8th Infantry Division (India)

8th Infantry Division (India)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 8th Infantry Division

dates= 1940 - 1946 (British Indian Army)
1962 - (Indian Army)
country= India
branch= Indian Army
notable_commanders=Dudley Russell
nickname= The Clovers
battles=Iraq 1941
Syria 1941
Persia 1941
Italy 1943 - 1945:
– Battle of Monte Cassino
– Gothic Line
– Spring 1945 offensive
battle_honours=North Africa

The 8th Indian Infantry Division is a division of the Indian Army which specialised in tactics and operations in mountainous territory.

Originally formed in Meerut on 25th October 1940 under Maj General C.O. Harvey, C.B., C.B.E., C.V.O., M.C. as part of the British Indian Army the Division was disbanded at the end of World War II but re-formed again in 1962 as a specialist mountain Division.


8th Indian Div was one of the most formidable fighting units of the war. Despite its relatively late introduction into the mainstream of battle its members won nearly 600 awards and honours including 4 Victoria Crosses, 26 DSOs and 149 MCs [Condon (1962), p.336] . During the war the division sustained casualties totalling 2012 dead, 8189 wounded and 749 missing. ["One More River: The Story of The Eighth Indian Division", pp44-45]

Iraq Syria and Iran

When originally formed the Division's main fighting formations were 17th, 18th and 19th Indian Infantry Brigades.

On June 9 1941 17 Brigade arrived in Basra to join Iraqforce which had landed in Iraq in April and had fought the Anglo-Iraqi War to secure the British-owned oilfields. These oilfields were perceived to be threatened when a coup d'état brought into power Rashid Ali al-Kaylani who was sympathetic to the Axis powers [ Compton Mackenzie, Eastern Epic", p83] . By the second half of June the brigade had moved to Mosul to defend British-owned oilfields from an anticipated thrust by Axis forces south through the Caucasus.

At the end of June 1 Battalion 12th Frontier Force Regiment and 5 Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles were detached from 17 Brigade to join two battalions from 20 Indian Brigade (part of 10th Indian Infantry Division) to take part in the Syria-Lebanon campaign and capture the Duck's Bill area in north east Syria and secure the Mosul to Aleppo railway. [ Compton Mackenzie, Eastern Epic", p124] This was achieved without a shot being fired as the Vichy French forces retired westwards.

On July 17 General Harvey and the divisional HQ arrived in Basra and had 24th Indian Brigade (which had arrived on June 16) assigned to the division. 18 Brigade arrived in Iraq on July 26 [Compton Mackenzie, pp125-6] . The British, having secured first the Iraqi oilfields and then Syria, now focused their concern on Persia (now Iran) where it had been estimated there were some 3,000 German nationals working as technicians, commercial agents and advisors [ Compton Mackenzie, Eastern Epic", p129] . The division first saw shots fired in anger during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran in August 1941 when 24th Brigade made a made a night-time amphibious assault across the Shatt al Arab to capture the oil refinery at Abadan in South Persia. Meanwhile 18 Brigade had crossed into Persia between Basra and Abadan to take Khorramshahr and became part of a three brigade advance (with "Hazelforce"} towards Ahwaz, 75 miles north east of Basra. The fighting ended on August 28 when the Shah ordered his forces to cease hostlities [Compton Mackenzie, pp130-139] .

19 Brigade arrived in Iraq in August, replacing in the division's formation 24 Brigade (which transferred to Indian 6th Infantry Division), and by October 17, 18 and 19 Brigades had concentrated at Kirkuk in northern Iraq and moved north of the oilfields where they were joined by the 6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers (6th DCO Lancers), the division's reconnaissance regiment.

North Africa

In June 1942 18 Brigade, having been rushed over to North Africa from Mosul, and with only two days to prepare defensive positions, was over-run by Rommel's tanks at Deir el Shein in front of the Ruweisat Ridge. In the process, however, they gained valuable time for British Eighth Army to organise the defenses for what was to be the first battle of Alamein halting Rommel's advance towards Egypt. The Brigade was never re-formed.

Iraq and Syria

From August 1942 the Division, still a brigade short, became part of Paiforce when Persia and Iraq became a separate command under General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson in Baghdad, (General Quinan's Tenth Army in Iraq and Persia having previously come under Middle East Command in Cairo). As the threat from the North faded following the Axis defeats at Alamein and Stalingrad the Division withdrew in October 1942 to Kifri near Baghdad where it was joined by Indian 21st Infantry Brigade and the 3rd, 52nd and 53rd Field Regiments, Royal Artillery. It spent the winter in intensive training.

In January 1943 command of the Division passed to Major General (later Lieut Gen) Dudley Russell , D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C. (The Pasha), the highly successful commander of Indian 5th Infantry Brigade, part of the famous "Red Eagles" Indian 4th Infantry Division. The Division moved in March 1943 to Damascus and continued to spend much of its time training, notably in mountain warfare and combined operations.

In June 1943 the Division was selected to participate in the anticipated Dodecanese Campaign ("Operation Accolade"), and seize the Italian-occupied island of Rhodes, the chief Axis stronghold in the Dodecanese Islands. After frantic preparation and having loaded the first wave of ships, the Division's participation was canceled when the Italian government surrendered and it was redirected to Italy which the German army had continued to occupy.


On 24th September 1943 the Division landed in Taranto (Italy), to take its part in the Italian Campaign, and for 19 months was almost continuously in action advancing through mountainous country, crossing river after river.

From October 1943 to April 1944 the Division was part of the Allied thrust by British 8th Army up the Adriatic front on the Eastern side of Italy. This involved opposed river crossings of the Biferno, Trigno (October 1943), Sangro (November 1943) and Moro (December 1943). The following three months proved almost as arduous for, although there was no formal offensive, the period was characterised by patrolling and vicious skirmishes in very difficult terrain and abominable winter weather which proved physically hugely demanding and stressful.


When the spring came the Division was switched (along with the bulk of 8th Army) 60 miles west across the Apennine mountains to concentrate as part of British XIII Corps along the River Garigliano at a part of the river better known as the Rapido. Their heavily opposed night crossing of the Rapido in May 1944, supported by Canadian tanks (1st Canadian Armoured Brigade) with which the Division had formed a particularly close fighting relationship over the previous six months, was critical to the Allies' success in this fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino. Following this, the Division advanced some 240 miles in June across mountainous country fighting many actions against rearguards and defended strongpoints. In late June they had reached Assisi and the Division was rested. It was during the fighting on the Rapido that Kamal Ram of the 3/8th Punjab Regiment won his Victoria Cross, at 19 years of age, the youngest recipient of the war.

Florence and the Gothic Line

By the end of July 1944 the Division was back in the line with 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade in front of Florence pushing towards the River Arno. Florence was occupied by 21 Brigade on 12 August where they had the unusual task to recover some of the world's greatest art treasures and arrange safe custody. By mid September the Division was in the mountains again, breaking through the Gothic Line and then spending two months of grim (and ultimately unsuccessful) battling in foul weather towards the plains of Northern Italy together with British 1st Infantry, Brititish 78th Infantry and British 6th Armoured Divisions forming British XIII Corps, which had now become the right wing of the U.S. 5th Army. It was during this time that Thaman Gurung of the 1/5 Royal Gurkha Rifles won his Victoria Cross.

In December 1944 the New Zealand 2nd Division, advancing from the Adriatic on the division's right along the Romagna plain, took Faenza and the resistance on the 8th Division's front weakened as the Germans withdrew to shorten their front. In late December 1944 19 and 21 Brigades were rapidly switched across the Apennines to reinforce the US 92nd Infantry Division on the 5th Army's left flank in front of Lucca. By the time they had arrived the Germans had broken through but decisive action by Maj-Gen Russell halted their advance and the situation was stabilised by the New Year. The Division then moved to Pisa for a period of rest.

pring offensive 1945

In mid-February 1945 the Division was back in the line on the Adriatic front, this time as part of 8th Army's V Corps, in front of the River Senio. The main assault on the Senio started on 9th April. In desperate fighting two members of the Division, Namdeo Jadav and Ali Haidar, won Victoria Crosses. By 11 April the Division reached and crossed the River Santerno breaking open a hole in the German line for the 78th Division and elements of British 56th Infantry Division to engage the enemy and defeat them in the Argenta Gap. This opened the way to Ferrara and the Po River and for 6th Armoured Division to pass through, veer left and race across country to link with the advancing U.S. 5th Army and complete the encirclement of the divisions of the German 10th and 14th Armies defending Bologna. In the aftermath of the Argenta fighting, the Division drove on rapidly through to Ferrara and across the Po and shortly therefter to their last river crossing of the war, the Adige.

The campaign ended on 2 May 1945. The 6th DCO Lancers marked the occasion with a special mission, sending an officer and nine men far up the road towards Austria and arranged the surrender of 11,000 men of their old enemy the German 1st Parachute Division.

Formation During World War II

General Officer Commanding:
*Major-General Charles Harvey (Oct 1940 - Dec 1942)
*Major-General Dudley Russell (Jan 1943 - Aug 1945)


*6th Duke of Connaught's Own Lancers (Watson's Horse) (Div Reconnaissance Reg)
*Royal ArtilleryCommanders divisional artillery:
*Brigadier R.V.M. Garry (Oct 1940 - Sep 1942)
*Brigadier M.W. Dewing (Sep 1942 - Sep 1944)
*Brigadier F.C. Bull (Sep 1944 - Jul 1945)
*Brigadier T.S. Dobree (Jul 1945 - Aug 1945)
**3, 52 & 53 Field Regts. RA
**26 Light Anti-Aircraft Regt RA
**4 Mahratta Anti-Tank Regt
*Indian Engineers: Sappers & Miners
**7, 66 69 Field Coys. King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners
**47 Field Park Coy. King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners
*8 Indian Div Signals
*5 Royal Battalion Machine Gun 5th Maharatta Regiment

17 Indian Infantry Brigade

*Brigadier J.G. Bruce (Nov 1940 - May 1941)
*Brigadier Douglas Gracey (May 1941 - Mar 1942)
*Brigadier F.A.M.B. Jenkins (Mar 1942 - Oct 1943)
*Brigadier H.L. Wyndham (Oct 1943 - Nov 1943)
*Brigadier J. Scott-Elliott (Nov 1943 - Jan 1944)
*Brigadier Charles Boucher (Feb 1944 - Jan 1945)
*Brigadier P.R. Macnamara (Jan 1945 - Aug 1945)
**1 Battalion Royal Fusiliers
**1 Battalion (Prince of Wales Own Sikhs) 12th Frontier Force Regt
**1 Battalion 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles
**1 Battalion Jaipur Infantry, Indian State Forces (Nov 1944 to Apr 1945)

18 Indian Infantry Brigade (up to June 1942)

*Brigadier Rupert Lochner (Oct 1940 - Aug 1942)
**2 Battalion 5th Essex Regiment (from Dec 1941)
**4 Battalion 11th Sikh Regiment (from Apr 1942)
**2 Battalion 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles
**1 Battalion 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (until Apr 1942)
**3 Battalion 10th Baluch Regiment (until Oct 1941)

19 Indian Infantry Brigade

*Brigadier C.W.W. Ford (Oct 1940 - Feb 1943)
*Brigadier T.S. Dobree (Feb 1943 - Jul 1945)
*Brigadier W. Sandison (Jul 1945 - Aug 1945)
**1/5 Battalion The Essex Regt (up to March 1944)
**1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (from Feb 1944)
**3 Battalion 8th Punjab Regt
**6 Royal Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles

21 Indian Infantry Brigade (from October 1942)

*Brigadier C.J. Weld (Sep 1940 - May 1942)
*Brigadier J.J. Purves (May 1942 - Mar 1943)
*Brigadier B.S. Mould (Mar 1943 - Aug 1945)
**5 Battalion The Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment (Nov 1942 to Jun 1945)
**1 Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry (from Nov 1942)
**3 Battalion 15th Punjab Regiment (from Apr 1943)
**1 Jaipur Infantry, State Forces (from Apr 1945)
**2 Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles (Jun 1942 to Jan 1943)

Support Units

*Royal Indian Army Service Corps
**8 Ind Div Troops Tpt Coy
**17, 19 & 21 Brigade Tpt Coys
**Div Supply Units
*Medical Services
**29, 31,& 33 Indian Field Ambulances

*8 Indian Div Provost Unit
*Indian Army Ordnance Corps
**8 Indian Div Ordnance FD Park

*Indian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers
**120,121 & 122 Infantry Workshop Coys
**8 Indian Div Recovery Coy

Post World War II

Re-raised in 1962, the Division differs from more conventional infantry divisions in the emphasis that is placed on infantry tactics and the limited role that armour can be expected to take in operations. The armour that is used may differ from that used by other infantry divisions, for example, specialised mountain guns are required in many areas where the Division might be expected to operate.

The Division was initially created for operations against insurgents fighting for a separate state of Nagaland. In the mid-1990s, the formation was moved to the Kashmir valley in response to conflict there.

During the early summer of 1999, the Division was moved north to the Kargil District to augment the beleaguered 3rd Division, which was based in Leh, during Operation Vijay II. It is now permanently based in that sector as part of XIV Corps.

The Division has been constantly involved in operations since its creation.


During World War II the insignia of the Division was a yellow four-leafed clover (some versions appear as three-leafed -see images) flanked on each side by a yellow three-leafed clover, their stalks forming a "V", all on a red background. The Division and its members were thus referred to as "clovers".

During the period the Scotsmen of the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders served in the division, its Jock soldiers fondly referred to the division insignia as "the three wee floo'ers" (the three little flowers).

In its second incarnation the formation sign of the Division depicts a red dagger superimposed on two overlapping gold circles on a black background.


*cite book| first=Brigadier W.E.H.| last=Condon| title=The Frontier Force Regiment| location=Aldershot| publisher=Gale & Polden| date=1962


ee also

Operation Sabine (1941)

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