The 31st Division in 1914-1918

The history of 31st Division

On 10 December the War Office authorised the formation of the Fifth New Army. Like the other Kitchener Armies, it comprised six Divisions, in this case numbered 37 to 42. What eventually became 31st Division was originally numbered 38th. In April 1915, the original Fourth New Army was broken up and its units converted for training and draft-finding purposes. When this took place the Fifth New Army became Fourth New Army and its Divisions were renumbered to 30th - 35th: thus what we remember as 31st Division was born.

Divisional symbolsThe Division was largely comprised of locally raised units often known as "Pals". The units from Accrington, Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley and Hull are among the best known of all 1914-raised infantry, simply because of the amount of research and publicity they have received, particularly since the 1980s. It was a predominantly Northern Division, with most units originating in Lancashire or Yorkshire - hence the use of the red and white roses in the Divisional symbol.

On 16 December 1914, two Companies of the 18th (Service) Bn (1st County), the Durham Light Infantry became the first troops of the New Armies to come under enemy fire, when they were manning the trenches of the Tyne and Tees defences which were shelled by the German ships Derfflinger, Von Der Tann and Blucher. After in most cases commencing training near home, the units were moved to concentrate at South Camp at Ripon in April and May 1915. There were severe shortages of arms, ammunition and much equipment. It was not until September that the Division moved for final training and firing practice at Fovant on Salisbury Plain.

In late November 1915 the Division received a warning order to prepare to sail for France. Advance parties began to depart. But on 2 December final orders were received that the Division would go to Egypt, accompanied by the artillery of 32nd Division. Its own artillery would join 32nd Division in France. The advanced parties were recalled and the Division sailed from 7 December, with Divisional HQ being established at Port Said on Christmas Eve. The last units arrived in Egypt on 23 January 1916.

1916
The Division took over the No 3 Sector of the Suez Canal defences and Divisional HQ moved to Kantara on 23 January. The stay in Egypt was short, and between 1-6 March the Division sailed to Marseilles for service on the Western Front. The 31st Division subsequently remained in France and Flanders and took part in these actions:

The Battle of Albert* including the attack on Serre
The Battle of the Ancre*
* the battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

1917
Operations on the Ancre
The Third Battle of the Scarpe**
The Capture of Oppy Wood**
** the battles marked ** are phases of the Arras Offensive 1917

1918
The Battle of St Quentin^
The Battle of Bapaume^
The First Battle of Arras^
^ the battles marked ^ are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Estaires^^
The Battle of Hazebrouck^^
The Defence of Nieppe Forest^^
The attack at La Becque^^
^^ the battles marked ^^ are phases of the Battles of the Lys
The capture of Vieux Berquin+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the Advance in Flanders
The Battle of Ypres++
The action of Tieghem++
++ the battles marked ++ are phases of the Final Advance in Flanders

The Division's advance across Flanders continued on 9 November when units forced a crossing of the River Scheldt. At the time when the Armistice came into effect, 11am on 11 November, the advanced units had reached Everbecque and the River Dender.

The Division moved back to the Arques-Blendecques are and here men began to be demobilised. The Division ceased to exist on 20 May 1919.

The Great War had cost 31st Division a total of 30091 men killed, wounded or missing.

The order of battle of the 31st Division

92nd Brigade  
On 16 April 1918 it was decided that due to the heavy casualties recently sustained, the 92nd and 93rd Brigades would be temporarily amalgamated and called the 92nd Composite Brigade. It was broken up two days later and the 92nd and 93rd Brigades were reconstituted soon after.
10th Bn, the East Yorkshire Regiment (Hull Commercials)
11th Bn, the East Yorkshire Regiment (Hull Tradesmen)
12th Bn, the East Yorkshire Regiment left February 1918 (Hull Sportsmen)
13th Bn, the East Yorkshire Regiment left February 1918 (Hull t'Others)
92nd Machine Gun Company joined 20 May 1916, moved to 31st Bn MGC 21 February 1918
92nd Trench Mortar Battery joined by 11 April 1916
11th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment joined February 1918 (Accrington Pals)
   
93rd Brigade  
15th Bn, the West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Leeds Pals)
16th Bn, the West Yorkshire Regiment left February 1918 (1st Bradford Pals)
18th Bn, the West Yorkshire Regiment left February 1918 (2nd Bradford Pals)
18th Bn, the Durham Light Infantry (Durham Pals)
93rd Machine Gun Company joined 20 May 1916, moved to 31st Bn MGC 21 February 1918
93rd Trench Mortar Battery joined by 12 April 1916
13th Bn, the York & Lancaster Regiment joined February 1918 (1st Barnsley pals)
   
94th Brigade  
The Brigade was broken up between 11 and 16 February 1918. It was reformed on 30 May 1918, principally from units that had been reduced down to training cadres. It was fully reconstituted on 21 June 1918 by the addition of units from the 74th Division, and redesignated 94th (Yeomanry) Brigade.
11th Bn, the East Lancashire Regiment left February 1918 (Accrington Pals)
12th Bn, the York & Lancaster Regiment disbanded February 1918 (Sheffield City Battalion)
13th Bn, the York & Lancaster Regiment (1st Barnsley Pals)
14th Bn, the York & Lancaster Regiment disbanded February 1918 (2nd Barnsley Pals)
94th Machine Gun Company joined 21 May 1916, moved to 31st Bn MGC 21 February 1918
94th Trench Mortar Battery joined by 11 April 1916
2nd Bn, the Royal Munster Fusiliers joined as cadre May 1918, left June 1918
2nd Bn, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment joined and left June 1918
12th Bn, the Norfolk Regiment joined June 1918 (Norfolk Yeomanry)
12th Bn, the Royal Scots Fusiliers joined June 1918 (Ayr & Lanark Yeomanry)
24th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers joined June 1918 (Denbighshire Yeomanry)
   
4th (Guards) Brigade  
Brigade joined from Guards Division on 8 february 1918, left for GHQ Reserve on 20 May 1918
4th Bn, the Grenadier Guards  
3rd Bn, the Coldstream Guards  
2nd Bn, the Irish Guards  
4th Guards Trench Mortar Battery  
   
Divisional Troops  
12th Bn, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion May 1915
243rd Machine Gun Company joined 18 July 1917, moved to 31st Bn MGC 21 February 1918
31st Battalion MGC formed 21 February 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
B Sqn, the Lancashire Hussars left 9 May 1916
31st Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps left 9 May 1916
   
Divisional Artillery  
The original Divisional Artillery joined the 32nd Division between 30 December 1915 and 3 January 1916
CLV Brigade, RFA  
CLXI Brigade, RFA  
CLXIV (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA  
CLXVIII Brigade, RFA  
31st Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
The original artillery of the 32nd Division moved to France to join the 31st Division on 8 December 1915
CLXV Brigade, RFA  
CLXIX Brigade, RFA broken up 24 January 1917
CLXX Brigade, RFA  
CLXXI (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up 27 August 1916
31st Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
V.31 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA formed by 4 June 1916, broken up 5 February 1918
X.31, Y.31 and Z.31 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed 31 March 1916; by 15 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
   
Royal Engineers  
210th (Leeds) Field Company  
211th (Leeds) Field Company  
223rd (Leeds) Field Company  
31st Divisional Signals Company  
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
93rd Field Ambulance  
94th Field Ambulance  
95th Field Ambulance  
71st Sanitary Section left to join XIII Corps 4-11 March 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
31st Divisional Train ASC originally 217, 218, 219 and 220 Coys, but this Train remained in Egypt in March 1916, joining 52nd (Lowland) Division. 221, 222, 223 and 279 Companies joined from 32nd Division in France
41st Mobile Veterinary Section AVC  
228th Divisional Employment Company joined June 1917
31st Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop left for 52nd (Lowland) Division 21 April 1916