3rd Infantry Division In the Middle-East (1951-52)

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Charley Fortnum, Oct 21, 2018.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Right, I've mopped up the basics for most of my grandfather's service in the UK, BAOR, Hong Kong, Malaya and in the Canal Zone, but I've come to a dead end with one short spell: Cyprus in late '51 and early '52.

    He was with HQRA 3rd Infantry Division.

    Here's a sketch of the basics I'm working with:

    The division was reformed in early 1951 under Major-General Sir Hugh Stockwell and comprised:

    19 Brigade
    32 Guards Brigade
    39 Brigade

    The division was intended to serve in the UK as the strategic reserve, but this quickly went down the pan.

    Divisional HQ & 19 Brigade were based in Colchester.
    32 Brigade was in London District.
    39 Brigade was at Dover.

    On the move:
    During 1951 the division took part in Exercise Hammer & Tongs and then Exercise Surprise Packet, but when the Egyptians unilaterally abrogated the Canal Zone treaty on 8/10/51 they were dispatched to the Middle-East in instalments (Most of what follows is found in WO 216/443):

    19 Infantry Brigade Group (c. 2000 men + 18 guns) was detached dispatched at once to Tripoli to relieve 1 Guards Brigade (from 1st Infantry Division), which would itself move to the Canal Zone. The remainder of the division totalled c. 7,000 men (3,800 'bayonets'), 1,700 vehicles and 18 guns. The brigades at that time were composed as follows.

    32 Brigade: 1st Coldstream; 1st Scots Guards; 1st Beds. & Herts.

    39 Brigade: 1st Buffs; 1st Border Regt; 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers.

    Plus: 49th Field Regt R.A, 25th Field Engineer Regiment & various service units.

    The move was conducted as follows:

    1) HMS Illustrious & Triumph set sail from Portsmouth on 5/11/51 and reached Cyprus on 12/11/51. They carried 3,400 men and 300 vehicles. These elements were (part of) HQ 3 Div, 39 Inf Bde and part of the complement of divisional troops (Fd Sqd, Div Sigs, RASC, ORD, SME).

    2) 160 men per day were airlifted from 13/11/51 to 22/11/51. These men were urgent reinforcements for MELF in the canal zone.

    3) On 22/11/52 HMS Illustrious loaded 1,900 men and 150 vehicles and set sail on 24/11/51, arriving in Cyprus (FAMAGUSTA) on 1/12/51. Most of 32 Guards Brigade was on board.

    4) 160 men per day were airlifted from 23/11/51 until 4/12/51. This delivered (the remainder of) Div HQ, Divisional Troops and the remainder of 32 Guards Brigade Group. My grandfather, GNR NEWMAN, was on the first flight and arrived 23/11/51 with DIV HQ.

    As far as I can deduce, the whole division moved from Cyprus to the Canal Zone shortly after, except for 1 Scots Guards, 1st Beds. & Herts. and the Divisional HQ.

    The intention was that in the event that fighting broke out in Egypt, the division would seize control of Alexandria in order to rescue British nationals--the plan was named Operation Rodeo Flail. In the wake of 'Black Saturday' (26/1/52), when Cairo was struck by massive rioting and it almost looked as if 1st Division would implement Operation Rodeo Bernard to seize the capital, the Cyprus-based contingent (Divisional HQ, 1st Scots Guards, 1st Beds. & Herts.) was moved to join the rest of the division (See: WO 216/804). Divisional HQ and 1 Scots Guards went by sea (HMS Dieppe) on 19/2/51, while 1st Beds. & Herts. were airlifted by 'Valetta Force' between 20/2/52 and 22/2/52. (See WO 216/799 for the various RODEO Plans to protect British interests in Egypt from 1951 to 1954). Divisional HQ was based in MOASCAR. I have the locations of all the others units, but it would be tedious to list them all--'in Canal Zone North' will suffice.

    Once in Egypt, 3rd Division took control of 'Canal North', which seems to include everything from Port Said to the Ismailia area (1st Division controlled 'Canal South').

    What I REALLY want to know is where 3rd Div HQ, 1st Scots Guards and 1st Beds. & Herts. were located while on Cyprus between November 1951 and February 1952--particularly the HQ. As anybody who has looked into post-war events will have found, unit diaries are very patchy unless the unit was actively engaged, especially from 1950 onwards. There's a wealth of documentation for Operation Musketeer in 1956, but I can find nothing in the archive about about 3rd Division, 32 Brigade, 1st Beds & Herts, 1st Scots Guards or Cyprus District for 1951-52--all blanks.

    Can anybody help?
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Forlorn *bump* and then I'll leave you all alone.
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Best bet would probably be regimental journals, but they'd be a pain to access even in this hemisphere.

    The SG history only really records that he bn assembled in a tented camp at Zyggi but quickly moved to a camp at Nicosia and engaged in IS duties.
    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Thanks for looking. That's interesting because I've seen a letter home from a platoon serving as field security for 3 Inf Div HQ and he notes the HQ was 'just outside Nicosia'.
  5. dml34

    dml34 Junior Member

    I found the following details in the past........most probably from regimental magazines:-

    32 Inf Bde in Cyprus from Nov 51 to Feb 52

    1 Coldstream Gds - Polemedhia Camp, Limassol from Dec 51 to Jan 52

    1 Scots Gds - Zyyi Camp, Limassol from Nov 51 to Dec 51 then Waynes Keep Camp, Nicosia from Dec 51 to Feb 52

    1 Beds & Herts - Golden Sands Camp, Famagusta from Nov 51 to Mar 52

    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    That's brilliant!

    Do you do children's parties?
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    The Waynes Keep transit camp, which was to be my home for the next seven months, was located two or three miles to the west of Nicosia among flat rolling grasslands...

    From here:
    National Service 60 years ago: (2) Cyprus

    That's also a possible for 3 Div HQ, then. (Edit: lots of big auxiliary elements based there: hospital, HQ R.E. military detention centre--very likely).

    You've been a big help with those names, dml34.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
  8. dml34

    dml34 Junior Member

    I am very happy to help! I am going to contact you about the Canal Zone........

  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Bingo--at least as close as I'm likely to get.

    Only two 3 Infantry Division 'diary' files still exist for the 1951-52 period, so I got copies from Kew.

    WO 305-834:
    3 Infantry Division Signal Regiment (Jan 1951-Mar 1961)

    WO 305-1399:
    3 Infantry Division REME: (Dec 1950 to Apr 1960)

    The latter states:-
    • HQ CREME moved with the Divisional HQ to Whites Camp Cyprus aboard HMS Illustrious (see above) on 29/11/51.
    • HQ CREME moved from Cyprus to Spearhead Camp with HQ 3 Inf Div, February 1952.
    Spearhead Camp was in Moascar a district of Ismailia. In both cases, if the CREME was located with the divisional HQ, it seems highly likely that the HQRA was in the same location.

    What can anybody supply on Whites Camp?

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