The 7th Division in 1914-1918

"One of the greatest fighting formations Britain ever put into the field": eminent Great War historian, Cyril Falls

"Few Divisions can have equalled the strong Divisional spirit which inspired the Seventh Division, making it work as a team, working together towards the same end. It has been described as a very happy Division, and therein lies no small part of the explanation of the wonderful record which these pages have sought to outline' : Divisional History, C.T.Atkinson, 1926.

The history of 7th Division

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The 7th Division was formed during September and very early October 1914, by the bringing together of regular army units from various points around the British Empire. They were assembled in the New Forest in Hampshire before initially moved to Belgium. The Division landed at Zeebrugge in the first week of October 1914, ordered to assist in the defence of Antwerp. However, by the time they arrived the city was already falling and the 7th was instead ordered to hold certain important bridges and other places that would help the westward evacuation of the Belgian army. Once the Belgians were through, the Division was moved westwards, where the infantry entrenched in front of Ypres, the first British troops to occupy that fateful place.

1914
The First Battle of Ypres: the Division fought the advancing German army to a standstill at Wipers. All units suffered grievous losses and it was not until the following January/February that it was once more in a complete enough condition to be considered at full fighting strength. After First Ypres, it was often known as the "Immortal Seventh".

1915
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle
The Battle of Aubers
The Battle of Festubert
The second action of Givenchy
The Battle of Loos
The Division took part in the initial assault north of the Vermelles-Hulluch road, facing the Quarries and a series of strongpoints. Suffering badly from British cloud gas - which was not moved sufficiently by the gentle breeze - and badly cut up by German machine gun fire and artillery, the Division nonethless seized the Quarries and only failed to penetrate the third German line due to the relative weakness of the numbers of men that got through. The Divisional Commander, Major-General Thompson Capper, died of wounds received during this action.

1916
The Battle of Albert* in which the Division captured Mametz
The Battle of Bazentin and the attacks on High Wood*
The Battle of Delville Wood*
The Battle of Guillemont*
The battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916
Operations on the Ancre

1917
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
The Arras offensive in which the Division fought in the flanking operations round Bullecourt
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 7th 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. In October 1918 the Division played a central role in crossing the Piave, the Battle of Vittoria Veneto and the eventual defeat of Austria-Hungary.

1918
Italy

14 Victoria Crosses were awarded to men of the 7th Division, which from October 1914 to the Armistice suffered a total of approximately 68,000 of all ranks killed, wounded or missing in action.

Order of battle of the 7th Division

20th Brigade  
1st Bn, the Grenadier Guards left August 1915
2nd Bn, the Scots Guards left August 1915
2nd Bn, the Border Regt  
2nd Bn, the Gordon Highlanders  
1/6th Bn, the Gordon Highlanders joined December 1914, left January 1916
8th Bn, the Devonshire Regt joined August 1915
9th Bn, the Devonshire Regt left September 1918
1/6th Bn, the Cheshire Regt joined January 1916, left February 1916
20th Machine Gun Company formed 10 February 1916
left to move into 7th MG Battalion 1 April 1918
20th Trench Mortar Battery formed 14 February 1916
   
21st Brigade  
Brigade transferred to 30th Division in exchange for 91st Brigade on 19 December 1915
2nd Bn, the Bedfordshire Regt  
2nd Bn, the Yorkshire Regt  
2nd Bn, the Royal Scots Fusiliers  
2nd Bn, the Wiltshire Regt  
1/4th Bn, the Cameron Highlanders joined April 1915
   
22nd Brigade  
2nd Bn, the Queen's left December 1915
2nd Bn, the Royal Warwickshire Regt  
1st Bn, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers  
1st Bn, the South Staffordshire Regt left December 1915
1/8th Bn, the Royal Scots joined November 1914, left August 1915
1/7th Bn, the King's (Liverpool Regt) joined November 1915. left January 1916
20th Bn, the Manchester Regt joined December 1915, left September 1918
24th Bn, the Manchester Regt joined December 1915, left May 1916
2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Regt joined May 1916, left October 1916
2/1st Bn, the Honourable Artillery Company joined October 1916
22nd Brigade Machine Gun Company formed 24 February 1916
left to move into 7th MG Battalion 1 April 1918
22nd Trench Mortar Battery formed 14 April 1916
   
91st Brigade  
Brigade transferred from 30th Division in exchange for 21st Brigade on 20 December 1915
21st Bn, the Manchester Regt left September 1918
22nd Bn, the Manchester Regt  
1/4th Bn, the Cameron Highlanders left January 1916
2nd Bn, the Queen's joined December 1915
1st Bn, the South Staffordshire Regt joined December 1915
91st Machine Gun Company formed 14 March 1916
left to move into 7th MG Battalion 1 April 1918
91st Trench Mortar Battery formed May 1916
   
Divisional Troops  
24th Bn, the Manchester Regt joined as Divisional Pioneer Battalion in May 1916
220th Company, the Machine Gun Corps joined 25 March 1917
left to move into 7th MG Battalion 1 April 191 8
No 7 Battalion, the Machine Gun Corps formed 1 April 1918
   
Divisional Mounted Troops  
1/1st Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry B and C Sqns left 12 April 1915, remainder left 13 May 1916
7th Company, Army Cyclist Corps left June 1916
   
Divisional Artillery  
XIV Brigade, RFA left January 1917
XXII Brigade, RFA  
XXXV Brigade, RFA  
XXXVII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA joined June 1915, left may 1916
7th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA  
III Heavy Brigade RGA left March 1915
No 7 Pom-Pom Section RGA attached 25 September 1914 to 20 December 1914
No 5 Mountain Battery RGA attached 26 March to 20 April 1915
V.7 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA formed June 1916, disbanded 12 November 1917
X.7, Y.7 and Z.7 Medium Mortar Batteries RFA joined by March 1916; on 22 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each
   
Royal Engineers  
54th Field Company  
55th Field Company left September 1915
2nd (Highland) Field Company joined January 1915, left January 1916
3rd (Durham) Field Company joined January 1916, later renamed 528th Field Company RE
7th Divisional Signals Company  
   
Royal Army Medical Corps  
21st Field Ambulance  
22nd Field Ambulance  
23rd Field Ambulance  
10th Sanitary Section joined 9 January 1915, left 8 August 1917
   
Other Divisional Troops  
7th Divisional Train ASC 39, 40, 42 and 86 Companies
12th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC  
210th Divisional Employment Company joined 21 May 1917 at which time it was 12th Divisional Employment Company; renamed in June 1917
7th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop joined 20 June 1915, transferred to Divisional Train 9 April 1916