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Heavy Armoured Brigade (Egypt)
4th Armoured Brigade
4th Armoured Brigade Group
4th Mechanized Brigade
4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East
Black Rat Patch .jpg
Current insignia of the 4th Infantry Brigade & HQ North East.
Active 1939–1945
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Brigade
Part of 1st (United Kingdom) Division
Garrison/HQ Catterick, North Yorkshire
Nickname(s) The Black Rats

Second World War

North African Campaign
Invasion of Sicily
Battle of Normandy
North West Europe Campaign
Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo Campaign
Iraq War
Brigadier Oliver Brown
Michael Carver

4th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters North East (The Black Rats), previously known as 4th Mechanized Brigade (The Black Rats) is a brigade formation of the British Army, currently based in Catterick, North Yorkshire as part of 1st (United Kingdom) Division.[1] The brigade, now known as the 'Black Rats', was formed in 1939 and fought in the Second World War in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa. The Black Rats were subsequently involved in the invasion of Sicily and fighting in Italy before taking part in the Battle of Normandy and the advance through Belgium, Holland and into Germany.[2]

More recently, the Brigade took part in the First Gulf War and completed a number of tours to the Balkans during the 1990s. The Black Rats have since deployed twice to Iraq and once before to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 12 in 2010. The Brigade returned to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in October 2012 for Operation Herrick 17 to take over as the lead formation of British troops. The roulement tour saw the brigade working in support of the Afghan Army's 3/215 Brigade and elements of the Afghan National Police.


Second World War[]

In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War this brigade changed its title from Heavy Armoured Brigade (Egypt) to 4th Armoured Brigade.[3]

On 27 July 1941, it handed over its units to the 1st Army Tank Brigade and received new units based in Egypt. It was reformed again when the HQ arrived in Sicily and it took control of new units there. The 4th Armoured Brigade saw service in the North African Campaign, the Allied invasion of Sicily, the Italian Campaign and in North-western Europe. Although it served under many different formations it was most famous as part of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats.[3]

Sherman DD tank of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade, passing Universal Carriers of the 6th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers east of the River Rhine, 25 March 1945.

The 4th Armoured Brigade left the 7th Armoured Division in North Africa in 1943 for the Allied Invasion Force for Normandy. In June 1944, the brigade landed in Normandy and served with distinction during the Battle of Normandy during the Battle for Caen. From Normandy until the end of the war, the 4th Armoured Brigade was composed as follows:

The 4th Armoured Brigade was the first to cross the Rhine into Germany.[4]

Order of battle, Second World War[]

Cold War Era[]

The Brigade spent many years in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine. The brigade was one of two "square" brigades assigned to 2nd Armoured Division when it was formed in 1976.[5] By 1950 the brigade was titled 4th (Guards) Infantry Brigade. After being briefly converted to "Task Force Charlie" in the late 1970s, the brigade was reinstated in 1981, assigned to 3rd Armoured Division[6] and was based at York Barracks in Münster.[7] The Brigade deployed to the First Gulf War on Operation Granby in 1990/91 and was involved in the liberation of Kuwait. It moved to Quebec Barracks at Osnabrück in 1993 to replace 12th Armoured Brigade as part of 1st (UK) Armoured Division.[8]

Troops Cold-War Era[]

Troops commanded by the brigade during the Cold War included:[9]


  • Headquarters
    • 4th Infantry Brigade Headquarters (1947–1970)
      • 4th Armoured Brigade Headquarters (1970–1981)
      • 4th Armoured Brigade Headquarters and 204 Signal Squadron (1981–1993)
  • Signals
    • 4 (Guards) Signal Brigade Group Signal Squadron (1947–1959)
      • 204 Signal Squadron (Guards Brigade Group) (1959–1964)
      • 204 Signal Squadron (Guards Brigade) (1964–1970)
      • 204 Signal Squadron (Brigade) (1970–1977)
      • 4 Squadron, 2nd Armoured Division Signal Regiment (1977–1981)
      • 4th Armoured Brigade Headquarters and 204 Signal Squadron (1981–1993)





Post-Cold War[]

4th Armoured Brigade deployed to Bosnia in October 1995 as UNPROFOR HQ Sector South-West and subsequently as the leading UK element of the NATO Implementation Force (IFOR).[10] On its return to the United Kingdom in 2007 it was transferred from 1st (UK) Armoured Division to 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division.[10] The Black Rats have since deployed twice to Iraq and once before to Afghanistan for Operation Herrick 12 in 2010. The Brigade returned to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in October 2012 for Operation Herrick 17 to take over as the lead formation of British troops. The roulement tour saw the brigade working in support of the Afghan Army's 3/215 Brigade and elements of the Afghan National Police.[11] As part of the latter changes of Army 2020 both the 2nd and 4th Battalions of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment will move out of the brigade. The 2nd battalion moving to the Specialised Infantry Group and the 4th battalion moving to the renamed Headquarters, North West.[12][13]

Current formation[]

4 Inf Bgd Structure

Under Army 2020, the brigade lost its armour and converted to an infantry brigade. The units to be under its control include:[12][14][15]

The Brigade also exercises command over all British Army Units based in the North East for the purposes of UK Operations. 4th Infantry Brigade is also regionally aligned with the northern African region as part of defence engagement.[16]

Second World War Commanders[]

During the Second World War:[17]

  • 3 September 1939 - 1 November 1939 Lieutenant-Colonel HRB Watkins
  • 1 November 1939 - 16 November 1939 Brigadier JAL Caunter
  • 16 November 1939 - 5 December 1939 Lieutenant-Colonel HRB Watkins
  • 5 December 1939 - 8 May 1941 Brigadier JAL Caunter
  • 8 May 1941 - 26 June 1942 Brigadier AH Gatehouse
  • 26 June 1942 - 7 July 1942 Brigadier AF Fisher
  • 7 July 1942 - 4 October 1942 Brigadier WG Carr
  • 4 October 1942 - 18 November 1942 Brigadier MG Roddick
  • 18 November 1942 - 10 December 1942 Colonel RCG Joy
  • 10 December 1942 - 24 January 1943 Brigadier CBC Harvey
  • 24 January 1943 - 27 February 1943 Brigadier DS Newton-King
  • 27 February 1943 - 30 December 1943 Brigadier JC Currie
  • 30 December 1943 - 16 March 1944 Brigadier HJB Cracroft
  • 16 March 1944 - 26 June 1944 Brigadier JC Currie
  • 26 June 1944 - 27 June 1944 Colonel JL Young
  • 27 June 1944 - 25 January 1945 Brigadier RMP Carver
  • 25 January 1945 - 22 February 1945 Lieutenant-Colonel GC Hopkinson
  • 22 February 1945 - 31 August 1945 Brigadier RMP Carver

Brigade Commanders[]

Recent commanders have included:[18]

Notable former soldiers[]

Former BBC Motor sports commentator Murray Walker served with 4th Armoured Brigade during the Second World War as a member of The Royal Scots Greys. After the war he started a motorcycle club, organising trials and scrambles for the soldiers within the Brigade.[23]

See also[]


  1. "4th Mechanized Brigade". British Army. Retrieved 15 February 2017. 
  2. Brigadier RMP Carter (1945). The History of the 4th Armoured Brigade. ISBN 978-1470119645.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brief History Of The British 4th Armoured Brigade Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Desert Rats Association website Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Watson, Graham (2005). "The British Army in Germany: An Organisational History 1947-2004". Tiger Lily. p. 95. 
  6. Black, Harvey. "The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 6.". 
  7. "York Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  8. 4th Mechanized Brigade Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Global Security
  9. Watson & Rinaldi, many pages
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Blue Beret (December 2000/January 2001) Archived August 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. "4th Mechanized Brigade to replace 12 Mechanized Brigade in Helmand". MoD. 11 July 2012. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "4th Infantry Brigade and HQ North East" (in en-GB). 
  13. "Duke of Lancaster's Regiment" (in en-GB). 
  14. "Famed Desert Rats to lose their tanks under Army cuts". Telegraph. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  15. page 9 Archived June 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. "Information regarding British Army brigades being regionally aligned". Ministry of Defence UK. 2 August 2019. "Responsible Organisation 4th Infantry Brigade Region Northern Africa" 
  17. Orders of Battle Archived March 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. Army Commands Archived July 5, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. 5,000 'Rats' spotted in Basra Archived October 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Defence News, 11 December 2007
  20. Brigadier salutes move to Garrison Archived August 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Northern Echo, 17 February 2009
  21. 4th Mechanized Brigade Archived October 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. 11 April 2011
  22. New man takes over the Black Rats Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Northern Echo, 12 June 2013
  23. Murray Walker (2003). Unless I'm Very Much Mistaken. ISBN 0-00-712697-2.

Further reading[]

External links[]

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