The 56th (1st London) Division in 1914-1918

The history of 56th (1st London) Division

SymbolThe London 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. All of the infantry units left the Division during the period September 1914 - April 1915, most being sent independently to France as reinforcements for the BEF.

1915

The Divisional artillery was selected for service in France and transferred in september 1915 to 36th (Ulster) Division.

1916

In January 1916 the War Office authorised the re-formation of the London Division, now to be known as the 56th, in France.

The Division began to concentrate in the Hallencourt area on 5 February and was largely completed by 21 February. It then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements:

The diversionary attack at Gommecourt (1 July)*
The Battle of Ginchy (9 September)*
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 -22 September)*
The Battle of Morval (25-27 September)* in which the Division captured Combles
The Battle of the Transloy Ridges (11 - 9 October)*
* the battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

Guillemont

1917

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (14 March - 5 April)

The First Battle of the Scarpe (9 - 14 April)+
The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3 - 4 May)+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the Battles of Arras 1917

The Battle of Langemarck (16 - 17 August)**
** the battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of the Ypres

The capture of Tadpole Copse (21 November)^
The capture of Bourlon Wood (23 - 28 November)^
The German counter attacks (30 November - 2 December)^
^ the battles marked ^ are phases of the Cambrai Operations

1918

The First Battle of Arras (28 March)~
~ the battles marked ~ are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918

The Battle of Albert (23 August)#
# the battles marked # are phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918

The Battle of the Scarpe (26 - 30 August)+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the Second Battles of Arras 1918

The Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 September - 1 October)"
The Battle of the Cambrai (8 - 9 October)"
" the battles marked " are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line

The pursuit to the Selle (9 - 12 October)*
The Battle of the Sambre (4 November)*
The passage of the Grand Honelle ( 5 - 7 November)*
* the battles marked * are phases of the Final Advance in Picardy

By the end of 10 November the Division had been withdrawn for rest, although the artillery was still in action up to the Armistice at 11am on 11 November. The forward infantry was on that date at Harveng.

Tthe Division received orders to join the British force that would advance across Belgium and move into Germany to occupy the Rhine bridgeheads. These orders were cancelled on 21 November, at which time the Division was employed on road and railway repair work in the area of Harveng.

In all, the Division existed as such for 1010 days during the Great War; it spent 330 days at rest, 195 in quiet sectors, 385 in active sectors and 100 days in battle.

Demobilisation began and he final cadres left for home on 18 May 1919. The Division reformed as part of the Territorial Army in April 1920.

The order of battle of the 56th (1st London) Division

167th (1st London) Brigade This Brigade left the Division and moved to Malta in September 1914. It reformed at Hallencourt 5-9 February 1916.
1/1st Bn, the London Regiment left May 1915, rejoined February 1916
1/2nd Bn, the London Regiment left February 1915
1/3rd Bn, the London Regiment left May 1915, rejoined February 1916, left January 1918
1/4th Bn, the London Regiment left January 1915
1/7th Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined February 1916
1/8th Bn, the Middlesex Regiment joined February 1916
167th Machine Gun Company formed 22 March 1916, moved to 56th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
167th Trench Mortar Battery joined 14 June 1916
4th Bn, the North Staffordshire Regiment joined October 1917, left November 1917
   
168th (2nd London) Brigade This Brigade was broken up in November 1914. It reformed at Yanville 5-11 February 1916.
1/5th Bn, the London Regiment left November 1914
1/6th Bn, the London Regiment left November 1914
1/7th Bn, the London Regiment left November 1914
1/8th Bn, the London Regiment left November 1914
1/4th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
1/12th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916, left January 1918
1/13th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
1/14th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
168th Machine Gun Company formed 16 March 1916, moved to 56th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
168th Trench Mortar Battery joined 13 June 1916
   
169th (3rd London) Brigade This Brigade was broken up in April 1915. It reformed at Hallencourt 5-13 February 1916.
1/9th Bn, the London Regiment left November 1914, rejoined February 1916, left February 1918
1/10th Bn, the London Regiment left April 1915
1/11th Bn, the London Regiment left April 1915
1/12th Bn, the London Regiment left December 1914
1/2nd Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
1/5th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
1/16th Bn, the London Regiment joined February 1916
169th Machine Gun Company formed 17 March 1916, moved to 56th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
169th Trench Mortar Battery joined 17 June 1916
   
Divisional Troops  
1/5th Bn, the Cheshire Regiment joined as Divisional Pioneer Bn February 1916
193rd Machine Gun Company joined 24 December 1916, moved to 56th Bn MGC 1 March 1918
56th Battalion MGC formed 1 March 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
2nd County of London Yeomanry left April 1915
B Sqn, the 2nd King Edward's Horse joined March 1915, left 30 May 1915
1st London Divisional Cyclist Company joined April 1916, left May 1916
   
Divisional Artillery The Divisional Artillery was attached to the 36th (Ulster) Division in September 1915, after which the Brigades were attached to various other Divisions and formations before rejoining in February 1916.
CCLXXX (I London) Brigade, RFA  
CCLXXXI (II London) Brigade, RFA  
CCLXXXII (III London) Brigade, RFA left January 1917
CCLXXXIII (IV London) (How) Bde, RFA broken up November 1916
1st London Heavy Battery, RGA a battery of four 4.7-inch guns which left the Division to join 58th Division in early 1915
56th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
V.56 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA formed May 1916, left February 1918
X.56, Y.56 and Z.56 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA formed mid May 1916, in early February 1918 Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have six 6-inch weapons each
   
Royal Engineers  
1st London Field Company left December 1914
2nd London Field Company left January 1915
416th (1st Edinburgh) Field Company joined May 1916
512th (2/1st London) Field Company joined February 1916
513th (2/2nd London) Field Company joined February 1916
56th Divisional Signals Company original company went with 1st Brigade to Malta and remained there; replaced in February 1916 by the Signals Company from 58th Division
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
1st London Field Ambulance left June 1916
2nd London Field Ambulance left December 1914
3rd London Field Ambulance left December 1914
2/1st London Field Ambulance joined February 1916
2/2nd London Field Ambulance joined February 1916
2/3rd London Field Ambulance joined February 1916
56th Sanitary Section joined 11 February 1916, left for VII Corps 1 April 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
56th Divisional Train ASC Originally 170, 171, 172 and 173 Coys but they were detached in November 1915 and moved to Salonika with 28th Division. Replaced by 213, 214, 215 and 216 Coys ASC from 30th Division
1st London Mobile Veterinary Section AVC joined 14 March 1916
56th Divisional Ambulance Workshop joined 28 February 1916, absorbed into Divisional Supply Column 31 March 1916
247th Divisional Employment Company joined 23 June 1917