- 6th Armoured Division (United Kingdom)
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 6th Armoured Division
1940- 1945 1951- 1958
country= United Kingdom
British First Army British Eighth Army
Bou Arada Fondouk El Kourzia
Battle of Tunis
Arezzo Advance to Florence Gothic Line
notable_commanders= Maj. Gen. Sir John Crocker
The 6th Armoured Division was a
Second World War, British Armyformation, created on 12 September 1940The unit was initially supplied with the Matilda Tank and Valentine Tank, which were replaced by Crusader Tanks and then finally issued with the M4 ShermanTank. [cite web|url=http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/britishcavalry/17th21stlancers1923.htm| title=17th/21st Lancers| work=BritishEmpire.co.uk website] . It participated in the Operation Torchassault landings in Algeriaand Moroccoin November 1942 and saw its first action as part of the British V Corpsof the British First Armyin Tunisia. After Tunisia it participated in the Italian Campaign as part of the British Eighth Army, and ended the war in Austria, under the command of British V Corps.
Operation Torch (initially called Operation Gymnast) was the joint British-American invasion of
French North Africain World War IIduring the North African Campaign, started on the 8th November 1942.
The run for Tunis
November 22, the North African Agreementfinally placed Vichy FrenchNorth Africa on the allied side, allowing the Allied garrison troops to be sent forward to the front. By this time the Axis had been able to build up an entire Corps, and the Axis forces outnumbered their Allied counterparts in almost all ways.
The Allies had available only two brigade groups and some additional armour and artillery for an attack on Tunisia. Nevertheless, they believed if they moved quickly, before the newly arrived Axis forces were fully organised, they would still be able to capture Tunisia at relatively little cost.
The plan called for the Allies to advance along the two roads and take
Bizerteand Tunis. Once Bizerte was taken Torch would come to an end.Attacking in the north towards Bizerte would be British 36th Infantry Brigade, supported by "Hart Force", a small armoured group from 6th Armoured] , and to the south British 11th Infantry Brigadesupported on their left by " Blade Force", an armoured regimental group commanded by Colonel Richard Hull which included the tanks of 17th/21st Lancers, a U.S. light tank battalion plus motorised infantry, paratroops, artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and engineers. [Ford (1999), p.15] [Watson (2007), p.61] Both the Infantry Brigades were from the British 78th Infantry Divisionwhose commander, Major-General Vivyan Evelegh, was in overall command of the offensive. Evelegh was later to command 6th Armoured Division.
The operation narrowly failed with the modest attacking forces getting to within convert|10|mi|km of Tunis before the Axis troops which had mainly been flown in were able to organise their defenses and repel the Allied advance. By the end of 1942 a stalemate had set in as both sides built up their forces.
January 30, 1943, the German 21st Panzer Division(veterans of the Africa Corps) and three Italian divisions met elements of the French forces near Faïd, the main pass from the eastern arm of the mountains into the coastal plains. They over-ran them, surrounded two U.S. brigades near them. Several counterattacks were organized, including a number by the U.S. 1st Armored Division, but all of these were beaten off with ease. After three days the Allied forces had been forced to pull back and were withdrawn into the interior to make a new forward defensive line at the small town of Sbeitla.
The Germans and Italians started forward once again the following week to take Sbeitla. They were held up for two days, but eventually the defence started to collapse on the night of
February 16, 1943, and the town lay empty by midday on the 17th (see also the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid). This left the entirety of the interior plains in Axis hands, and the remaining Allied forces retreated further, back to the two passes on the western arm of the mountains into Algeria, at Sbiba and Kasserine.
Their offensive stopped even as the U.S. II Corps retreated in disarray. Eventually Rommel decided his next course of action was to simply take the U.S. supplies on the Algerian side of the western arm of the mountains. Although doing little for his own situation, it would seriously upset any possible US actions from that direction.
February 19, 1943, Rommel launched what would become the Battle of the Kasserine Pass. After two days of advances through the U.S. defences, the Afrika Korps and the Italians had suffered few casualties, while the U.S. forces lost 16,000 men and two-thirds of their tanks. During the battle the Italian 131st Centauro Armoured Divisioncaptured more than 3000 American soldiers. On the night of February 21, 1943, British troops, the 6th Armoured and 46th Infantry Divisions, arrived to bolster the U.S. defence, having been pulled from the British lines facing the Germans at Sbiba. Counter-attacks by Italian troops were also ordered both on the British and Americans. Two battalions of experienced Bersaglieri soldiers are recorded by the 23 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery as having made a daylight counterattack through the Ousseltia Plain, which was repelled. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/97/a4144097.shtml BBC Peoples War website] ] Nevertheless, the following day opened with yet another successful German counter-attack against the Americans until the arrival of four U.S. artillery battalions made offensive operations difficult.
Faced with stiffening defences and the news that the Eighth Army's had reached
Medenine, only a few kilometers from the Mareth Line, Rommel decided to call off the attack and withdraw on the night of the February 22, 1943to support the Mareth defences, hoping that the Kasserine attack had caused enough damage to deter any offensive action from the west in the immediate future. The Axis forces from Kasserine reached the Mareth the line on 25 February.
It was after the battle of Kasserine that the Division was reorganized and equipped with the
In March 1943 the division was assigned to the recently arrived British IX Corps. The Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General
Brian Horrocks, was the spearhead of First Army's final assault in May 1943, breaking through to Tunis. The division went on to take the surrender of the famous German 90th Light Infantry Divisionand participated in the round up and capitulation of all Axis forces in North Africa in May 1943.
Italy was to prove a completely different from North Africa. No more mobile warfare in wide open spaces. The Division would spend much of its time supporting the Infantry as the Allies came across defensive line after defensive line.
The Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino) was a costly series of four battles.
In the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Gustav Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido, Liri and Garigliano valleys and certain surrounding peaks and ridges, but not the historic abbey of
Monte Cassino, founded in AD 524 by St. Benedict, although they manned defensive positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey walls. On February 15the monastery, high on a peak overlooking the town of Cassino, was destroyed by American B-17, B-25, and B-26 bombers. The bombing was based on the fear that the abbey was being used as a lookout post for the Axis defenders (this position evolved over time to admit that Axis military was not garrisoned there). Two days after the bombing, German paratroopers poured into the ruins to defend it. From January 17to May 18, the Gustav defenses were assaulted four times by Allied troops. These operations resulted in casualties of over 54,000 Allied and 20,000 German soldiers.
Operation Diadem was the final battle at Cassino the Division was a part of the British XIII Corps.The plan was that
U.S. II Corpson the left would attack up the coast along the line of Route 7 towards Rome. The French Corps to their right would attack from the bridgehead across the Garigliano originally created by X Corps in the first battle in January into the Aurunci Mountainswhich formed a barrier between the coastal plain and the Liri Valley. British XIII Corps in the centre right of the front would attack along the Liri valley whilst on the right 2nd Polish Corps , would attempt to isolate the monastery and push round behind it into the Liri valley to link with XIII Corps' thrust and pinch out the Cassino position. The division took part in the advance north through central Italy under command variously of XIII Corps and X Corps.
The next major engagements were along the
Gothic Linedefences. The Division was now part of XIII Corps which had been assigned to Fifth Army to form its right flank and fight in the high Apennine mountainsduring "Operation Olive" in August and September 1944.
The Gothic Line, also known as "Linea Gotica", formed
Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of World War IIalong the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of Nazi Germany's forces in Italy.
6th Armoured captured the San Godenzo Pass on Route 67 to Forlì on
September 18during these battles.
pring 1945 Offensive
In the fertile plains of Northern Italy the mountains gave way to ditches, canals and flood banks. As wet winter weather, which had turned the rivers into torrents and made the ground into quagmires, receded the Allied Fifth and Eighth Armies were able to launch their final offensive in Italy in March 1945. 6th Armoured Division had been reattached to Eighth Army as part of V Corps. On the right wing of the armies, V Corps attacked across the Senio river and then the Santerno river. Elements of 78th Infantry Division and 56th then drove on towards the town of Argenta where the dry land narrowed to a front of only convert|3|mi|km bounded on the right by Lake Comacchio, a huge lagoon running to the Adriatic coast, and on the left by marshland. By
April 19the Argenta Gap had been forced, and 6th Armoured , were released through the left wing of the advancing 78th Division, to swing left to race north west along the line of the river Reno to Bondeno and link up with units of the Fifth Army advancing north from west of Bologna to complete the encirclement of the German divisions defending Bologna. On all fronts the German defense continued to be determined and effective, but Bondeno was captured on April 23. 6th Armouredlinked with US IV Corp's 10th Mountain Divisionthe next day at Finale. US IV Corpshad broken through onto the plains on April 19, bypassing Bologna on their right. Bologna was entered by the Poles advancing up the line of Route 9 on April 21followed two hours later by US II Corpsfrom the south.
US IV Corps had continued their northwards advance and reached the river Po at
San Benedettoon April 22. The river was crossed the next day, and they advanced north to Veronawhich they entered on April 26. The British XIII Corpscrossed the Po at Ficaroloon April 22while further east V Corps were crossing the Po by April 25heading towards the Venetian Line, a defensive line built behind the line of the river Adige. British V Corps, met by lessening resistance, traversed the Venetian Line and entered Paduain the early hours of April 29to find that partisans had locked up the German garrison of 5,000. [Blaxland, p277] .
As April came to an end Army Group C, the Axis forces in Italy, retreating on all fronts and having lost most of its fighting powers, was left with little option but surrender.
General Heinrich von Vietinghoff, who had taken command of Army Group C , signed the instrument of surrender on behalf of the German armies in Italy on April 29formally bringing hostilities to an end on May 2, 1945.
The Division was reformed in May 1951 in the UK and later assigned to the
British Army of the Rhinein Germany. It consisted of the 20th Armoured Brigade and 61st Lorried Infantry Brigade. It was disbanded in June 1958.
General Officer Commanding
27 September 1940– 9 January 1941—Maj.Gen. Sir John Crocker
9 January 1941– 22 February 1941—Brig. E.D. Fanshawe
22 February 1941– 15 October 1941—Maj.Gen. Sir John Crocker
15 October 1941– 29 October 1941—Maj.Gen. Herbert Lumsden
29 October 1941– 19 May 1942—Maj.Gen. C.H. Gairdner
19 May 1942– 19 December 1943—Maj.Gen. C.F. Keightley
19 December 1943– 15 February 1944—Maj.Gen. V. Eveleigh
15 February 1944– 19 March 1944—Brig. W.E.G. Hemming
19 March 1944– 24 July 1944—Maj.Gen. V. Eveleigh
24 July 1944– 5 August 1944—Maj.Gen. Gerald Templer
5 August 1944– 13 August 1944—Brig. C.A.M.D. Scott
13 August 1944– 21 August 1944—Brig. F.N. Mitchell
21 August 1944– 27 July 1945—Maj.Gen. H. Murray
27 July 1945– 31 August 1945—Brig. A.C. Gore
=20th Armoured Brigade (1940-42)=
Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
*2nd Northanmptonshire Yeomanry
*2nd (Rangers) , Kings Royal Rifle Corps (until March 1941)
*10th Battalion ,
Kings Royal Rifle Corps(from March 1941)
=26th Armoured Brigade (1940-45)=
Lothian and Border Horse
The Rifle Brigade
=6th Support Group (1940-42)=
Royal Horse Artillery
*72nd Anti-Tank Regiment,
*51st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment ,Royal Artillery
Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade(1942-43)
London Irish Rifles
Royal Irish Fusiliers
Inniskilling Fusiliers 1st Infantry Brigade (Guards)(1943-44)
Welsh Guards 61st Infantry Brigade(1944-45)
*7th Battalion Rifle Brigade
*10th Battalion Rifle Brigade
*5th Field Squadron ,
*8th Field Squadron , Royal Engineers
*625th Field Squadron , Royal Engineers
*144th Field Park Squadron , Royal Engineers
*6th Bridging Troop , Royal Engineers
*6th Armoured Division Signal Regiment
*12th (HAC Regiment , Royal Horse Artillery
The Ayrshire Yeomanry) ,Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
*72nd Anti-Tank Regiment , Royal Artillery
*51st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment , Royal Artillery
These Brigades were at times attached
British 36th Infantry Brigade
*201 Guards Motor Brigade
British 24th Infantry Brigade (Guards)
Indian 21st Infantry Brigade
*Formed 12 September 1940 in the U.K.
*North Africa from November 1942 until March 1944
*Italy from March 1944 until May 1945
*Austria May 1945
18 January– 25 January 1943—Bou Arada
7 April– 11 April 1943—Fondouk
22 April– 26 April 1943—El Kourzia
5 May– 12 May 1943—Battle of Tunis
18 May– 20 May 1944—Liri Valley
4 July– 17 July 1944—Arezzo
17 July– 10 August 1944—Advance to Florence
25 August– 22 September 1944— Gothic Line
13 April– 21 April 1945—Argenta Gap.
*cite book | title = Battleaxe Division | first=Ken |last=Ford |year=1999|publisher=Sutton Publishing| location=Stroud (UK)| isbn= 0-7509-1893-4
*cite book| last=Watson| first=Bruce Allen|title=Exit Rommel: The Tunisian Campaign, 1942-43| location=Mechanicsburg, PA| publisher=Stackpole Books| year=2007| origdate=1999| isbn=978-0-8117-3381-6| series=Stackpole Military History Series
*oob unit | id = 1472 | name = 6 Armoured Division
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