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54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division

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The 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army. During the First World War the division fought at Gallipoli and in the Middle East. The division was disbanded after the war but reformed in the Territorial Army in 1920. During the Second World War it was a home service division and did not see any combat service abroad and was disbanded in late 1943 but many of its component units went to see service in the Normandy Campaign and North-western Europe from June 1944 to May 1945.

East Anglian Division
54th (East Anglian) Division
54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division
54 inf div -vector.svg
Shoulder insignia of the 54th (East Anglian) Division, Second World War
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
EngagementsFirst World War
*Battle of Gallipoli
*First Battle of Gaza
*Battle of Mughar Ridge
*Battle of Jerusalem (1917)
*Action of Tell 'Asur
*Battle of Megiddo (1918)'s Battle of Arara
Second World War
the Hon. Julian Byng
Charles Townshend
Evelyn Barker
Cyril Lomax
Sir Ian Freeland



The division was raised as the East Anglian Division in 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. Under command it had the Essex Brigade, the East Midland Brigade and the Norfolk and Suffolk Brigade. In 1915, during the First World War, these later became the 54th (East Anglian) Division, the 161st (Essex) Brigade, the 162nd (East Midland) Brigade and the 163rd (Norfolk and Suffolk) Brigade respectively.

First World WarEdit

The 54th (East Anglian) Division landed at Suvla on 10 August in the Gallipoli Campaign, as a part of IX Corps under Lieutenant-General Stopford. It was moved to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force under General Murray in late 1916 and garrisoned the southern part of the Suez Canal.

Men of the Norfolk Regiment resting on the road to Beirut, late October 1918

Then in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, during the First Battle of Gaza, on 26 March 1917, the 161st Brigade and divisional artillery were in reserve while the 53rd (Welsh) Division carried out the main attack. These reserves were committed as the battle progressed resulting in the British gaining a foothold in the Turkish defences but the British commander called off the attack as night fell. In the Second Battle of Gaza, the 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions of the Norfolk Regiment sustained 75 per cent casualties (about 1,200 men).[1] It took part in the successful Third Battle of Gaza as part of XXI Corps led by General Bulfin, and by the end of 1917 Edmund Allenby's forces had taken Jerusalem.

In September 1918 the division took part in the Battle of Megiddo.

It ceased to exist in Egypt on 30 September 1919.[2]

Between the warsEdit

The division was disbanded after the Great War when the whole of the Territorial Force was disbanded. However, it was reformed in 1920 as the Territorial Army (TA) and the division was reconstituted, initially with a similar composition to before the First World War but, over the next few years, with a much different composition.

Buildup to the Second World WarEdit

Throughout the 1930s, tensions built between Germany and the United Kingdom as well as its allies.[3] During late 1937 and throughout 1938, German demands for the annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland led to an international crisis. In an attempt to avoid war, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler in September and brokered the Munich Agreement. The agreement averted immediate war and allowed Germany to annex the Sudetenland.[4] Chamberlain had intended the agreement to lead to further peaceful resolution of issues, but relations between both countries soon deteriorated.[5] On 15 March 1939, Germany breached the terms of the agreement by invading and occupying the remnants of the Czech state.[6]

In response, on 29 March, the British Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha announced plans to increase the Territorial Army from 130,000 men to 340,000 and in so doing double the number of territorial divisions.[7] The plan of action was for the existing units to recruit over their allowed establishments (aided by an increase in pay for territorials, the removal of restrictions on promotion that had been a major hindrance to recruiting during the preceding years, the construction of better quality barracks, and an increase in supper-time rations) and then form Second Line divisions from small cadres that could be built upon.[7][8] As a result, the 54th was to provide cadres to form a Second Line duplicate unit, which would become the 18th Infantry Division following the start of the war.[9] In April, limited conscription was introduced. At that time 34,500 militiamen, all aged 20, were conscripted into the regular army, initially to be trained for six months before being deployed to the forming second line units.[10][11] Despite the intention for the army to grow in size, the programme was complicated by a lack of central guidance on the expansion and duplication process and issues regarding the lack of facilities, equipment and instructors.[7][12]

Second World WarEdit

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the 54th Division, commanded by Major-General John Priestman, a Regular Army officer, and serving under Eastern Command, was mobilised for full-time war service.[13] Comprising still the 161st, 162nd and 163rd Infantry Brigades and divisional troops, the division absorbed hundreds of conscripts and spent the first few months of the war, after guarding various designated 'vulnerable points', training for eventual overseas service.[14]

The division remained in the United Kingdom as a local defence formation, being downgraded to a Lower Establishment in January 1942. The division was disbanded and broken up on 14 December 1943. Its component units would take part in the Normandy Campaign as support units, with the HQ Royal Artillery becoming HQ 8th Army Group Royal Artillery and HQ Royal Engineers becoming HQ Royal Engineers for the 6th Airborne Division. The divisional HQ was redesignated HQ Lines of Communication (54th Division) for the 21st Army Group. The division was not reformed in the post-war Territorial Army in 1947 but the 161st and 162nd Infantry Brigades both survived until disbandment in the 1960s.[14]

Victoria Cross recipientsEdit

General officers commandingEdit

Appointed General officer commanding
August 1908 – October 1910 Brigadier-General John H. Campbell
October 1910 – October 1912 Major-General the Hon. Julian Byng
October 1912 – June 1913 Major-General Charles Townshend
June 1913 – April 1916 Major-General Francis S. Inglefield
April 1916 – July 1923 Major-General Sir Steuart W. Hare
July 1923 – February 1927 Major-General John Duncan
February 1927 – September 1930 Major-General Sir Torquhil Matheson
September 1930 – September 1934 Major-General Francis J. Marshall
September 1934 – September 1938 Major-General Russell M. Luckcock
September 1938 – February 1941 Major-General John Priestman
February 1941 – April 1943 Major-General Evelyn Barker
April – May 1943 Major-General Charles Wainwright
May – December 1943 Major-General Colin Callender

Orders of battleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Note typo: 19th not 199th


  1. ^ Eastern Daily Press, "Sunday" section May 5, 2007
  2. ^ Becke 1936, p. 131.
  3. ^ Bell 1986, pp. 3–4.
  4. ^ Bell 1986, pp. 258–275.
  5. ^ Bell 1986, pp. 277–278.
  6. ^ Bell 1986, p. 281.
  7. ^ a b c Gibbs 1976, p. 518.
  8. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 47.
  9. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 60.
  10. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 49.
  11. ^ French 2001, p. 64.
  12. ^ Perry 1988, p. 48.
  13. ^ a b c Joslen 2003, p. 89.
  14. ^ a b IWM 2017.
  15. ^ Becke 1936, pp. 125–32.
  16. ^ Baker 2010.
  17. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 349.
  18. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 350.
  19. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 351.
  20. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 382.
  21. ^ 19 LAA Rgt at Ra 39–45.


  • "Badge, Formation, 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Division & 162nd Infantry Brigade". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  • Baker, Chris (2010). "The 54th (East Anglian) Division of the British Army in 1914–1918". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  • Becke, Major A. F. (1936). Order of Battle of Divisions Part 2A. The Territorial Force Mounted Divisions and the 1st-Line Territorial Force Divisions (42–56). London: His Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 1-871167-12-4.
  • Bell, P.M.H. (1986). The Origins of the Second World War in Europe (2nd 1997 ed.). London: Pearson. ISBN 978-0-582-30470-3.
  • French, David (2001) [2000]. Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War Against Germany 1919–1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-924630-4.
  • Gibbs, N.H. (1976). Grand Strategy. History of the Second World War. I. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-11-630181-9.
  • Joslen, H.F. (2003) [1960]. Orders of Battle: Second World War, 1939–1945. Uckfield: Naval and Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84342-474-1.
  • Messenger, Charles (1994). For Love of Regiment 1915–1994. A History of British Infantry. 2. London: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 978-0-85052-422-2.
  • Perry, Frederick William (1988). The Commonwealth Armies: Manpower and Organisation in Two World Wars. War, Armed Forces and Society. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-2595-2.

External linksEdit