278,230 Pages

3rd Mechanised Division
Insignia of the 3rd Division
Active Since 18 June 1809
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Size Five Brigades
Part of Land Forces
Garrison/HQ Bulford, Wiltshire
Nickname(s) Iron Sides
Engagements Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Sabugal
Battle of Orthez
Battle of Nivelle
Battle of Fuentes de Onoro
Battle of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Vitoria
Battle of Bussaco
Battle of the Pyrenees
Battle of Quatre Bras
Battle of Waterloo
Crimean War
Battle of Alma
Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855)
Second Boer War
First World War
Battle of Mons
Battle of the Somme
Battle of the Ancre
Battle of Delville Wood
Battle of Arras 1917
Second World War
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
Normandy landings
Battle of Normandy
Operation Market Garden
Overloon and Venraij
Rhine crossing
Major General James Cowan
Thomas Picton
Charles Alten
Bernard Montgomery
William Ramsden

The 3rd Mechanised Division, known at various times as the Iron Division, 3rd (Iron) Division or as Iron Sides;[1] is a regular army division of the British Army. It was created in 1809 by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Army, for service in the Peninsular War, and was known as the Fighting 3rd under Sir Thomas Picton during the Napoleonic Wars. The division is also sometimes referred to as the Iron Division, a nickname earned during the bitter fighting of 1916, during the First World War. The division's other battle honours include: the Battle of Waterloo, the Crimean War, the Second Boer War, the Battle of France (1940) and D-Day (1944). It was commanded for a time, during the Second World War, by Bernard Montgomery. The division was to have been part of a proposed Commonwealth Corps, formed for a planned invasion of Japan in 1945–46, and later served in British Mandate Palestine.

During the Second World War, the insignia became the "pattern of three" — a black triangle trisected by an inverted red triangle.

Napoleonic Wars[edit | edit source]

Peninsular War[edit | edit source]

The Division was part of the British forces that took part in the Peninsular War and fought in the Battle of Sabugal, Battle of Orthez, Siege of Badajoz (1812), Battle of Salamanca, Battle of Nivelle, Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro, Battle of Vitoria, Battle of Bussaco and the Battle of the Pyrenees

Peninsular War Formation[edit | edit source]

Battle of Vitoria example
Commanding General: Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton (7,500)

According to Picton, the fighting by the 3rd was so intense at the Battle of Vitoria, that the division lost 1,800 men (over one third of all Allied losses at the battle) having taken a key bridge and village, where they were subjected to fire by 40 to 50 cannons, and a counter-attack on the right flank (which was open because the rest of the army had not kept pace).[2] The 3rd held their ground and pushed on with other divisions to capture the village of Arinez.

Waterloo Campaign[edit | edit source]

Map of the Battle of Waterloo the 3rd Division holding the centre under Alten

The 3rd Division was also present at the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo.in the Waterloo campaign under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Alten K.C.B. (Count Carl von Alten)

Battle of Waterloo formation[edit | edit source]

5th Brigade[edit | edit source]

Major-General Sir Colin Halkett K.C.B.

2nd Brigade, King's German Legion[edit | edit source]

Brevet Colonel Baron Christian Freiherr von Ompteda

  • 1st Light Battalion
  • 2nd Light Battalion
  • 5th Line Battalion
  • 8th Line Battalion

1st Hanoverian Brigade[edit | edit source]

Major-General Friedrich, Graf von Kielmansegge

  • Field Battalion Bremen
  • Field Battalion 1st Duke of York's
  • Light Battalion Grubenhagen
  • Light Battalion Lüneburg
  • Field Battalion Verden
  • Field Jaeger Battalion (two companies)

Artillery[edit | edit source]

Lieutenant Colonel John Samuel Williamson

  • Lloyd's Field Brigade R. A. 5/390 5x9lb guns 1x5.5 inch Howitzer
  • Cleeves' Field Brigade King's German Legion 6/209 5x9lb guns 1x5.5 inch Howitzer

Crimean War Formation[edit | edit source]

The 3rd Division took part in the Crimean War and fought in the Battle of Alma and the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855)

Second Boer War[edit | edit source]

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902) the division began under the command of General Gatacre but was subsequently partially absorbed into the Natal Field Force under the command of General Francis Clery.

First World War[edit | edit source]

During the First World War it was a permanently established Regular Army division that was amongst the first to be sent to France at the outbreak of the war. It served on the Western Front for four years. During this time, it was nicknamed "The Iron Division". Its first commander during the war, Major-General Hubert Hamilton, was killed by shellfire near Béthune in October 1914.

WWI Composition[edit | edit source]

During WWI 3rd Division's composition was as follows:[3]

7th Brigade (to 18 October 1915) 

The brigade moved to the 25th Division in October 1915 and was replaced by the 76th Brigade.

8th Brigade 

The following battalions joined the brigade for periods in 1914 and 1915.

The following battalions joined the brigade for periods in 1915 and 1916.

The following battalions left the brigade for the 76th Brigade when it joined the division in October 1915:

9th Brigade 

Other battalions to serve with the brigade were:

The brigade moved to the 28th Division for a brief period in early 1915.

76th Brigade (from 15 October 1915) 

The brigade joined the division from the 25th Division in October 1915.

After the end of the First World War, the division was stationed in southern England where it formed part of Southern Command. In 1937, one of its brigades was commanded by Bernard Montgomery. He assumed command of the division shortly before Britain declared war on Germany.

Second World War[edit | edit source]

The Division was part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force evacuated from Dunkirk early in the Second World War.

Composition 1939–40[edit | edit source]

From the outbreak of war until the Dunkirk evacuation the composition of 3rd Division was as follows:[4]

General Officer Commanding: Maj-Gen Bernard Montgomery[5][6]

7th Brigade (Guards)[7]

8th Infantry Brigade[8]

9th Infantry Brigade[9]

Divisional Troops[4]

Composition 1940–44[edit | edit source]

For over a year after Dunkirk the composition of 3rd Division remained largely unchanged (except that the motorcycle battalion was converted into 3rd (Royal Northumberland Fusiliers) Reconnaissance Regiment). Then, in September 1941, 7th Brigade (Guards) was transferred to the Guards Armoured Division, and the following November 37th Independent Infantry Brigade HQ joined 3rd Division and was renumbered 7th Brigade with the following composition:[4][13]

7th Infantry Brigade

The brigade anti-tank companies were disbanded during 1941 and 92nd (Loyals) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, joined the division in March 1942.

In June 1942, 3rd Division was reorganised as a 'Mixed' Division, with 33rd Tank Brigade replacing 7th Infantry Brigade:

33rd Tank Brigade[14]

By early 1943, the experiment with 'mixed' divisions was abandoned, and 3rd Division reverted to being an infantry formation, 33rd Tank Brigade being replaced by 185th Infantry Brigade from 79th Armoured Division:[4][15]

185th Infantry Brigade

Thus the division had attained the organisation with which it went into action on D-day.

D-Day[edit | edit source]

3rd Division was the first British formation to land at Sword Beach on D-Day. For the assault landing, 3rd Division was organised as a Division Group, with other formations temporarily under its command. These included 27th Armoured Brigade (Sherman DD amphibious tanks) and 22nd Dragoons (Sherman Crab flail tanks), 1st Special Service Brigade and 41 (Royal Marine) Commando, 5th Royal Marine Independent Armoured Support Battery (Centaur IV close support tanks), 77 and 79 Assault Squadrons of 5th Assault Regiment, Royal Engineers (Churchill AVREs), plus additional Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery and Royal Army Service Corps. The division's own artillery were all self-propelled (field regiments: M7 Priest;[10][16][17][18] anti-tank regiment: M10 tank destroyer[19][20]) and the SP field guns and RM Centaurs were able to fire from their landing craft during the run-in to the beach. In addition, 3rd Division had 101 Beach Sub-Area HQ and Nos 5 and 6 Beach Groups under command for the assault phase: these included additional engineers, transport, pioneers, medical services and vehicle recovery sections.[21][22] 3rd Division's brigades were organised as brigade groups for the assault, with 8 Bde Group making the first landing, followed by 185 Bde Group and 9 Bde Group in succession during the morning and early afternoon.[21]

After D-Day[edit | edit source]

A memorial to the 3rd Division in Caen which commemorates the division's participation in the D-Day landing on 6 June 1944, and its role in the liberation of Caen on 9 July 1944

After D-Day 3rd Division fought through the Battle of Normandy, the Netherlands and later the invasion of Germany. For the campaign in Normandy, the division was commanded by Major General Tom Rennie until 13 June 1944; Major General Lashmer Whistler, a highly popular commander, took command on 23 June 1944.

During the often intense fighting from Sword Beach to Bremen, the Division suffered 2,586 killed.[1]

Post Second World War[edit | edit source]

Postwar, the Division was reformed on 1 April 1951, in the Suez Canal Zone, under the command of Sir Hugh Stockwell. The division became part of Middle East Land Forces. It consisted of three recently reraised brigades, the 32nd Guards, the 19th Infantry, and the 39th Infantry. It served in the UK for many years; in 1968 it was part of the Army Strategic Command, comprising 5th, 19th, and 24th Brigades.[23] It was an armoured division in the British Army of the Rhine from 1977[24] to 1991. When its sub-units were Task Force Echo (TFE) and Task Force Foxtrot (TFF), these changed around 1980 to 6 Armoured Brigade and 33rd Armoured Brigade.

Current formation[edit | edit source]

Structure of 3rd Mechanised Div.

The division was re-raised in the mid-1990s after 3rd Armoured Division disbanded in BAOR. It providing the headquarters for Multi-National Division (South-West) in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 / 1996 and again in 1998.[25] For a time it comprised 1st Mech Bde, 5th Airborne Brigade, and 19th Mechanised Brigade.

On 1 September 1999 the Division was freed from its administrative and regional responsibilities and it became a deployable or "fly-away" division.[26]

As 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division it is now the only division at continual operational readiness in the United Kingdom (the other at operational readiness being 1st (UK) Armoured Division in Germany). It is based at Picton Barracks, Bulford Camp, in Wiltshire and reports to the Commander Land Forces at Andover. Under the divisional command were four ready brigades, now three. 4th arrived from Germany while 19th disbanded.

Future[edit | edit source]

Under Army 2020, it will continue to be based at Bulford, and command the Reaction Force.[27][28]

Recent Commanders[edit | edit source]

Recent Commanders have been:[29]
GOC 3rd Division

GOC 3rd Armoured Division

GOC 3rd (UK) Division

GOC 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Delaforce
  2. Cannon
  3. 1914-1918 War: 3rd Division
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Joslen, pp. 43–4.
  5. Keegan, pp. 148–165.
  6. Montgomery, pp. 49–70.
  7. Joslen, p. 243.
  8. Joslen, p. 246.
  9. Joslen, p. 247.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "RA 1939-45 76 Fld Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/field/page76.html. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  11. Horrocks, pp. 76–92.
  12. Keegan, pp. 225–241.
  13. Joslen, p. 286.
  14. Joslen, p. 206.
  15. Joslen, pp. 30, 360.
  16. Ellis, p. 542.
  17. "RA 1939-45 7 Fld Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/field/page7.html. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  18. "RA 1939-45 33 Fld Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/field/page33.html. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  19. Ellis, p. 546.
  20. "RA 1939-45 20 A/Tk Rgt". Ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. http://www.ra39-45.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/atk/page3.html. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ellis, pp. 173, 184–6.
  22. Joslen, pp. 584–5.
  23. Blaxland
  24. Paradata: Michael J. H. Walsh
  25. Conrad, John (2011). Scarce Heard Amid the Guns: An Inside Look at Canadian Peacekeeping. Natural Heritage Books. ISBN 978-1554889815. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=SgxtmtG58ucC&pg=PT223&lpg=PT223&dq=Cedric+Delves+bosnia&source=bl&ots=00J8QG0PRI&sig=4XHrBhEhSSnR1Fc_5TohaYx167A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=I7FpUdTrMsak0QWxq4HADw&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAjgK. 
  26. Soldier Magazine, December 1998, p.13
  27. Army basing plan
  28. Army 2020 Brochure
  29. Army Commands

References[edit | edit source]

  • Gregory Blaxland, The Regiments Depart: A History of the British Army 1945-70, London: William Kimber, 1971.
  • Richard Cannon, Historical Record of the Seventy-fourth Regiment (Highlanders), Parker, Furnivall & Parker, 1847. http://books.google.ca/books?id=DMkJ3xvg34AC
  • Patrick Delaforce, Monty's Iron Sides, Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1995, ISBN 0-7509-0781-9,
  • Major L.F. Ellis, History of the Second World War: United Kingdom Military Series: Victory in the West, Volume I: The Battle of Normandy, London: HMSO, 1962/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2004, ISBN 1-845740-58-0.
  • Lt-Gen Sir Brian Horrocks, A Full Life, London: Collins, 1960.
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2003, ISBN 1843424746.
  • John Keegan (ed), Churchill's Generals, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991.
  • Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, Memoirs, London: Collins, 1958.

External links[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.