3rd Division

The history of 3rd Division

One of the first British formations to move to France as part of the original British Expeditionary Force and one of the first into action, the 3rd Division remained on the Western Front throughout the war. It took part in the following battles and engagements.

Commanded by Major-General H. I. W Hamilton

1914
The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, including the the rearguard action of Solesmes (August)
The Battle of Le Cateau (August)
The Battle of the Marne (September)
The Battle of the Aisne including participation in the Actions on the Aisne heights (September-October)
The Battles of La Bassée (October) (two battalions also participated in the Battle of Messines 1914 (October) and one in the Battle of Armentières (early November))

Major-General Hubert Hamilton was killed in action near Huit Maisons on 14 October 1914. He was replaced on the day by Brigadier-General F. W. N. McCracken, but command passed to Major-General C. J. Mackenzie on 15 October. Two weeks later Mackenzie left, officially “incapacitated” but was actually removed from command after disappointing performance. He was temporarily replaced by Major-General F. D. V. Wing.

First Battle of Ypres (only 7th Infantry Brigade and only in the phase the Battle of Nonne Bosschen, 11 November)

On 21 November 1914 command of the division passed to Major-General J. A. L. Haldane.

The attack on Wijtschaete (14 December)

1915
Winter Operations 1914-15
The First Attack on Bellewaarde (16 June)
The Actions of Hooge (19 July)
The Second Attack on Bellewaarde (25 September, in support of the opening attack in the Battle of Loos)

1916
The Actions of the Bluff and St Eloi Craters (March-April)
The Battles of the Somme 1916, in phases:
– The Battle of Albert (July)
– The Battle of Bazentin in which the 3rd Division helped capture Longueval (July)

On 7 August 1916 command of the division passed to Major-General C. J. Deverell, his predecessor having been promoted to command a corps.

– The Battle of Delville Wood (14-19 August)
– The Battle of the Ancre (13-18 November)

1917
The Battles of Arras, in phases:
– First Battle of the Scarpe (April)
– Second Battle of the Scarpe (April)
– Battle of Arleux (April)
– Third Battle of the Scarpe (3 May)
– The capture of Roeux (13-14 May)
The Third Battles of Ypres, in phases:
– Battle of the Menin Road (September)
– Battle of Polygon Wood (September)
The Battle of Cambrai 1917 (3rd Division carried out a flanking attack at Bullecourt on 20 November but this is technically outside the area considerd to be that over which Cambrai was fought)

1918
The First Battles of the Somme 1918 (German Operation “Michael”, “Kaiserschlacht) in phases:
– The Battle of St Quentin (March)
– The Battle of Bapaume (March)
– The First Battle of Arras 1918 (German Operation “Mars”, 28 March)
The Battles of the Lys (German Operation “Klein-Georg” or “Georgette”), in phases
– The Battle of Estaires (April)
– The Battle of Hazebrouck (April, in which the 3rd Division fought the Defence of Hinges Ridge)
– The Battle of Béthune (April)
The Second Battles of the Somme 1918, in phases:
– The Battle of Albert (21-23 August)
– The Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August – 3 September)
The Battles of the Hindenburg Line, in phases:
– The Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 September – 1 October)
– The Battle of Cambrai 1918 (8-9 October)
The Final Advance in Picardy, in phase:
– The Battle of the Selle (17-25 October)

The 3rd Division was selected to advance into Germany as part of the Occupation Force.

The order of battle of the 3rd Division

Units and sub-formationsDates
Divisional Headquarters
7th Infantry BrigadeFrom start. Left to join 25th Division 18 October 1915
3rd Bn, the Worcestershire Regiment Throughout
2nd Bn, the South Lancashire Regiment Throughout
1st Bn, the Wiltshire Regiment Throughout
2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles Throughout
1/1st Bn, the Honourable Artillery CompanyJoined from 8th Bde 9 December 1914, left 14 October 1915
1/4th Bn, the South Lancashire RegimentJoined 24 February 1915, left to become Divisional Pioneers 12 October 1915
8th Infantry Brigade
2nd Bn, the Royal ScotsThroughout
2nd Bn, the Royal Irish RegimentFrom start. Left 24 October 1914
4th Bn, the Middlesex RegimentFrom start. Left 13 November 1915
1st Bn, the Gordon HighlandersFrom start. Left 12 September 1914, returned 30 September 1914
1st Bn, the Devonshire RegimentJoined 14 September 1914, left 30 September 1914
2nd Bn, the Suffolk RegimentJoined 25 October 1914, left for 76th Bde 22 October 1915
1/1st Bn, the Honourable Artillery CompanyJoined 10 November 1914, left for 7th Bde 9 December 1914
1/4th Bn, the Gordon HighlandersJoined 27 February 1915, left for 76th Bde 19 October 1915
13th Bn, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)Joined 23 October 1915, left for 9th Bde 4 April 1916
7th Bn, the King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry)Joined from 76th Bde 19 October 1915
1/5th Bn, the London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade)Joined 25 October 1915, left 10 February 1916
8th Bn, the East Yorkshire RegimentJoined 16 November 1915, left 17 February 1918 to form 10th Entrenching Bn with 12th West Yorkshire Regiment
1st Bn, the Royal Scots FusiliersJoined from 9th Bde 5 April 1916
8th Machine Gun CompanyHormed on 22 January 1916. Left to move into 3rd MG Battalion 6 March 1918
8th Trench Mortar BatteryJoined by 18 April 1916
9th Infantry BrigadeThis brigade temporarily transferred to 28th Division between 17 February and 2 April 1915, in exchange for 85th Brigade from that Division
1st Bn, the Northumberland FusiliersThroughout
4th Bn, the Royal FusiliersThroughout
1st Bn, the Lincolnshire RegimentFrom start. Left 13 November 1915
1st Bn, the Royal Scots FusiliersFrom start. Left for 8th Bde 5 April 1916
1/10th Bn, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)Joined 25 November 1914, left 6 January 1916
12th Bn, the West Yorkshire RegimentJoined 16 November 1915, left 17 February 1918 to form 10th Entrenching Bn with 8th East Yorkshire Regiment
9th Brigade Machine Gun CompanyFormed on 8 February 1916. Left to move into 3rd MG Battalion 6 March 1918
13th Bn, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)Joined from 8th Bde 4 April 1916
9th Trench Mortar BatteryJoined by 1 May 1916
76th Infantry BrigadeThis brigade was transferred from 25th Division on 18 October 1915 in exchange for 7th Infantry Brigade
8th Bn, the King’s Own (Lancaster) Throughout
10th Bn, the Royal Welsh FusiliersFrom start. Left 15 February 1918 to form 8th Entrenching Bn with 19th RWF
7th Bn, the King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry)From start. Left 19 October 1915 for 8th Bde
13th Bn, the King’s (Liverpool Regiment)Frpom start. Left 23 October 1915 for 8th Bde
1st Bn, the Gordon HighlandersJoined from 8th Bde 19 October 1915
2nd Bn, the Suffolk RegimentJoined from 8th Bde 22 October 1915
76th Brigade Machine Gun CompanyFormed on 13 April 1916. Left to move into 3rd MG Battalion 6 March 1918
76th Trench Mortar BatteryJoined on 1 April 1916 as 43rd TMB but immediately renamed
Divisional TroopsUnits under direct command of Divisional HQ
1/4th Bn, the South Lancashire RegimentBecame Divisional Pioneer Battalion from 7th Bde 12 October 1915, left 9 January 1916
20th Bn, the King’s Royal Rifle CorpsJoined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion 19 May 1916
233rd Company, the Machine Gun CorpsJoined 18 July 1917. Left to move into 3rd MG Battalion 6 March 1918
3rd Battalion, the Machine Gun CorpsFormed 6 March 1918
3rd Divisional Train, Army Service CorpsThroughout. Comprised numbers 15, 21, 22, and 29 Horse Transport Companies ASC
11th Mobile Veterinary Section, Army Veterinary CorpsThroughout
206th Divisional Employment Company, Labour CorpsJoined 31 May 1917 at which time it was 8th Divisional Employment Company; renamed in June 1917
3rd Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop UnitJoined by 18 April 1915, transferred to Divisional Supply Column 9 April 1916
Divisional Mounted TroopsUnits under direct command of Divisional HQ
B Squadron, the 15th (King’s) HussarsFrom start. Left 14 April 1915
C Sqn, South Irish HorseJoined May 1915, left 11 May 1916
3rd Company, Army Cyclist CorpsFrom start. Left 31 May 1916
Divisional ArtilleryUnder orders of Divisional Commander Royal Artillery
XXIII Brigade, RFAFrom start. Left to become an Army Brigade 21 January 1917
XL Brigade, RFAThroughout
XLI Brigade, RFAThroughout
XXX (Howitzer) Brigade, RFAFrom start. Broken up 14 May 1916
3rd Divisional Ammunition Column, RFAThroughout
48th Heavy Battery, RGAFrom start. Left 19 April 1915
5 Pom-Pom Section, RGAAttached 20 September 1914 to December 1914
5 Mountain Battery, RGAAttached 14 December 1914 to 3 March 1915
V.3 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFAFormed July 1916, left 6 March 1918
X.3, Y.3 and Z.3 Medium Mortar Batteries RFAJoined in February 1916; in February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
Divisional EngineersUnder orders of Divisional Commander Royal Engineers
56th Field CompanyThroughout
57th Field CompanyFrom start. Left 7 April 1915
438th (1/1st Cheshire) Field CompanyJoined 22 December 1914
529th (1/1st East Riding) Field CompanyJoined 20 September 1915
3rd Divisional Signals CompanyThroughout
Divisional Medical Units
7th Field Ambulance, RAMCThroughout
8th Field Ambulance, RAMCThroughout
9th Field Ambulance, RAMCFrom start. Left for Guards Division 26 August 1915
142nd Field AmbulanceJoined 26 August 1915
4A Sanitary SectionJoined 9 January 1915, left 3 April 1917. Retitled as 5th Sanitary Section in April 1916

Divisional histories

There appears to be no published history for this Division.

Divisional memorials

There appears to be no memorial for this Division.

Links

Tragedy unfolding: the attack on Spanbroekmolen 12 March 1915

Other Divisions

Page in memory of my relative Joseph Clift, Armourer Staff Sergeant of the Army Ordnance Corps, who went to France in 1914 attached to the 1st Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment.