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The British 5th Infantry Division was established by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsula War and has been active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War. The modern day division was established in 1995 and is an administrative division covering Walesmarker and the Englishmarker regions of West Midlands, East Midlands and East. Its headquarters are in Shrewsburymarker.

Peninsula War

The 5th Division during the Peninsular War under the command of General James Leith was present at most of the major engagements including the Battle of Bussacomarker, the Battle of Sabugal, the Siege of Almeida , the Battle of Badajoz , the Battle of Salamancamarker, the Battle of Vitoria, the Siege of San Sebastian, the Battle of Nivelle and the Battle of the Nive.


  • Portuguese Brigade
    • 1/3rd Line
    • 2/3rd Line
    • 1/15th Line
    • 2/15th Line
    • 8th Cacadores

Waterloo Campaign

The Division was also present during the Waterloo Campaign first seeing action at the Battle of Quatre Bras then at the Battle of Waterloomarker under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton

the formation was

  • 5th Hanoverian Brigade, Colonel Ernst von Vincke
    • Landwehr Battalion Gifhorn
    • Landwehr Battalion Hameln
    • Landwehr Battalion Hildesheim
    • Landwehr Battalion Peine

  • Artillery, Major Heinrich Heise
    • Roger's Battery, Royal Artillery
    • Braun's Battery, Hanoverian Foot Artillery
Black Watch at Quartre Bras

First World War

The 5th Division was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to Francemarker at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for most of the war except for a brief period in Italymarker.

The 5th Division, as a regular army formation (one of the Old Contemptibles) fought in many of the major battles of the Western Front from The Battle of Monsmarker in 1914 , the later stages of the Somme offensive , including the first battle using tanks, up to the Battle of the Selle in 1918. They were in almost continuous action throughout the war and suffered a tremendous amount of casualties as can be seen from the way the battalions that made up the division changed during the war. By 1918 the 5th Division, like most other regular divisions, contained very few of those regulars who went to France in 1914.

British infantry advance near Gingy.
Possibly 5th Division.

Commanders during the First World War

  • Maj. Gen. Sir Charles Ferguson
  • Maj. Gen. T.Morland
  • Maj. Gen. C.Kavanagh
  • Maj. Gen. R.Stephens
  • Maj. Gen. John Ponsonby

First World War formation

13th BrigadeThis Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 23 February and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 84th Brigade from that Division.

14th BrigadeBrigade transferred to 32nd Division on 30 December 1915

15th BrigadeThis Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 3 March and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 83rd Brigade from that Division.

95th BrigadeBrigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915


The division was unusual among other British divisions in that no battle patches were worn on their tunics or helmets, aside from those briefly worn by New Army battalions bringing them from their former division.

Second World War

In September 1939 the Division was a regular formation in the UK. Both its infantry brigades went to France by early October as independent infantry brigades, but Divisional Headquarters crossed to France on 19 December and by the new year the Division was reformed.

Globe Trotting

The 5th Infantry Division saw action in France and Belgiummarker in 1940 including at the Ypresmarker-Comines Canal from 26th to 28 May 1940, and then was withdrawn, along with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force, from Dunkirk. After this it served and travelled in so many regions of the world that they became known as the Globe Trotters. In April 1942 13th and 17th Infantry Brigades and a portion of the Divisional Troops were detached to 'Force 121' for Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Vichymarker French held Madagascarmarker. The Division was not complete again until August 1942.It was sent from the UK to Indiamarker to Iraqmarker, and Persiamarker to join Tenth Army, where it spent time under the command of III Corps and XXI Indian Corps. It then went to Syriamarker and Egyptmarker before being withdrawn in preparation for the Sicily landings.

Sicily and Italy

The 5th Division saw action in the Sicily Landings from 9th to 12 July 1943, and then was part of the British Eighth Army in Italy. Under XIII Corps, it was in the Messina area in September 1943, involved in the Sangromarker battles from 19th Nov. to 3rd Dec. 1943, engagements at Gariglianomarker Crossing from 17th to 31 January1944.

After the British 1st Infantry Division and other British forces, as part of the U.S. VI Corps under Major General John P. Lucas, landed at Anzio in January 1944, the 5th Division was part of later reinforcements sent there, along with the 56th Infantry Division .

It was part of the drive on Romemarker from 22 May to 4 June 1944. From there they were sent to Palestine, back to Italy and finally to North West Europe for the final months of the war.

During the Second World War, unlike during the First World War, the Division used a 'Y' on a black square background as its insignia.


During the Second World War:

Second World War formation

13th Infantry Brigade (26 April 1942 – 2 August 1942 detached to Force 121 in Madagascar)

15th Infantry Brigade

17th Infantry Brigade (15 March 1942 - 30 June 1942 Detached to Force 121 in Madagascarmarker)

Division Troops

Post Second World War

It was reformed briefly from the 7th Armoured Division in Germany on 16 April 1958, with the 7th and 20th Armoured Brigades but was then redesignated the 1st Division on June 30, 1960. It was again reformed in the UK on 1 April 1968, under Army Strategic Command, incorporating the 2nd, 8th, and 39th Brigades, but disbanded in February 1971.

Current formation

Structure 5th Division
Today the 5th Division is an administrative division - effectively a military district, having been reformed from North West, Wales, and Western Districts on April 1, 1995. It has administrative control over a wide range of regiments, training establishments and cadet corps. It has its permanent headquarters at the Copthorne Barracksmarker in Shrewsburymarker, Shropshiremarker, which is also the headquarters of the 143rd Brigade.

The division was in charge of the majority of British Army units in Walesmarker, the English West Midlands and South West England, with approximately 20,000 regular personnel, 9,000 TA personnel and around 5,000 civilians, between 1995 and 2007. The South West has now been transferred to the 4th Division, replaced by the East Midlands and the East English regions. The division therefore now covers the central regions of England as well as Wales.

The 5th Division took command of Headquarters Salisbury Plainmarker Area and 43rd (Wessex) Brigade from 3rd Division on April 1, 1999, and 107 (Ulster) Brigade also fell under its responsibility. However 107 Brigade was shifted back under Headquarters, Northern Ireland, at a later date. HQ 43rd Brigade moved to Bulford by September 1, 1999, and HQ Salisbury Plainmarker Area disbanded by that date. This process freed Headquarters 3rd Mechanised Division from its administrative and regional responsibilities and it become a deployable or "fly-away" division.

The Divisional Commander, Major General M. J. Rutledge OBE, reports to the Commander Regional Forces within Land Command.

The current composition is as follows:

Recent Commanders

Recent Commanders have been:
  • 1995-1996 Major General IL Freer
  • 1996-1999 Major General RV Searley
  • 2000-2001 Major General AP Grant Peterkin
  • 2002-2003 Major General AG Denaro
  • 2003-2004 Major General NJ Cottam
  • 2005-2008 Major General A Farquhar
  • From May 2008 Major General MJ Rutledge


Further reading

  • A Guide to Appointments and Invitations for High Commissions & Embassies in London, UK Ministry of Defence, June 2006 Edition
  • Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945-70, William Kimber, London, 1971.
  • Readers' Digest, The World At Arms, 1989

External links

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