Military Wiki
58th (2/1st London) Division
Active 1914–1919
Country  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Force
Type Infantry
Size Division
Engagements World War I:
German Spring Offensive
Hundred Days Offensive
World War II:
Operation Fortitude
Maj-Gen H.D. Fanshawe
Maj-Gen A.B.E. Cator
Maj-Gen N.M. Smyth, VC

French and British soldiers of the 58th Division playing cards at Bernagousse, near Barisis on the extreme of the newly extended British line, 16 March 1918

The 58th (2/1st London) Division was an infantry division created in 1915 as part of the massive expansion of the British Army during World War I. It was a 2nd Line Territorial Force formation raised as a duplicate of the 56th (1/1st London) Division. After training in Britain, the division joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front in 1917. It saw action at the battles of Arras and Passchedaele in 1917 and the German Spring Offensive in 1918. It then took part in the Battle of Amiens and the final Allied Hundred Days Offensive of the war. The division was recreated during World War II as an imaginary 'deception' formation.


The formation of reserve or 2nd Line TF units was authorised by the War Office on 31 August 1914. At first they comprised those members of the pre-war parent unit who had not volunteered for or were unfit for overseas service, who trained the flood of volunteers who came forward. Later, the 2nd Line formations were also prepared for overseas service and 3rd Line units were formed to provide replacements. In the case of the 2/1st London Division, this process began early, when the 2/1st London Brigade went to Malta in December 1914 to relieve its 1st Line counterpart that had been despatched there on the outbreak of war. It was replaced in the 2/1st London Division by its 3rd Line (the battalions were renumbered when the original 2nd Line battalions were disbanded in 1916). The artillery, engineers and two infantry battalions of the 1/1st London Division had not gone overseas, and these were attached to the 2/1st Division for the first year of its existence.[1][2][3]


In August 1915, the division concentrated around Ipswich in Eastern England and received the number 58, its brigades being numbered 173–5. Here it formed part of First Army in Central Force. In September 1915 the 1st Line artillery brigades went to France and were replaced by the division's own 2nd Line units. In the Spring of 1916 the division took over a sector of the East Coast defences. Then in July 1916 it went to Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plain for final training before deploying overseas. The artillery were now equipped with modern 18-pounder field guns and 4.5-inch howitzers while the infantry had been issued with the .303 Lee-Enfield service rifle in place of the .256-in Japanese Ariska rifles with which they had done their early training.[1][4][5]

The division began embarking for France on 20 January 1917 and had concentrated by 8 February. It then served for the remainder of the war on the Western Front.[1][6]

Order of battle

The division had the following composition during World War I:[1][7]

2/1st London Brigade

Brigade left to relieve 1/1st London Brigade at Malta between December 1914 and February 1915

173rd (3/1st London) Brigade

Formed in April 1915

  • 3/1st (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) – became 2/1st Bn in June 1916; disbanded January 1918 and drafted to 2/2nd, 2/3rd, 2/4th and 1/4th Bns
  • 3/2nd (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) – became 2/2nd Bn in June 1916
  • 3/3rd (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) – became 2/3rd Bn in June 1916; amalgamated with 1/3rd Bn from 56th (1/1st London) Division January 1918 and became 3rd Bn
  • 3/4th (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)became 2/4th Bn in June 1916; absorbed by 2/2nd Bn September 1918
  • 2/24th (County of London) Bn, London Regiment (The Queen's) – joined September 1918 from 60th (2/2nd London) Division in Palestine
  • 214th Coy, Machine Gun Corps MGC – joined March 1917; to 58th Bn, MGC, March 1918
  • 173rd Trench Mortar Battery (TMB) – formed before embarkation in January 1917

174th (2/2nd London) Brigade

  • 2/5th (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) – disbanded January 1918 and drafted to 1/18th, 1/28th and 2/10th Bns
  • 2/6th (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (City of London Rifles) – amalgamated with 1/6th Bn from 47th (1/2nd London) Division January 1918 and became 6th Bn
  • 2/7th (City of London) Bn, London Regimentamalgamated with 1/7th Bn from 47th (1/2nd London) Division January 1918 and became 7th Bn
  • 2/8th (City of London) Bn, London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) – amalgamated with 1/8th Bn from 47th (1/2nd London) Division January 1918 and became 8th Bn
  • 198th Coy, MGC – joined from 12th (Eastern) Division March 1917; to 58th Bn, MGC, March 1918
  • 174th TMB – formed before embarkation in January 1917

175th (2/3rd London) Brigade

Support Troops

Mounted Troops


58th Divisional Engineers


Machine Guns


  • 2/1st London Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) – rejoined 56th (1st London) Division February 1916
  • 2/2nd London Field Ambulance, RAMC – rejoined 56th (1st London) Division February 1916
  • 2/3rd London Field Ambulance, RAMC – rejoined 56th (1st London) Division February 1916
  • 2/1st Home Counties Field Ambulance, RAMC – joined from 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division February 1916
  • 2/2nd Home Counties Field Ambulance, RAMC – joined from 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division February 1916
  • 2/3rd Home Counties Field Ambulance, RAMC – joined from 67th (2nd Home Counties) Division February 1916
  • 58th Sanitary Section – left to take over No 8 Sanitary Area, VIII Corps, 30 March 1917



  • 249th Divisional Employment Co, Labour Corpsformed June 1917


  • 58th (2/1st London) Divisional Train, Army Service Corps (ASC)
    • 509th Horse Transport Co, ASC
    • 510th Horse Transport Co, ASC
    • 511th Horse Transport Co, ASC
    • 512th Horse Transport Co, ASC


  • 1/10th (County of London) Bn, London Regiment (Paddington Rifles) – joined from 1st London Division; left April 1915
  • 1/11th (County of London) Bn, London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles) – joined from 1st London Division; left April 1915


The division was engaged in the following actions:[1]




After the Armistice with Germany the division was billeted in the area of Peruwelz in Belgium. Skilled tradesmen and 'pivotal' men began to be demobilised during December 1918, and by March 1919 the division had dwindled to a brigade group concentrated around Leuze as units were reduced to cadres. The artillery left for the UK on 4 April, and the last units left France at the end of June, when 58th Division ceased to exist.[1]

General Officers Commanding

The following officers commanded the division:[1]

  • Maj-Gen W. Fry, from formation
  • Brig-Gen E.J. Cooper, appointed 4 May 1915
  • Maj-Gen H.D. Fanshawe, appointed 5 September 1916
  • Maj-Gen A.B.E. Cator, appointed 6 October 1916; sick 10 May 1918
  • Brig-Gen C.G. Higgins, acting 10–21 May, 10–13 June 1918
  • Maj-Gen N.M. Smyth, VC, appointed 21 May; sick 10 June 1918
  • Maj-Gen F. W. Ramsay, appointed 13 June 1918

World War II

The division was 'reformed' as a 'phantom division' created as part of 'Operation Fortitude North' as a replacement for the 3rd Infantry Division which was going south to take part in a D-Day rehearsal. Unlike other 'phantom divisions' the 58th's number was chosen on the basis of Ultra reports that showed the Germans believed a 58th Infantry Division existed in the vicinity of Windsor. This misidentification was then supported by simulated radio traffic and by fictitious reports from double agents working for the British Security Service, MI5.[8][9][10]

As part of the Fourth Army's II Corps, the division took the role of a mountain trained assault formation in 'Fortitude North' (HQ: Aberlour) and the role of follow up unit in 'Fortitude South' (HQ: Gravesend). It was disposed of by announcing that the division had moved to Hertfordshire and been disbanded in April 1945.,[8][9][11][12]

The formation's insignia, a stag's face full on a black square was chosen to support the division's fictional back-story, that it had been formed in the Scottish Highlands around cadres from combat experienced Highland regiments.[8][9][11]

Imaginary formations assigned to the division included the 173rd Infantry Brigade, 174th Infantry Brigade, 175th Infantry Brigade, and support units.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Becke, pp. 9–15.
  2. Grey, pp. 86–97.
  3. Grimwade, pp. 115–6.
  4. Grimwade, pp. 117–22.
  5. Keeson, pp. 278-9.
  6. Keeson, pp. 280–1.
  7. 58 Div at Long, Long Trail
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Hesketh.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Martin, pp. 185-8.
  10. Levine.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Holt.
  12. Levine, pp. 217, 223.


  • Anon, Short History of the London Rifle Brigade, Aldershot: Gale & Polden, 1916//Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN 1-84342-365-0.
  • Maj R. Money Barnes, The Soldiers of London, London: Seeley Service, 1963.
  • Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th–69th), with the Home-Service Divisions (71st–73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN 1-847347-39-8.
  • Capt E.G. Godfrey, The "Cast Iron Sixth": A History of the Sixth Battalion London Regiment (The City of London Rifles), London: Old Comrades' Association, 1935//Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN 1-84342-170-4.
  • Maj W.E. Grey, 2nd City of London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in the Great War 1914–19, Westminster: Regimental HQ, 1929/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-843423-69-0
  • Capt F. Clive Grimwade, The War History of the 4th Battalion The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) 1914–1919, London: Regimental Headquarters, 1922/Uckfield, Naval & Military press, 2002, ISBN 978-1-843423-63-8.
  • Derek Harrison with Peter Duckers, Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery 1908–1920, Shrewsbury: Kingswood/Shropshire Regimental Museum, 2006.
  • Roger Hesketh, Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign, St Ermine, 1999, ISBN 0316851728.
  • Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, Phoenix, 2005, ISBN 0753819171.
  • Maj C.A. Cuthbert Keeson, The History and Records of Queen Victoria's Rifles 1792–1922, London: Constable, 1923//Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ASIN B00NPNKEZA
  • Joshua Levine, Operation Fortitude: The Greatest Hoax of the Second World War, London: Collins, 2011, ISBN 978-0-00-739587-3.
  • David Martin, Londoners on the Western Front: The 58th (2/1st London) Division in the Great War, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2014, ISBN 978-1-78159-180-2.
  • Lt-Col H.R. Martin, Historical Record of the London Regiment, 2nd Edn (nd)
  • C. Digby Planck, The Shiny Seventh: History of the 7th (City of London) Battalion London Regiment, London: Old Comrades' Association, 1946/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN 1-84342-366-9.

External links

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