40th Division

The history of 40th Division

This Division was formed between September and December 1915, composed of some bantam units and others which had a mixture of regulation-height and shorter men. Weeding out of very under-sized or unfit men delayed the training programme and it was not until late spring 1916 that the Division was ready to proceed on active service. The Divisional staff assembled at Stanhope Lines, Aldershot, early in September 1915 and by December the various units had concentrated at nearby Blackdown, Pirbright and Woking.

The Division moved to France between 2 and 6 June 1916 and by 9 June had concentrated near Lillers. It then served between June and late October 1916 on the front near Loos. The 40th Division remained on the Western Front throughout the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements:

1916
The Battle of the Ancre (a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916)

1917
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (March)
The capture of Fifteen Ravine, Villers Plouich, Beaucamp and La Vacquerie (April and early May)
The Cambrai Operations, in which the Division participated in the capture of Bourlon Wood (November)

1918
The Battle of St Quentin*
The Battle of Bapaume*
* the battles marked * are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Estaires+
The Battle of Hazebrouck+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the Battles of the Lys

After suffering heavy losses during the Battles of the Lys a decision was taken to reduce the Division down to a cadre. This took place from 2 May. Divisional HQ moved to St Omer to 4 June, then went to Lederzeele and Renescure (from 23 June). By the middle of the month all training cadres had left. A number of Garrison Guard Battalions joined during June and were converted to fighting units. Orders were received to reorganise the Division and this was completed by mid July 1918. From 18 July the Division once again took part in active operations.

1918
The Final Advance in Flanders, including the Battle of Ypres

On the night 10/11 November the Division was relieved and Divisional HQ moved to Lannoy.

The Division moved to Roubaix on 25 November. Demobilisation proceeded and by mid May 1919 the Division ceased to exist.

The Great War cost 40th Division 19179 men killed, wounded or missing.

The order of battle of the 40th Division

119th Brigade
This brigade was often known as the Welsh Bantam Brigade, until February 1918.
19th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers disbanded February 1918
12th Bn, the South Wales Borderers disbanded February 1918
17th Bn, the Welsh Regiment disbanded February 1918
18th Bn, the Welsh Regiment  joined brigade July 1915. Reduced to cadre in May 1918 and left brigade 18 June 1918.
119th Machine Gun Company joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Bn MGC March 1918
119th Trench Mortar Battery formed 25 June 1916
13th Bn, the East Surrey Regiment joined from 120th Bde February 1918, left as cadre June 1918
21st Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined February 1918, left as cadre May 1918
10/11th Bn, the Highland Light Infantry joined and left February 1918
13th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined as 13th Garrison Bn in June 1918
13th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment joined as 8th Garrison Guard Bn in June 1918
12th Bn, the North Staffordshire Regiment joined as 12th Garrison Bn in June 1918
120th Brigade
11th Bn, the King’s Own disbanded February 1918
13th Bn, the Cameronians left February 1916
14th Bn, the Highland Light Infantry left as a cadre June 1918
13th Bn, the East Surrey Regiment joined February 1916, left for 119th Bde February 1918
14th Bn, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders left April 1918
12th Bn, the South Lancashire Regiment joined January 1916, absorbed into 11th King’s Own March 1916
120th Machine Gun Company joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Bn MGC March 1918
120th Trench Mortar Battery joined 8 June 1916
10/11th Bn, the Highland Light Infantry joined February 1918, left as cadre June 1918
2nd Bn, the Royal Scots Fusiliers joined and left April 1918
10th Bn, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers joined June 1918
15th Bn, the Yorkshire Light Infantry joined June 1918
11th Bn, the Cameron Highlanders joined as 6th Garrison Guard Bn June 1918
121st Brigade
12th Bn, the Suffolk Regiment left May 1918
13th Bn, the Yorkshire Regiment left June 1918
18th Bn, the Sherwood Foresters merged with 13th Yorkshire R in April 1916
22nd Bn, the Middlesex Regiment disbanded April 1916
20th Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined 23 February 1916, left as cadre May 1918
21st Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined 23 February 1916, left February 1918
121st Machine Gun Company joined 19 June 1916, moved to 40th Bn MGC March 1918
121st Trench Mortar Battery joined 25 June 1916
8th Bn, the Royal Irish Regiment joined as 8th Garrison Bn June 1918
23rd Bn, the Lancashire Fusiliers joined as 23rd Garrison Bn June 1918
23rd Bn, the Cheshire Regiment joined June 1918
9th Bn, the Worcestershire Regiment joined as cadre June 1918, absorbed July 1918
Divisional Troops
12th Bn, the Yorkshire Regiment Divisional Pioneer Bn left June 1918
244th Machine Gun Company joined July 1917, moved to 40th Bn MGC March 1918
40th Battalion MGC formed March 1918, disbanded May 1918
17th Bn, the Worcestershire Regiment Divisional Pioneer Bn joined June 1918
104th Battalion MGC formed 24 August 1918, left 16 September 1918
39th Battalion MGC joined 11 September 1918
Divisional Mounted Troops
A Sqn, the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry left 20 June 1916
40th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps left 11 June 1916
Divisional Artillery
CLXXVIII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA
CLXXXI Brigade, RFA
CLXXXV Brigade, RFA broken up 31 August 1916
CLXXXVIII Brigade, RFA broken up 1 September 1916
40th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA (Hammersmith)
V.40 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA formed 4 July 1916; broken up 7 March 1918
X.40, Y.40 and Z.40 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed 25 June 1916; on 7 March 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
Royal Engineers
224th Field Company
229th Field Company
231st Company
40th Divisional Signals Company
Royal Army Medical Corps
135th Field Ambulance
136th Field Ambulance
137th Field Ambulance
83rd Sanitary Section left April 1917
Other Divisional Troops
40th Divisional Train ASC 225, 226, 227, 228 Companies joined November 1915 but were replaced by 292, 293, 294 and 295 Companies by April 1916
51st Mobile Veterinary Section AVC
237th Divisional Employment Company joined April 1917
40th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop left after June 1918

Divisional histories

History of the 40th Division” by Lt_col. F. E. Whitton

Divisional memorials

The altar of the village church at Bourlon near Cambrai is a memorial to the 40th Division.

Links

The Bantams

Other Divisions