Military Wiki
1st (UK) Armoured Division
Insignia of the 1st (UK) Armoured Division
Active 1937–1945
1960 – present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Armoured Division
Size Second World War
14,964 men[1]
343 tanks[nb 1][nb 2]
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Herford, Germany

Second World War

First Gulf War
Iraq War
Major General James Chiswell
Willoughby Norrie
Herbert Lumsden
Richard Hull
Rupert Smith

The 1st Armoured Division is an armoured division of the British Army, currently the only British division to be stationed in Germany. Originally formed in November 1937 as the Mobile Division, it saw extensive service during the Second World War, was disbanded afterward, was reconstituted in 1976, and remains in service today. It should not be confused with 1st Infantry Division which saw service in the Second World War as a separate formation.


The division was formed in November 1937 on the initiative of General Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). At the time, it was named the The Mobile Division. The choice of the division's General Officer Commanding reflected the tensions within the army. The Secretary of State for War (Leslie Hore-Belisha) wanted a Royal Tank Corps officer to command, as tanks would be the main force of the division, but Montgomery-Massingberd wanted a cavalry officer. Supporters of Montgomery-Massingberd proposed that the tank element of the division should be formed from cavalry regiments equipped with light tanks only, and that the tank brigade and its heavier tanks be removed from the division. The compromise was the appointment of Major-General Alan Brooke, who was from the Royal Artillery.[3] When Brooke was promoted, his replacement was a cavalry officer.

As formed the Mobile Division was made up of the 1st and 2nd Light Armoured Brigades, the 1st Tank Brigade, artillery, engineers and signals. Its paper strength was 620 armoured fighting vehicles, but seven eighths of these were reconnaissance vehicles, and of those some were being simulated by trucks. The heavier tanks were in the tank brigade, and until cruiser tanks started deliveries in December 1938 they were obsolete Medium Tanks. At the same time, the organization of the division was changed to a Light Armoured Brigade (three regiments with light and cruiser tanks), a Heavy Armoured Brigade (three regiments of cruiser tanks) and a Support Group (motorized rifle battalion, motorized artillery regiment and a company of engineers). In practice, with insufficient cruiser tanks to equip the division, there was no difference in numbers and type of tanks between the light and heavy brigade.[4]

Second World War

It first saw service in incomplete form under the command of Major-General Roger Evans when the second British Expeditionary Force was sent to France in 1940.[5] It landed in France on 14 April 1940 and was evacuated on 16 June, having served south of the River Somme, isolated from the other British formations.

For the rest of 1940 and up until 27 August 1941, the division was stationed in the United Kingdom on anti-invasion duties under the command of Major General Willoughby Norrie. It then embarked for Egypt under the command of Major General Herbert Lumsden and arrived in Egypt on 13 November 1941. After Lumsden was wounded, Major General Frank Messervy took command in January 1942 retaining command until Lumsden returned in March.[6] It took part in many of the major battles of the later part of the campaign against Rommel, including Gazala, First El Alamein, Second El Alamein, Tebaga Gap, Akarit, El Kourzia and Tunis.[5] In August 1942 Major-General Raymond Briggs took control[7] and in July 1943 Major-General Alexander Galloway took over the baton.[8]

From the end of the Tunisian campaign the division remained in North Africa until May 1944. It then transferred to Italy, fighting one last battle at Coriano in the fighting on the Gothic Line.[5] Major-General Richard Hull took over command for this part of the campaign in August 1944.[9] The division was disbanded on 1 January 1945.

Second World War formation

The order of battle was as follows:[10]


  • 60th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery 01/04/44-26/09/44
  • 76th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery 22/09/42-31/03/44
  • 42nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery 26/09/42-05/10/44


  • 1st Field Squadron, Royal Engineers 01/02/40-04/02/42; 02/09/42-29/09/44
  • 7th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers 23/10/40-19/03/42; 01/10/42-20/08/44
  • 627th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers 21/08/44-29/09/44
  • 1st Field Park Squadron, Royal Engineers 03/07/40-25/08/44
  • 631st Field Park Squadron, Royal Engineers 26/08/44-29/09/44
  • 1st Field Park Troop, Royal Engineers 01/08/40-02/07/40
  • 27th Bridging Troop, Royal Engineers 18/10/43-25/08/44




Post Second World War

Ground operations during Operation Desert Storm, showing the 1st Armoured Divisions movements.

It was not until 1960 that the Division re-emerged in the British Army. It was reformed as 1st Division following the disbanding of the 1st Infantry Division and was initially based at Verden an der Aller in Germany.[11] During the 1970s, the division consisted of two "square" brigades, the 7th Armoured Brigade and 11th Armoured Brigade. It was renamed 1st Armoured Division in 1976.[11] In 1978 the Headquarters moved to Shiel Barracks in Verden in Germany.[12] After being briefly reorganised into two "task forces" ("Alpha" and "Bravo"), in the early 1980s it consisted of the 7th, 12th, and 22nd Armoured Brigades.[11]

Divisional formations and units have deployed on many other operations such as internal security in Northern Ireland, The Falkland Islands, Belize and United Nations tours in Cyprus, Bosnia and Kosovo. The headquarters of the division was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to command British land forces. It had two brigades under its command, 4th and 7th Armoured Brigade. During the war it came under the US VII Corps and was part of the great armoured left-hook that destroyed many Iraqi Republican Guard formations. The two brigades in the division alternated heading the advance.[13]

Cold War Structure

Structure of the 1st (Armoured) Division 1989, when under the 1st British Corps:

Former Structure

Structure 1st Armoured Div.

In 1993 HQ 1st Armoured Division was disbanded and the 1st (UK) Armoured Division formed from the 4th Armoured Division. The Divisional Headquarters was deployed in command of Multi-National Division (South-West) in Bosnia in 1996–1997 and 1998–1999.[14]

The Division headquarters again deployed to the Gulf area in 2003. It again commanded British forces in the area, this time with three full brigades under its control. Those were 7th Armoured Brigade again, along with 16 Air Assault Brigade, and 3 Commando Brigade. In a combined arms operation the division secured southern Iraq, including the city of Basra during the invasion. It came under I Marine Expeditionary Force during the 2003 conflict.[15]

The 1st (UK) Armoured Division is currently the only British division to be stationed in Germany. The headquarters as been stationed since 1993 at Wentworth Barracks in Herford.[16] The Division currently reports to Army Headquarters at Andover.

The divisional badge dates from 1983, and combines the hollow red triangular "spearhead" badge of 1st Infantry Division with the charging rhinoceros badge of 1st Armoured Division as displayed in World War II.

The following brigades make up the 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division:[11]

Current Structure

Under Army 2020, it will move to the York area and be renamed as 1st (UK) Division.[17][18]

Structure after Army 2020:

Specialized Infantry Group

4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North-East

7th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East

11th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters South-East

38th (Irish) Brigade

Headquarters North West

51st Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Scotland

160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales

General Officers Commanding

Commanders have been:[19]
GOC The Mobile Division

GOC 1st Armoured Division

GOC 1st Division

GOC 1st Armoured Division

GOC 1st (UK) Armoured Division

GOC 1st (United Kingdom) Division

Deputy Commanders

Deputy Commanders of the division have included:[19]

Chiefs of Staff

Chiefs of Staff of the division have included:[19]

Commander, Royal Artillery

Chiefs of Staff of the division have included:[19]

See also


  1. 63 light tanks, 205 medium tanks, 24 close support tanks, 25 anti-aircraft tanks, and 8 artillery observation tanks.[2]
  2. These two figures are the war establishment, the on-paper strength, of the division for 1944/1945; for information on how the division size changed over the war please see British Army during the Second World War and British Armoured formations of the Second World War.


External links

Coordinates: 52°07′00″N 8°41′49″E / 52.1166667°N 8.69694°E / 52.1166667; 8.69694

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