The 43rd (Wessex) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 43rd (Wessex) Division

The Wessex Division was a formation of the Territorial Force. It was formed as a result of the reforms of the army carried out in 1908 under the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane and was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime TF.

The units of the Division had moved to their annual summer camp on Salisbury Plain in late July 1914 when War Office instructions arrived for precautionary measures to be taken. On 3 August the brigades moved to defended ports while Divisional HQ was established at Exeter. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5 August 1914. Five days later the Division reconcentrated at Salisbury Plain and HQ moved to Tidworth.

On 22 September 1914 the Government of India agreed to send 32 British and 20 Indian regular army battalions to Europe in exchange for 43 TF battalions. Lord Kitchener proposed instead to send the Wessex Division. The entire Division was to go, with the exception of the staffs of the infantry brigades, the ammunition columns of the artillery brigades, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Hampshire Heavy Battery, RGA. All units assembled at Southampton on 9 October. Sailing via Malta and Suez, the main body of the Division went to Bombay, landing on 9 November, with three units (4th, 5th and 6th Devons) landing at Karachi two days later.

On arrival, the units reverted to peacetime service conditions but remained embodied for full time duty.

1915

In March 1915, the 4th Hampshire Regiment and 5th Hampshire Howitzer Battery RFA left for service in Mesopotamia.

4th Hampshire Howitzer Battery RFA went to Aden in September 1915.

1916

Large numbers of units were sent to Mesopotamia; they were replaced by Second Line TF and Garrison units coming out from England. These units, while taking over the roles, were not placed under Divisional command.

1917

Three units left for Palestine and others went to Mesopotamia and Aden.

In 1919, some men being sent home from Mesopotamia were retained in India and formed into provisional battalions on account of local civil disorders. They were retained in India for the Third Afghan War. This aside, units were gradually reduced to cadres and sailed for England. The Wessex Division was reformed in England in 1920.

 

The order of battle of the 43rd (Wessex)Division

128th (Hampshire) Brigade  
1/4th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment left March 1915 (Mesopotamia)
1/5th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment  
1/6th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment left September 1917 (Mesopotamia)
1/7th Bn, the Hampshire Regiment physically left January 1918 (Aden) but remained under Divisional command
   
129th (South Western) Brigade  
1/4th Bn, the Somerset Light Infantry left February 1916 (Mesopotamia)
1/5th Bn, the Somerset Light Infantry left May 1917 (Palestine)
1/4th Bn, the Dorsetshire Regiment left February 1916 (Mesopotamia)
1/4th Bn, the Wiltshire Regiment left September 1917 (Palestine)
   
130th (Devon & Cornwall) Brigade  
1/4th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment left February 1916 (Mesopotamia)
1/5th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment left April 1917 (Palestine)
1/6th Bn, the Devonshire Regiment left January 1916 (Mesopotamia)
1/4th Bn, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry left January 1916 (Aden) then went to Palestine in February 1917
   
Divisional Troops under direct command of Divisional HQ
Wessex Divisional Transport and Supply Column ASC did not go to India (instead formed 29th Division Train and 27th Divisional Reserve Park in England)
   
Divisional Artillery  
CCXV (I Wessex) Brigade, RFA left October 1916 (Mesopotamia)
CCXVI (Howitzer) (II Wessex) Brigade, RFA  
CCXVII (III Wessex) Brigade, RFA  
CCXVIII (IV Wessex) Brigade, RFA  
Wessex (Hampshire) Heavy Battery, RGA did not go to India
   
Royal Engineers  
I Wessex Field Company did not go to India (joined 27th Division in England)
II Wessex Field Company same
Wessex Divisional Signals Company same
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
1st Wessex Field Ambulance did not go to India (joined 8th Division in England)
2nd Wessex Field Ambulance  
3rd Wessex Field Ambulance