The 20th (Light) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 20th (Light) Division

cardThis Division was established in September 1914 as part of the Army Orders authorising Kitchener's Second New Army, K2. Early days were somewhat chaotic, the new volunteers having very few trained officers and NCOs to command them, no organised billets or equipment. The units of the Division first assembled in the Aldershot area with brigades at Blackdown, Deepcut and Cowshott. Artillery was particularly hard to come by; 12 old guns arrived from India in February 1915! When in the same month the Division moved to Witley, Godalming and Guildford, the artillery had to go by train as there was insufficient harness for the horses. Another move was made, to Salisbury Plain, in April 1915.

The Division was inspected by King George V at Knighton Down on 24 June 1915, by which time all equipment had arrived and the Division was judged ready for war.

On 26 July 1915 the Division completed concentration in the Saint-Omer area, all units having crossed to France during the preceding few days. Early trench familiarisation and training took place in the Fleurbaix area.

The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:

1916
The Battle of Mount Sorrel, a local operation in which the Division recaptured the height with the Canadians
The Battle of Delville Wood*
The Battle of Guillemont*
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*
The Battle of Morval*
The Battle of Le Transloy*
The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

1917
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
The Battle of Langemarck**
The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge**
The Battle of Polygon Wood**
The battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres
The Cambrai Operations

1918
The Battle of 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The Division was withdrawn after the heavy fighting of the Somme battles, moving on 20 April 1918 to an area south west of Amiens. During the summer months it received many new drafts of men.

The Battle of the Selle^^
The Battle of Valenciennes^^
The Battle of the Sambre^^ and the passage of the Grand Honelle
The battles marked ^^ are phases of the Final Advance in Picardy

The Division was in the area between Bavay and Maubeuge when the Armistice came into effect at 11am on 11 November. Late in the month the units moved to the Toutencourt-Marieux area. demobilisation began on 7 January 1919 and the final cadres crossed to England on 28 May..

In all the 20th (Light) Division had suffered the loss of 35470 killed, wounded and missing.

The order of battle of the 20th (Light) Division

59th Brigade  
10th Bn, the King's Royal Rifle Corps disbanded February 1918
11th Bn, the King's Royal Rifle Corps  
10th Bn, the Rifle Brigade disbanded February 1918
11th Bn, the Rifle Brigade  
59th Machine Gun Company joined 3 March 1916
left to move into 20th MG Battalion 15 March 1918
59th Trench Mortar Battery formed by 16 July 1916
2nd Bn, the Cameronians joined February 1918
   
60th Brigade  
6th Bn, the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry left February 1918
6th Bn, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry  
12th Bn, the King's Royal Rifle Corps  
12th Bn, the Rifle Brigade  
60th Machine Gun Company joined 3 March 1916
left to move into 20th MG Battalion 15 March 1918
60th Trench Mortar Battery formed by 16 July 1916
   
61st Brigade  
7th Bn, the Somerset Light Infantry  
7th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry  
7th Bn, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry left February 1918
11th Bn, the Durham Light Infantry left January 1915
12th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) joined January 1915
61st Machine Gun Company joined 3 March 1916
left to move into 20th MG Battalion 15 March 1918
61st Trench Mortar Battery formed by 16 July 1916
   
Divisional Troops  
12th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) left January 1915
9th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment left April 1915
11th Bn, the Durham Light Infantry joined as Pioneer Bn January 1915
14th Motor Machine Gun Battery joined 26 January 1915, left 22 April 1916
217th Company, MGC joined March 1917, moved into 20 MG Bn 15 March 1918
20th Battalion Machine Gun Corps formed 15 March 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
HQ, D Sqn and MG Section, the Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry joined 24 June 1915, left 29 April 1916
20th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps formed 22 December 1914, left 17 May 1916
   
Divisional Artillery  
XC Brigade, RFA broken up 30 August 1916
XCI Brigade, RFA  
XCII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA left 8 January 1917
XCIII Brigade, RFA broken up 8-9 September 1916
20th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
20th Heavy Battery, RGA raised with the Division but moved independently to France in August 1915
V.20 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA formed by 24 May 1916, broken up 2 February 1918
X.20, Y.20 and Z.20 Medium Mortar Batteries RFA formed by 24 May 1916; on 2 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
   
Royal Engineers  
83rd Field Company  
84th Field Company  
96th Field Company joined from 26th Division in January 1915
20th Divisional Signals Company  
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
60th Field Ambulance  
61st Field Ambulance  
62nd Field Ambulance  
33rd Sanitary Section left 24 April 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
20th Divisional Train ASC 158, 159, 160 and 161 Companies
32nd Mobile Veterinary Section AVC  
221st Divisional Employment Company joined 30 June 1917
20th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop disbanded 31 March 1916

Memorial

This page is dedicated to the memory of men like William Blake, a Derby Scheme recruit who served in the ranks of the 11th Rifle Brigade. At some point between 20 March and 1 April 1918 he was killed in action and now lies in Ham British Cemetery.
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