British infantry division late 1944 TOE

Discussion in 'Infantry' started by andlug, Jan 5, 2023.

  1. andlug

    andlug Member

    I have just joined, so please forgive me if this has been discussed previously.

    I am trying to get an accurate breakdown of the structure of a British infantry diivsion in late 1944 (men and vehicles (excluding bikes and motorbikes), and major weapons.

    Using the details on Nierhorster's site I got the following ( note I use battalions as the unit size, not 'regiment':
    Unit men vehicles large weapons
    Total 15,732 3146 78x6pdr AT,16x17 pdr AT, 17x M10, 72x25pdr,16x4.2"mtr, 54x40mm AA
    HQ 53 7
    Signals 630 168
    Rec battn 877 218 8 x 6pdr AT
    MG battn 697 171 16 x 4.2" mtr
    Eng battn 914 174
    RASC 1117 499
    REME 680 199
    RAOC 73 25
    MilPol 111 25
    Aty HQ 32 10
    Aty (3 bttn) 1950 406 72 x 25pdr
    AA battn 830 117 54x 40mm AA
    AT battn 754 240 16x6pdr AT 16x17pdr AT 16xM10 or equivalent
    Inf (3 brig) 7644 846 54x 6pdr AT ( brig = HQ 97 men 21veh +3 inf battns @ 817 men 87 veh 6x6pdr AT)

    However, |I have seen some references giving as mnuch as 18000 men.

    Can anyone confirm my figures , or explain where the missing men ( and vehicles) come from please?
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Some of this looks wrong to me as an artilleryman.

    E.g. The divisional Anti tank Regiment (not battalion) was not established for SP 3 inch or 17 pounder M10 SP. The M10s were assigned to the Anti tank Regiments for the Armoured Divisions and Corps Anti-tank Regiments with 24 x towed 17 pounder and 24 x SP 3 inch (replaced by 17 pounder) M10. The three D Day assault divisions were allocated enough M10s for one troop per battery with two troops of 6 pounders.
    There is an explanation of anti tank numbers here ANTI-TANK

    Trux has some detailed establishments here Artillery

    As with anti tank, RA Light AA major units are Regiments not battalions. Note that the Light AA establishments were reduced in late 1944, with each battery losing a troop and some 5,000 Light AA Gunners transferred to the infantry. (This was to transfer back some of the infantrymen who had been retrained as AA gunners when twenty infantry battalions were converted to Light AA regiments in 1942) This means that Infantry Division would be established for 36 not 54 x 40mm Bofors.
    Light anti aircraft artillery
  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The organisation of the Infantry Division was agreed at the Standardization Conference 1943 (wish I could find the minutes for that!), however it was modified to various degrees in Italy and subsequently 21 Army Group. The Standard Division is summarised in Joslen's Orders of Battle, and would appear to be derived from the Formation Staff Equipment table issued in February 1945 (which alas appears to be lost). Again though, Divisions in Italy and Northwest Europe incorporated changes specific to those theatres. The personnel count for the Feb 1945 Standard Infantry Division is along these lines (figures shown as officers/other ranks);

    Div HQ - 28/127
    Div HQ Def & Emp Pl - 1/60

    Recce Regt - 42/775

    HQ, Inf Bde (three, each) - 16/56
    Bde HQ Def Pl (three, each) - 0/27
    Inf Bn (nine, each) - 36/809

    HQ, Div Arty - 7/31
    Fd Regt (three, each) - 37/636

    HQ, Atk Regt - 6/52
    Atk Bty (four, each) - 7/158

    HQ, LAA Regt - 6/39
    LAA Bty (three, each) - 12/260
    LAA Tp, 20-mm (three, each) - 3/56

    HQ, Div Engrs - 6/25
    Fd Coy (three, each) - 7/249
    Fd Pk Coy - 4/112
    Div Br Pl - 1/40

    Inf Div Sigs - 28/682

    MG Bn - 36/699

    HQ, CRASC - 8/33
    Inf Bde Coy (three, each) - 9/306
    Inf Div Tps Coy - 8/288

    Fd Amb (three, each) - 13/231
    FDS (two, each) - 7/90
    Fd Hy Sec - 1/27

    Inf Div Ord Fd Pk - 2/78

    HQ, CREME - 4/16
    Inf Bde Wksp (three, each) - 6/184
    LAA Wksp - 1/34
    LAD Type A (Armd) - 1/15
    LAD Type A (non-armd) (four, each) - 0/14
    LAD Type B (six, each) - 0/12

    Prov Coy - 3/112
    Postal Unit - 1/24
    Field Security Sec - 1/12

    Totals - 870/17,517 (18,387 all ranks)

    Large weapons does depend on how you define such. For the above the figures are roughly

    LMG - 1262
    MMG - 40 (includes 4 reserve weapons)

    2-inch mortar - 283
    3-inch mortar - 60
    4.2-inch mortar - 16

    PIAT - 436

    20-mm AA - 71
    40-mm AA - 54

    6-pr atk - 78
    17-pr atk - 16

    25-pr gun - 72

    There were amendments over time to the War Establishments of component units, some of which are incorporated in the above. Theatre changes did affect the Anti-tank and LAA Regiments. A Counter Mortar Officer's Staff (CMO) was also added to Inf Div Arty during 1944.

    The 20-mm LAA Tps were deleted from Divisions in 21 Army Group around July 1944, and at the same time the LAA Btys were reduced to two Tps, so the 54 40-mm guns reduced to 36. There were multiple units in the Div authorised 20-mm LAA guns, which is where the total of 71 guns comes from, however these appear to have been withdrawn once the 20-mm Tps were formed for the LAA Regts in early 1944.

    The Anti-tank Regiment underwent various changes as well, it was initially based on four Btys, each with eight 6-pr and four 17-pr guns, all towed. In 21 Army Group the ratio was reversed in early 1944 to four 6-pr and eight 17-pr. The two Assault Divisions had a special Atk Regt WE, with eight towed 6-prs and four SP M10s.

    At the end of 1944, Atk Regts in 21 Army Group started to receive three 17-pr SP (Valentine chassis), to re-equip one towed 17-pr Tp, while the other 17-pr Tp was dropped to three guns. Then in the last few months of the war, Inf Div Atk Regts went onto a new WE, with three Btys, each of six towed and three SP 17-prs, and one Bty of nine SP 17-prs, each Bty based on three Tps of three pieces each.

    Italy had its own RA variations. They did not have the 17-pr heavy Atk Regt, keeping 32 6-prs to 16 17-prs during 1944. I thought I had some notes handy on the later org used but can't find them; from memory they went to a Bty of four SP M10s and eight towed 17-prs in early 1945. LAA Regts in Italy also dispensed with their third Tp and did not adopt the 20-mm Tps.

  4. andlug

    andlug Member

    Thanks both of you ( Gary and Sheldrake) for such quick replies, and the extremely useful information. So it seems that the division was about 18,000 strong.

    Sorry about the mis-spelling of the thread title also!

    From my side , I can offer a little bit of information on the AT 'regiments'. in 21AG, because my main interest is the Ardennes 1944/45 campaign.

    In August 1944 experience in Normandy led to a revised organisation for AT batteries in infantry divisions, a merging of the 'normal' and 'assault' organisations. Batteries became 1 troop 6-pdr, 1 troop towed 17-pdr, 1 troop SP 17-pdr to provide an effective mix of capability reflecting strengths and weaknesses of the various guns.

    The only two divisions I have specifics for are 51ID and 53ID:

    51 ID got 16SP 17pdr in mid-December1944.

    53 ID In August the organisation of anti-tank batteries changed dramatically to: one troop of 4 towed 6 pounder guns, one troop of towed 17 pounder guns, and one troop of 4 self-propelled 17 pounders.

    Thank you once again.
  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi andlug,

    I have been working on a book about the Archer (Valentine 17-pr SP) for several years now and am almost done. They were the SPs given to the infantry divisional anti-tank regiments in the reorganization, but according to my research no regiments received any until November 1944. For 53rd Div the war diary for January 1945 talks about the changeover. So your reference to August confounds me. !?!?!
  6. andlug

    andlug Member

    Hello Chris C
    I am quoting from the history of 71st AT Regiment ( Royal Welch Fusiliers), which is available online.

    So if the war diary contradicts this, it seems that the history was recording the intention, but maybe the decision was not enacted until a later date, as you indicate.

    One thought:Was it only Archers that were allocated to the British divisions? Did any receive American M10's ( Achilles)?
    As I understand it , the Achilles version was more numerous, and the gun was identical to the Archer.
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi andlug,

    Do you mean 71 Anti-Tank Regiment RA - The Royal Artillery 1939-45 or something else? That site does give the August date... :confused: Or is there the text of a book somewhere I dont know about?? If I'm wrong I definitely want to know.

    The British infantry divisions didn't receive any Achilles. As Sheldrake mentioned, there were three British (and one Canadian!) infantry divisions which received M10s for D-Day but those had the original 3" gun. They all had to exchange those for Archers eventually.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2023
  8. andlug

    andlug Member

    71st Anti-Tank Regiment a brief history of the unit, is the source of my information.

    As I said before, it may be that this history is premature in giving the switch-over.
    Chris C likes this.
  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I saw that web page last night and must admit the passage is quite scant. There is a thread on here that shares some of the same wording without the August 1944 date;

    71st (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery

    I know Chris has interrogated pretty much every Anti-tank Regt war diary he could find as part of the research for his book, and likewise multiple other contemporary documents. I'm of the same mind, that August 1944 is way in advance of the arrival of the 17-pr on Valentine chassis with Anti-tank Regts in 21 Army Group. For my own part, there are figures of SP artillery equipment included in overall AFV returns for 21 AG, covering various dates in 1945. 53rd (Welsh) Inf Div gives a total of 3 (three) SP 17-prs (Valentines) as of 20th Jan 1945, which chimes with the info in the WD cited above by Chris.

    I did wonder if the paragraph might be sourced from the Delaforce book on 53rd Div? It isn't one that I have so I can't check.

    The SP M10s in Inf Divs in 21AG were restricted to the three D-Day Assault Divs, 3rd (Br), 3rd (Cdn) and 50th (N). 3rd (Br) and 3rd (Cdn) Inf Divs still reported 10 and 9 M10s respectively as of 13th Jan 1945, all shown as having the 3-inch rather than the 17-pr gun.

    Ideally the answer would be in RA records but I have yet to find anything that includes 'gun states' for 21 AG, beyond a one-off doc from March 1945 that only lists the wheeled pieces, and shows 53rd Inf Div with 12 towed 17-prs.

    Charley Fortnum and Chris C like this.
  10. andlug

    andlug Member

    The only other thing I have is from another forum, unfortunately I cannot remember which:

    At the beginning of 1944 the official WEs permitted divisional anti-tank regiments to comprise 4 batteries each with 8 × 6-pdr and 4 × 17-pdr, or 2 batteries with 12 × 6-pdr and 2 with 12 × M10, or 4 batteries each with 8 × 6-pdr and 4 × M10.

    However, there was considerable dissatisfaction with these organisations, what was wanted, and was duly agreed and approved was:

    • Regiments in infantry divisions - 4 batteries each 8 × 17-pdr and 4 × 6-pdr in 3 troops.
    • Regiments in armoured division - 2 batteries, each 12 × 17-pdr, and 2 batteries each 12 × M10 in 3 troops.
    • Corps regiments - as for armoured divisions.
    The following month a specialised anti-tank battery organisation was approved for 'assault' units (meaning amphibious assaults). These batteries had 2 troops of 6-pdr and 1 of M10. The reason for this was the policy that only tracked vehicles would cross the beaches for the first 8 hours of a landing. However, in August 1944 experience in Normandy led to a revised organisation for batteries in infantry divisions, a merging of the 'normal' and 'assault' organisations. Batteries became 1 troop 6-pdr, 1 troop towed 17-pdr, 1 troop SP 17-pdr to provide an effective mix of capability reflecting strengths and weaknesses of the various guns.

    Sorry I cannot provide more; this was peripheral to my research.
    Chris C likes this.
  11. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think I've found where the above excerpt is from, being the RA website of Nigel Evans -


    I also found what I was looking for re developments in Italy. In brief, they decided in late 1944 to abolish the Corps Atk Regts, finding Divisional assets sufficient, which threw up their SP M10s as spare. The Atk Regt decided on for Italy in 1945 was three Btys, each of two towed 17-prs Tps and one SP M10 Tp, with a fourth Bty of all SP M10. It was actually the same ratio as the Corps Regts had been, 50/50 of towed and SP 17-prs, but distributed differently across the Btys. It was seemingly to be used by both Inf Divs and Armd Divs in the Med theatre, though by 1945 6th Armd Div was the only British Armoured Division still in Italy.

  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Ooh, I forgot about this thread.

    I will note that I have not looked at the war diary for 71st Anti-Tank Regiment for 1944. I'm cautious about accepting that the regiment received Achilles or Archer in August 1944.I have seen 1945 complaints from the regiments which had M10 (with 3" gun) and switched to Archer, and the 71st don't appear in those reports. And as I mentioned, the January 1945 war diary suggests they were only switching to SPs at that point, although what they might not have liked was the 3-gun troops. But I have to admit I have not seen the 1944 war diary.

    Oh, with regards to the mention of August 1944, it's true that that is when discussion began. If you like I can dig up the source documents but a brief timeline:

    - August 1944, meetings decide on adopting a new battery organization. An already existing SP training detachment (IIRC) is given some gunless Archers for training along with its other equipment.
    - September 1944, in a meeting it was decided that conditions were not suitable yet
    - October 1944, 55th Anti-Tank Regiment (of 49th Division) think they're going to get Archers and somehow their LAD starts to change over and then the process is cancelled - there is no equipment for them in any case. The division had at one point had "assault" status and the regiment had been trained on M10s
    - November 1944, regiments start to change their batteries over one by one, sending the relevant troops back to turn in old equipment, train and receive new equipment. This happens over November 44-January 45 at different rates for different regiments
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2023
  13. andlug

    andlug Member

    You would have thought there was not much need for trialling out the new configuration, because some infantry divisions had already been using the SP 17 pounders over several months.

    Maybe the simplest answer is somewhere in 21 Army Group files. There was a lot of ';bean-counting' so probably someone kept a tally of the AT SP's that had been issued!

    Unfortunately I am based in Scotland , so I cannot pop round to Kew to check..
  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    It wasn't trialling the configuration so much as waiting for a time when the army's positions were no longer moving forward so quickly and it was practical to be swapping out equipment. There was hope that Germany was beaten and the war would be over by Christmas.

    But again, if you're wanting to be precise, the infantry divisions had not been using SP 17-pounders. :confused:

    Attaching the first two pages of 71st A/Tk Reg't's war diary for January 1945. Now that I think about it, if they'd had SPs up until this point I think they would already have reconfigured their batteries as they outline here.

    100_5229.JPG 100_5230.JPG

    That aside, I have the Canadian versions of the war establishment files including Archers with vehicle and number breakdowns, which were closely modelled on the British W.E.'s. If you want them I am happy to share.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2023
  15. andlug

    andlug Member

    Well, there was quite a period of front-line stagnation after Arnhem. But..
    you have a point about 'the war will be over by Christmas' so why bother? That would have discouraged thoughts of reorganisation, and then there was the expectation of launching 'Operation Shears' in the second week of December, not a good time to reorganise.

    Anyway, hopefully someone comes up with some archival evidence, I cannot add any more.

Share This Page