5th Division

The history of 5th Division

This division was under command of II Corps and as such was part of the original British Expeditionary Force. It remained on the Western Front until late 1917 when it moved to Italy. It is officially reconised as particpating in the following battles end engagements:

Under command of Major-General Sir C. Fergusson

1914

  • The Battle of Mons (23-24 August) and subsequent retreat (to 5 September), including
    • The Action of Élouges (24 August; only 1st Norfolk and 1st Cheshire Regiment of 15th Infantry Brigade)
    • The Battle of Le Cateau (26 August)
    • The Rearguard Action of Crépy-en-Valois (1 September; only 13th Infantry Brigade)
  • The Battle of the Marne (7-10 September)
  • The Battle of the Aisne (12-15 September)
  • The Battle of La Bassée (10 October – 2 November)
  • The Battle of Messines 1914 (12 October – 2 November; 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers and 2nd King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry of 13th Infantry Brigade under temporary command of the Cavalry Corps)
  • The Battle of Armentières 1914 (13 October – 2 November; only 1st Dorsetshire Regiment of 15th Infantry Brigade under temporary command of III Corps)

On 18 October, with Major-General Sir C. Fergusson having been ordered home to take command of 9th (Scottish) Division, he was succeeded by Major-General T. N. L. Morland

  • The First Battle of Ypres in its phase the Battle of Nonne Bosschen (11 November; only the remainder of 15th Infantry Brigade and under temporary orders of 3rd Division under command of I Corps)

1915

  • The Capture of Hill 60 (under II Corps) (17-22 April)
  • The Second Battle of Ypres in phases
    • The Battle of Grafenstafel (22-23 April; only 13th Infantry Brigade under temporary command of V Corps)
    • The Battle of St. Julien (24 April – 4 May; again only 13th Infantry Brigade under V Corps)

On 15 July, with Major-General T. N. L. Morland having been promoted to command a corps, he was succeeded by Major-General C. T. McM. Kavanagh

In late 1915, some of the regular units of 5th Division were exchanged for those of 32nd Division, a newly arrived volunteer formation. The idea was to strengthen (“stiffen” in the jargon of the time) the inexperienced division by mixing in some regular army troops; even though by now many of the pre-war regulars had gone and the regular battalions themselves were often largely composed of new recruits.

1916

In March 1916 the 5th Division moved south to take over the front line between St. Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, east and north east of Arras. This was a lively time, with many trench raids, sniping and mining activities in the front lines.

On 1 April, Major-General C. T. McM. Kavanagh was succeeded by Major-General R. B. Stephens

When the Franco-British offensive opened on the Somme on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve.

  • The Battles of the Somme 1916 in its phases
    • The Attacks on High Wood (now under XV Corps) (20-25 July)
    • The Battle of Guillemont (XIV Corps) (3-6 September)
    • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (XIV Corps) (15-22 September)
    • The Battle of Morval (XIV Corps) (25-28 September)

By 5 October 1916 the 5th Division had left the Somme and moved to the quieter line near Festubert. There was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, but in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively tranquil period that lasted until March 1917.

1917

  • The Battles of Arras 1917 in phases
    • The Battle of Vimy (under the Canadian Corps, 9-14 April)
    • The Attack on La Coulotte (Canadian Corps) (23 April)
    • The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3-4 May)
  • The capture of Oppy Wood (XIII Corps) (28 June)

On 7 September 1917 the division was finally relieved after several months of operations in the Arras area and moved out of the line for a period, being sent next to join the great offensive in Flanders.

  • The Third Battle of Ypres in phases
    • The Battle of Polygon Wood (under X Corps) (26 September – 3 October)
    • The Battle of Broodseinde (X Corps) (4 October)
    • The Battle of Poelcapelle (X Corps) (9 October)
    • The Second Battle of Passchendaele (X Corps) (26 October – 10 November)

A major change now occurred, with 5th Division being one of five British formations selected to be moved to Italy. This was a strategic and political move agreed by the British Government at the request of the Allied Supreme War Council, as an effort to stiffen Italian resistance to enemy attack after a recent disaster at Caporetto. Many diaries at this time, by men who had witnessed slaughter in the floods of Passchendaele, talk of the move and Italy as being “like another world”. Much work was done preparing to move into the mountainous area of the Brenta, but eventually the division was instead moved to the line along the River Piave, taking up positions in late January 1918. The division was recalled hurriedly to France, once the enemy had made an attack in overwhelming strength on 21 March.

1918

  • The Battles of the Lys 1918 in phase
    • The Battle of Hazebrouck (under XI Corps) (12-15 April) in which the battalion fought in the Defence of Nieppe Forest

On 15 July, with Major-General R. B. Stephens having been promoted to command a corps, he was succeeded by Major-General J. Ponsonby

On 14 August 1918 the 5th Division was withdrawn for rest and placed in GHQ Reserve. Two weeks later it entered into the “Hundred Days Offensive”. Fighting through Albert (back on the old and devastated Somme ground of 1916), to Irles, Beugny, Havrincourt, Gonnelieu and the River Selle, and finally into Valenciennes and the River Sambre, the division was in more or less continuous action until late October 1918.

  • The Second Battles of the Somme 1918 in phases
    • The Battle of Albert (under IV Corps) (21-23 August)
    • The Second Battle of Bapaume (IV Corps) (31 August – 3 September)
  • The Battles of the Hindenburg Line in phases
    • The Battle of Épehy (IV Corps)(18 September)
    • The Battle of the Canal du Nord (IV Corps) (27 September – 1 October)
  • The Pursuit to the Selle (IV Corps) (9-12 October)
  • The Final Advance in Picardy in phase
    • The Battle of the Selle (IV Corps) (17-25 October)

The 5th Division remained in the area of Le Quesnoy until mid-December 1918. On 13 December, the division began a march into Belgium, eventually reaching the area between Namur and Wavre. The first men were demobilised on 22 December and more followed at regular intervals through early 1919.

The order of battle of the 5th Division

Units of sub-formationsDates
Divisional Headquarters
13th Infantry Brigade This brigade was transferred to 28th Division between 23 February 1915 and 7 April 1915 in exchange for 84th Infantry Brigade
2nd Bn, King’s Own Scottish Borderers Throughout
2nd Bn, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)From start, left 14 January 1916
1st Bn, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) Throughout
2nd Bn, King’s Own Yorkshire Light InfantryFrom start, left 28 December 1915
1/9th Bn, London RegimentJoined 27 November 1914, left to be attached to 83rd Infantry Brigade (28th Division) between 3 March and 7 April 1915; finally left 10 February 1916
14th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham City)Joined 28 December 1915, left to become Divisional Pioneer Battalion 5 October 1918
15th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (2nd Birmingham City)Joined from 14th Infantry Brigade 14 January 1916, disbanded 6 October 1918
16th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (3rd Birmingham City)Joined October 1918
13th Brigade Machine Gun CompanyFormed on 24 December 1915, left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
13th Trench Mortar BatteryFormed April 1916
14th Infantry BrigadeBrigade transferred to 32nd Division in exchange for 95th Infantry Brigade on 30 December 1915
2nd Bn, the Suffolk RegimentFrom start, left 30 September 1914
1st Bn, the East Surrey RegimentFrom start, left for 95th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
1st Bn, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light InfantryFrom start, left for 95th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
2nd Bn, the Manchester RegimentFrom start, left for 95th Infantry Brigade 30 December 1915
1st Bn, the Devonshire RegimentJoined 30 September 1914, left for 95th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
1/5th Bn, the Cheshire RegimentJoined 19 February 1915, left to become Divisional Pioneer Battalion 29 November 1915
2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling FusiliersJoined 18 November 1915, left 24 December 1915
1/9th Bn, Royal ScotsJoined 27 November 1915, left 25 January 1916
15th Infantry Brigade This brigade was transferred to 28th Division between 3 March 1915 and 7 April 1915 in exchange for 83rd Infantry Brigade
1st Bn, Norfolk Regiment Throughout
1st Bn, Bedfordshire Regiment Throughout
1st Bn, Cheshire Regiment Throughout
1st Bn, Dorsetshire RegimentFrom start, left for 95th Infantry Brigade 31 December 1915
1/6th Bn, Cheshire RegimentJoined 17 December 1914, left 1 March 1915
1/6th Bn, King’s (Liverpool Regiment)Joined 27 February 1915, left 18 November 1915
16th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (3rd Birmingham City)Joined 26 December 1915, left for 13th Infantry Brigade ctober 1918
15th Brigade Machine Gun CompanyFormed on 27 December 1915,
left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
15th Trench Mortar BatteryFormed April 1916
95th Infantry Brigade Brigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915
14th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham City) Left for 13th Infantry Brigade 28 December 1915
15th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (2nd Birmingham City) Left for 14th Infantry Brigade 28 December 1915
16th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (3rd Birmingham City) Left for 15th Infantry Brigade 26 December 1915
12th Bn, Gloucestershire Regiment (Bristol’s Own)Disbanded 19 October 1918
1st Bn, Devonshire RegimentJoined from 14th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
1st Bn, East Surrey RegimentJoined from 14th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
1st Bn, Duke of Cornwall’s Light InfantryJoined from 14th Infantry Brigade 12 January 1916
95th Brigade Machine Gun CompanyFormed on 20 December 1915 as 14th Company, renamed on transfer to this brigade a few days later, left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
95th Trench Mortar BatteryFormed April 1916
Divisional TroopsUnits under direct orders of Divisional HQ
1/5th Bn, Cheshire RegimentJoined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion from 14th Infantry Battalion 29 November 1915, left 13 February 1916
1/6th Bn, Argyll & Sutherland HighlandersJoined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion 13 June 1916, left 5 October 1918
14th Bn, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham City)Joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion from 13th Infantry Brigade 5 October 1918
205th Machine Gun CompanyJoined 19 March 1917, left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 February 1918
5 Bn, the Machine Gun CorpsFormed 26 February 1918
Divisional Mounted TroopsUnits under direct orders of Divisional HQ
A Squadron, the 19th HussarsFrom start, left 25 August 1914, rejoined 15 Septembe4 1915, 12 April 1915
C Sqn, 1/st Northamptonshire YeomanryJoined 12 April 1915, left 11 May 1915
5th Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist CorpsFrom start, left 11 May 1916
Divisional ArtilleryUnits under orders of Divisional Commander Royal Artillery
VIII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFAFrom start, broken up May 1916
XV Brigade, RFAThroughout
XXVII Brigade, RFAThroughout
XXVIII Brigade, RFAFrom start, left 21 January 1917
5th Divisional Ammunition Column RFAThroughout
108th Heavy Battery, RGAFrom start, left 9 April 1915
6 Anti-Aircraft Pom-Pom Section, RGAJoined 12 September 1914, left December 1914
V.5 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFAFormed 18 October 1916, left November 1917
X.5, Y.5 and Z.5 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFAJoined in April 1916; on 15 March 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
Royal Engineers Units under orders of Divisional Commander Royal Engineers
17th Field CompanyFrom start, left for 27th Division 26 March 1915
59th Field CompanyThroughout
1/2nd (Home Counties) Field CompanyJoined 2 February 1915, later renamed 491st Field Company RE
1/1st (South Midland) Field CompanyJoined 24 March 1915, left 10 April 1915
2/1st (North Midland) Field CompanyJoined 23 April 1915, left 19 June 1915
1/2nd (Durham) Field CompanyJoined 20 September 1915, later renamed 527th Field Company RE
5th Divisional Signals CompanyThroughout
Royal Army Medical Corps 
13th Field AmbulanceThroughout
14th Field AmbulanceThroughout
15th Field AmbulanceThroughout
6th Sanitary SectionJoined 9 January 1915, left 2 April 1917
Other Divisional Troops 
5th Divisional Train, Army Service CorpsThroughout. Comprised 4, 6, 33 and 37 (Horse Transport)Companies
5th Mobile Veterinary Section, Army Veterinary CorpsThroughout
208th Divisional Employment Company, Labour CorpsJoined 22 May 1917 at which time it was known as 10th Divisional Employment Company; renamed in June 1917
5th Divisional Motor Ambulance WorkshopJoined by 13 June 1915, transferred to Divisional Supply Column 16 April 1916

Divisional histories

“The Fifth Division in the Great War” by Brig-Gen. A. H. Hussey and Major D. S. Inman:



“Infantry Brigade: 1914 – the Diary of a Commander of the 15th Infantry Brigade, 5th Division, British Army, during the Retreat from Mons” by Edward Gleichen:

Divisional memorials

There appears to be no memorial to this division.

Links

Other Divisions

This page is dedicated to the men of 527th (2nd Durham) Field Company, Royal Engineers.