40th Division (United Kingdom)

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40th Division
Insignia showing a bantam.
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Major-General H.G. Ruggles-Brise

The 40th Division was an infantry division of the British Army active during World War I, where it served on the Western Front. It was a division of Lord Kitchener's New Army volunteers, mostly "bantam" recruits of below regulation height. It was later briefly reformed as a fictional deception formation in World War II, and during the early years of the Cold War was recreated a third time to garrison Hong Kong.


First World War[]

The 40th Division was originally formed as a Kitchener's Army 'Bantam' division between September and December 1915 for service in the First World War. 'Bantam' personnel were those who were under the Army regulation height but otherwise fit for service. It comprised the 119th, 120th, and 121st Brigades. The 40th Division moved to the Western Front in June 1916 and served there throughout the First World War.

The most notable action of the division may be its participation in the Battle of Cambrai in late 1917. By 22 November the British were left exposed in a salient on the battlefield. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front, wanted Bourlon Ridge and the exhausted 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division was replaced by the 40th Division, commanded by Major-General John Ponsonby, on 23 November. Supported by almost a hundred tanks and 430 guns, the 40th attacked into the woods of Bourlon Ridge on the morning of the 23rd. They made little progress. The Germans had put two divisions of Gruppe Arras on the ridge with another two in reserve and Gruppe Caudry was reinforced. The 40th Division reached the crest of the ridge but were held there and suffered over 4,000 casualties for their efforts in three days. The division was subsequently driven back in the German counterattacks, suffering many more losses.

From July 1918 until March 1919, the division was led by General Sir William Peyton and took part in the Hundred Days advance through Flanders.[1]

Order of Battle[]

The following units served with the division[2]

119th Brigade

(This brigade was often known as the Welsh Bantam Brigade, until February 1918.)

  • 19th (Service) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers (disbanded February 1918)
  • 12th (Service) Battalion, South Wales Borderers (disbanded February 1918)
  • 17th (Service) Battalion, Welsh Regiment (disbanded February 1918)
  • 18th (Service) Battalion, Welsh Regiment (joined July 1915. Reduced to cadre in May 1918 and left brigade 18 June 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (joined from 120th Brigade February 1918, left as cadre June 1918)
  • 21st (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (joined February 1918, left as cadre May 1918)
  • 10/11th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (joined and left February 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (converted from 13th Garrison Battalion and joined in June 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (converted from 8th Garrison Guard Battalion and joined in June 1918)
  • 12th (Service) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment (converted from 12th Garrison Battalion and joined in June 1918)
  • 119th Machine Gun Company (joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Battalion Machine Gun Corps (M.G.C.) March 1918)
  • 119th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 25 June 1916)

120th Brigade

  • 11th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own (disbanded February 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left February 1916)
  • 14th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (left as a cadre June 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, East Surrey Regiment (joined February 1916, left for 119th Brigade February 1918)
  • 14th (Service) Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (left April 1918)
  • 12th (Service) Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment (joined January 1916, absorbed into 11th King’s Own March 1916)
  • 10/11th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (joined February 1918, left as cadre June 1918)
  • 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers (joined and left April 1918)
  • 10th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers (joined June 1918)
  • 15th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Light Infantry (joined June 1918)
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders (converted from 6th Garrison Guard Battalion and joined June 1918)
  • 120th Machine Gun Company (joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Battalion M.G.C. March 1918)
  • 120th Trench Mortar Battery (joined 8 June 1916)

121st Brigade

  • 12th (Service) Battalion, Suffolk Regiment (left May 1918)
  • 13th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (left June 1918)
  • 18th (Service) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (merged with 13th Yorkshire Regiment in April 1916)
  • 22nd (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (disbanded April 1916)
  • 20th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (joined 23 February 1916, left as cadre May 1918)
  • 21st (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (joined 23 February 1916, left February 1918)
  • 8th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (converted from 8th Garrison Battalion and joined June 1918)
  • 23rd (Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (converted from 23rd Garrison Battalion and joined June 1918)
  • 23rd (Service) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment (joined June 1918)
  • 9th (Service) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment (joined as cadre June 1918, absorbed July 1918)
  • 121st Machine Gun Company (joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Battalion M.G.C. March 1918)
  • 121st Trench Mortar Battery (joined 25 June 1916)

Divisional Troops

  • 12th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (divisional pioneers, left June 1918)
  • 17th (Service) Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment (divisional pioneers, joined June 1918)
  • 244th Machine Gun Company (joined July 1917, moved to 40th Battalion M.G.C. March 1918)
  • 40th Battalion M.G.C. (formed March 1918, disbanded May 1918)
  • 104th Battalion M.G.C. (formed 24 August 1918, left 16 September 1918)
  • 39th Battalion M.G.C. (joined 11 September 1918)
  • Divisional Mounted Troops
  • 40th Divisional Train Army Service Corps
    • 225th, 226th, 227th, 228th Companies (joined November 1915, left by April 1916)
    • 292nd, 293rd, 294th and 295th Companies 9joined by April 1916)
  • 51st Mobile Veterinary Section Army Veterinary Corps
  • 237th Divisional Employment Company (joined April 1917)

Royal Artillery

  • CLXXVIII (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (R.F.A.)
  • CLXXXI Brigade, R.F.A.
  • CLXXXV Brigade, R.F.A. (broken up 31 August 1916)
  • CLXXXVIII Brigade, R.F.A. (broken up 1 September 1916)
  • 40th Divisional Ammunition Column R.F.A.
  • V.40 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, R.F.A. (formed 4 July 1916; broken up 7 March 1918)
  • X.40, Y.40 and Z.40 Medium Mortar Batteries, R.F.A. (formed 25 June 1916, Z broken up on 7 March 1918 and distributed among X and Y batteries)

Royal Engineers

  • 224th Field Company
  • 229th Field Company
  • 231st Company
  • 40th Divisional Signals Company

Royal Army Medical Corps

  • 135th Field Ambulance
  • 136th Field Ambulance
  • 137th Field Ambulance
  • 83rd Sanitary Section (left April 1917)

Second World War[]

The Division was re-formed by the British Army in 1943 during the Second World War for deception purposes. It was formed in Sicily from the H.Q. of the 43rd Infantry Brigade and its units were designated for deception purposes as well. The division ceased to exist on 17 June 1944.

Post war[]

Following the increasing success of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, the 40th Division was reformed to bolster the defences of Hong Kong in 1949 under the command of Major General G.C. Evans. In Hong Kong the Division comprised the 26th Gurkha, 27th and 28th Infantry Brigades, and 3rd Royal Tank Regiment. However the 27th Brigade was soon dispatched to Korea in August 1950, and followed by other units of the division. The Division was later disbanded.

General Officer Commanding[]

See also[]


  1. ^ William Eliot Peyton at the web site of the CENTRE FOR FIRST WORLD WAR STUDIES online at bham.ac.uk (accessed 19 January 2008)
  2. ^ Baker, Chris. "40th Division". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 15 November 2018.


  • Gregory Blaxland. (1971). The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945–70. William Kimber: London.
  • Whitton, F. E. (1926). History of the 40th Division (N & M Press, 2004 ed.). Aldershot: Gale and Polden. ISBN 978-1-84342-870-1. Retrieved 13 October 2014.

External links[]