The 5th Division in 1914-1918

The history of 5th Division

5th Division

 

 

This Division was part of the original British Expeditionary Force and remained on the Western Front until late 1917 when it moved to Italy. It took part in most of the major actions, including:

1914
The Battle of Mons and subsequent retreat, including the Action of Elouges
The Battle of Le Cateau and the Affair of Crepy-en-Valois
The Battle of the Marne
The Battle of the Aisne
The Battles of La Bassee and Messines 1914
The First Battle of Ypres

1915
The Second Battle of Ypres and the Capture of Hill 60

In late 1915, many units were switched for those of 32nd Division, a newly arrived volunteer formation. The idea was to strengthen ("stiffen" in the jargon of the time) the inexperienced Division buy mixing in some regular army troops; even though by now many of the pre-war regulars had gone and the regular battalions themselves were often largely composed of new recruits.

1916
March 1916 saw a move, with 5th Division taking over a section of front line between St Laurent Blangy and the southern edge of Vimy Ridge, in front of Arras. This was a lively time, with many trench raids, sniping and mining activities in the front lines. When the Franco-British offensive opened on the Somme on 1 July 1916, the 5th Division was enjoying a period of rest and re-fit and was in GHQ Reserve. However, this restful time was not destined to last:
The Attacks on High 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

By 5 October 1916 the Division had left the Somme and was holding a quieter line near Festubert. There was a constant threat from enemy artillery and sniper fire, but in comparison with the Somme it was a relatively tranquil period that lasted until March 1917.

1917
The Battle of Vimy**
The Attack on La Coulotte**
The Third Battle of the Scarpe** including the Capture by the Division of Oppy Wood
The battles marked ** are phases of the Battles of Arras 1917

On 7 September 1917 the Division was relieved and moved out of the line for a period, being sent next to join the great offensive in Flanders

The Battle of Polygon Wood***
The Battle of Broodseinde***
The Battle of Poelcapelle***
The Second Battle of Passchendaele***
The battles marked *** are phases of the Third Battle of Ypres

A major change now occurred with 5th Division being one of five British formations selected to be moved to Italy. This was a strategic and political move agreed by the British Government at the request of the Allied Supreme War Council, as an effort to stiffen Italian resistance to enemy attack after a recent disaster at Caporetto. Many diaries at this time, by men who had witnessed slaughter in the floods of Passchendaele, talk of the move and Italy as being "like another world". Much work was done preparing to move into the mountainous area of the Brenta, but eventually the Division was instead moved to the line along the River Piave, taking up positions in late January 1918. Unfortunately this pleasant period was not to last, for the Division was recalled hurriedly to France, once the enemy had made an attack in overwhelming strength on 21 March.

1918
The Battle of Hazebrouck+ in which the battalion fought in the Defence of Nieppe Forest
The battle marked + is a phase of the Battles of the Lys

On 14 August 1918 the Division was withdrawn for rest and placed in GHQ Reserve. Two weeks later it entered into what became a series of complex, endless, overlapping Allied attacks that forced the German Army into retreat.
Fighting through Albert (back on the old and devastated Somme ground of 1916), to Irles, Beugny, Havrincourt, Gonnelieu and the River Selle, and finally into Valenciennes and the River Sambre, the Division was in more or less continuous action until late October 1918.
The Battle of Albert+
The Battle of Bapaume+
The Battle of Drocourt-Queant+
The battles marked + are phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of the Epehy^
The Battle of the Canal du Nord^
The battles marked ^ are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line
The pursuit to the Selle++
The Battle of the Selle++
The battles marked ++ are phases of the Final Advance in Picardy

The Division remained in the area of Le Quesnoy until mid-December 1918, as demobilisation commenced. On 13 December, the Division began a march into Belgium, eventually to the area between Namur and Wavre. The first men were demobilised on 22 December and more followed at regular intervals through early 1919.

The order of battle of the 5th Division

13th Brigade  
This Brigade was attached to 28th Division between 23 February 1915 and 7 April 1915 in exchange for 84th Brigade
2nd Bn, the King's Own Scottish Borderers  
2nd Bn, the Duke of Wellington's left January 1916
1st Bn, the Royal West Kent Regt  
2nd Bn, the Yorkshire Light Infantry left December 1915
1/9th Bn, the London Regt joined November 1915, left February 1915
14th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt joined December 1915, left October 1918
15th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt joined January 1916, disbanded October 1918
16th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt joined October 1918
13th Machine Gun Company formed on 24 December 1915
left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
13th Trench Mortar Battery formed April 1916
   
14th Brigade  
Brigade transferred to 32nd Division on 30 December 1915
1st Bn, the Devonshire Regt left for 95th Bde 12 January 1916
2nd Bn, the Suffolk Regt left September 1914
1st Bn, the East Surrey Regt left for 95th Bde 12 January 1916
1st Bn, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry left for 95th Bde 12 January 1916
2nd Bn, the Manchester Regt  
1/5th Bn, the Cheshire Regt joined February 1915, left November 1915
1/9th Bn, the Royal Scots joined November 1915
2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers joined November 1915
   
15th Brigade  
This Brigade was attached to 28th Division between 3 March 1915 and 7 April 1915 in exchange for 83rd Brigade
1st Bn, the Norfolk Regt  
1st Bn, the Bedfordshire Regt  
1st Bn, the Cheshire Regt  
1st Bn, the Dorsetshire Regt left November 1915
1/6th Bn, the Cheshire Regt joined December 1914, left March 1915
1/6th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regt) joined February 1915, left November 1915
16th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt joined December 1915, left October 1918
15th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed on 27 December 1915
left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
15th Trench Mortar Battery formed April 1916
   
95th Brigade  
Brigade transferred from 32nd Division on 26 December 1915
14th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham City) left for 13th Bde 28 December 1915
15th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (2nd Birmingham City) left for 14th Bde 28 December 1915
16th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (3rd Birmingham City) left for 15th Bde 26 December 1915
12th Bn, the Gloucestershire Regt (Bristol's Own) disbanded October 1918
1st Bn, the Devonshire Regt joined from 14th Bde 12 January 1916
1st Bn, the East Surrey Regt joined from 14th Bde 12 January 1916
1st Bn, the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry joined from 14th Bde 12 January 1916
95th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed on 20 December 1915 as 14th Company
left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 April 1918
95th Trench Mortar Battery formed April 1916
   
Divisional Troops  
1/6th Bn, the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion in June 1915, left October 1918
1/5th Bn, the Cheshire Regt joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion in November 1915, left February 1916
14th Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion in October 1918
205th Company, the Machine Gun Corps joined 19 March 1917
left to move into 5th MG Battalion 26 February 1918
No 5 Battalion, the Machine Gun Corps formed 26 February 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
A Squadron, the 19th Hussars left April 1915
C Sqn, the 1/st Northamptonshire Yeomanry joined and left in early April 1915
5th Company, Army Cyclist Corps left June 1916
   
Divisional Artillery  
VIII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA left May 1916
XV Brigade, RFA  
XVII Brigade, RFA  
XVIII Brigade, RFA left January 1917
5th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
108th Heavy Battery RGA left April 1915
No 6 Pom-Pom Section RGA attached 12 September 1914 to December 1914
V.5 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA formed 18 October 1916, left November 1917
X.5, Y.5 and Z.5 Medium Mortar Batteries RFA joined in April 1916; on 15 March 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
   
Royal Engineers  
17th Field Company left September 1915
59th Field Company  
2nd (Home Counties) Field Company joined February 1915, later renamed 491st Field Company RE
2nd (Durham) Field Company joined September 1915, later renamed 527th Field Company RE
5th Divisional Signals Company  
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
13th Field Ambulance  
14th Field Ambulance  
15th Field Ambulance  
6th Sanitary Section joined 9 January 1915, left 2 April 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
5th Divisional Train ASC 4, 6, 33 and 37 Companies
5th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC  
208th Divisional Employment Company joined 22 May 1917 at which time it was 10th Divisional Employment Company; renamed in June 1917
5th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop joined by 13 June 1915, transferred to Divisional Train 16 April 1916