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Indian 23rd Infantry Division
Active 1942 - 1945
Branch British Indian Army
Engagements Battle of Imphal
Major General Reginald Savory
Major General Ouvry Lindfield Roberts

The Indian 23rd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Indian Army during World War II. It fought in the Burma Campaign.


The division was raised on 1 January 1942, at Jhansi in Central India. Its badge was a red fighting cock on a yellow circle. (The animal was chosen by Major General Reginald Savory, the division's first commander, as one which would offend neither the Moslem nor Hindu soldiers of the division.

In May that year, while the division was still forming, it was ordered to Imphal in Manipur, where Burma Corps was retreating, having been driven out of Burma by the Japanese. Imphal lay within the mountainous frontier between India and Burma, and the division was ordered to move while the monsoon season was at its height. Movement was difficult, and disease (mainly malaria, but also typhus) was rampant. The division's chief claim to respect lies in holding its positions in these trying conditions, while also trying to undertake basic training.

On 3 June 1943, Major General Savory was promoted and appointed Director of Infantry in India. The division was temporarily commanded by Brigadier Collingridge of 37th Brigade until 15 August, when Major General Ouvry Lindfield Roberts, who had gained widespread respect by his handling of operations in the Middle East, was appointed.

Battle of Imphal

In March, 1944, the Japanese launched a major attack on the British troops at Imphal. At the time, 23rd Division was the reserve unit for Indian IV Corps. After its previous service in Imphal, the division was no less than 5,000 men short of establishment (about 18,500). This was due mainly to disease, and poor administration in the rear areas in 1943, which prevented many recovering sick men from rejoining the division.

When the Japanese offensive began, Indian 17th Infantry Division was cut off in its forward position at Tiddim. One brigade of 23rd division was left to hold Imphal while the remainder of the division was sent to help extricate the 17th Division. Once the two divisions had linked up, they retreated to Bishenpur south of Imphal, being supplied by parachute drops.

The 23rd Division was then sent to Kanglatongbi, north of Imphal, where Japanese troops had cut the road linking Imphal with India and were threatening a major supply dump. The Japanese were held back while the dump was emptied of stores.

In June, all the divisions at Imphal were reorganised and repositioned. 23rd Division defended the Shenam Saddle southeast of Imphal against the last Japanese attacks in this area.

Operation Zipper

After the end of the Battle of Imphal, the division was withdrawn to India. After recuperating, it began training for future operations in Malaya. Major General Roberts was promoted to command Indian XXXIV Corps, and the division was commanded by Major General Douglas Hawthorn. In mid-1945, the division was due to take part in Operation Zipper, a landing on the west coast of Malaya, as part of XXXIV Corps. Although forestalled by the Japanese surrender, the landing took place unopposed, as the quickest means of sending troops to Malaya to enforce the surrender.

Later that year, the division was sent to Java, where the end of the war had brought widespread disorder and conflict between the restored Dutch East Indies colonial regime and pro-independence movements. The division was broken up in Java, and its units were merged into Indian 5th Infantry Division.

Order of battle

as of 1st April, 1944

    • 3 Field Regiment Royal Indian Artillery (IA)
    • 28 Mountain Regiment IA
    • 2 Anti-Tank/Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment IA
    • 23 Indian Infantry Division Provost Unit
    • 23 Indian Infantry Division Signal Unit
    • 21, 24, 50, 61 Animal Transport Companies Indian Army Service Corps (IASC)
    • 121, 122, 123 General Purpose Transport Companies IASC
    • 12, 13, 14, 15 Composite Units IASC
    • 23 Ordnance Field Park, Indian Army Ordnance Corps (IAOC)
    • 38, 61 Infantry Workshop Companies, Indian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (IEME)
    • 23 Indian Division Recovery Company IEME

Assigned brigades

All theses brigades were assigned or attached to the division at some time during World War II


Further reading

  • Parrott, J. G. A., Role of the 49 Indian Infantry Brigade in Surabaya, Oct.-Nov. 1945, Australian thesis

External links

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