Military Wiki
XIII Corps
Active 1915-18; 1940-45
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Field corps
Part of British Expeditionary Force
Eighth Army
United States Fifth Army

World War I[1]

World War II

XIII Corps was a British infantry corps during World War I and World War II.

World War I

XIII Corps was formed in France on 15 November 1915 under Lieutenant-General Walter Congreve to be part of Fourth Army.[1] It was first seriously engaged during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.[1] On the First day on the Somme, the corps held the southern flank of the British line. The corps objective was the village of Montauban. The two assault divisions — the 18th (Eastern) and 30th Division, both New Army formations — seized all their objectives.[2]

World War II

On 1 January 1941, while the Western Desert Force was fighting the Italian Tenth Army in Operation Compass, it was redesignated "XIII Corps". It then included British 7th Armored Division and Australian 6th Infantry Division.[3]

By February 1941, Operation Compass was a complete victory.[4] When Operation Compass came to an end with the surrender of the Italian Tenth Army, XIII Corps HQ was deactivated in February and its responsibilities taken over by HQ Cyrenaica, a static command. Allied forces in the Western Desert took a defensive posture as Middle East Command focused on the Battle of Greece.

The Italian forces in North Africa were reinforced with the Afrika Corps. Axis forces now commanded by Rommel counterattacked. Lieutenant-General Philip Neame, the commander in Cyrenaica,[5] was captured during Rommel's advance. XIII Corps was reactivated as Western Desert Force HQ on 14 April to take command of British and Commonwealth forces in the Western Desert.[3]

In August 1941 Archibald Wavell was replaced as C-in-C Middle East by Claude Auchinleck and the British and Commonwealth forces were reinforced to create in September 1941 the Eighth Army. During this reorganisation, Western Desert Force was once again redesignated as XIII Corps and became part of the new army.[3]

The Corps remained part of the Eighth Army throughout the rest of the North African Campaign which ended in May 1943

XIII Corps took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

XIII Corps took part in the Allied invasion of Italy, executing Operation Baytown on 3 September 1943.[3]

XIII Corps then fought as the right wing of Eighth Army along the Adriatic coast until the end of 1943.

In May 1944, XIII Corps was shifted to the left-centre of the Allied front. During the fourth Battle of Monte Cassino XIII Corps made a successful opposed crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido rivers, and broke into the heart of the German defenses in the Liri valley.[6]

On 17 August 1944, XIII Corps was transferred to the United States Fifth Army to become its right wing.[7] Under Fifth Army, XIII Corps fought in the Apennines mountains to break the Gothic Line.

On 18 January 1945, XIII Corps returned to Eighth Army.[7] XII Corps was the left wing of Eighth Army in the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy, which ended in May 1945 with the surrender of Axis forces in Italy. 2nd New Zealand Division, operating with the corps, confronted Yugoslav troops at Trieste, entering and capturing the city.[8] The corps restored order in the strife-ridden city and enforced the Morgan Line from May 1945 to mid-1946.

XIII Corps assignments

Start End Superior body
01-Jan-1941 15-Feb-1941 HQ British Troops Egypt
26-Sep-1941 17-Aug-1944 British Eighth Army
17-Aug-1944 18-Jan-1945 U.S. Fifth Army
18-Jan-1945 31-May-1945? British Eighth Army

General Officers Commanding

Commanders included:[9]

Henry Hughes Wilson, who had been liaising with French GQG during the Nivelle Offensive but now without a job, declined Haig’s offer of XIII Corps[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Baker, Chris. "The British Corps of 1914-1918". The Long, Long Trail: The British Army of 1914-1918. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  2. Battles of the Somme
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 XIII Corps (Western Desert Force) British Military History
  4. Walker, Ian W. (2003). Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts : Mussolini's elite armoured divisions in North Africa. Marlborough: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-646-4., pg. 64
  5. Military Career of Philip Neame (British) VC, CB, DSO, accessed December 2008
  6. Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino - Operation Diadem
  7. 7.0 7.1 Orders of XIII Corps.
  8. Heathcote, T.A., p.170
  9. Army Commands
  10. Jeffery 2006, pp 193-5
  11. Robbins, p.65
  12. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  • Heathcote, T.A. (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736-1997. Pen & Sword Books Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-696-5
  • Jeffery, Keith (2006). Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820358-2. 
  • Robbins, Simon (2005). British Generalship on the Western Front 1914–18: Defeat into Victory. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-35006-9

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