51st Highland Division

51st (Highland) Division

51st (Highland) Division

The 51st (Highland) Infantry Division (English: 51st (Highland) Infantry Division) was an infantry division of the British Army during World War II. The division was nicknamed the “Highway Decorators”.

History

After a three-year training the 51th Division was sent to France in January 1940. The 51th Division was commanded by Major General Victor Fortune and was part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). It was stationed at the fort Ouvrage Hackenberg who was part of the Maginot Line.

During the fighting in France in 1940, two brigades (152nd and 153rd Brigades) taken prisoner at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. The 154th Brigade managed to escape and thus held the 51th Division actually to exist. In August 1940, the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division renamed the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. The 26th and 27th Brigades were renamed the 152nd and 153rd Brigades and the 28th Brigade was amalgamated with the underutilized 154th Brigade. The 51th Division was two years involved in the defense of the coast of southern England and North East Scotland.

In June 1942 the 51st Division moved to North Africa where it was involved in the First Battle of El Alamein. She played an important role during the Second Battle of El Alamein and then was involved in fighting in Tunisia. After the division was involved in the invasion of Sicily and later the invasion of the Italian mainland. The 51th Division was as part of the 1st Army Corps involved in Operation Overlord. It was involved in several actions in Normandy. They took part in the crossing of the River Orne and fighting in Breville-les-Monts (11-12 June) and Colombelles (July 11).

On August 1, 1944, the 51th Division part of the First Canadian Army. The division was involved in Operation Totalize and then marched towards the river Seine. After that it was involved in Operation Astonia, the Battle of Le Havre.

In October 1944, the division was involved in the Battle of the Scheldt.

During the Battle of the Bulge was the 51st Division monitored as part of the 30th Corps of the river Maas. In January 1945 the 51th Division was involved along with the rest of the 30th Army Corps and the U.S. 84th Infantry Division to break. The German northern flank at Nisramont After the division was involved in Operation Veritable. The 51th Division ended the war in Bremerhaven. During fighting in northwestern Europe the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division lost 19,524 men.

Units

51st (Highland) Infantry Division, 1939-1940

152nd Infantry Brigade

•2nd Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders (regular army)

•4th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders

•4th Battalion, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

153th Infantry Brigade

•4th Battalion, The Black Watch

•1st Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders (regular army)

•5th Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders

154th Infantry Brigade

•1st Battalion, The Black Watch (regular army)

•7th Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

•8th Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

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•1st Lothians & Border Yeomanry

•75th (Highland) Regiment, Royal Artillery

•76th (Highland) Regiment, Royal Artillery

•77th (Highland) Regiment, Royal Artillery

•51st (West Highland) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery

•236TH Field Company, Royal Engineers

•237th Field Company, Royal Engineers

•238th Field Company, Royal Engineers

•1st Battalion, The Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment (The Middlesex Regiment) (Machine Gun)

•7th Battalion, The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (Machine Gun)

•7th Battalion, The Royal Norfolk Regiment (Infantry Sappers)

•6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers (Infantry Sappers)

51st (Highland) Infantry Division, 1940-1945

152 Infantry Brigade (originally 26th Infantry Brigade)

•2nd Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders

•5th Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders

•5th Battalion, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

153e Infantry Brigade (originally 27th Infantry Brigade)

•5th Battalion, The Black Watch

•1st Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders

•5/7th Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders

154e Infantry Brigade (originally 28th Infantry Brigade)

•1st Battalion, The Black Watch

•7th Battalion, The Black Watch

•7th Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Support Units

•1st/7th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment

•2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps

•126th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

•127th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

•128th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery

•61st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery

•274th Field Company, Royal Engineers

•275th Field Company, Royal Engineers

•276th Field Company, Royal Engineers

Commanders

•Major General Victor Fortune: 1937-12 June 1940 (prisoner)

•Major General Sir Alan Cunningham: August 7, 1940 – October 7, 1940

•Major General Sir Neil Ritchie: October 7, 1940 – June 11, 1941

•Major General Douglas Wimberley: June 11, 1941 – August 8, 1943

•Major General DC Bullen-Smith: August 8, 1943 – July 26, 1944

•Major General Thomas Rennie: July 26, 1944 – March 23, 1945 (died)

•Major General Gordon MacMillan: March 23, 1945 – May 28, 1945

•Major General James Cassels: May 28, 1945 – March 1946

Sources

•Dela Force, Patrick, Monty’s Highlanders: The Story of the 51st Highland Division Pen & Sword, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-512-9

•Doherty, Richard, None Bolder: The History of the 51st Highland Division in the Second World War Spellmount, 2006. ISBN 1-86227-317-0

British military unit in World War II

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