Military Wiki
70th Infantry Division
Active 1939-1945
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Infantry
Engagements Tobruk
Operation Crusader
Lieut.Gen. Sir Ronald Scobie

The 70th Infantry Division was a British Army division during the Second World War.


This formation had a brief history during the Second World War. It was formed originally in the Middle East from units stationed in Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus and (later) in Crete, as the regular British 6th Infantry Division. It was then redesignated as the 70th Division on 10 October 1941. (The reason for the change of designation is unknown. The new number was a vacant one in the List of British divisions in World War I; however, 6th Armoured Division had been created on 12 September 1941, and 7th Inf Div had previously reported to be redesignated to avoid confusion with 7th Armoured Division.)

The division's only action as a complete formation was during the defense of Tobruk, when it was brought in by sea to relieve the Australian 9th Division.

Under the command of Major General Ronald MacKenzie Scobie the 70th Division led the break out from Tobruk during Operation Crusader in order to link up with the Eighth Army. In the three-day battle the lead battalions of the 70th Division (the 2nd Black Watch and the 2nd York and Lancs. Regt.) suffered heavy casualties. After successfully linking up with Eighth Army the Division was sent back to Alexandria and then shipped to India after Japan entered the war by attacking British, Dutch and United States territories in South East Asia and the Pacific Ocean. On arrival in India, the division was first broken up and dispersed through Bengal, Assam and Bihar to perform internal security duties. Once the widespread disorders which resulted from the early British defeats in South East Asia and demands for the British to "Quit India" had died down, the division was concentrated for jungle training. Some units were briefly deployed to the Arakan front after a British offensive there was defeated in early 1943.

Late in 1943, Major General Orde Wingate secured approval for a major expansion of his "Special Force", widely known as the Chindits. As he refused to use British Indian Army units, the 70th Division was broken up on orders from the highest military authorities and absorbed into "Special Force" on October 25, 1943. This was carried out in spite of protests from General Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief in India and Lieutenant General William Slim, commanding the British Fourteenth Army, both of whom insisted that 70th Division could have far more value fighting as a cohesive, well-trained and battle-hardened formation than as part of the "Chindits".

Nevertheless, the units of 70th Division were reformed into Long Range Penetration formations for the Second Chindit Expedition of 1944 (Codenamed Operation Thursday).

Commanding officers

  • 10 Oct. 1941 - Maj-Gen Ronald Scobie
  • 10 Feb. 1942 (acting) - Brig. C.E.N. Lomax
  • 18 Feb. 1942 - Maj-Gen. G.W. Symes


14th Infantry Brigade

70 Infantry Division 10 Oct 41 - 11 May 43 & 27 Jun - 24 Oct 43

16th Infantry Brigade

70 Infantry Division 22 Oct 41 - 26 Feb 42 & 8 Feb - 24 Oct 43

23rd Infantry Brigade '

70 Infantry Division 10 Oct 41 - 22 Apr 43 & 15 Jun - 24 Oct 43

Support Units

  • 70th Infantry Division Signal Regiment (10 Oct 41 - 24 Oct 43)

See also


  • 'Great Campaigns of World War II', (1980) Phoebus Publishing, London ISBN 0-86288-340-7
  • 'Crete, The Battle and the Resistance',Antony Beevor, John Murray (Publishers) Great Britain, 1991. ISBN 0-7195-6831-5
  • 'Tobruk, The Story of a Siege', Anthony Heckstall-Smith. (Cereberus Publishing Limited) ISBN 1-84145-051-0
  • 'Orders of Battle Volume I United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War 1939-1945', Lieutenant Colonel HF Joslen. Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1960.

External links

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