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1st Armoured Division


The 1st Armoured Division was a pre-war division, initially created as the Mobile Division in September 1937, and in 1939 was the British Army's only armoured division. It remained in the UK until May 1940, when the German invasion of France and the Low Countries resulted in it being ordered to France. This move turned out to be slightly chaotic; the infantry and one tank battalion were sent to Calais, where they were lost; some units went to Le Harve, and the rest of the division disembarked at Cherbourg. The division subsequently served on the Somme at the end of May and into early June before being withdrawn via Cherbourg.

After being reorganised, the division remained in the UK until the summer of 1941, when the division began to be transferred to Egypt. It arrived in November 1941 and served throughout the rest of the North African campaign, including the battle of Gazala and the first and second battles of El Alamein. It next saw action in the attack on the Mareth Line in Tunisia in the latter part of March 1943 and then the advance towards Tunis. After the Axis surrender in May 1943, the division moved to Libya and then to Algeria in October 1943.

On 11th February 1944, 18th Infantry Brigade was detached from the division and sent to the Anzio bridgehead in Italy. Here it replaced 24th Guards Brigade in 1st Infantry Division. The remainder of the division moved to Italy in late May 1944, with 18th Infantry Brigade re-joining on 18th August 1944.

The division first saw action in Italy when it was committed to the attack on the Gothic Line as part of 5 Corps, 8th Army. Following a long approach march, the division launched what was supposed to be a breakout operation through the Coriano ridge on 4th September 1944.

However, German resistance proved to be much greater than expected, and the committal of 2nd Armoured Brigade without infantry support proved to be a grave mistake, resulting in the brigade losing many tanks. It was not until 12th September that the attack could be renewed and the Germans were ejected off the ridge.  The division then moved north over the River Ausa with orders to advance to the River Marecchia. On 20th September, another ill-conceived attack saw the Queen's Bays sustain heavy losses, and shortly afterwards, on 22nd September 1944, it was announced the division was to be broken up.

18th Infantry Brigade was disbanded, its personnel largely being transferred to reinforce the infantry battalions of 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions. 2nd Armoured Brigade became an independent formation. Other units of the division were disbanded or became Army or Corps-level troops. The divisional HQ was officially disbanded in January 1945.

1st Armoured Division Formation Sign

Higher Formations

The following are the higher formations that 1st Armoured Division served under during its service in Italy from May 1944 to September 1944.

8th Army25 May 1944 - 22 June 1944
8th Army25 May 1944 - 22 June 1944
HQ AAI05 August 1944 - 14 August 1944
5th Corps14 August 1944 - 28 September 1944
8th Army28 September 1944 - 05 October 1944
10th Corps05 October 1944 - 14 October 1944
2nd Polish Corps14 October 1944 - 28 October 1944
8th Army28 October 1944 - 17 December 1944
No. 1 District18 December 1944 - 10 January 1945

Commanding Officers

The following were the Commanding Officers of 1st Armoured Division during its service in Italy from May 1944 to September 1944.

17 July 1943 - 14 August 1944Major-General A. Galloway Left because of ill health.
14 August 1944 - 25 November 1944Major-General R.A. Hull With the division being effectively disbanded at the end of September 1944, he took command of 5th Infantry Division in the Middle East.


On arrival in Italy in May 1944, the division was organised as below. Subsequent changes are noted.

2nd Armoured Brigade

  • 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays)
  • 9th Queen's Royal Lancers
  • 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own)
  • 1st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps

The brigade left 1st Armoured Division in September 1944 when the division was disbanded. It became an independent formation and continued to serve in Italy until the end of the war.

18th Infantry Brigade (left 8th March 1944 and rejoined 18th August 1944)

  • 1st Battalion Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
  • 9th Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Yorkshire Dragoons)
  • 14th Battalion Sherwood Foresters

In March 1944, 18th Infantry Brigade was attached to 1st Infantry Division in Italy to replace 24th Infantry Brigade (Guards). On 18th August it returned to 1st Armoured Division. On 23rd September, due to heavy losses, the decision was made to disband the brigade; its infantry battalions were all reduced to cadre with most personnel being transferred to the infantry battalions of 46th Infantry Division. The brigade was officially disbanded in January 1945.

Royal Artillery

  • 2nd Royal Horse Artillery (detached to 61st Infantry Brigade xx/xx/xx returned xx/xx/xx) 
  • 11th Royal Horse Artillery
  • 60th Anti-Tank Regiment
  • 42nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

Royal Engineers

  • 1st Field Squadron
  • 627th Field Squadron (detached to 61st Infantry Brigade xx/xx/xx returned xx/xx/xx) 
  • 631st Field Park Company
  • 27th Bridging Platoon


  • 4th Hussars

Royal Army Service Corps

  • 656th Company (Armoured Divisional Troops)
  • 550th Company (Infantry Brigade) (left to 24th Guards Brigade xx/xx/xxxx)
  • 295th Company (Infantry Brigade)
  • 925th Company (Armoured Brigade)

Royal Army Medical Corps

  • 1st Light Field Ambulance
  • 226th Field Ambulance (detached to 24th Guards Brigade xx/xx/xxxx returned xx/xx/xxxx)
  • 69th Field Hygiene Section

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

  • 2nd Armoured Brigade Workshop
  • 18th Infantry Brigade Workshop

Other Divisional Units

  • 1st Armoured Division Signals
  • 1st Infantry Division Ordnance Field Park
  • 278th Forward Delivery Squadron
  • 1st Armoured Division Provost Company
  • 411st Field Security Section
  • 44th Field Cash Office
  • 1st Armoured Division Postal Unit

National Archives Files

The following are the files in the UK National Archives that cover the service of 1st Armoured Division during its service in Italy from May 1944 to September 1944.

TNA File NameDescriptionDates
PREM 3/284/141st Armoured Division.1943 July - 1944 June
WO 170/3981 Armoured Division: G.1946 January - December
WO 170/3991 Armoured Division: A.Q.1944 January - October
WO 170/4001 Armoured Division: R.A.1944 January - December
WO 170/4011 Armoured Division: R.E.1947 January - December
WO 170/4021 Armoured Division: Signals.1945 January - December
WO 170/4031 Armoured Division: C.R.A.S.C.1944 January - December
WO 170/4041 Armoured Division: Ord. Fd. Pk.1944 January - 1945 January
WO 170/4051 Armoured Division: Provost.1944 January - December
WO 170/4061 Armoured Division: Postal Unit.1945 January - December
WO 201/1907Re-organisation of 1st and 6th Armoured Divisions in Mediterranean.1944 January - February
WO 204/74251 Armoured Division and 56 Infantry Division: organisation.1944 September - December
WO 204/8236History.1940 - 1944


The following published literature includes coverage of 1st Armoured Division during its service in Italy from May 1944 to September 1944.

Plant, J. The 1st Armoured Division. New Generatiion Publishing, 2013. 176 pp.