36th (Ulster) Division

The history of 36th (Ulster) Division

On 3 September 1914, just short of a month after Britain had declared war and after much discussion regarding what amounted to a political ‘truce’ with regard to domestic matters, Sir Edward Carson (one of the great political leaders opposing Home Rule for Ireland) made an appeal at the meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council in Belfast, urging the men of the Ulster Volunteer Force to come forward for service in the defence of the British Empire. Despite the fact that many Ulstermen had made their own decisions and had already enlisted, an entire formation known as the Ulster Division was soon raised – and all of its infantry units were based on existing units of the UVF. Thirteen battalions were raised for the three Irish regiments based in Ulster: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Rifles.

1914
August: formed in Ireland as the Ulster Division, with Brigades numbered 1,2 and 3. On 28 August 1914, the Division and its Brigades adopted the titles shown on this page.

1915
July: the Division moved to Seaford on the Sussex coast of England. Lord Kitchener inspected the Division there on 27 July 1915, and later remarked to Carson “your Division of Ulstermen is the finest I have yet seen”. Another inspection took place, by King George V, on 30 September.

3-6 October: the Division moved to France, although the artillery remained in England until November.

The Ulster Division initially concentrated in the area around Flesselles, some ten miles north of Arras. Gradually, men were sent in groups for familiarisation with trench warfare conditions, and were attached to the regular army 4th Division for the purpose in the (at this time) quiet are north of the River Ancre near Albert.

On 21 October the Division was moved away from the fighting area towards Abbeville, where it spent most of the winter of 1915-16 continuing training. One of the Brigades was attached to 4th Division for several weeks at this time and the artillery finally rejoined.

1916
The whole Division finally took over a complete section of the front line on 7 February, between the River Ancre and the Mailly-Maillet to Serre road. Division HQ was at Acheux. In the first week of March, the Division extended its front, the 109th Brigade taking over the sector south of the Ancre, known by the name of Thiepval Wood.

The Division remained in the Wesrern Friont in France and Flanders throughout the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements

The Battle of Albert* in which the Division attacked at the Schwaben Redoubt near Thiepval.

Somme

The Division was relieved on 2 July, having suffered 5104 casualties of who approximately 2069 died.
* the battle marked * is a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916

1917
The Battle of Messines, in which the Division captured Wytschaete
The Battle of Langemarck**
** the battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
The Cambrai Operations, including the capture of Bourlon Wood

1918
The Division was substantially reorganised in February 1918.
The Battle of St Quentin+

St Quentin

The Actions at the Somme Crossings+
The Battle of Rosieres+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Messines++
The Battle of Bailleul++
The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge++
++ the battles marked ++ are phases of the Battles of the Lys

The Battle of Ypres^
The Battle of Courtrai^
The action of Ooteghem^
^ the battles marked ^ are phases of the Final Advance in Flanders

On 11 November the Division was at Mouscron, north east of Tourcoing. It remained there throughout the period of demobilisation. It ceased to exist on 29 June 1919.

The Great War cost 36th (Ulster) Division 32186 men killed, wounded or missing.

The order of battle of the 36th (Ulster) Division

107th Brigade
This brigade was attached to 4th Division for instructional purposes between 5 November 1915 and 3 February 1916
8th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (East Belfast) renamed as 8/9th from August 1917 and disbanded 7 February 1918
9th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast) merged into 9th Bn from August 1917
10th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Belfast) disbanded 20 February 1918
15th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (North Belfast)
107th Machine Gun Company joined 18 December 1915, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
107th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 108th Bde February 1918
1st Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined February 1918
108th Brigade
11th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim) renamed as 11/13th from 13 November 1917 and disbanded 18 February 1918
12th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrim)
13th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down) merged into 11th Bn on 13 November 1917
9th Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers (County Armagh)
108th Machine Gun Company joined 26 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
108th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
7th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined October 1917, merged into 2nd Bn November 1917
2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles joined November 1917, left February 1918
1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined from 107th Bde February 1918
109th Brigade
9th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (County Tyrone)
10th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry) disbanded January 1918
11th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Donegal and Fermanagh) disbanded February 1918
14th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizens) disbanded February 1918
109th Machine Gun Company joined 23 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
109th Trench Mortar Battery joined 1 April 1916
1st Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined February 1918
12th Brigade
This brigade was attached from 4th Division in exchange for 107th Brigade between 4 November 1915 and 3 February 1916
Divisional Troops
16th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles (County Down Pioneers) Divisional Pioneer Battalion
1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers joined August 1917, left for 107th Bde same month
266th Machine Gun Company joined 17 January 1918, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
36th Battalion MGC formed 1 March 1918
Divisional Mounted Troops
Service Sqn, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons left June 1916
36th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps broken up 31 May 1916
Divisional Artillery
The original artillery of 36th (Ulster) Division, shown below, did not accompany the Division to France in November 1915, but rejoined it there in December. The artillery of the 56th (1st London) Division moved to France with 36th (Ulster) Division and remained under command until 12 December 1915.
CLIII Brigade, RFA
CLIV (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up late September 1916
CLXXII Brigade, RFA broken up 31 January 1917
CLXXIII Brigade, RFA
36 Heavy Battery RGA raised with that Division but broken up while still at home
36th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA
V.36 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA joined 20 June 1916; disbanded 11 February 1918
X.36, Y.36 and Z.36 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed 1 June 1916; on 11 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
Royal Engineers
121st Field Company
122nd Field Company
150th Field Company
36th Divisional Signals Company
Royal Army Medical Corps
108th Field Ambulance
109th Field Ambulance
1110th Field Ambulance
76th Sanitary Section left April 1917
Other Divisional Troops
36th Divisional Train ASC 251, 252, 253 and 254 Companies.
48th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC
233rd Divisional Employment Company joined 21 July 1917
35th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop disbanded April 1916

Divisional histories

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Divisional memorials

The Ulster Tower memorial , situated on the old German front line attacked by the 36th (Ulster) Division on 1 July 1916. A very popular spot on the Somme tourist trail for its memorials and views, but also in more recent times for a welcome tearoom.

The Ulster Tower memorial , situated on the old German front line attacked by the 36th (Ulster) Division on 1 July 1916. A very popular spot on the Somme tourist trail for its memorials and views, but also in more recent times for a welcome tearoom. Author’s collection.

Links

Other Divisions