The 53rd (Welsh) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 53rd (Welsh) Division

The Welsh 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.

1914

The units of the Division had just departed for annual summer camp when emergency orders recalled them to the home base. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5 August 1914 and moved to their allotted positions at Shrewsbury, Wellington, Oswestry and Fort Scoveston by 11 August 1914. At the end of the month the entire Division moved to Northampton.

Several of the Division's units left in the period November 1914 - February 1915. They were gradually replaced by second line units, but these suffered from shortages of arms, slowing training. These units were subsequenetly replaced in early 1915.

The Division received a warning order on 18 November, advising preparation fo a move to India, but this was cancelled a week later and eventually the 2nd Wessex Division went in its place. The Welsh Division moved to Cambridge in December.

1915

King George V inspected the Division on 11 February 1915. The Division moved to Bedford in May.

On 2 July the Division was ordered to refit for service in the Mediterranean. Leaving the artillery and train behind, the rest of the Division left 14-19 July and embarked at Sevonport. Sailing via Alexandria (25-30 July), the ships reached Lemnos 29 July - 7 August. On 9 August units landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli. The Division was then involved in the following moves and engagements:

The landing at Suvla Bay (9-15 August)=
Operations in the Suvla Bay area=
= the battles marked = are phases of the Gallipoli campaign

The effects of fighting, few reinforcements and the dreadful blizzard of November reduced the Division to just 162 officers and 2428 men (about 15% of full strength). On 11-12 December the Division was evacuated to Mudros and then went on to Alexandria, where it began to arrive 20 December. The last units reached Wardan three days later.

1916

The divisional artillery rejoined at Wardan 11-22 February 1916.

The Battle of Romani (4-5 August)*
* the battles marked * are phases of the Palestine campaign

1917

The First Battle of Gaza (26-27 March, 158th Brigade only)*
The Second Battle of Gaza (17-19 April)*
The Third Battle of Gaza (27 October -7 November)* including the Capture of Beersheba (31 October) and the Capture of Tell Khuweilfe (3-7 November)
The Capture of Jerusalem (7-9 December)*
The Defence of Jerusalem (27-30 December)
* the battles marked * are phases of the Palestine campaign

1918

The battle of Tell'Asur (8-12 March)*

Between 4 June and 29 August 1918 the Division, other than the artillery, was "Indianised", which meant that Indian units arrived to replace most of the British ones. Many of the latter were ordered to France.

The battle of Nablus (18-21 September, part of the Battles of Megiddo)*
* the battles marked * are phases of the Palestine campaign

On 26 September the Division was withdrawn for rest and moved back to Tell'Asur. By 12 October it had moved to Ramle, and on 27 October began entraining for Alexandria. It was there when the Armistice with Turkey took effect on 31 October.

The first parties to be demobilised left for England on 22 December.The final cadres sailed home from Port Said on 15 June 1919. The Division reformed as part of the Territorial Army in April 1920.

The order of battle of the 53rd (Welsh) Division

158th (North Wales) Brigade  
This Bde served under command of 2nd Mounted Division between 31 October and 28 November 1915
1/4th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers left November 1914
1/5th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers  
1/6th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers amalgamated with 1/5th on 2 August 1918
1/7th Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers left for 160th Bde 24 June 1918
1/1st Bn, the Herefordshire Regiment joined from 160th Bde 24 April 1915, left 1 June 1918
158th Machine Gun Company formed 26 April 1916, moved to 53rd Bn MGC 25 April 1918
158th Trench Mortar Battery formed 22 July 1917
4/11th Ghurka Rifles joined 4 June 1918
3/153rd Infantry joined 10 June 1918
3/154th Infantry joined 3 August 1918
   
159th (Cheshire) Brigade  
This Bde served under command of 2nd Mounted Division between 29 November and 9 December 1915
1/4th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment left 31 May 1918
1/5th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment left February 1915
1/6th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment left November 1914
1/7th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment left 1 June 1918
2/6th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment joined November 1914, left April 1915
2/5th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment joined February 1915, left April 1915
1/4th, the Welsh Regiment joined 17 April 1915
1/5th, the Welsh Regiment joined 17 April 1915, between 8 October 1915 and 20 February 1916 merged with 1/4th to form 4th Welsh Composite Bn, fully amalgamated 30 July 1918
159th Machine Gun Company formed 20 April 1916, moved to 53rd Bn MGC 25 April 1918
159th Trench Mortar Battery formed 28 June 1917
3/152nd Infantry joined 4 June 1918
2/153rd Infantry joined 5 June 1918
1/153rd Infantry joined 2 August 1918
   
160th (Welsh Border) Brigade  
1/1st Bn, the Monmouthshire Regiment left February 1915
1/2nd Bn, the Monmouthshire Regiment left November 1914
1/3rd Bn, the Monmouthshire Regiment left February 1915
1/1st Bn, the Herefordshire Regiment left for 158th Bde 24 April 1915
2/4th Bn, the Queen's joined 24 April 1915, left 31 May 1918
1/4th Bn, the Royal Sussex Regiment joined 24 April 1915, left 30 May 1918
2/4th Bn, the Royal West Kent Regiment joined 24 April 1915, left 25 August 1918
2/10th Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined 24 April 1915, left 19 August 1918
160th Machine Gun Company formed 11 May 1916, moved to 53rd Bn MGC 25 April 1918
160th Trench Mortar Battery formed 26 June 1917
21st Punjabis joined 26 May 1918
110th Mahratta Light Infantry joined 28 June 1918, left 19 July 1918
1st Cape Corps joined 22 July 1918, left 15 May 1919
17th Infantry joined 6 August 1918
   
Divisional Troops  
2/1st Bn, the London Regiment joined 15 January 1916, left April 1916
2/3rd Bn, the London Regiment joined 15 January 1916, left April 1916
2/2nd Bn, the London Regiment joined 22 February 1916, left April 1916
2/4th Bn, the London Regiment joined 22 February 1916, left April 1916
155th Infantry joined as Divisional Pioneer Bn 12 August 1918
53rd Battalion MGC formed at Ain Sinia 15-25 April 1918
Cape Corps Machine Gun Company joined 17 September 1918 and added to 53rd Bn MGC
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
Welsh Divisional Cyclist Company formed May-June 1915
A Sqn, the 1/1st Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry joined 1 February 1917, left for XXI Corps Cavalry Regiment on 23 August 1917
   
Divisional Artillery  
The Divisional Artillery did not leave England when the Division embarked for service at Gallipoli. It remained at Bedford and was there rearmed. It sailed for France from 20 November 1915 and concentrated near Pont Remy by five days later. Entrainment began on 1 February 1916, embarkation at Marseilles began two days later and by 22 February 1916 the artillery had concentrated at Beni Salama and came once again under command of this Division.
CCLXV (I Welsh) (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA broken up 26 May 1916
CCLXVI (II Welsh) Brigade, RFA renumbered CCLXVII 25 December 1916
CCLXVII (Cheshire) Brigade, RFA renumbered CCLXV 25 December 1916
CCLXVIII (III Welsh) Brigade, RFA renumbered CCLXVI 25 December 1916
Welsh (Caernarvonshire) Heavy Battery, RGA did not sail with the Division; moved independently to France 3 March1916 and joined XXIII HA Bde
53rd Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
   
Royal Engineers  
436th (1st Welsh) Field Company renumbered on 4 February 1917
Cheshire Field Company left November 1914
439th (2/1st Cheshire) Field Company joined November 1914, renumbered on 4 February 1917
437th (2/1st Welsh) Field Company sailed 4 October 1915, landed at Suvla 24 October and was initially attached to IX Corps, joining Division at Lala Baba 2 December 1915, renumbered on 4 February 1917, left 9 April 1918
53rd Divisional Signals Company HQ and No 1 Section of this Company was attached to 54th (East Anglian) Division at Suvla between 10-23 August 1915; on 15 December 1915 it was ordered to Salonika and joined XII Corps there on 27 december 1915; it landed at Alexandria 21 January 1916 and came back under orders of this Division at Wardan next day
72nd Company, 3rd Sappers & Miners joined 5 August 1918
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
1st Welsh Field Ambulance left 21 August 1918
2nd Welsh Field Ambulance absorbed into 170 Combined Field Ambulance on 11 September 1918
3rd Welsh Field Ambulance attached to 54th (East Anglian) Division at Suvla between 11-18 August 1915, absorbed into 171 Combined Field Ambulance on 8-11 September 1918
53rd Sanitary Section formed April 1915
113th Combined Field Ambulance joined 3 July 1918
170th Combined Field Ambulance joined 29 August 1918
172st Combined Field Ambulance joined 23 August 1918
   
Other Divisional Troops  
53rd Divisional Train ASC comprising 479, 480, 481 and 482 Companies ASC, the original Train did not sail with the Division. It transferred to join 11th (Northern) Division for service in France. The units of 29th Divisional Train joined this Division on 17 March 1916, comprising 246, 247, 248 and 249 Companies ASC
53rd (Welsh) Mobile Veterinary Section AVC formed 27 June 1915, did not sail with the Division, embarked 21 March 1916 and rejoined Division 11 April 1916

There is a memorial to the 53rd (Welsh) Division in Ramleh War Cemetery, which is now in Israel.