4th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)

"British 4th Division" redirects here. For the 4th cavalry division, see Yeomanry Mounted Division.
4th Division
4th Infantry Division
4th Armoured Division
4th Division

Insignia of the 4th Division
Active 1809–1947
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Infantry
Size Division
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Aldershot Garrison
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Talavera
Battle of Albuera
Battle of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Roncesvalles (1813)
Battle of Vitoria
Battle of the Pyrenees
Battle of Orthez
Battle of Toulouse (1814)
Crimean War
Battle of Alma
Battle of Inkerman
Battle of Balaclava
First World War
Le Cateau
Battle of Marne
Retreat from Mons
Battle of Aisne
First Battle of Ypres
Battle of Messines
Hill 60
Second Battle of Ypres
Battle of Albert
Battle of Le Transloy
Battle of the Somme
First Battle of the Scarpe
Third Battle of the Scarpe
Battle of Polygon Wood
Battle of Broodseinde
Battle of Poelcapelle
Battle of Passchendaele
Battle of Arras
Battle of Hazebroucke
Battle of Bethune
Advance in Flanders
Battle of the Scarpe
Battle of Drocourt-Quéant
Battle of the Canal du Nord
Battle of the Selle
Battle of Valenciennes
Second World War
Battle of France
Oued Zarga
the Medjez Plain
Trasimene Line
Rimini Line
Monte Cassino
Lieutenant General Sir Charles Colville, (7 August 1770 – 27 March 1843)
Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow KCB, KCMG (5 May 1858 – 30 August 1940)
General Sir Alfred Dudley Ward, GCB, KBE, DSO (27 January 1905 – 28 December 1991)
Field Marshal Sir Nigel Thomas Bagnall, GCB, CVO, MC (10 February 1927 – 8 April 2002)
Insignia of the 4th Division, replaced by current design in 1995.

The 4th Infantry Division was a regular infantry division of the British Army with a very long history, seeing active service in the Peninsular War, the Crimean War, the First World War, and during the Second World War. It was disbanded after the war and reformed in the 1950s as an armoured formation before being disbanded and reformed again and finally disbanded on 1 January 2012.

Napoleonic Wars

The 4th Division was originally formed in 1809 by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, for service in the Peninsular War. It fought in the Battle of Talavera and the Battle of Salamanca, Battle of Badajoz and the Battle of Roncesvalles, Battle of Vitoria, Battle of the Pyrenees, Battle of Orthez, Battle of Toulouse.

Peninsular War order of battle

(from January 1812)

Major General Sir Charles Colville (to April 1812) Major General Lowry Cole (from June 1812)


At the Battle of Waterloo it was tasked with holding Wellington's right flank and, with the exception of its 4th brigade, took no active part in the fighting, but did capture the town of Cambrai afterwards.

The commanding general at this time was Charles Colville. In his novel Les Misérables Victor Hugo credits Colville with asking for the surrender of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo and receiving General Cambronne's reply of "Merde".[1]

Waterloo order of battle

Crimean War

The Division was also called for service during the Crimean War fought between the allied forces of the United Kingdom, French Empire and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Russia on the other. It saw action in the Battle of Alma the Battle of Inkerman and the Battle of Balaclava, fought on 25 October 1854 (famous for the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Thin Red Line).

Crimean War order of battle

Commanding General: Major General Sir George Cathcart

First World War

As a permanently established Regular Army division it was amongst the first to be sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of the First World War. It served on the Western Front for the duration of the war and was present during all the major offensives including the Battle of the Marne, Battle of Ypres, Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Passchendaele.

First World War order of battle

The order of battle of 4th Division during the First World War was as follows:[2]

10th Brigade 
11th Brigade 
Map of the Western Front, 1915–16
12th Brigade 

From early November 1915 until February 1916 the 12th Brigade was swapped with the 107th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.




Second World War

The 4th Infantry Division served during the Second World War and was sent to the border between France and Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), together with the 3rd Infantry Division forming II Corps, under Lieutenant-General Alan Brooke. After the disastrous Battle of France in May–June 1940, where the division sustained heavy losses, and the evacuation at Dunkirk, it spent the next two years in the United Kingdom on anti-invasion duties and training for its next deployment which would be as part of the British First Army and Operation Torch, the landings on the North West African coast.

In June 1942 the division, under the command of Major-General John Hawkesworth, was selected to be converted into a 'mixed' division, consisting of two infantry brigades and one tank brigade. As a result of this change the divisions' 11th Infantry Brigade left the division and was replaced by the 21st Army Tank Brigade.

The Duke of Kent inspects Universal Carriers of the 1st Battalion, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, at Camberley, Surrey, 16 March 1942.

During the Tunisia Campaign it was involved in Operation Vulcan, the final ground attack against Axis forces in North Africa which effectively ended the North African Campaign, with the surrender of nearly 250,000 German and Italian soldiers. However, during the assault the division suffered heavy losses, with four battalions sustaining over 300 casualties.[5]

After the Axis defeat in North Africa, in May 1943, the division was to remain there for the next 9 months, during which it was converted back into a standard infantry division, with the 28th Infantry Brigade, consisting mainly of Regular Army battalions who had served on garrison duties in Gibraltar, arriving to replace the 21st Tank Brigade. The division arrived on the Italian Front in late February 1944, relieving the British 46th Infantry Division, initially coming under command of Lieutenant-General Richard L. McCreery's British X Corps, then serving under the U.S. Fifth Army. In March the division transferred to Lieutenant-General Sidney Kirkman's British XIII Corps,[6] part of the British Eighth Army, serving alongside the British 6th Armoured Division, 8th Indian Infantry Division, British 78th Infantry Division and 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade. The division, now under the command of Major-General Alfred Dudley Ward,[7] fought with distinction at the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944, and later in severe fighting in the battles for the Gothic Line.

However, in November 1944 it was dispatched, with the rest of III Corps, to Greece to provide assistance during the Greek Civil War, and was to remain there until the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.[8]

Order of battle

The 4th Infantry Division was constituted as follows during the war:[9]

10th Infantry Brigade[10]

11th Infantry Brigade (left 5 June 1942)[11]

12th Infantry Brigade[12]

21st Army Tank Brigade (from 6 June 1942, left 12 December 1943)[13]

28th Infantry Brigade (from 24 December 1943)[14]

Divisional Troops

Post Second World War

The Division was reformed from 11th Armoured Division on 1 April 1956, and took on 20th Armoured Brigade Group from the disbanding 6th Armoured Division in May 1958. At the time the Division also incorporated the (Canadian) 4th Infantry Brigade and the 4th Guards Brigade.

During the 1970s, the division consisted of two "square" brigades, the 11th Armoured Brigade and the 20th Armoured Brigade.[22] It was renamed 4th Armoured Division and served with I (BR) Corps being based at Hammersmith Barracks in Herford from 1978.[23] After being briefly reorganised into two "task forces" ("Golf" and "Hotel") in the late 1970s, the division consisted of the 11th Armoured Brigade, the 20th Brigade Division and the 33rd Armoured Brigade in the 1980s.[24]

The division ceased its role as a front line Armoured Division on 1 July 1993.


Structure 4th Division

The Division was reformed again in 1995 as a regenerative division – a military district in all but name – that served as the parent formation for units in Southern England.[25] The Division's last insignia was a tiger. It was commanded from HQ at Steeles Road, Aldershot and reported to Army Headquarters at Andover.[26] The Division was responsible for the administration of Aldershot Garrison and three Regional Brigades:

For administrative purposes, the following formations were also under the administrative control of 4th Division:

The new HQ Support Command in Aldershot began operation in January 2012 when HQ 4th Division in Aldershot disbanded.[27] HQ 2nd division in Edinburgh and HQ 5th division in Shrewsbury were both disbanded in April 2012.[28]

Recent Commanders

4th Division Headquarters, Aldershot, in use 1995 to 2011

Recent Commanders have been:[29]
GOC 4th Division

Note: The Division was disbanded after the War and reformed in 1956

GOC 4th Armoured Division

GOC 4th Division

See also


  1. "Chapter XIV. The Last Square". les miserables.
  2. Becke, pp. 57–63.
  3. "The history of 4th Division".
  4. Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War I at Orbat.com
  5. p. 79, Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944–45, Gregory Blaxland
  6. p. 289, Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944–45, Gregory Blaxland
  7. p. 80, Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944–45, Gregory Blaxland
  8. p. 229, Alexander's Generals, the Italian Campaign 1944–45, Gregory Blaxland
  9. Joslen, pp. 45-6.
  10. Joslen, p. 248.
  11. Joslen, p. 249.
  12. Joslen, p. 250.
  13. Joslen, p. .
  14. Joslen, p. 448.
  15. 17 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  16. 22 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45
  17. 30 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  18. 77 Fd Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  19. Litchfield, p. 304.
  20. 14 A/T Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  21. 91 LAA Rgt at RA 1939–45.
  22. Watson, Graham (2005). "The British Army in Germany: An Organisational History 1947–2004". Tiger Lily. p. 95.
  23. "History of BAOR". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  24. Black, Harvey. "The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 6.".
  25. "TA Command Structure 1967–2000". Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  26. "New Army's HQ Land Forces base is opened in Andover". BBC News. 9 September 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  27. First tranche of Army unit moves confirmed Defence News, 10 November 2011
  28. House of Commons Library: Standard Note: SN06038
  29. Army Commands Archived 5 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. Service appointments:Army, The Times, 6 August 2008. Retrieved on 17 November 2008
  31. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58885. p. 17876. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.


External links

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