Operations Countries

52nd Lowland Division

The 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army that was originally formed as the Lowland Division, in 1908 as part of the Territorial Force. It later became the 52nd (Lowland) Division in 1915. The 52nd (Lowland) Division fought in the First World War before being disbanded, with the rest of the Territorial Force, in 1920. The Territorial Force was later reformed as the Territorial Army and the division was again raised, during the inter-war years, as the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division - a 1st Line Territorial Army Infantry Division - and went on to serve during the Second World War. After the war, the division was merged with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in 1948. The history of the division was carried on by the 52nd Lowland Brigade, and later the 52nd Lowland Regiment.

First World War

The famous territorial regiments that were incorporated in the division were all drawn from the Scottish Lowlands, and have a history that in some cases goes back more than 300 years. It consisted of three infantry brigades, the 155th (South Scottish) Brigade, 156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade, and 157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigades.

Initially assigned to the defence of the Scottish coast, the division moved to Gallipoli (without two of its artillery brigades), arriving there in early July 1915. While moving from Scotland the division suffered the loss of 210 officers and men killed, and another 224 injured in the Quintinshill rail crash, near Gretna, that involved the 1/7th Royal Scots.

During the First World War, the division fought at Gallipoli, in the Middle East (Sinai and Palestine), and on the Western Front in France.

The division began landing at the Helles front, on the Gallipoli peninsula, in June 1915 as part of VIII Corps. The 156th Brigade was landed in time to take part in the Battle of Gully Ravine, where it was mauled, under the notorious Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Advancing along Fir Tree Spur, to the right of the ravine, the brigade had little artillery support and no experience of the Gallipoli battlefield. The brigade suffered 1,400 casualties, or about half its strength, of which 800 were killed.

When the remaining brigades were landed, they attacked towards Krithia, along Achi Baba Nullah, on 12 July. They succeeded in capturing the Ottoman trenches, but were left unsupported and vulnerable to counter-attack. For a modest gain in ground, they suffered 30 per cent casualties and were in no fit state to exploit their position.

The division moved to Egypt as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, where it manned the east-facing defensive fortifications during the Battle of Romani. On the first, and most crucial day, of the battle the division was heavily engaged with the enemy's right flank, while the Australian Light Horse, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and 5th Mounted Brigades fought the centre and left flank in extended order. With insufficient water, the mid-summer conditions proved too much for the infantry ordered to advance the following day and were not heavily involved in the fighting thereafter. Following the battle, they advanced across the Sinai occupying Bir el Abd, El Mazar and El Arish, but remained in a supporting role as the fluid nature of the fighting best suited the mounted troops.

The division fought in the First and Second Battle of Gaza in March and April 1917. The annihilation of Sea Post, a strong Ottoman redoubt west of Gaza, in June 1917, by 1/5th King's Own Scottish Borderers, inaugurated the series of successful raids that did much to harass the enemy during the four months prior to the winter campaign.

As a division of XXI Corps, it played an important part in the final overthrow of the Ottomans at the Third Battle of Gaza and the subsequent advance. The division then participated in the Battle of Jerusalem. The Battle of Jaffa saw the passage of the Nahr El Auja, on the night of 20–21 December 1917, by the division's three Brigades, which according to General Sir Edmund Allenby's despatch "reflects great credit on the 52nd (Lowland) Division. It involved considerable preparation, the details of which were thought out with care and precision. The sodden state of the ground, and, on the night of the crossing, the swollen state of the river, added to the difficulties, yet by dawn the whole of the infantry had crossed. The fact that the enemy were taken by surprise, and, that all resistance was overcome with the bayonet without a shot being fired, bears testimony to the discipline of this division. The operation, by increasing the distance between the enemy and Jaffa from three to eight miles, rendered Jaffa and its harbour secure, and gained elbow-room for the troops covering Ludd and Ramleh and the main Jaffa-Jerusalem road."

In March 1918 the division moved to France where it fought in the Second Battle of the Somme, the Second Battle of Arras, and the Battle of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive.

After the war the division was disbanded along with the rest of the Territorial Force. However it was re-established in 1920 as part of the Territorial Army and was mobilised again in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France.

First World War Order of battle The division comprised three infantry brigades:

Infantry

*155th (South Scottish) Brigade ** 1/4th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers ** 1/5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers ** 1/4th (The Border) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers ** 1/5th (Dumfries and Galloway) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (left 28 June 1918) ** 155th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 23 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918) ** 155th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 24 May 1917)

*156th (Scottish Rifles) Brigade ** 1/5th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left November 1914) ** 1/6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left March 1915) ** 1/7th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) ** 1/8th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (left 28 June 1918) ** 1/4th (Queen's Edinburgh Rifles) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) (from April 1915) ** 1/7th Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) (from April 1915) ** 156th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 16 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918) ** 156th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 27 June 1917)

*157th (Highland Light Infantry) Brigade ** 1/5th (City of Glasgow) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry ** 1/6th (City of Glasgow) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry ** 1/7th (Blythswood) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry ** 1/9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry (left November 1914) ** 1/5th (Renfrewshire) Battalion, Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) (from April 1915 to 28 June 1918) ** 157th Machine Gun Company, Machine Gun Corps (formed 14 March 1916, moved to 52nd Battalion, Machine Gun Corps 28 April 1918) ** 157th Trench Mortar Battery (formed 11 June 1917)

Second World War

The division first saw action in World War II in June 1940 where, following the Dunkirk evacuation, the division was shipped to France as part of the Second BEF to cover the withdrawal of forces near Cherbourg during Operation Ariel. The division returned to the United Kingdom and, from May 1942 until June 1944, was trained in a mountain warfare capacity, but was never employed in this role. Following June, the division was reorganised and trained in airlanding operations. As part of this new role, the division was transferred to the First Allied Airborne Army. By this time, the 52nd Division was the only operational formation in the United Kingdom.

Several operations were planned for the division, following the successful conclusion of the Normandy Campaign. Operation Transfigure planned to have the 1st British Airborne and the US 101st Airborne divisions capture landing strips near Rambouillet, for the 52nd Division to land at. The three divisions would have then blocked the German line of retreat towards Paris. Operation Linnet proposed, the usage of most of the First Allied Airborne Army including the 52nd Division, to seize areas in north-eastern France to block the German line of retreat. As part of Operation Market Garden', the 1st Airborne Division was given a subsidiary mission of capturing Deelen airfield, on which the 52nd Division would land. Due to the disastrous course of events that unfolded during the Battle of Arnhem, where the 1st Airborne Division was virtually destroyed, the 52nd Division was not deployed.

The division would never be utilised in either of the roles it had trained for, and was transferred to Belgium via sea landing in Ostend. The 157th Infantry Brigade landed first at the end of the first week of October, and the rest of the division arrived over the course of the following fortnight. On 15 October, the 157th Brigade was, temporarily, attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

At first the Scots of 52nd Division and the Canadians did not see eye to eye, with a cultural clash of untidy and 'undisciplined' Canadians against 'spit and polish' Scots. On taking over some Canadian positions in mid-October, Scottish officers commented:"No one in Scotland would ask a pig to lie in the houses (recently vacated by the Canadians) on the south side of the canal." However, both sides soon came to recognise that high fighting capability could be engendered in both approaches. Page 248, Winter, Monty's Men - The British Army and the Liberation of Europe, John Buckley.

From 23 October until December, the division was assigned to the First Canadian Army. after it had landed on the island, and No. 4 Commando during the assault on Flushing. Following the battle the division would remain on Walcheren until November, when it was relieved by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.

On 5 December, the division was transferred to British Second Army. During the month, the 157th Infantry Brigade was temporarily attached to the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division for several days. In February and March, the division was slightly reorganised with battalions being transferred amongst the division’s brigades. Peter White, a 2nd lieutenant within the 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, describes this change due to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s "aversion to two Battalions of the same Regiment" being in the same brigade as it could result "in one home district or town having disproportionate losses after any sticky action". For most of April, the 155th Infantry Brigade was again attached to the 7th Armoured Division

Second World War Order of Battle

The infantry battalions of the division were bolstered with large drafts of soldiers from all over the United Kingdom and were not just drawn from their traditional regimental recruiting areas. This was not uncommon and took place in many units throughout the British Army.

155th Infantry Brigade * 7/9th Battalion, Royal Scots * 4th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers * 6th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) * 5th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers (from 12/2/45) * 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment -

In 1947-48, the division was amalgamated with 51st (Highland) Infantry Division to become the 51st/52nd Scottish Division.

In 1947 units of the 51st/52nd Division included: :Scottish Horse, Dunkeld :275 Field Regiment, Aberdeen :277 Field Regiment, Greenock :278 Field Regiment, Edinburgh :254 Anti-tank Regiment, Dumbarton :117 Engineer Regiment, Aberdeen :51/52 Divisional Signal Regiment, Aberdeen :51/52 Divisional RASC :51/52 Ordnance Field Park :51/52 Divisional REME :51/52 Divisional RAMC.

In 1967-68, the Division was split into two brigade level districts based in the Highlands and Lowlands, with the Lowland District Headquarters in Hamilton, near Glasgow.

General Officer Commanding

Commanders included:

Events