Military Wiki
West Lancashire Division
55th (West Lancashire) Division
55th (West Lancashire) Motor Division
55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division
55 inf div -vector2.svg
55th (West Lancashire) Division shoulder sleeve insignia, World War II.
Active 1908–1915
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Infantry
Motorised infantry
Size Division
Engagements World War I
* Battle of the Somme
* Battle of Passchendaele
* Battle of Cambrai
* Battle of Estaires
Sir William D. Morgan
Sir Frederick E. Morgan

The 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. It was raised in 1908 upon the creation of the Territorial Force originally as the West Lancashire Division, gaining its number in 1915. The division served with distinction on the Western Front during the Great War from 1915 to 1918. Disbanded after the war in 1919, it was reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920 and remained in the United Kingdom during the Second World War and was disbanded in late 1945.


Originally, the division was raised in 1908 as the West Lancashire Division with the North Lancashire Brigade, the Liverpool Brigade and the South Lancashire Brigade under command. In 1915, during the First World War, it became the 55th (West Lancashire) Division and the 164th (North Lancashire) Brigade, the 165th (Liverpool) Brigade and the 166th (South Lancashire) Brigade respectively.

First World War

Between November 1914 and April 1915 the divisional brigades were detached as reinforcements with other divisions already in serving on the Western Front in France and Belgium. The 55th Division was reformed in January 1916. In April 1915 the 164th (North Lancashire) Brigade joined the 51st (Highland) Division as the 154th Brigade, but it returned to the 55th Division less than a year later, in January 1916.

The first Victoria Cross awarded by the reformed division occurred near Arras on the 17 April 1916 when 2nd Lieutenant Edward Felix Baxter won the award while on a raid by the 1/8th (Irish) Battalion, King's (Liverpool) Regiment. The division moved to the Somme on 25 July to take part in that battle. The division took part in the Battle of Guillemont and the Battle of Ginchy, followed by a short rest period before being thrown back into the Battle of Morval. The 55th Division was then moved to the Ypres Salient, where it remained for up to a year.

Men of the King's Liverpool Regiment, 55th (West Lancashire) Division, moving along a communication trench leading to the front line near to Blairville Wood, Wailly, 16th April 1916.

In 1917 the division took part in the Third Battles of Ypres and Cambrai. At Cambrai they lost many men taken prisoner, apparently due to a collapse during a German attack.

Troops of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division blinded by poison gas during the Battle of Estaires, 10 April 1918.

After a rest and a period of retraining, the division took part in the Battle of Estaires in 1918, where it successfully fought the "First Defence of Givenchy" under the leadership of Major-General Hugh Jeudwine. This was to become the single most famous action of the Division, fighting off continuous attacks from three German divisions between 9–16 April. "It was afterwards publicly stated by an officer of the German General Staff that the stand made by the Division on April 9 and the days which followed marked the final ruination of the supreme German effort of 1918", says the Divisional history. Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée was eventually selected as the location of a large memorial to the Division. By the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the division had reached the Tournai area, having advanced fifty miles in eighty days.

Order of battle

Throughout the war the division comprised the following units:[1]

164th (North Lancashire) Brigade (left 18 April 1915, rejoined January 1916)

165th (Liverpool) Brigade

  • 1/5th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 22 February 1915, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/6th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 25 February 1916, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/7th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left 8 March 1915, rejoined January 1916)
  • 1/8th (Irish) Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (left February 1915)
  • 1/9th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment) (joined January 1916, left February 1918)
  • 165th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 26 February 1916, moved to 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 7 March 1918)
  • 165th Trench Mortar Battery (formed March 1916)

166th (South Lancashire) Brigade

Divisional Troops

  • 1/4th Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) (joined as pioneers January 1916)
  • 196th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 22 December 1916, moved to 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 17 March 1918)
  • 55th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps (formed 7 March 1918)

Between the wars

The division was disbanded after the Great War when the Territorial Force was disbanded but it was later reformed as the Territorial Army and saw a significant change in units throughout the inter-war years, with many battalions in the division being converted into anti-aircraft or searchlight units of the Royal Engineers or the Royal Artillery, and absorbed numerous units from divisions that were converted or disbanded, such as the three Staffordshire battalions, the 5th and 6th South Staffs and 6th North Staffs, from the 46th (North Midland) Division which was converted into 2nd AA Division.[2] In late 1938 it was converted into a motorised infantry division, of only two infantry brigades.[3]

Second World War

Universal Carriers of the 9th Battalion, King's Regiment (Liverpool), of 164th Brigade, moving through a Sussex village, 3 July 1941.

At the start of the Second World War, the division was organised as a motorised infantry division with only two infantry brigades and was reorganised as a standard infantry division in June 1940 when the 66th Infantry Division was disbanded, after the BEF was evacuated from Dunkirk, and the 199th Brigade joined the 55th Division and it later became the 166th Infantry Brigade in August 1944. In October 1941, the division was no longer an operation formation to be sent overseas and, in January 1942, was placed on a Lower Establishment but did not become a training division as many others did. In December 1943 it was sent to Northern Ireland and came under command of British Troops Northern Ireland. In May 1944, shortly before the Allies invaded Normandy, the division was again raised to a Higher Establishment and returned to the mainland in July.

On 4 September 1939, the day after war was declared, the 55th (West Lancashire) Division was split up to form the 55th and 59th (Staffordshire) Division. The 59th Division received the 176th (ex 166th) and 177th brigades along with the 61st and 116th Field regiments and the 6th Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). All other units remained with the 55th Division.

Order of battle

The 55th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[4]

164th Infantry Brigade (left 17 June 1945)[5]

165th Infantry Brigade[6]

199th Infantry Brigade (from 23 July 1940, redesignated 166th Infantry Brigade 15 August 1944)[7]

  • 2/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (left 23 July 1944)
  • 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (left 27 May 1942)
  • 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (left 31 October 1942)
  • 199th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company (disbanded 26 December 1941)
  • 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment (from 28 May, left 15 September 1942)
  • 2nd Battalion, Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (from 16 September 1942, left 16 October 1944)
  • 5th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from 11 October 1942, left 1 January 1943)
  • 11th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (from 29 December 1942, left 15 October 1943)
  • 9th Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (from 16 October 1943, disbanded 13 July 1944)
  • 1st Battalion, Liverpool Scottish (from 14 July 1944)
  • 1/4th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment (from 24 July 1944)
  • 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (from 28 November 1944)

Divisional Troops



See also



External links

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