Military Wiki
2nd Armoured Division
Active 15 December 1939–10 May 1941[1]
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type armoured
Size Second World War
10,750 men[2]
340 tanks[3][nb 1]
Engagements North African Campaign
Willoughby Norrie

The 2nd Armoured Division was a British Army formation during the Second World War; it was created on 15 December 1939 and disbanded on 10 May 1941, after most of the division was captured at Mechili in Libya by German and Italian forces.


This division had a short and unlucky history; formed in December 1939, it wasn't until the following month that it received any troops to command - when the 1st Light Armoured Brigade and the 22nd Heavy Armoured Brigade were assigned.[1] Similarly, the 2nd Support Group was formed in February, but no troops were assigned until March.[4] As the 1st Armoured Division had priority for equipment, the 2nd was forced to use whatever was available. The 1st Armoured Brigade, with its 150-odd Mk VI light tanks, was the most combat-ready element of the division during most of 1940. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was forced to make do with trucks and a few light tanks.[5]

As the threat of invasion receded after the Battle of Britain, the division was reorganized and reinforced for service in the Middle East. It exchanged the 22nd Armoured Brigade for the 1st Armoured Division's veteran 3rd Armoured Brigade and then the brigade's exchanged regiments to ensure that each had both cruisers and light tanks.[6]

The following table lists tank strengths before departure in October 1940:

Number Tank Type Units
169 Mk VI 52 each in KDG, 3rd Hussars, 4th Hussars, 4 with 1st RHA
6 A 9 CS 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
12 A 10 CS 6 each in 3rd and 5th RTR
74 A 10 Two squadrons in 2nd RTR, one squadron each in 3rd and 5th RTR
83 A 13 One squadron in 2nd RTR, two squadrons each in 3rd and 5th RTR

In addition, both brigade headquarters (as well as the division headquarters) had three Mk VI light tanks and seven cruiser tanks (mainly A 10s).[5]

In early 1941, the division was sent to the Western Desert to reinforce troops under General Wavell, who, at the time, was on the verge of defeating the Italian forces. Unaware that Germany had sent reinforcements to support the Italians in Cyrenaica, Wavell's superiors ordered him to send half his troops to Greece, including the 1st Armoured Brigade and elements from the 2nd Support Group. Rommel's offensive forced Wavell's troops to retreat. Unfortunately, on 8 April 1941, the understrength 2nd Armoured Division was caught in a pincer movement by the Italian 10th Bersaglieri Regiment, the 5th Light Division and the 15th Panzer Division - some elements escaped capture and were evacuated from Tobruk. On 10 May 1941, the division was officially disbanded and not reformed.

The 2nd Armoured Division also had an RAMC Brigade, but World War II records identifying the unit number are currently unavailable.[7]

Following re-organisation, 2nd Infantry Division was reformed as an armoured formation in I (BR) Corps in Germany from 1976 to 1983. In this incarnation, it had two armoured regiments, each nominally with 74 tanks, and three mechanised infantry battalions, and probably incorporated Task Force Charlie and Task Force Delta. Following further reorganisation in 1983, it was converted back into an infantry division.

General Officers Commanding

The 2nd Armoured Division had five General Officers Commanding during its Second World War existence, with the final officer being taken prisoner.

Appointed General Officer Commanding
15 December 1939 Major-General F.E. Hotblack[1][8]
17 April 1940 Brigadier C.W.M. Norrie (acting)[1]
10 May 1940 Major-General J.C. Tilly (Died on 5 January 1941)[1]
16 January 1941 Brigadier H.B. Latham (acting)[1]
12 February 1941 Major-General M.D. Gambier-Parry (captured on 8 April 1941)[1]

The Division had three General Officers Commanding during its existence in the late 1970s and early 1980s:

Appointed General Officer Commanding
1977 Major-General Frank Kitson[9]
February 1978 Major-General Alexander Boswell[9]
March 1980 Major-General Martin Farndale[9]


(On 8 April 1941 when it surrendered)

3rd Armoured Brigade

3rd Indian Motor Brigade

( 6 April 1941 - 8 April 1941 )

2nd Support Group

See also


  1. These two figures are the war establishment, the on-paper strength, of the division for 1940; for information on how armoured divisions changed over the war please see British Army during the Second World War and British Armoured formations of the Second World War.
  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 Joslen, p. 16
  2. Joslen, p. 129
  3. Joslen, p. 4
  4. Joslen, p. 216
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hughes, et al., p. 35 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "h" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Joslen, pp. 16, 151, 168-9
  7. The Lost years, by RT Cochran
  8. Invalided out of the Army following accident in April 1940
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Army Commands
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Mackenzie (1951), p. 71
  11. 104 RHA (Essex Yeomanry) (TA)
  12. 102 (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment RA (TA)


  • Cochran, Russell (1991). The Lost Years.  Unpublished Autobiography of Russell T. Cochran
  • Hughes, David; Broshot, James and Philson, Alan (1999). British Armoured and Cavalry Divisions. The British Armies in World War Two: An Organizational History. One. George F. Nafziger. 
  • Joslen, Lieutenant-Colonel H.F (1960) [1960]. Orders Of Battle Second World War 1939-1945. Naval & Military Press Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1. 
  • Latimer, Jon (2001). Tobruk 1941; Rommel's Opening Move. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. 
  • MacKenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic. London: Chatto & Windus. 

External links

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