to take six months military training, but after the declaration of war, it was extended to include all fit men between the ages of 18–41. Conscription was gradually brought in, starting in October 1939 and applying to all fit men between 20–23, and the age group was increased as the war continued.[20]

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Infantry division

Infantry Division Structure

The 1939, infantry division had an establishment of 13,863 men which by 1944, had risen to 18,347 men.[21] It typically had three infantry brigades, a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) battalion, (36 Vickers machine guns in three companies and one company of 16 4.2 inch Mortars) and a reconnaissance regiment provided by the Reconnaissance Corps(from 1944 onwards by the Royal Armoured Corps). The divisional artillery was entirely motorized and consisted of three field regiments of the Royal Artillery with 3 batteries each with 8x 25 pounder guns per battery, an anti-tank regiment with 4 batteries with 12x 2, 6 or 17 pounder guns per battery and a light anti-aircraft regiment with 3 batteries with 18 x Bofors 40 mm guns per battery.[22] The division also had Royal Engineer, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Corps of Signals, Royal Military Police and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers attachments.[22]

The Infantry brigade typically had a HQ company and three infantry battalions. Fire support was provided by the allocation of a MMG company, anti tank battery, Royal Engineer company and/or field artillery regiment as required.[23] Brigade Groups, which operated independently had Royal Engineer, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers units permanently assigned.

The infantry battalion consisted of the battalion Headquarters (HQ), HQ company (signals and administration platoons), four rifle companies (HQ and three rifle platoons) and a support company carrier platoon, mortar platoon, anti tank platoon and pioneer platoon).[24] The rifle platoon had a HQ which included the 2 inch mortar and anti tank weapon teams, three rifle sections each of seven riflemen and a three man Bren gun team.[25]

With the cavalry and armoured regiments now committed to the armoured divisions there were no units left for divisional reconnaissance, so the Reconnaissance Corps was formed; 10 infantry battalions were reformed as reconnaissance battalions.[26]

Armoured division

Armoured Division Structure 1940

The British Army raised 11 Armoured Divisions during the war. Only two did not see service.[27] At the start of the war, Britain possessed the Mobile Division, which was formed in October 1937,[28] followed by the Mobile Division (Egypt) in the autumn of 1938, following the Munich Crisis.[29] The Mobile Division was later redesignated the 1st Armoured in April 1939[30] while the Mobile Division (Egypt) became the 7th Armoured January 1940.[29]

The 2nd Armoured was formed in late 1939[nb 1] using, in part, brigades released following the reorganisation of 1st Armoured.[32] In 1940, three further armoured divisions were formed 6th, 8th and 9th. In 1941, they were joined by another four 10th, 11th, 42nd and Guards Armoured. The final division formed was the 79th Armoured in 1942. However, in April 1943 it was assigned to the development and use of specialised armour[27] and never acted as a division.[33]

The structure of British armoured divisions changed several times before and during the war. In 1937, the Mobile Division had two cavalry brigades each with three light tank regiments and a tank brigade with three medium tank regiments. The "Pivot Group" (later called the "Support Group") contained two motorised infantry battalions and two artillery regiments.[30] The Mobile Division (Egypt) had a light armoured brigade, a cavalry brigade, a heavy armoured group of two regiments and a pivot group.[29]

By 1939, the intention was for an Armoured Division to consist of two armoured brigades, a support group and divisional troops. The armoured brigades would each be composed of three armoured regiments with a mixture of light and medium tanks, with a total complement of 220 tanks, while the support group would be composed of two motorised infantry battalions,[34][35] two field artillery regiment, one anti–tank regiment and one anti–aircraft regiment.[36]

In late 1940, following the campaign in France, the divisions were reorganised on paper. It had been realised that mixing light and cruiser tanks in the same brigade had been a mistake and that there were insufficient infantry and support units within the division. Each armoured brigade now incorporated a motorised infantry battalion, and a third battalion was present within the Support Group.

Valentine tank in the desert, carrying an infantry section

In the winter of 1940–41, new armoured regiments were formed from converting the cavalry and yeomanry regiments. A year later 33 infantry battalions were also converted to armoured regiments.[26]

By the Second Battle of El Alamein, in late 1942, the Army had realised an entire infantry brigade was needed within each division, but until mid 1944, the idea that the armoured and motorised infantry brigades should fight separate albeit coordinated battles persisted.[37] By the Battle of Normandy in 1944, the divisions consisted of an armoured brigade of three armoured regiments and a motorised infantry battalion, and an infantry brigade containing three motorised infantry battalions. The division's support troops included an armoured car regiment, armoured reconnaissance regiment, two field artillery regiments (one equipped with 24 Sexton self-propelled 25-pounder guns), one anti–tank regiment (with one or more batteries equipped with Archer or Achilles tank destroyers in place of towed anti–tank guns) and one light anti–aircraft regiment, with the usual assortment of engineers, mechanics, signals, transport, medical, and other support services.[25][38][39] The armoured reconnaissance regiment was equipped with medium tanks, bringing the armoured divisions to a strength of 246 medium tanks[40] (roughly 340 tanks in total)[25] compared to the 186 tanks of the paper average strength German Panzer Division or the 168 medium tanks of an American armoured division (251 tanks in total). The divisions had 19 infantry companies totalling around 3,400 men compared to the 3,000 men in the American rifle companies or the 7,000 men in the 24 companies of the Waffen-SS Panzer Divisions.[40]

Armoured Division Structure 1944

During the battle of Normandy, the 7th Armoured Division instituted a flexible structure prior to the Battle of Villers-Bocage in early June 1944. Similar structures would not be adopted by the other armoured divisions until after Operation Goodwood,[41] when Lieutenant-General Richard O’Connor ordered the Guards and 11th Armoured Divisions to organise themselves on a similar basis.

The divisions operated from then on as two brigade groups, each of two combined arms teams, each in turn of one tank regiment and one infantry battalion.[42] (The division's armoured reconnaissance regiment was matched with the armoured brigade’s motor battalion to provide the fourth group). From this point on, the infantry would now ride on the backs of tanks to provide instant support to the armour.[43]

In 1944 the division’s armoured regiments comprising 78 tanks.[25] The regimental headquarters was equipped with four medium tanks, the Anti–Aircraft Troop comprising eight Crusader Anti–Aircraft tanks, and the regiment’s Reconnaissance Troop contained 11 Stuart tanks.[44][nb 2] Each regiment also had three Sabre squadrons;[25] generally comprising four troops, of four tanks, and a squadron headquarters of three tanks. The Sabre Squadrons contained three close support tanks, 12 medium tanks, and four Sherman Fireflys.[44][nb 3] Additionally 18 tanks were allocated to the armoured brigade headquarters and a further ten to the division’s headquarters.[25]

Artillery

Artillery could be found in most divisions and normally consisted of three field, one anti–tank and one anti–aircraft artillery regiments.[47]

25 pounders firing in support of the Guards Armoured Division September 1944

The main artillery weapon of the war was the 25 pounder, with a range of 13,400 yards (12,300 m) for the Mk II model, Employed in a direct fire role it became the most effective anti–tank weapon until the 6 Pounder anti–tank gun became available. One shortcoming of using the 25 pounder in this role was it effectiveness above 1,200 yards (1,100 m) was limited and it deprived the army of indirect fire support.[48]

The medium artillery relied on World War I vintage guns until the arrival in 1941, of the 4,5 Medium gun with a range of 20,500 yards (18,700 m) for a 55 pounds (25 kg) shell. This was followed in 1942, by the 5.5 Medium gun which had a range of 18,600 yards (17,000 m) for a 80 pounds (36 kg) shell.[49]

During the war, brigade–sized formations of artillery, referred to as Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA), were formed.[50] Each AGRA provided direct support to an army corps, with 4.5 inch guns and 5.5 inch guns.[51] The artillery also formed 12 Anti–aircraft divisions, these divisions equipped with 3 inch and 3.7 inch anti–aircraft guns were deployed around Britain and also controlled the searchlight and barrage balloon batteries.[52]

Special Forces

Special Air Service North Africa 1943

In 1940 the British Commandos were formed following Winston Churchill's call for "specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast."[53] By 1941, the Commandos were carrying out raids on the German occupied Norwegian coast in Operation Claymore and Operation Archery and in 1942, they formed the assault troops for the St Nazaire Raid. They eventually formed 30 battalion-sized commando units (including 8 Royal Marines units), some of which were organised within four brigades; 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Commando Brigades.[53]

Impressed by the German Fallschirmjäger, Winston Churchill called for the formation of a similar elite corps of troops.[54] The Parachute Regiment was created and by the end of the war would form 17 battalions.[54] Their first action was the Bruneval Raid in 1942. The Parachute battalions formed the core of the 1st and 6th airborne divisions and the independent 2nd British Parachute Brigade.[55] They also supplied battalions for the 50th and 77th Indian Parachute Brigades.[56]

Among units which operated as smaller bodies were the Long Range Desert Group, formed in North Africa to report on movements and activities behind the German and Italian lines.[57] The Special Air Service was formed in 1941, for raiding missions behind the lines,[58] and later the Special Air Service Brigade was formed to support the Normandy landings.[59] Popski's Private Army formed in August 1942, was also tasked with missions behind the lines to gather intelligence, blow up installations and ambush small patrols.[60] The Special Interrogation Group was a unit formed from anti-Nazi Germans and Palestinian Jews of German origin under British officers, they wore German equipment, spoke German and lived everyday life as members of the Africa Corps.[61] The Special Boat Service was formed from the Folboat Section later the Special Boat Section of No 8 Commando.[61]

A little known force that never saw combat were the Auxiliary Units, a specially trained and secret organisation that, in the event of an invasion, would provide resistance behind the lines.[62] Auxiliary Units were well equipped and supplied with food for 14 days, which was their expected lifespan.[62] Selected for aptitude and local knowledge, men were mostly recruited from the Home Guard, which also provided a cover for their existence.[62] In addition, the Special Duties Section was recruited to provide an intelligence gathering service, spying on enemy formations and troop movements. Reports were to be collected from dead letter drops and relayed by radio operators of the Royal Signals from secret locations.[62]

Auxiliary Territorial Service Searchlight Unit

Auxiliary Territorial Service

The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) was the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in September 1938, enlistment was open to woman aged 18 upwards who could enlist for general or local service (Local service they served in their own local area, General service they could be sent where they were needed and could be anywhere in the country).[63] The ATS served in non combat roles as cooks, clerks and storewoman.[64] Large numbers of ATS also served with the artillery divisions as crews for the guns,s# searchlights and barrage balloons.[49] One notable ATS member was No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor. Who trained as a driver and mechanic, drove a military truck, and rose to the rank of Junior Commander.[65] She is the last surviving head of state who served in uniform during the Second World War.[66]

Home Guard

Home Guard post central London June 1940

The Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) or Home Guard was formed early in 1940. Civilians aged between 17–65, who were not in military service, were asked to enlist in the LDV.[67] The response was 250,000 volunteers attempting to sign up in the first seven days; by July this had increased to 1.5 million volunteers.[68] On 17 May the LDV achieved official legal status when the Privy Council issued the Defence (Local Defence Volunteers) Order in Council, and orders were issued from the War Office to regular Army headquarters throughout Britain explaining the status of LDV units; volunteers would be divided into sections, platoons and companies but would not be paid and leaders of units would not hold commissions or have the power to command regular forces.[69] The issue of weapons to LDV units was solved when emergency orders were placed for First World War vintage Ross Rifles from Canada and Pattern 1914 Enfield and M1917 Enfield rifles from the United States.[70]

Comparison of equipment

The Light Tank Mk VI When the Battle of France began, the majority of the tanks possessed by the BEF were Mark VI variants.[71]

The British tank force consisted of the slow and heavily armed Infantry tank, together with the faster and lighter Cruiser tank. The Cruiser tanks were intended to operate independently of the slow-moving infantry and their heavier Infantry tanks.[7] The British doctrine at the time did not foresee the armoured division having a role in its own right and was assigned the traditional cavalry role. They would then deploy independent tank brigades equipped with the infantry tanks to operate with the infantry.[7] German panzer and light divisions were equipped with the latest Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, which could out gun all British tanks.[72] By 1942, American Grant and Lend-Lease Sherman tanks entered British service, these tanks with a 75mm gun, and the ability to fire high explosive and anti tank rounds, were better than any other tank then in British service.[73] A British development of the Sherman led to the Sherman Firefly, which was the only tank able to effectively defeat German Panther, Tiger I and Tiger II tanks at range, until the Comet tank entered service in late 1944.[74]

The British divisional anti tank weapon was the Ordnance QF 2 pounder, which had three times the range of the German 3.7 cm PaK 36.[75] Only with the development of the 17 pounder anti tank gun in 1943, did the artillery have the ability to knock out Tiger tanks at a maximum range of 1 mile (1.6 km).[76] The other British artillery guns in 1939, were the 6 inch howitzer left over from World War I, and the 25 pounder.

Infantry armed with a Bren Gun a Universal Carrier can be seen in the background

In the evacuation from France the artillery left behind 1,000 field and 600 anti tank guns. Much of what was lost was obsolete and the re equipment programme produced the mass of artillery, that proved decisive from 1942 onwards.[77] Self propelled artillery guns used were the German Wespe and Hummel against the Allied Bishop, Deacon, Priest and Sexton.[78]

For the infantry the German MP 38/40 sub machine gun took the British by surprise, and the army issued an urgent requirement for its own sub machine gun, the Sten gun was accepted and between 1941 and 1945, some 3,750,000 were produced.[79] The British Bren light machine gun with a rate of fire of 500 rounds a minute and 30 round magazine,[80] come up against the German MG 42 which had a rate of fire of 1,500 rounds per minute and ammunition belts of 200 rounds,[81] The standard British rifle was the bolt action Lee Enfield Rifle, No. 4 Mk I that outmatched the standard German rifle of the war, the Karabiner 98k; later German rifles included the Semi-automatic rifles Gewehr 41, Gewehr 43 and the first assault rifle the StG 44.[82]

Armies

First Army

The First Army was formed to command the British and American forces that were part of Operation Torch, the assault landings in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November 1942. It was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Anderson.[83] It eventually consisted of four corps, the V Corps, IX Corps, United States II Corps and French XIX Corps.[84]

Second Army

The Second Army was commanded by Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey and served under the 21st Army Group.[85] It was responsible for the Anglo-Canadian assault beach landings in Normandy on D Day. Two of its formations, I Corps and XXX Corps took part in the D-Day landings at Sword Beach and Gold Beachs, during Operation Overlord. VIII Corps, entered the line during mid-June to add its weight to the assault, followed by XII Corps[86] and II Canadian Corps[87] On 23 July 1944 I Corps was transferred to the newly activated First Canadian Army,[88] were it would remain until March 1945,[89] followed by the II Canadian Corps at noon on 31 July.[90]

Eighth Army

The Eighth Army was formed from the Western Desert Force in September 1941,[91] under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Alan Cunningham.[92] Over time Eighth Army would be commanded by Neil Ritchie, Claude Auchinleck and Bernard Montgomery.[92] In the early years of the war Eighth Army suffered from poor leadership and repeated reversals of fortune until the Second Battle of El Alamein when it advanced across Libya into Tunisia and joined the First Army in 18th Army Group.[92]

Ninth Arny

The Ninth Army was formed on 1 November 1941 with the re designation of the Headquarters of the British Troops in Palestine and Transjordan. It controlled British and Commonwealth land forces stationed in the eastern Mediterranean. Its commanders were General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson and Lieutenant-General Sir William George Holmes.[93][94][95]

Tenth Army

The Tenth Army was formed in Iraq and from the major part of Paiforce after the Anglo-Iraqi War. It was active in 1942 and 1943, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Quinan and consisted of the III Corps and the Indian XXI Corps.[96] Its main task was the maintenance of the lines of communication to the Soviet Union from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian and the protection of the South Persian and Iraqi oilfields which supplied Britain with all its non American sourced oil.[97]

Twelfth Army

The Twelfth Army was originally formed for Operation Husky the invasion of Sicily.[98] It was reformed in May 1945, to take control of operations in Burma from the Fourteenth Army. The army Headquarters was created by re designating the Headquarters of the Indian XXXIII Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir Montagu Stopford.[98]

Fourteenth Army

The Fourteenth Army was a multinational force comprising units from Commonwealth countries, many of its units were from the Indian Army as well as British units and there were also significant contributions from 81st, 82nd and 11th African divisions. It was often referred to as the "Forgotten Army" because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press, and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war.[99] It was formed in 1943, under the command of Lieutenant-General William Slim. The Fourteenth Army was the largest Commonwealth Army during the war, with nearly a million men by late 1944. It was composed of four corps: IV Corps, XV Corps, XXXIII Corps and the XXXIV Corps.[98] The only complete British formations were the 2nd Infantry Division and 36th Infantry Division, however the number of British infantry battalions serving in the theatre was the equivalent of eight infantry divisions.[100]

Army Groups

Eleventh Army Group

The 11th Army Group was activated in November 1943 to act as the land forces HQ for the newly formed South East Asia Command. Its commander was General George Giffard, who had formerly been Commander-in-Chief West Africa Command and Commander of Eastern Army (part of British India Command).[101] In November 1944, 11th Army Group was re designated the Allied Land Forces South East Asia, under command of Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese.[102]

Fifteenth Army Group

The 15th Army Group was activated in May 1943, after the surrender of all Axis forces in Tunisia.[103] The commander was Field Marshal Harold Alexander and was responsible for mounting the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. It had control of two armies: Eighth Army under command of Montgomery and U.S. Seventh Army under command Lieutenant General George S. Patton. After Sicily, and in preparation for the allied invasion of Italy, the Seventh Army headquarters were replaced by those of the U.S. Fifth Army, under Mark Clark.[103]

Eighteenth Army Group

The 18th Army Group was activated in early 1943, when the Eighth Army advancing from the east and First Army from the west came close enough to require coordinated command during the Tunisia Campaign. It was commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.[104]

Twenty First Army Group

The 21st Army Group initially controlled all ground forces in Operation Overlord.[105] The 21st Army Group main components were the British 2nd Army and the First Canadian Army. Also included were Polish units and from Normandy onwards and small Dutch, Belgian, and Czech units. However the Lines of Communications units were predominantly British. Other Armies that came under command of 21st Army Group were the First Allied Airborne Army, the U.S. First Army for Overlord,[106] and the U.S. Ninth Army; as a result of the disruption to the chain of command during the Battle of the Bulge and as reinforcement for the drive to the Rhine, Operations Veritable and Grenade.[107] The U.S. Ninth Army again and the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps were under command for the Rhine river crossings Operations Plunder and Varsity.[108]

After the German surrender, 21st Army Group was converted into the headquarters for the British zone of occupation in Germany. It was renamed the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) on 25 August 1945, and eventually formed the nucleus of the British forces stationed in Germany throughout the Cold War.[109]

Campaigns

1939–1940

On the outbreak of war the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), John Gort, was given command of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF),[110] and was succeeded as CIGS by Edmund Ironside.[111]

The BEF that was sent to France after the declaration of war consisted initially of 160,000 men in two Corps each of two infantry divisions. The I Corps commanded by John Dill,[112](1st and 2nd Divisions) and the II Corps commanded by Alan Brooke,[113] (3rd and 4th Divisions), the 5th Division arrived in France in December 1939, the first Territorial divisions arrived in January 1940, (48th, 50th and the 51st Divisions). The 51st Division was sent to the Saar to assist the French garrison on the Maginot line while the rest of the BEF deployed along the French—Belgian border.[114] In April 1940, reinforcements arrived three first line Territorial divisions, (42nd, 44th, 46th) and two second line Territorial divisions (12th and 23rd), and in May 1940, the 1st Armoured Division.[115]

The Germans invaded in the West on 8 May, 1940, by that time BEF consisted of 10 divisions, a tank brigade and a detachment of 500 aircraft from the RAF.[116] During the Battle of France the speed of the German advance pushed them back,[117] and after a brief armoured counter attack by 50th (Northumbrian) Division, plus 74 tanks from the 1st Army Tank Brigade at Arras on 21 May, most of the BEF withdrew to Dunkirk.[118] The evacuation Operation Dynamo, began on 26 May; with over 330,000 British and French troops being evacuated by 4 June, and another 220,000 evacuated from other French ports.[119] The British Army was saved but it had to leave much of its equipment behind.[119]

However the British Army's first encounter with the Germans had been in the Norwegian Campaign, following the German invasion on 9 April 1940.[120] The British had responded by sending troops to Åndalsnes, Namsos, and Narvik.[121] After the German invasion of the Low Countries, the British Government's attention was diverted and the British force had to be evacuated on 8 June.[121]

The occupation of Norway led to a possible German presence in Iceland, this along with the island's strategic importance, alarmed the British.[122] On May 10, 1940, British troops carried out the Invasion of Iceland "to insure the security of Iceland against a German invasion".[123] The initial force of Royal Marines was replaced on 17 May, by the British 147th Infantry Brigade, followed by the rest of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division.[124]

After Italy declared war in June 1940, the British forces in Somaliland were put under the command of Arthur Reginald Chater, of the Somaliland Camel Corps.[125] At the start of August, Chater had about 4,000 soldiers from the Somaliland Camel Corps, 2nd (Nyasaland) Battalion (Btn) King's African Rifles (KAR), 1st Btn Northern Rhodesia Regiment, 3rd Btn 15th Punjab Regiment, 1st Btn 2nd Punjab Regiment, 1st Btn 2nd Punjab Regiment and 2nd Btn Black Watch.[126][127][128] The East African campaign started in August 1940, when the Italians attacked British Somaliland. The British were defeated after a brief campaign when faced with the Italian force of 23 colonial battalions in five brigades.[129] The British Official History of events,records the total British casualties were 260 and Italian losses were estimated at 2,052.[130]

Battle Area of the Western Desert Libya and Egypt

In the North African Campaign, the Italian invasion of Egypt, started in September 1940.[131] The Western Desert Force commanded by Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor had 36,000 men under command based within Egypt. The Commander in Chief, Middle East Command was Archibald Wavell.[132] Units available were: one brigade of the 2nd New Zealand Division, two brigades of the 4th Indian Infantry Division, the understrength 7th Armoured Division, a weakened cavalry regiment, a machine gun battalion and 14 infantry battalions, all short of equipment and artillery.[133] These troops had to defend both Egypt and the Suez Canal against an estimated 215,000 Italian troops in Libya, and an estimated 200,000 troops in Italian East Africa.[131] The British responded to the invasion of Egypt by launching Operation Compass in December, with the 4th Indian Infantry Division, 7th Armoured Division and from 14 December, troops of the 6th Australian Infantry Division, replaced the 4th Indian Division.[134]

1941

Matilda tank hidden near the front in the Western Desert June 1941

Operation Compass was a success and the Western Desert Force advanced across Libya capturing Cyrenaica, 115,000 Italian soldiers, hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces and more than 1,100 aircraft with very few casualties of their own.[135] Following the operation the Western Desert Force, now renamed XIII Corps and reorganised under HQ Cyrenaica Command, adopted a defensive posture.[136] Over the next few months O'Connor became commander of British Troops Egypt while, Henry Maitland Wilson became military governor of Cyrenaica.[137] Two experienced divisions were redeployed to Greece and the 7th Armoured Division, was withdrawn to the Nile Delta for refitting.[137][138] XIII Corps was left with the newly arrived 2nd Armoured Division and the 9th Australian Division; both formations were inexperienced, ill–equipped, and in the case of the 2nd Armoured, under strength.[139][140] In Egypt the 6th Infantry Division was being formed, from various battalions, but had no artillery or support arms.[141]

After Operation Compass the Italians despatched the Ariete and Trento divisions to North Africa,[142] and from February, to early May, Operation Sonnenblume saw the German Afrika Korps arrive in Tripoli to reinforce the Italians. Commanded by Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel the 5th Light and 15th Panzer divisions, went on the offensive.[143] The offensive destroyed the 2nd Armoured Division and forced the British and Commonwealth forces into retreat.[144] During the offensive, Lieutenant-General Philip Neame and Lieutenant-General Richard O'Connor, were captured, and the British command structure had to be reorganised. HQ Cyrenaica was dissolved on 14 April and its command functions taken over by the reactivated HQ Western Desert Force under Lieutenant-General Noel Beresford-Peirse. The Australian 9th Infantry Division fell back to the port of Tobruk,[145] and the remaining British and Commonwealth forces withdrew a further 100 miles (160 km) east to Sollum on the Libyan–Egyptian border.[146]

In May, the 22nd Guards Brigade and elements of the 7th Armoured Division launched Operation Brevity;[147] conceived as a rapid blow in the Sollum area, intended to create advantageous conditions from which to launch Operation Battleaxe, the main offensive that was planned for June. Its objectives were to recapture the Halfaya Pass, drive the enemy from the Sollum and Capuzzo areas, and to deplete Rommel's forces. A secondary objective was to advance towards Tobruk, although only as far as supplies would allow, and without risking the force committed to the operation. However the operation was inconclusive and only succeeded in retaking the Halfaya Pass.[148][149]

A Crusader tank passes a burning German Panzer IV.

The follow up to Brevity was Operation Battleaxe, involving the 7th Armoured Division, 22nd Guards Brigade and 4th Indian Infantry Division from XIII Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General Noel Beresford-Peirse. Battleaxe was also a failure, with the British forces defeated, Churchill wanted a change in command, so Wavell exchanged places with General Claude Auchinleck, as Commander-in-Chief, India.[150]

The desert force was now reorganized into XXX Corps and XIII Corps and renamed the Eighth Army under command of Lieutenant-General Alan Gordon Cunningham.[151] Their next attack Operation Crusader was a success, and Rommel withdraw to the defensive line at Gazala, and then all the way back to El Agheila. Crusader was the first victory over the Germans by British led forces in the war.[152]

On 11 December, General Wavell ordered the Indian 4th Infantry Division to withdraw from Operation Compass to take part in an offensive against Italian forces in Italian East Africa alongside the Indian 5th Infantry Division.[153] Both divisions faced vastly superior Italian forces (ten divisions in total) that threatened the Red Sea supply routes to Egypt as well as Egypt and the Suez Canal itself.[131] The East African campaign culminated in March 1941, with a British victory in the Battle of Keren.[154]

Having guaranteed to come to the aid of Greece in the event of war, Britain became involved in the Battle of Greece, and on 2 March Operation Lustre began which sent 62,000 troops to Greece.[155] The Commonwealth force comprised the Australian and New Zealand Divisions withdrawn from the desert, and the British 1st Armoured Brigade.[156] 'W' Force, as they became known after their commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson,[141] was too small and could not stop the Axis advance and was ordered to evacuate. The evacuation began on 24 April and by 30 April about 50,000 troops had been evacuated, the remaining 7–8,000 troops were captured by the Germans.[157]

The Battle of Crete followed, the force consisted of the original 14,000 British garrison and another 25,000 Commonwealth troops evacuated from Greece.[158] The units involved were the British 14th Infantry Brigade, 2nd New Zealand Division (less the 6th Brigade and division headquarters), and the 19th Australian Brigade Group. In total, about 15,000 British and Commonwealth infantrymen, reinforced by about 5,000 non infantry personnel, and one composite Australian artillery battery.[159] After a brief campaign 15,000 men were evacuated by the Royal Navy, leaving some 12,000 Allied troops, behind most taken as prisoners of war.[158]

British troops looking at Baghdad, 11 June 1941

The British in the Anglo-Iraqi War had to contend with the four infantry divisions of the Royal Iraqi Army (RIrA).[160] The war lasted from 2–31 May, with the British forces grouped together in Iraqforce.[161]

The Syria-Lebanon Campaign, was the invasion of Vichy French controlled Syria and Lebanon, in June–July 1941.[162] The British and Commonwealth forces involved were the British 1st Cavalry Division, British 6th Infantry Division, 7th Australian Division, 1st Free French Division and the Indian 10th Infantry Division.[163]

The Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in August–September by British, Dominion and Soviet Union forces, was to secure the Iranian oil fields and ensure supply lines in the Persian Corridor.[164] The invasion from the South, was known as Iraqforce, under the command of General Edward Quinan.[96] Iraqforce was made up of the 8th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions, Indian 2nd Armoured Brigade Group, British 4th Cavalry Brigade and the Indian 21st Infantry Brigade.[165]

In the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War, the battle of Hong Kong began on 8 December 1941;[166] the British defenders were from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), 1st Battalion The Middlesex Regiment with supporting artillery and engineer units.[167] The garrison also included British Indian Army battalions, two Canadian battalions and the locally raised, Hong Kong Chinese Regiment and the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps.[167] By the afternoon of 25 December 1941, it was clear that further resistance would be futile and after holding out for 17 days Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese.[168]

On the Malay Peninsula the Japanese Invasion of Malaya also started on 8 December 1941, Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival had nearly 90,000 troops from Britain, India, and Australia.[169] During the Battle of Malaya the Japanese advanced 600 miles (970 km) in 70 days and forced Singapore to surrender in the new year.[169]

1942

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrenders Singapore to the Japanese

In the Far East Malaya Command defended stubbornly but were gradually pushed back, until the battle of Singapore, which surrendered 15 February 1942.[170] About 100,000 troops became prisoners of war during the Battle of Malaya.[170] Winston Churchill called the fall of Singapore the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British history.[171] The Japanese conquest of Burma started in January.[172] It was soon apparent that the British and Indian troops in the Burma campaign were too few in number, wrongly equipped and inadequately trained for the terrain and conditions. The force of about 60,000 troops retreated 1,000 miles (1,600 km), and reached Assam in India in May.[172] In spite of their difficulties, the British mounted a small scale offensive into the coastal Arakan region of Burma, in December.[173] The offensive under General Noel Irwin was intended to reoccupy the Mayu peninsula and Akyab Island. The 14th Indian Infantry Division had advanced to Donbaik, only a few miles from the end of the peninsula, when they were halted by a smaller Japanese force and the offensive was a total failure.[173]

Matilda tanks move forward at Tobruk 1942

In North Africa the Axis forces attacked in May, defeating the Allies in the Battle of Gazala in June and capturing Tobruk and 35,000 prisoners.[174] The Eighth Army retreated over the Egyptian border, where the German advance was stopped in the First Battle of El Alamein.[175] General Claude Auchinleck, who had assumed command of the Eighth Army following the defeat at Gazala,[175] was sacked and replaced by General Harold Alexander, at the same time Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was given command of the Eighth Army.[176] The Axis forces made a new attempt to break through to Cairo in August, in the Battle of Alam el Halfa but were stopped after the British fought a purely defensive battle.[177] The Eighth Army launched a new offensive in October the Second Battle of El Alamein, decisively defeating the Axis forces.[177] Eighth Army then advanced westward, capturing 10,000 German and 20,000 Italian prisoners, 450 tanks and 1,000 guns.[177]

In France the Dieppe raid was carried out in August, the main assault was by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, supported by British Commandos. The landing failed to capture any German strong points and resulted in heavy casualties.[178] The raid was justified by arguing that lessons learned at Dieppe, were put to good use later in the war.[179] The Chief of Combined Operations Louis Mountbatten later claimed, “I have no doubt that the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man who died in Dieppe at least ten more must have been spared in Normandy in 1944."[180]

Following their experiences at Dieppe, the British developed a whole range of specialist vehicles nicknamed Hobart's Funnies. These vehicles were used successfully by the 79th Armoured Division in the British and Canadian landings in Normandy in 1944.[181]

On 8 November in French North Africa, Operation Torch was launched.[182] The British part of the Eastern Task force, landed at Algiers.[182] The task force commanded by Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson, consisted of two brigades from British 78th Infantry Division, the US 34th Infantry Division and two Commando battalions. The Tunisia Campaign started with, the Eastern Task Force, now re designated First Army, and composed of the British 78th Infantry Division, 6th Armoured Division, British 1st Parachute Brigade, 6 Commando Btn and elements of U.S. 1st Armored Division.[182] However the advance was stopped by the reinforced Axis forces,[182] and forced back having failed in the Run for Tunis.[183]

In May to prevent Japanese naval forces capturing Vichy French controlled Madagascar, the Battle of Madagascar was launched.[184]

British troops land at Tamatave, Madagascar

The British 5th Infantry Division, as well as the British 29th Infantry Brigade, and commandos were landed at Courrier Bay and Ambararata Bay, west of the major port of Diego Suarez, on the northern tip of Madagascar.[185] The Allies eventually captured the capital, Tananarive, without much opposition, and then the town of Ambalavao. The last major action was at Andriamanalina on 18 October and the Vichy French forces surrendered near Ilhosy, on 8 November.[186]

1943

January 1943, in North Africa German and Italian troops retreating westwards reached Tunisia. The Eighth Army, stopped around Tripoli for reinforcements to catch up.[187] In the West, the First Army had received three more divisions, British 1st Infantry Division, British 4th Infantry Division and British 46th Infantry Division, joined the British 6th Armoured and 78th Infantry Divisions. By late March a second Corps headquarters, British IX Corps under Lieutenant-General John Crocker had arrived to join V Corps in controlling the expanded army.[188] During the first half of January First Army had kept up the pressure on the Axis forces, with limited attacks and by reconnaissance in strength.[189] First Army came under attack at Faïd Pass on 14 January and the Americans at Kasserine Pass on 19 January, with the 1st Infantry Brigade engaging the 21st Panzer Division. The American forces retreated in disarray until heavy Allied reinforcements blunted the Axis advance on 22 January.[187]

General Harold Alexander arrived in Tunisia in late February to take charge of 15th Army Group created to control both the First and Eighth Armies and the Allied forces already fighting in Tunisia.[104] The Axis forces attacked again on 6 March, (Operation Capri), but were easily repulsed by Eighth Army.[187]

The First and the Eighth Armies attacked in March (Operation Pugilist) and April (Operation Vulcan).[187] Hard fighting followed, and the Axis supply line was cut between Tunisia and Sicily. On 6 May, during Operation Vulcan, the British took Tunis, and American forces reached Bizerte. By 13 May the Axis forces in Tunisia had surrendered leaving 130,000 prisoner behind.[190]

1943 Map of the invasion of Italy

The Italian Campaign followed the surrender in North Africa, first the Allied invasion of Sicily in July, followed by the Allied invasion of Italy in September.[191][192] The Eighth Army along with American units landed in Sicily in what was the largest landings of the war, with 150,000 troops landed on the first day, and 500,000 by the end of the campaign.[191] The Eighth Army landed almost unopposed on the South Eastern coast of Sicily, but became bogged down after a few days.[191] The original plan had called for Eighth Army to advance on Messina, but because they could not make any headway being stuck on the slopes of Mount Etna, the U.S. Seventh Army under Lieutenant General George S. Patton were released. They advanced West then along the North coast to reach Messina first.[191] One consequence of the British failure to break out was the escape of most of the Axis forces and their equipment to mainland Italy.[193]

On 3 September Eighth Army landed on the toe of Italy directly opposite Messina, and Italy surrendered on the 8 September.[192] The main landing of the US Fifth Army, with the British X Corps under Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery, took place at Salerno on the 9 September.[192] The landings were fiercely opposed by the Germans who had brought up six divisions during the delay between the capture of Sicily and the invasion of in Italy, and at one point consideration was given to an evacuation.[192] A third landing Operation Slapstick at Taranto on the heel of Italy, was carried out by the British 1st Airborne Division, landing not by air but by sea.[194] One consequence of the Eighth Army's landing on the toe of Italy, was they were now 300 miles (480 km) away from the main landings at Salerno, and in no position to offer any assistance.[192] It was not until by 16 September, that forward patrols from the Eighth Army, made contact with the U.S.36th Division.[195] The 16 September, is also notable for the Salerno Mutiny by about 600 men of the 51st (Highland) and the 50th (Northumbrian) Divisions. They had sailed from Tripoli, on the understanding that they were to join the rest of their units, based in Sicily. Instead, once aboard ship, they were told that they were being taken to Salerno, to join the 46th (North Midland) Division.[196] Naples was reached on 1 October by the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, and the U.S. Fifth Army. Which now consisted of three British and five U.S. divisions, reached the line of the Volturno River on 6 October. This provided a natural defensive barrier, which secured Naples, the Campainian Plain and the vital airfields on it from a German counter attack. Meanwhile, on the Adriatic coast, the Eighth Army had advanced to a line from Campobasso to Larino and Termoli on the Biferno river, but by the end of the year were still 80 miles (130 km) short of Rome.[192]

The Dodecanese Campaign was an attempt by the British, to liberate the Italian held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea following the surrender of Italy, and use them as bases against the German controlled Balkans. The effort failed, with the whole of the Dodecanese falling to the Germans within two months, and the Allies suffering heavy losses in men and ships.[197][198][199] (see Battle of Kos and Battle of Leros for further details).

A Chindit column crosses a Burmese river during Operation Longcloth

In Burma, Brigadier Orde Wingate, and the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, or the Chindits as they were better known, infiltrated the Japanese lines in February, marched deep into Burma in Operation Longcloth. The initial aim was to cut the main North–South railway in Burma. Some 3,000 men entered Burma in columns and caused some damage Japanese communications, and cut the railway.[200] But by the end of April, the surviving Chindits had crossed back over the Chindwin river, having marched between 750–1000 miles.[201] Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, 818 men had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too debilitated from their wounds or disease to return to active service.[201][202]

1944

British Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade landing on Sword beach.

The invasion of Normandy took place on 6 June: 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division landed at Gold Beach, and British 3rd Infantry Division at Sword Beach; the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, with some British units, at Juno Beach.[106] The British 6th Airborne Division was inserted prior to the landings to cover the left flank, and capture the Pegasus and Horsa Bridges and the Merville gun battery.[106] The British were involved in the Battle of Caen, but did not capture the city until 9 July.[106][203] In July Operation Goodwood was launched, with the intention of forcing the Germans to commit their armoured reserves to the British front while the Americans broke out from the Cotentin peninsula.[204][205][206]

The 21st Army Group followed up the American break out, trapping the German 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army in the Falaise Pocket, capturing 50,000 prisoners.[207] The River Seine was reached on 19 August, bring the Battle of Normandy to an end.[207]

Just before that the invasion of the South of France, had taken place on 15 August.[208] The British contribution was from the British 2nd Parachute Brigade, which was parachuted into Southern France, as part of the 1st Airborne Task Force.[209]

After the almost entire destruction of the two German armies at Falaise, in the Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine the Guards Armoured Division liberated Brussels on 3 September.[210] The port of Antwerp was liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division the following day.[211][212] Unfortunately the British left the North bank of the Scheldt river in German hands, making the port of Antwerp unusable.[211]

British front October–November 1944

On 17 September Operation Market Garden began. British XXX Corps, provided the ground forces and the British 1st Airborne Division was part of an airborne assault in the Netherlands. The plan was for the three airborne divisions to take the bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem and for XXX Corps to use them to cross the Rhine and on into Germany.[211] XXX Corps was constantly delayed by German opposition while travelling up just one single road, managing to reach all but 1st Airborne at Arnhem who had been dropped 8 miles (13 km) from their bridge, and during the Battle of Arnhem were prevented from advancing into the town,[211] The 1st Airborne Division was effectively destroyed, three quarters of the unit were missing when it returned to England, including two of the three brigade commanders, eight of the nine battalion commanders and 26 of the 30 infantry company commanders.[213] Just 2,000 troops out of 10,000 returning to friendly territory.[214]

In an effort to use the port of Antwerp, the First Canadian Army including British I Corps, began the Battle of the Scheldt and the Battle of Walcheren Causeway in October and November.[215] After clearing the southern bank of the Scheldt, British and Canadian forces took the island of Walcheren after an amphibious assault.[215]

The final battle in North West Europe during 1944, was the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans planed to attack through the Ardennes, splitting the American–British armies and capturing Antwerp.[216] The Bulge was ostensibly an American battle, but XXX Corps provided Britain's contribution, and Montgomery was the overall commander of the Northern sector.[107]

German prepared defensive lines south of Rome.

During the campaign in Italy some of the hardest fighting of the entire war, now took place.[217] Which was not helped by the withdrawal of forces for the landings in France.[217] Operations carried out included: the long stalemate on the Gustav Line, and the hard fought Battle of Monte Cassino.[217] In January the Anzio landings, were an attempt to bypass the Gustav line by sea.(see Anzio order of battle for British forces involved).[218] Landing almost unopposed, with the road to Rome open, the American commander Major General John P. Lucas, felt he needed to consolidate the beachhead before breaking out.[218] This gave the Germans time to concentrate their forces against him. Another stalemate ensued, with the force almost being driven back into the sea.[218] When the stalemate was finally broken in the spring of 1944, they advanced towards Rome, instead of heading north east to block the line of German retreat from Cassino.[218] In August the Allies came up against the Gothic Line and by December, had reached Ravenna.[219]

The 1944 Burma campaign started with Operation Thursday, a Chindit force now designated Indian 3rd Infantry Division, were tasked with disrupting the Japanese lines of supply to the northern front.[220] Further South the Battle of the Admin Box started in February, in preparation for when the Japanese Operation U-Go offensive.[221] Although total Allied casualties were higher than the Japanese, the Japanese were forced to abandon many of their wounded.[221] This was the first time that British and Indian troops had held and defeated a major Japanese attack.[221] This victory was repeated on a larger scale in the Battle of Imphal (March–July) and the Battle of Kohima (April–June).[221][222] From August to November, Fourteenth Army pushed the Japanese back to the Chindwin River.[222]

1945

Commando Vickers machine guns on the outskirts of Wesel

In Germany the 21st Army Group offensive towards the Rhine began in February. The Second Army pinned down the Germans, while the Canadian First and the U.S. Ninth Armys made pincer movements piercing the Siegfried Line.[108] On 23 March, Second Army crossed the Rhine, supported by a large airborne assault (Operation Varsity) the following day.[223] The British advanced onto the North German Plain, heading towards the Baltic sea.[224] The Elbe was crossed by VIII Corps and the Elbe bridgehead expanded, Bremen fell on 26 April, Luebeck and Wismar on 2 May and Hamburg 3 May.[224][225] On 4 May all German forces in Denmark, Netherlands, and north west Germany surrendered to Montgomery[226]


In Italy the poor winter weather and to the massive losses in its ranks during the autumn fighting, halted any advance until the spring.[227] The Spring 1945 offensive in Italy commenced after a heavy artillery bombardment on 9 April.[228] By 18 April the Eighth Army had broken through the Argenta Gap and captured Bologna on 21 April.[229] The Indian 8th Infantry Division, reached the Po River on 23 April.[230] The British V Corps, traversed the Venetian Line and entered Padua in the early hours of 29 April, to find that partisans had locked up the German garrison of 5,000 men.[231] The Axis forces, retreating on all fronts and having lost most of its fighting power, was left with little option but surrender. General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, signed the surrender on behalf of the German armies in Italy on 29 April formally bringing hostilities to an end on 2 May 1945.[231]

In Burma the Battle of Meiktila and Mandalay started in January, despite logistical difficulties, the British were able to deploy large armoured forces in Central Burma. Most of the Japanese forces in Burma were destroyed during the battles, allowing the Allies to capture the capital, Rangoon on 2 May.[232] Still in control of Malaya and parts of Burma, the Japanese surrendered on 14 August.[233]

The British victory parade in Berlin, 21 July 1945.

Casualties

From the German invasion of Poland to victory over Japan, the war lasted six years. Only British and Dominion forces served throughout the entire period.[234] The British recorded the death of between 300,000[234] and 383,667 combatants.[235] Total British Army casualties amounted to 385,000 dead and wounded,[236] with a further 180,488 made prisoner of war during the course of the conflict.[237]

See also

Notes

Footnotes
  1. ^ Historian F Perry claims the division was formed September 1939[28] while Mike Chappell states the division was formed in December.[31]
  2. ^ The Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment was issued 30 Stuart tanks instead of 11.[45]
  3. ^ While Fireflys were issued one per four-tank troops, as the war progressed some units were able to field two per troop.[46]
Citations
  1. ^ a b c French (2000), p.12
  2. ^ French (2000), p.14
  3. ^ French (2000), p.275
  4. ^ French (2000), pp.13–15
  5. ^ Kennedy (1976), pp 273–296
  6. ^ French (2000), p.15
  7. ^ a b c d e f Buell, Bradley, Dice & Griess (2002), p.42
  8. ^ Chappell (1987), pp.12–13
  9. ^ Buell, Bradley, Dice & Griess (2002), p.11
  10. ^ French (2000), p.63
  11. ^ a b Perry (1988), p.49
  12. ^ a b c French (2000), p.64
  13. ^ a b Crang (2000), p.5
  14. ^ "Recruitment during WW2". spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWbritishA.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  15. ^ "WW2 3.5Million British Army 1946". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a6648078.shtml?sectionId=0&articleId=6648078. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  16. ^ Weigley (1981), pp.337–343
  17. ^ Crang (2000), p.6
  18. ^ Crang (2000), p.9
  19. ^ Crang (2000), p.11
  20. ^ "WW2 Peoples War". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1138664.shtml?sectionId=1&articleId=1138664. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  21. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2001), p.17
  22. ^ a b Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp.17–18
  23. ^ French (2000), pp.38–41
  24. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp.18–19
  25. ^ a b c d e f Brayley & Chappell (2001), p.19
  26. ^ a b Perry (1988), p.57
  27. ^ a b Chappell (1987), pp. 12–15
  28. ^ a b Perry, p. 45
  29. ^ a b c Carter, p. 11
  30. ^ a b French (2000), p. 42
  31. ^ Chappell, p. 12
  32. ^ Perry, p. 46
  33. ^ Buckley (2004), p.13
  34. ^ Playfair (1954), p.105
  35. ^ Playfair (1954), p.188
  36. ^ Perry (1988), pp.56–57
  37. ^ French (2000), p.269
  38. ^ Reynolds, p.295
  39. ^ Fortin, pp.13–18, and 37
  40. ^ a b Reynolds, p.31
  41. ^ Buckley (2006), pp.28–29
  42. ^ Buckley (2004), p.40
  43. ^ French (2000), p.270
  44. ^ a b Taylor, p.6
  45. ^ Fortin, p.103
  46. ^ Fortin, p.92
  47. ^ Moreman (2007), p.22
  48. ^ Moreman (2007), p.51
  49. ^ a b Moreman (2007), p.52
  50. ^ Hart (2000), p.92
  51. ^ Copp (2004), p.20
  52. ^ Dennis (1972), p.97
  53. ^ a b Horn, Barr & Balasevicius (2007), p.60
  54. ^ a b "The Parachute Regiment". Army,MOD.UK. http://www2.army.mod.uk/infantry/regiments/3471.aspx. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  55. ^ Perry (1988), p.58
  56. ^ "77 Parachute Brigade Subordanates". Order of Battle. http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=6203&Tab=Sub. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  57. ^ Horn, Barr & Balasevicius (2007), p.64
  58. ^ Horn, Barr & Balasevicius (2007), p.67
  59. ^ "Obituaries, Lieutenant-Colonel David Danger". Telegraph.co. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/special-forces-obituaries/5132542/Lieutenant-Colonel-David-Danger.html. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  60. ^ Breuer (2001), p.88
  61. ^ a b Shortt & McBride (1981), p.9
  62. ^ a b c d Lowry, Taylor & Boulanger (2004), p.40
  63. ^ Perry (1988), p.50
  64. ^ "Auxiliary Territorial Service". The Queens Royal Surrey Regiment. http://www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/militia_vol_territorial/mvt27_1.html. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  65. ^ "Her Majesty the Queen – Early Public Life". Official website of the British Monarchy. http://www.royal.gov.uk/HMTheQueen/Publiclife/EarlyPublicLife/Earlypubliclife.aspx. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  66. ^ "Left Out of D-Day Events, Queen Elizabeth Is Fuming", New York Times, May 27, 2009
  67. ^ Summerfield & Peniston-Bird (2007), p.27
  68. ^ Summerfield & Peniston-Bird (2007), pp.26–27
  69. ^ MacKenzie (1995), p.35
  70. ^ Mackenzie (1995), p.39
  71. ^ Fletcher ()1989, p.19
  72. ^ Buell, Bradley, Dice & Griess (2002), p.18
  73. ^ Bailey (2003), p.297
  74. ^ Hart & Laurier,(2007) p.25
  75. ^ Buell, Bradley, Dice & Griess (2002), p.43
  76. ^ Bailey (2003), p.302
  77. ^ Bailey (2003), p.290
  78. ^ Bailey (2003), p.294
  79. ^ Cadiou, Richard & Pleasance (1977), pp.78–86
  80. ^ Bishop (2002), p.243
  81. ^ Bishop (2002), pp.245–247
  82. ^ Suermondt (2004), pp.68–108
  83. ^ Playfair (2004), p.153
  84. ^ Zabecki(1999) p.1608
  85. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2001), p. 11
  86. ^ Badsey (1999), p.12
  87. ^ Ellis (1962), p. 333
  88. ^ Ellis (1962), pp. 377
  89. ^ Stacey, p. 198
  90. ^ Reid, p. 78
  91. ^ Moreman & Anderson (2007), p.4
  92. ^ a b c Moreman & Anderson (2007), p.5
  93. ^ "HQ British Troops Palestine and Transjordan". Order of Battle.com. http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=6890&Tab=Uhi. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  94. ^ "History and Commanders of 9 Army [British Commonwealth"]. Order of Battle.com. http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=7077&Tab=Sub. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  95. ^ "Commanders of the 9th Army". Order of Battle.com. http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=7077&Tab=App. Retrieved 2008-12-14. 
  96. ^ a b Lyman & Gerrard (2006), p.19
  97. ^ Lyman & Gerrard (2006), pp.7–8
  98. ^ a b c Brayley & Chappel (2002), p.4
  99. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2002), p.5
  100. ^ Brayley & Chappel (2002), p.6
  101. ^ Moreman (2005), p.85
  102. ^ Allen (1984), p.277
  103. ^ a b Mead (2007), p.44
  104. ^ a b Zabecki (1999), p.1609
  105. ^ Taylor (1976), p.193
  106. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.194
  107. ^ a b Taylor (1976), pp.214–215
  108. ^ a b Tugwell (1971), p.273
  109. ^ Watson & Rinaldi (2005), p.7
  110. ^ Heathcote (1999), p.282
  111. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35029, p. 1, 31 December 1940. Retrieved on 2008-01-14.
  112. ^ Heathcote (1990, p. 104
  113. ^ Tucker (2001), pp.36–37
  114. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp.4–5
  115. ^ Brayley & Chappell (2001), p.5
  116. ^ Taylor (1976), p.49
  117. ^ Taylor (1976), p.51
  118. ^ Taylor (1976), p.56
  119. ^ a b Taylor (1976), pp.56–58
  120. ^ Taylor (1976), p.47
  121. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.48
  122. ^ Stone, Bill (1998). "Iceland in the Second World War". Stone & Stone. http://sonic.net/~bstone/history/iceland.shtml. Retrieved 2009-07-12. 
  123. ^ Bittner (1983), p.15
  124. ^ Chappell (1987), p.43
  125. ^ Playfair (1954), p.172
  126. ^ Playfair (1954), p.173
  127. ^ Mockler (1984), pp.243–245
  128. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p.22
  129. ^ Playfair (1954), p.174
  130. ^ Playfair (1954), pp.178–179
  131. ^ a b c Taylor (1976), p.83
  132. ^ London Gazette: no. 34650, p. 5311, 1939-08-01. Retrieved on 2008-08-08.
  133. ^ Playfair (1954), p.93
  134. ^ Riddick, p.115
  135. ^ Churchill (1949), p.616
  136. ^ Playfair (1954), p.289
  137. ^ a b Playfair (1956), p.2
  138. ^ Jentz (1988), p.85
  139. ^ Playfair (1956), pp.2–5
  140. ^ Mead (2007), p.317.
  141. ^ a b Wavell (1946), p.2 (see London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38177, p. 310, 13 January 1948.)
  142. ^ Bauer (2000), p.121
  143. ^ Jentz (1988), p.82
  144. ^ Playfair (1956), pp.19–40
  145. ^ Latimer (2001), pp.43–45
  146. ^ Playfair (1956), pp.33–35
  147. ^ Jentz (1998), p.136
  148. ^ Chant (1986), p.21
  149. ^ Playfair (1956), pp.59–160
  150. ^ Pitt (1989), p.309
  151. ^ Playfair (1976), p.15
  152. ^ Taylor (1974), p.86
  153. ^ Mead (2007), p.332
  154. ^ Brett-James, Antony (1951). Chapter V "Ball of Fire, The Fifth Indian Division in the Second World War". http://ourstory.info/library/4-ww2/Ball/fire03.html#ch5 Chapter V. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  155. ^ Taylor (1976), pp.87–91
  156. ^ "Balkan Operations – Order of Battle – W-Force – April 5, 1941". Order of Battle.com. http://orbat.com/site/ww2/drleo/017_britain/41-04_greece/_w-force.html. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  157. ^ Richter (1998), p.595
  158. ^ a b "Greek campaign". Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/greek_campaign.asp. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  159. ^ Long (1953), pp.218–219
  160. ^ Lyman (2006), p.25
  161. ^ Lyman (2006), p.36
  162. ^ Playfair (1956), p.203
  163. ^ Long (1953), p.338
  164. ^ Taylor (1976), p.104
  165. ^ Jackson (2006), pp.157–158
  166. ^ MacDonell (2002), p.71
  167. ^ a b MacDonell (2002), p.66
  168. ^ MacDonell (2002), p.76
  169. ^ a b Hack (2001), p.44
  170. ^ a b Hack & Blackburn (2004), p.92
  171. ^ Bishop, Patrick (29 May 2005). "The largest capitulation in our history". Telegraph.co. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/4196301/The-largest-capitulation-in-our-history.html. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  172. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.135
  173. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.168
  174. ^ Taylor (1976), pp.142–143
  175. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p143
  176. ^ Taylor (1976), p.152
  177. ^ a b c Taylor (1976), p.157
  178. ^ Taylor (1976), p.153
  179. ^ Bishop (2002), p.55
  180. ^ Pagtakhan, Rey D. "Speaking notes: Ceremony at Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery." Veterans Affairs Canada, 19 August 2002.
  181. ^ Bishop (2002), pp.52–60
  182. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.159
  183. ^ Taylor (1976), p.160
  184. ^ Taylor (1976), p.136
  185. ^ Churchill (1986), pp.197–209
  186. ^ Time Magazine, Madagascar Surrenders
  187. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.171
  188. ^ Playfair (1966), pp.258–259
  189. ^ Anderson (1946), p.8 London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37779, p. 5456, 5 November 1946. Retrieved on 2008-04-30.
  190. ^ Taylor (1976), pp.172–173
  191. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.173
  192. ^ a b c d e f Taylor (1976), p.176
  193. ^ Taylor (1976), pp.173–175
  194. ^ Molony (2004), p.242.
  195. ^ Molony (2004), p.246
  196. ^ David (2005), pp.52–67
  197. ^ Zabecki (1999) pp.1452–1455
  198. ^ Tidy. "Dodecanese disaster and the battle of Simi 1943". The South African Military History Society. http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol012dp.html. 
  199. ^ Rogers (2007), p.87
  200. ^ Brayley (2002), p.18
  201. ^ a b Brayley (2002), p.19
  202. ^ Thompson (2008), p.374
  203. ^ Taylor (1976), p.201
  204. ^ Trew (2004), pp.49 and 66
  205. ^ Ellis (1962), pp.330–331
  206. ^ Reynolds (2002), p.44
  207. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.203
  208. ^ Taylor (1976), p.204
  209. ^ Rottman (2006), pp.82–82
  210. ^ Sylvan (2008), p.118
  211. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.205
  212. ^ Sylvan (2008), p.120
  213. ^ Middlebrook (1994), p.445
  214. ^ Middlebrook (1994), p.439
  215. ^ a b "The Battle of the Scheldt". Veterans Affairs Canada. http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/netherlands/scheldt. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  216. ^ Taylor (1976), p.213
  217. ^ a b c Taylor (1976), p.190
  218. ^ a b c d Taylor (1976), p.191
  219. ^ Taylor (1976), p.192
  220. ^ Slim (1956), p.218
  221. ^ a b c d Allen (1984), pp.187–188
  222. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.210
  223. ^ Devlin (1979), pp. 258–259
  224. ^ a b Madsen (1998), p.39
  225. ^ Madsen (1998), p.40
  226. ^ Taylor (1976), p.23
  227. ^ Keegan (2005), p.367
  228. ^ Blaxland (1979), pp.254–255
  229. ^ Blaxland (1979), p.271
  230. ^ Blaxland (1979), pp.272–273
  231. ^ a b Blaxland (1979), p.277
  232. ^ Taylor (1976), p.225
  233. ^ Taylor (1976), p.227
  234. ^ a b Taylor (1976), p.229
  235. ^ Commonwealth War Graves Commission 2008 Annual Report, p. 10
  236. ^ French (2000), p.285
  237. ^ The Times, 30 November 1945

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British Army

Components
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List of current regiments
Structure of the British Army
Administration
HQ Land Command
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HQ Northern Ireland
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Equipment
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History
History of the British Army
Timeline of the British Army
Recruitment in the British Army
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List of senior officers
Officer rank insignia
Other ranks rank insignia
British Army Portal
Portal to other related sites

The British Army during World War II prior to the declaration of war very much resembled the British Army during World War I. The army was prepared to garrison and police the British Empire and as became evident during the war was woefully prepared for a war with multiple enemies on multiple fronts. The army at the start of the war remained small in comparison to its enemies and up to 1939 would remain an all volunteer force, which by the end of the war had over 3.5 million men in over 60 divisions.

The army would fight around the world, with campaigns in Belgium and France in 1940 and after the collapse of both countries the army fought on in Africa the Mediterranean, the Far East, before returning to Europe with Invasion of Sicily and the Invasion of France. New units were formed for special service which included the Special Air Service, the Army Commandos and the Parachute Regiment.

Contents

Organisation

The British Army prior to World War II, was a small professional well equipped mechanized and motorised army, able to win quick victories by using technology in the place of manpower.[1] It's effectiveness was hampered by the doctrines of avoiding undue casualties and consolidating gains on the battlefield instead of exploiting any success.[1] Its structure had been organized to sacrifice fire power to mobility and removed the fire support weapons that were needed to advance over the battlefield away from its commanders.[1]

The British Army had tried to learn the lessons of World War I, and adopt them into its pre war doctrine, at the same time trying to predict how advances in weapons and technology might effect any future war.[2] The Ten Year Rule had been introduced in August 1919, it stipulated, that the armed forces should draft their estimates "on the assumption that the British Empire would not be engaged in any great war during the next ten years" (In 1928 Winston Churchill, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, successfully urged the Cabinet to make the rule self-perpetuating and hence it was in force unless specifically countermanded).[3] In the 1920s and much of the 1930's the General Staff tried to establish a small mechanized professional army, (see Experimental Mechanized Force) but with the lack of any identified threat the Army's main function was to provide the garrison for the British Empire.[4]

By 1939, the army comprised six Regular Army divisions and 12 Territorial Army divisions.[5] which was increased to 32 divisions in the Sping of 1939, when the Territorial Army was expanded to 26 divisions.[6]

Infantry division

The 1939, infantry division had an establishment of 13,863 men which by 1944, had risen to 18,347 men.[7] It typically had three infantry brigades under command each of three infantry battalions. Under divisional command were a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) battalion which was a support battalion equipped with the Vickers machine gun and the 3 inch mortar and the divisional reconnaissance regiment. Divisional artillery consisted of three Royal Artillery field regiments (54 x 25 pounder guns), an anti tank regiment (48 x 6 pounder or 17 pounder guns and a light anti aircraft regiment(54 x Bofors 40 mm.[8]

The Infantry brigade typically had three infantry battalions, with an Medium Machine Gun company, anti tank battery, Royal Artillery (RA) artillery field regiment, Royal Engineer (RE) field company, Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) transport company, RASC field ambulance and a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) field workshop.[9]

The infantry battalion consisted of the battalion Headquarters, Headquarters company (signals and administration platoons), four rifle companies (Headquarters and three rifle platoons) and a support company (carrier platoon. mortar platoon, anti tank platoon and pioneer platoon).[10]

The rifle platoon had a Headquarters which included the 2 inch mortar and anti tank weapon teams, three rifle sections each of seven riflemen and a three man Bren gun team.[11]

Armoured division

The 1st Armoured Division in 1940, had two armoured brigades each of three armoured regiments and a motorised infantry battalion and a Support Group of one infantry battalion, one artillery field regiment, one anti tank regiment and one anti aircraft regiment.

By 1944, the armoured division formation had evolved and consisted of one armoured brigade of three armoured regiments with Lend-Lease Sherman tanks (the 7th Armoured Division was different and equipped with Cromwell tanks) and a motorised infantry battalion carried on half tracks and a lorried infantry brigade of three infantry battalions. Divisional troops included a Armoured Reconnaissance regiment with first Cromwell tanks and when available the Comet tank, an MMG cmpany, divisional artillery two RA field regiments, an anti tank regiment and an light anti aircraft regiment. There were also divisional engineer, signals, transport and medical units.[12]

The armoured regiment had 78 tanks in three sabre squadrons and a Headquarters squadron, each sabre squadron had a headquarters troop and five troops of three tanks each (some had four troops with four tanks each). Including the tanks at division (10) and brigade (18) headquarters each division could field 340 tank in four armoured regiments.[12]

Recruitment

Further information: Conscription in the United Kingdom during Second World War

When the British Empire declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, two days after the German invasion of Poland, the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939 was rushed through parliament and conscription immediately introduced. The pre-war army was an all-volunteer army and recruits were allotted to the corps of their wishes. The only pre-conditions placed on candidates were an interview with a recruiting officer, who could only glean partial information on a recruit, a medical examination, and some educational tests. If these requirements were met the recruit was posted to the arm of his choice, there was no scientific selection process unlike the rapidly growing German army. This led to men being allocated to the wrong or unsuitable corps. The Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha attempted to address these problems, and the wider problems of the British army. [13] The process of allocating men would remain ad hoc at the start of the war. The army would be without the quotas of men required from skilled professions and trades, which modern warfare demanded. With the army being the least popular service compared to the navy and air force, a higher proportion of army recruits were said to be dull and backwards. [14]

The following memorandum to the Executive Committee of the Army Council highlighted the growing concern.

“The British Army is wasting manpower in this war almost as badly as it did in the last war. A man is posted to a Corps almost entirely on the demand of the moment and without any effort at personal selection by proper tests. ”[15]

Only with the creation of the Beveridge committee in 1941, and their subsequent findings in 1942, would the situation of skilled men not being assigned correctly be addressed. The findings led directly to the creation of the General Service Corps, and would remain in place long after the war.[16] Hore-Belisha had sought permission to introduce conscription in 1938 but was rebuffed by Neville Chamberlain, who would not agree to increased defense spending. In early 1939, he was finally allowed to introduce conscription to meet the threat of Nazi Germany, with the Military Training Act of 27 April 1939. The act required all men aged 20 and 21 to take six months military training. This act was extended on the declaration of the war, to include all fit men between the ages of 18 and 41. Conscription was gradually brought in, starting in October 1939 and applying to all fit men between 20–23, and the age group was increased as the war continued. [17]

At the start of the war the British Army Strength stood at 897,000 men including reserves. By the end of 1939 the strength of the British Army stood at 1.1 million men, and further increased to 1.65 million men during June 1940.[18] [19] [20] By the end of the war and the final demobilisations in 1946, over 3.5 million men had been enlisted in the British Army.[21]

Home Guard

The Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) or Home Guard was formed early in 1940. Very large numbers of civilians between the ages of 17 and 65 in Britain, who were not in military service but wished to defend their country against an invasion, were asked to enlist in the LDV at their local police station.[22] The announcement was met with a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the population, with 250,000 volunteers attempting to sign up in the first seven days; by July this number would increase to 1.5 million.[23] On 17 May the LDV achieved official legal status when the Privy Council issued the Defence (Local Defence Volunteers) Order in Council, and orders were issued from the War Office to regular Army headquarters throughout Britain explaining the status of LDV units; volunteers would be divided into sections, platoons and companies but would not be paid and leaders of units would not hold commissions or have the power to command regular forces.[24]

The issue of weapons to LDV units was particularly problematic for the War Office, as it was recognised that the re-arming and re-equipping of the regular forces would have to take precedence over the LDV. Instead, the War Office issued instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails and emergency orders were placed for First-World-War vintage Ross Rifles from Canada and Remington P14 and P17 Rifles from the United States.[25]

Armies

British Expeditionary Force

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was sent to France after the declaration of war, the initial force of 160,000 was formed into two Corps each of two infantry divisions. The I Corps (1st and 2nd Infantry Divisions) and the II Corps (3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions), the 5th Infantry Division arrived in France in December 1939, the first Territorial divisions arrived in January 1940, (48th, 50th and the 51st Divisions). The 51st Division was sent to the Saar to assist the French garrison on the Maginot line while the rest of the BEF deployed along the French—Belgian border[26] In April 1940, reinforcements arrived three first line Territorial divisions, (42nd, 44th, 46th) and two second line Territorial divisions. (12th and 23rd), and in May 1940, the 1st Armoured Division.[27]

First Army

The First Army was formed to command the British and American land forces which had landed in Algiers as part of Operation Torch, the assault landings in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November 1942. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Anderson. First Army headquarters was formally activated on 9 November 1942, when Anderson arrived in Algiers to assume command of the re designated Eastern Task Force.[28] It initially consisted of British and American forces only. After the surrender of French forces, French units were also added to its order of battle. It eventually consisted of four corps, the United States II Corps, V Corps, IX Corps and French XIX Corps.[29]

Second Army

The Second Army was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey and served under the 21st Army Group.[30] Two of its formations were responsible for the assault beach landings in Normandy on D Day. The landings part of Operation Overlord, were conducted by the I Corps on Sword Beach and XXX Corps on Gold Beach. The initial penetration on D-Day was not as good as hoped, and this pattern was repeated during the rest of the Normandy campaign. A third British corps, VIII Corps, was attached in June 1944. During the advance across France I Corps was assigned to the First Canadian Army, and it was replaced by the XII Corps.[31]

Eighth Army

The Eighth Army was formed from the Western Desert Force in September 1941,[32] and put under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham.[33] Over time Eighth Army would be commander by Generals Neil Ritchie, Claude Auchinleck and Bernard Montgomery.[33] In the early years of the war Eighth Army suffered from poor leadership and repeated reversals of fortune until the Second Battle of El Alamein when it advanced across Lybia into Tunisia and joined the First Army in 18th Army Group.[33]

Ninth Army

The Ninth Army formation was formed on 1 November 1941 with the re designation of the Headquarters of the British Troops in Palestine and Transjordan and it controlled British and Commonwealth land forces stationed in the eastern Mediterranean. It was commanded by General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson and Lieutenant-General Sir William George Holmes.[34][35][36]

Tenth Army

The Tenth Army was created in Iraq and formed from the major part of Paiforce (Persia and Iraq Force) which had participated in the Anglo-Iraqi War. It was active in 1942 and 1943, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Quinan and consisted of the III Corps and the Indian XXI Corps.[37] Its main task was the maintenance of the lines of communication to the Soviet Union from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian and the protection of the South Persian and Iraqi oilfields which supplied Britain with all its non American sourced oil.[38]

Twelfth Army

The Twelfth Army was originally formed in the Middle East, including Operation Husky the invasion of Sicily.[39] It was reformed in May 1945, to take control of operations in Burma from the Fourteenth Army. The army Headquarters was created by re designating the Headquaters of the Indian XXXIII Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir Montagu Stopford.[39]

Fourteenth Army

The Fourteenth Army was a multinational force comprising units from Commonwealth countries, many of its units were from the Indian Army as well as British units and there were also significant contributions from West and East African divisions. It was often referred to as the "Forgotten Army" because its operations in the Burma Campaign were overlooked by the contemporary press, and remained more obscure than those of the corresponding formations in Europe for long after the war.[40] It was formed in 1943, under the command of Lieutenant General William Slim. The Fourteenth Army was the largest Commonwealth Army during the war, with nearly a million men by late 1944. It was composed of four corps: IV Corps, XV Corps, XXXIII Corps and the XXXIV Corps.[39] The only complete British formations were the 2nd and 36th Infantry Division, however the number of British infantry battalions serving in the theatre was the equivalent of eight infantry divisions.[41]

11th Army group

The 11th Army Group was activated in November 1943 to act as the land forces HQ for the newly formed South East Asia Command (SEAC). Its commander was General George Giffard, who had formerly been Commander-in-Chief West Africa Command and Commander of Eastern Army (part of British India Command).[42] In November 1944, 11th Army Group was re designated the Allied Land Forces South East Asia (ALFSEA), under command of General Sir Oliver Leese.[43]

15th Army Group

The 15th Army Group was activated in May 1943, after the Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered. The commander was Field Marshall Harold Alexander and was responsible for mounting the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. It had control of two armies: Eighth Army under cmmand of Montgomery and U.S. Seventh Army under command General George S. Patton. After Sicily, and in preparation for the allied invasion of Italy, the Seventh Army headquarters were replaced by those of the U.S. Fifth Army, lead by Mark Clark.[44]

18th Army Group

The 18th Army Group was formed in early 1943, when the Eighth Army advancing from the east and First Army from the west came close enough to require coordinated command during the Tunisia Campaign. It was commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander, its principal formations the Eighth Army, under General Bernard Montgomery and First Army under Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson.[45]

21st Army Group

Commanded by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, 21st Army Group initially controlled all ground forces in Operation Overlord. The 21st Army Group main components were the British 2nd Army and the First Canadian Army. Also included were Polish units and from Normandy onwards and small Dutch, Belgian, and Czech units. However the Lines of Communications units were predominantly British.

Other Armies that came under command of 21st Army Group were the First Allied Airborne Army, the U.S. First Army for Overlord and the U.S. Ninth Army; as a result of the disruption to the chain of command during the Battle of the Bulge and as reinforcement for the drive to the Rhine, Operations Veritable and Grenade. The U.S. Ninth Army again and the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps were under command for the Rhine river crossings Operations Plunder and Varsity.

After the German surrender, 21st Army Group was converted into the headquarters for the British zone of occupation in Germany. It was renamed the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) on 25 August 1945, and eventually formed the nucleus of the British forces stationed in Germany throughout the Cold War.[46]

Commanders

Field Marshall John Verrker Gort

Field Marshall, John Gort was given command of the British Expeditionary Force in France, arriving on 19 September 1939.[47] Following the Phony War the 1940, German breakthrough in the Ardennes split the Allied forces and communications between the British Expeditionary Force and the French broke down, and on 25 May 1940 Gort took the unilateral decision to abandon his orders for a southward attack by his forces.[48] Gort's command position was difficult, serving under French high, theatre, and army group command while also being responsible to London. Withdrawing northwards, the BEF together with many French soldiers were evacuated during the Battle of Dunkirk.[49] Gort is credited by some as reacting efficiently to the crisis and saving the British Expeditionary Force.[48] Others hold a more critical view of Gort’s leadership in 1940, seeing his decision not to join the French in organizing a large scale counter-attack as defeatist.[50]

Field Marshall Edmund Ironside

Field Marshall, Edmund Ironsidese he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1899.[51] Later that year he was sent to South Africa and during the Second Boer War worked as a spy.[52] On the outbreak of World War I he was sent to France, where he served on the Western FronT, initially as a Staff Captain.[53] In March 1916 he was transferred to the 4th Canadian Division and fought with them at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.[52] Ironside became Chief of the Imperial General Staff in September 1939 when he replaced General John Gort, who had been sent to France as head of the BEF at the outbreak of World War II. In November 1939 he was appointed to the Army Council,[54][55][56] Ironside himself was sent to France in May 1940 to liaise with the BEF and the French in an attempt to halt the German advance. On his return to Britain, a German invasion of Britain seemed imminent, so Ironside was appointed Commander in Chief of Home Forces but was replaced in July that year. In 1941, he was raised to the peerage and retired fromactive service.[57]

Field Marshall Alan Brooke

Field Marshall, Alan Brook was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1902, serving in Ireland and India before World War I. At the end of World War I, he was a brevet Lieutenant Colonel and in Command of the artillery in the 1st Army. Between the wars he commanded Britain's first mobile division and the Territorial Army Anti-Aircraft Corps. He was given command of the II Corps in the BEF. In December 1941, he was made the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) and promoted to Field Marshall in January 1944.[58]

Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was commissioned in 1908 into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.[59] a veteran of World War I he entered World War II as the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division assigned to the British Expeditionary Force, he then took command of II Corps during the evacuation at Dunkirk.[59] After several Corps appointments was placed in command of South Eastern Command before being dispatched to Egypt to take command of the Eighth Army.[59] After the Second Battle of El Alamein and the advance into Libya and Tunisia, he lead the Eighth Army during the Battle of Sicily and then the invasion of Italy itself.[60] He was transferred back to the United Kingdom to take command of the 21st Army Group and led all Allied ground forces during Operation Overlord. Following the conclusion of this campaign, relinquishing the role of Ground Forces commander, he continued to lead 21st Army Group throughout the rest of the 1944–1945 North West Europe Campaign.[61]

Field Marshall John Dill

Field Marshall, John Dill was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st battalion of the Leinster Regiment[62] and was posted to South Africa to see out the Second Boer War.[63] On the outbreak of the World War I He became brigade-major of the 25th brigade 8th division in France where he was present at Neuve Chapelle. By the end of the war he was a brigadier general and had been Mentioned in Despatches eight times.[64] In 1929 he was posted to India and in 1930 was promoted to major general before returning to appointments at the Staff College and then to the War Office as Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, holding that post until 1 September 1936.[64][65] Seen as something of a dinosaur and poorly regarded by both Winston Churchill and Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister for War, Dill was eventually posted as commander of I Corps in France on 3 September 1939.[66] He was promoted to full general on 1 October 1939.[67] On returning to the United Kingdom in April 1940, Dill was appointed Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff (and a member of the Army Council, under CIGS William Ironside, by the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. On 27 May 1940, after Chamberlain had been replaced by Churchill, Dill replaced Ironside as CIGS.[66][68]

Field Marshall Archibald Wavell

Field Marshall, Archibald Wavell was commissioned 8 May 1901 into the Black Watch[69] and fought in the second Second Boer War. In March 1913 Wavell was promoted to captain.[70] As a captain, he was sent to France in World War 1 and was appointed Brigade Major of 9th Infantry Brigade in November 1914.[71] He was wounded in the second battle of Ypres in 1915, losing his left eye and winning the MC.[72] In March 1918, Wavell was made a temporary brigadier-general and returned to Palestine where he served as the BGS (brigadier general staff) of XX Corps, part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. In August 1937, he was transferred to Palestine, where there was growing unrest, to be GOC British Forces in Palestine & Trans-Jordan[73] and was promoted to lieutenant-general in January 1938.[74] In April 1938 he became GOC-in-C Southern Command in the UK.[75] In July 1939, he was named as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Middle East Command with the local rank of full general.[76]In January 1943 Wavell was promoted to field marshal[77]

Field Marshall Harold Alexander

Field Marshall, Harold Alexander, was commissioned in the Irish Guards in 1911, He ended World War I as a Lieutenant Colonel and battalion commander. Promoted Major General in 1937, when he was given command of the 1st Infantry Division. During the Battle of France he commanded the rear guard in the retreat to Dunkirk and then the evacuation beeches. He had command in Burma and the Middle East. He commanded the 15th Army Group in the Invasion of Sicily and the Italian campaign. In June 1944, he was promoted Field Marshall and commander in chief of the Mediterranean theatre that December.[78] Template:Clr

Field Marshall Henry Maitland Wilson

Field Marshall, Henry Maitland Wilson, as a veteran of the Second Boer War and World War I. He was the commander of the British Army of the Nile on the outbreak of World War II, taking part in the early North African battles. He took command of the campaigns in Greece and Syria. Command of the 9th Army followed and he then succeeded Alexander as Commander in Chief Middle East. In January 1944, he replaced Eisenhower and Supreme commander Mediterranean.[79] Template:Clr

Operations in the Western Europe

Norway

The Army's first encounter with the Germans came in Norway. The Germans invaded Norway on 9 April 1940.[80] After naval operations by the Royal Navy, Norway was counter-invaded a few days later, with troops being deployed to the centre at Åndalsnes and Namsos, and north at Narvik on 28 May.[81] However, with the beginning of the campaign in France, the British Government's attention was diverted and the Germans eventually pushed further north. The British force was evacuated on 8 June.[81]

Iceland

A German presence in Iceland, along with the island's strategic importance, alarmed the British.[82] After a few failed attempts of persuading the Icelandic government by diplomatic means to join the Allies and becoming a co-belligerent in the War against the Axis-forces, the British invaded Iceland on 10 May 1940. The initial force of 746 British Royal Marines commanded by Colonel Robert Sturges was replaced on 17 May by a larger force, and eventually 25,000 British troops were stationed in Iceland.

France 1939–1940

As in World War I, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) moved to the continent, consisting initially of four divisions under the command of General Gort.[83] Over the many months that followed, in a period known as the Phoney War, British soldiers trained for war and built up their forces and garrisoned the Maginot Line. By the time the Germans invaded the Low Countries on 8 May 1940, the BEF consisted of 10 divisions, a tank brigade and a detachment of 500 aircraft from the Royal Air Force (RAF).[83] The BEF was directly in the path of the German diversionary attack through Belgium (the main attack being through the Ardennes forest).[84] The speed of the German advance pushed the Allies back and Belgium and the Netherlands were conquered.[85] After a brief armoured counter-attack at Arras on 21 May,[86] most of the BEF withdrew to a small area around the French port of Dunkirk. The evacuation of British and French forces (Operation Dynamo) began on 26 May with air cover provided by the RAF at heavy cost; over 330,000 British and French were evacuated to Britain by the end of the operation on 4 June, and about 220,000 were evacuated from other ports. The British Army had been saved to fight another day but it had to leave much of its equipment behind.[87]Total British Army losses during the campaign were 68,111 dead, wounded or taken prisoner.[88]

France 1944

File:Landing on Queen Red Beach, Sword
British 2nd Army: Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade landing at Sword beach, at approximately 8.40 am, 6 June 1944.

In June 1944, the invasion of Normandy took place: the Americans would land at Omaha and Utah beaches; the British at Gold and Sword; and the Canadians, with some British units, at Juno. The 6th Airborne Division was one of three Allied airborne divisions that were inserted just before the landings. The 6th Airborne landed behind Sword beach in the early hours of June, performing a number of operations that included the taking of the Pegasus and Horsa Bridges and the destruction of the Merville gun battery. On the morning of 6 June, with allied air and naval superiority, the amphibious invasion of Normandy began. The 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division landed on Gold Beech and the 3rd Infantry Division landed on Sword Beech.

The main British forces were tasked with taking Caen but this had been one of Montgomery's -- commander of the Allied land forces -- deliberately tasking objectives, and the town was not taken until the following month. On 18 July, the Allies launched Operation Goodwood -- the largest armoured offensive Western Europe had seen at that time -- to attempt a breakout from Normandy and draw German forces from the Americans sector; however, the operation saw British armoured units suffer heavily. After the almost entire destruction of a German Army in the Falaise Pocket in August, the Allies advanced east, entering Belgium in early September; its capital, Brussels, was liberated by the Guards Armoured Division on 3 September. The port of Antwerp was liberated by the 11th Armoured Division the following day. Template:Clr

Netherlands

The invasion of the Netherlands (Operation Market Garden) began on 17 September 1944. The British XXX Corps, which included Canadian units, provided the ground forces and 1st Airborne Division was part of a 3-division Allied airborne assault. The plan was for the three airborne divisions to take the bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem and for XXX Corps to use them to cross the Rhine and into Germany. XXX Corps was constantly delayed by German opposition while travelling up just one single road, managing to reach all but 1st Airborne at Arnhem who had been prevented from advancing into the town, only one battalion managing to make it to Arnhem bridge, holding out for four days. The 1st Airborne Division was effectively destroyed, just 2,000 out of 10,000 returning to friendly territory. In an effort to use the port of Antwerp, the Canadians and Polish cleared the southern bank of the Scheldt, and British and Canadian forces took the island of Walcheren after an amphibious assault. In December, the Germans launched a last-gasp offensive against the Allies at the Bulge. It was ostensibly an American battle, XXX Corps providing Britain's contribution, and the Germans were defeated by January.

Germany

The offensive towards the Rhine began in February, the British 21st Army Group had the Second Army pin the Germans facing them, while the Canadian First Army in the north and the U.S. Ninth Army in the south made a pincer movement against the Germans, piercing their part of the Siegfried Line. On 23 March, First and Second Armies crossed the Rhine, a large airborne assault (Operation Varsity) taking place the following day supported the crossing. The British forces in Germany advanced onto the North German Plain, heading in the direction of Hamburg. During their advance, British forces took Bremen with the Canadians on 26 April after fierce fighting, including in the advance itself, especially against the more fanatical sections of the German military like the SS and Hitler Youth. The British had encountered them in places like the Teutoburger Wald where the Army experienced fierce resistance at Ibbenburen. The British forces reached the vicinity of Hamburg in late April and it surrendered on 3 May. After crossing the Elbe, some British units reached the Baltic coast where they linked up with the Russians, Field Marshall Montgomery, meeting his counterpart, Konstantin Rokossovsky, at Wismar. The German forces in Denmark, Holland, and north-west Germany surrendered to Montgomery on 4 May.

Operations in Africa, Middle east and Mediterranean

East Africa

Elsewhere, the British were experiencing mixed success against the Italians, who had entered the war on Germany's side in June 1940. In East Africa, the British initially experienced defeat when 175,000 Italian troops invaded British Somaliland in August 1940, conquering the territory in a brief campaign against the small garrison. The British and Commonwealth forces gradually gained the upper hand, helped by the invaluable contribution of irregulars known as Gideon Force under the command of Charles Orde Wingate, and by early 1941, the British had invaded Italian Somaliland and on 16 May, the Duke of Aosta surrendered all Italian forces in East Africa. The East African campaign was more obscure, just as it had been in WWI but it was, nonetheless, a campaign that gave the Army invaluable experience.

North Africa

File:El Alamein 1942 - British
El Alamein 1942: British infantry advances through the dust and smoke of the battle

In North Africa, the Western Desert Force was attacked by Italian forces which attempted an invasion of Egypt in September 1940, but were repulsed in a successful counter-attack in December by Dominien forces in Operation Compass, ending with about 25,000 Italian troops captured and the Allies in Italian Libya. The Germans responded by sending a force known as the Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel. The Germans launched an offensive in 1941, pushing the Allies back and besieging Tobruk. The British Eighth Army was created in the aftermath. The Commonwealth forces began an offensive in November and pushed the enemy forces back but the Germans launched an offensive in 1942, culminating in the capture of Tobruk. Shortly afterwards, General Bernard Law Montgomery took command and under his leadership, the Allies launched a highly successful offensive known as the Second Battle of El Alamein in November 1942. The Axis forces were removed from Libya and the Torch Landings in November by the British and Americans signified the end of the Axis threat in North Africa. The desert war saw tanks in their element, yet they were equally vulnerable to air power. The 7th Armoured Division became one of the most well-known units of the war, nicknamed the 'Desert Rats'. Template:Clr

Greece

Britain was bound to assist Greece by the declaration of 1939, which stated that in the event of a threat to Greek or Romanian independence, "His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Greek or Romanian Government [...] all the support in their power."[89] The first British effort was the deployment of RAF squadrons commanded by John d'Albiac, which were sent in November 1940.[90] With the consent of the Greek government, British forces were dispatched to Crete on October 31 to guard Suda Bay, enabling the Greek government to redeploy the 5th Cretan Division to the mainland.[91] In April 1941, more than 62,000 Commonwealth troops (British, Australians, New Zealanders, Palestinians and Cypriots) were sent to Greece, comprising the 6th Australian Division, the New Zealand 2nd Division, and the British 1st Armoured Brigade.[92] The three formations later became known as 'W' Force, after their commander, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Although earmarked for Greece, the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade and the Australian 7th Division were kept by Wavell in Egypt because of Erwin Rommel's successful thrust into Cyrenaica.[93]

Crete

The British Commonwealth contingent consisted of the original 14,000-man British garrison and another 25,000 Commonwealth troops evacuated from the mainland. The evacuees were the typical mix found in any contested evacuation – substantially intact units under their own command, composite units hurriedly brought together by leaders on the spot, stragglers without leaders from every type of unit possessed by an army, and deserters. Most of these men lacked heavy equipment. The key formed units were the New Zealand 2nd Division, less the 6th Brigade and division headquarters; the Australian 19th Brigade Group; and the British 14th Infantry Brigade. In total, there were roughly 15,000 combat-ready British Commonwealth infantry, augmented by about 5,000 non-infantry personnel equipped as infantry, and one composite Australian artillery battery.[94]

Iraq

Iran

Syria and Lebann

Tunisia

The Mediterranean

In the Mediterranean, the Army garrison in the British territory of Malta performed anti-air operations in conjunction with the RAF during the bombing of Malta (1940-42) by German and Italian forces. Malta went on to receive the collective award of the George Cross for its bravery. In Greece, the Army contributed a small force to a mostly Australian and New Zealand operation. After an Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940 was successfully repulsed, the Germans invaded in April 1941. A Commonwealth force came to Greece's assistance but they eventually had to be evacuated, many being moved to the island of Crete, commanded by General Bernard Freyberg. The Germans subsequently launched a combined air and sea invasion of the island of Crete in May. The German paratroopers suffered severe casualties but they gradually gained the upper-hand and the Commonwealth defenders, having put up a stubborn defence, had to be evacuated. The Royal Navy suffered heavily in the process but in spite of the casualties they persisted in the evacuation. Over 16,000 were successfully evacuated but 12,254 Commonwealth soldiers were taken prisoner.

Italy

The veterans of the 8th Army along with the American units landed in Sicily in 1943 under Alexander's command became the 15th Army Group and under Eisenhower, was responsible for mounting the Allied invasion of Sicily in July, once again controlling two armies: Montgomery's Eighth Army and George S. Patton's U.S. Seventh Army. 15th Army Group was renamed Allied Central Mediterranean Force on 17 January 1944. ACMF was commanded by Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, and was in turn renamed Allied Armies in Italy on 1 March of the same year. Alexander remained in command of 15th Army Group and its successor, Allied Armies in Italy for most of the Italian Campaign, relinquishing his command to Clarke in December 1944 when he took over as the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean having been promoted Field Marshal. Allied Armies in Italy had thus controlled the land forces for some of the hardest fighting of the entire war. Operations carried out included: the long stalemate on the Gustav Line with the hard fought Battle of Monte Cassino; the Anzio landings; the capture of Rome; and ending with the Allied forces stuck again just south of the Po valley. Eventually advance was made into Austria, and to the border with Yugoslavia leading to some unpleasant encounters between the British forces and Yugoslav partisans who claimed eastern Italian areas as Yugoslav territory.

Dodecanese

Operations in the Far East

The Army in the Far East, as it was in Europe in 1939, was unprepared for war breaking out in the Far East, inadequate in both numbers and equipment. The Government had relied upon the now reduced power of the Royal Navy for the defence of the territories East of Suez, known as the "Singapore Strategy", during the inter-war period. On 7 December 1941, the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing war to the Americans and the Far East. The Japanese swiftly launched invasions of British and other countries territories shortly afterwards.

Hong Kong

Malaya

[[File:|thumb|Lt General Arthur Percival surrenders Singapre to the Japanese 1942.]]

The Japanese invasion of Malaya from Indochina and China, was swift and successful and they quickly gained air and naval superiority. The Army gave a stubborn defence but were gradually pushed back, most units withdrawing to Singapore. Hong Kong was taken on 25 December and Battle of Singapore on 15 February 1942, becoming the most disastrous day in the Army's history. Template:Clr

Madagascar

File:Débarquement à
British troops land at Tamatave.

Template:Clr

Burma

File:Chindit column, Operation
Chindit coloumn during Operation Longcloth 1943.

In Burma, coming under ferocious attack by the Japanese, the British and Indian defenders retreated to India, by May 1942, just before the monsoons cut them off. Two Chindit operations behind Japanese lines took place between 1943-44. In February 1944, the Allied launched an offensive in the south, while the Japanese attacked north India in March. After a successful defence of Imphal and Kohima, the Japanese were defeated there in June. An offensive to retake Burma began in late 1944 culminating in the capture of Rangoon in May 1945. Template:Clr

Casualties

Total war related deaths reported by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: UK & Crown Colonies (383,667); Undivided India (87,031), Australia (40,458); Canada (45,364); New Zealand (11,928); South Africa (11,903).[95]

Wounded: UK & Crown Colonies (284,049); India (64,354), Australia (39,803); Canada (53,174); New Zealand (19,314); South Africa (14,363).[96][97][98] Prisoner of war: UK & Crown Colonies (180,488); India (79,481); Australia (26,358); South Africa (14,750); Canada (9,334); New Zealand (8,415).[96][97][98]

Total military deaths were 383,677 which included Army (210,197), Air Force (84,786), Navy (59,167), Merchant Navy (28,905), and civilian auxiliary deaths (612). These losses include war related deaths during 1946-47.(16,628).

Aftermath

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 French (2000), p 12
  2. French (2000), pp 14–15
  3. Kennedy (1976), pp 273–296
  4. French (2000), p 15
  5. Buell, Badley, Dice & Griess (2002), p 41
  6. Buell, Badley, Dice & Griess (2002), p 42
  7. Brayley & Chappell (2001), p 17
  8. Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp 17–18
  9. Bratley & Chappell (2001), p 18
  10. Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp 18–19
  11. Brayley 7 Chappell (2001), p 19
  12. 12.0 12.1 Brayley & Chappell (2001), P 19
  13. Crang (2000), p 5
  14. Crang (2000), p 6
  15. Crang (2000), p 9
  16. Crang (2000), p 11
  17. "WW2 Peoples War". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1138664.shtml?sectionId=1&articleId=1138664. 
  18. "WW2 Peoples War". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1138664.shtml?sectionId=1&articleId=1138664. 
  19. "Recruitment during WW2". spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWbritishA.htm. 
  20. "ww2- conscription". historyonthenet.com. http://www.historyonthenet.com/WW2/conscription.htm. 
  21. "WW2 3.5Million British Army 1946". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a6648078.shtml?sectionId=0&articleId=6648078. 
  22. Summerfield & Peniston-Bird (2007), p 27
  23. Summerfield & Peniston-Bird (2007), pp 26–27
  24. MacKenzie (1995), p 35
  25. Mackenzie (1995), p 39
  26. Brayley & Chappell (2001), pp 4–5
  27. Brayley & Chappell (2001), p 5
  28. Playfair (2004), p 153
  29. Zabecki(1999) p 1608
  30. Brayley & Chappel (), p 11
  31. Badsey (1999), p 12
  32. Moreman & Anderson (2007), p 4
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Moreman & Anderson (2007), p 5
  34. "HQ British Troops Palestine and Transjordan". http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=6890&Tab=Uhi. Retrieved on 2008-12-14. 
  35. "History and Commanders of 9 Army [British Commonwealth]". http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=7077&Tab=Sub. Retrieved on 2008-12-14. 
  36. "Commanders of the 9th Army". http://www.ordersofbattle.com/UnitData.aspx?UniX=7077&Tab=App. Retrieved on 2008-12-14. 
  37. Lyman & Gerrard (2006), p 19
  38. Lyman & Gerrard (2006), pp 7–8
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Brayley & Chappel (2002), p 4
  40. Brayley & Chappell (2002), p 5
  41. Brayley 7 Chappel (2002), p 6
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