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5th Infantry Division
5th UK Infantry Division.svg
Insignia of the 5th Division
Active 1906 – 1922
1929 – 1947
1958 – 1959
1968 – 1971
1995 – 2012
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Infantry
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Copthorne, Shrewsbury, Shropshire (1995–2012)
Nickname(s) The Globe Trotters
The Gypsies
The Fighting Fifth
Engagements Peninsula War
Battle of Bussaco
Battle of Sabugal
Siege of Almeida (1811)
Battle of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Vitoria
Siege of San Sebastian
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of the Nive
Waterloo Campaign
Battle of Quatre Bras
Battle of Waterloo
First World War
Battle of Mons
Battle of Le Cateau
First Battle of Ypres
Second Battle of Ypres (13th Brigade)
Battle of the Somme
Third Battle of Ypres
Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Epehy
Second World War
Operation Husky
Italian Campaign
North West Europe Campaign
Post War
Battle of Surabaya
Lieut. Gen. Thomas Picton
Maj. Gen. Herbert Plumer
Maj. Gen. Gerard Bucknall
Maj. Gen. Thomas Morland
British 5th Infantry Division Insignia.png
1914 – 1918

The 5th Infantry Division was a regular army division of the British Army. It was established by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for service in the Peninsula War, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, and was active for most of the period since, including the First World War and the Second World War. The division was reformed in 1995 as an administrative division covering Wales and the English regions of West Midlands, East Midlands and East. Its headquarters were in Shrewsbury. It was disbanded on 1 April 2012.

Peninsular War

The 5th Division during the Peninsular War under the command of General James Leith was present at most of the major engagements including the Battle of Bussaco, the Battle of Sabugal, the Siege of Almeida, the Battle of Badajoz, the Battle of Salamanca, the Battle of Vitoria, the Siege of San Sebastian, the Battle of Nivelle and the Battle of the Nive.[1]


Waterloo Campaign

Black Watch at Quartre Bras.

The Division was also present during the Waterloo Campaign first seeing action at the Battle of Quatre Bras then at the Battle of Waterloo under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton.[2]

The formation was:[2]

Second Boer War

The 5th Division under the command of General Sir Charles Warren joined up with the Natal Field Force shortly after the Battle of Colenso and were a part of the reliving army of the besieged Ladysmith.[3]


The formation was as follows:[4]
11th[5] Infantry Brigade initially commanded by General Edward Woodgate[6] but he was wounded at Spion Kop and died shortly afterwards. He was succeeded by General Arthur Wynne who was later wounded at the Battle of the Tugela Heights and succeeded by Colonel Walter Kitchener.

10th[7] Infantry Brigade commanded by General John Talbot Coke.

First World War

The 5th Division was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for most of the war except for a brief period in Italy.[9]

The 5th Division, as a regular army formation (one of the Old Contemptibles) fought in many of the major battles of the Western Front from The Battle of Mons in 1914, the later stages of the Somme offensive, including the first battle using tanks, up to the Battle of the Selle in 1918.[9]

British infantry advance near Ginchy. Possibly 5th Division. Photo by Ernest Brooks.

First World War formation

The formation was as follows:[9]
13th Brigade This Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 23 February and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 84th Brigade from that Division.

14th Brigade Brigade transferred to 32nd Division on 30 December 1915

15th Brigade This Brigade was temporarily under the command of 28th Division between 3 March and 7 April 1915, when it was replaced by 83rd Brigade from that Division.

95th Brigade Brigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915


The division was unusual among other British divisions in that no battle patches were worn on their tunics or helmets, aside from those briefly worn by New Army battalions bringing them from their former division.[10]

Second World War

In September 1939 the Division was a regular formation based at Catterick under Northern Command.[11] Both its infantry brigades (13th Infantry Brigade and 15th Infantry Brigade) went to France by early October 1939 as independent infantry brigades, but Divisional Headquarters crossed to France on 19 December 1939 and by the new year the Division was reformed with three brigades (13th Infantry Brigade, 15th Infantry Brigade and 17th Infantry Brigade).[11]

Globe Trotting

15th Brigade joined the Norwegian Campaign and did not rejoin the Division until July 1940.[11] The 5th Infantry Division saw action in France and Belgium in 1940 including the Battle of Arras on 21 May 1940 and the Ypres-Comines Canal from 26 to 28 May 1940, and then was withdrawn, along with the rest of the British Expeditionary Force, from Dunkirk.[11] After this it served and travelled in so many regions of the world that they became known as the Globe Trotters. In April 1942 13th and 17th Infantry Brigades and a portion of the Divisional Troops were detached to 'Force 121' for Operation Ironclad, the invasion of Vichy French held Madagascar.[11] The Division was not complete again until August 1942. It was sent from the UK to India for three months and then to the Middle East, where it spent time under the command of III Corps as part of Persia and Iraq Command.[11] In February 1943 it went to Egypt and came under the command of XIII Corps for the Allied invasion of Sicily.[11]

Sicily and Italy

The 5th Division saw action in the Sicily Landings from 9 to 12 July 1943 and then moved to Italy in September 1943.[11] It landed at Anzio in January 1944 and was then withdrawn to Palestine in July 1944.[11] It returned to Italy in February 1945 and to Belgium in March 1945.[11] During the Second World War, the Division used a 'Y' on a khaki background as its insignia.[11]

Second World War formation

The formation was as follows:[11]
13th Infantry Brigade (26 April 1942 – 2 August 1942 detached to Force 121 in Madagascar)

15th Infantry Brigade

17th Infantry Brigade (15 March 1942 – 30 June 1942 Detached to Force 121 in Madagascar)

Division Troops

Post Second World War

The Division was disbanded in 1946 and was reformed briefly from the 7th Armoured Division in Germany on 16 April 1958,[11] with the 7th and 20th Armoured Brigades but was then redesignated the 1st Armoured Division on 30 June 1960.[12] It was again reformed in the UK on 1 April 1968, under Army Strategic Command, incorporating the 2nd, 8th, and 39th Brigades, but disbanded in February 1971.[13]

Structure 5th Division.

The 5th Division was reformed as an administrative division – effectively a military district – from North West, Wales, and Western Districts on 1 April 1995. It had administrative control over a wide range of regiments, training establishments and cadet corps. It had its permanent headquarters at the Copthorne Barracks in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.[14]

The division was in charge of the majority of British Army units in Wales, the English West Midlands and South West England. The South West was transferred to the 4th Division, replaced by the East Midlands and the East English regions. The division therefore covered the central regions of England as well as Wales. The 5th Division took command of Headquarters Salisbury Plain Area and 43rd (Wessex) Brigade from 3rd Division on 1 April 1999, and 107 (Ulster) Brigade also fell under its responsibility.[15] However 107 Brigade was shifted back under HQ Northern Ireland, at a later date. HQ 43rd Brigade moved to Bulford by 1 September 1999, and HQ Salisbury Plain Area disbanded by that date. This process freed Headquarters 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division from its administrative and regional responsibilities and it become a deployable or "fly-away" division. The Division reported to Army Headquarters at Andover.[16]

The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded.[17] HQ 2nd division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th division in Shrewsbury were both disbanded in April 2012.[18]

Formation 1999–2012

The composition was as follows:

Recent commanders

Recent Commanders have been:[19]
GOC 5th Division

Note the Division was disbanded in 1922 and reformed in 1929
Note the Division, having been disbanded at the end of the War, was reformed in 1958 but the brigades used to form 1st Armoured Division in 1959
Note the Division was briefly reformed in 1968 but disbanded again in 1971
Note the Division was reformed in 1995

See also


  1. Pivka, p. 16
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Battle of Waterloo". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  3. "Ladysmith history and the Boer War". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  4. "The Battle of Val Krantz and Pieters". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  5. Woodgate's 11th Brigade
  6. Kings Own
  7. Coke's 10th Brigade
  8. 10th Battalion
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "The 5th Division in 1914–1918". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  10. Osprey Publishing MAA 182, p.9
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 11.12 "badge, formation, 5th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  12. "British Army of the Rhine". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  13. Watson, p. 124
  14. "TA Command Structure 1967 – 2000". Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  15. Soldier Magazine, December 1998, p.13
  16. "New Army's HQ Land Forces base is opened in Andover". BBC News. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2013. 
  17. First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed Defence News, 10 November 2011
  18. House of Commons Library: Standard Note: SN06038
  19. Army Commands


Further reading

  • A Guide to Appointments and Invitations for High Commissions & Embassies in London, UK Ministry of Defence, June 2006 Edition
  • Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945–70, William Kimber, London, 1971.
  • Readers' Digest, The World At Arms, 1989

External links

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