37th Division (United Kingdom)
Formation sign of the 37th Division.
|Active||March 1915 – March 1919|
|Engagements||World War I|
|Count Edward Gleichen|
Formed as part of the New Army, the division was established at Andover, Hampshire as the 44th Infantry Division in March 1915. The division was created as a potential replacement for the 16th (Irish) Division as there were doubts, misplaced as it turned out, as to whether sufficient volunteers would be forthcoming in Ireland to complete the 16th Division.
As a result of its early origins, using unallocated battalions from the first three waves of New Army battalions, although the division, renumbered 37th in May 1915, formed part of the sixth and final group of New Army divisions, it was well provided with trained officers and NCOs by New Army standards. The divisional commander was the experienced Major-General Count Edward Gleichen, who had commanded the 15th Brigade in the regular 5th Division in 1914. The division's three infantry brigades were the 110th, composed of four battalions of the Leicestershire Regiment, the 111th, two battalions of the Royal Fusiliers and one each from the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the Rifle Brigade, and the 112th, one battalion each from the Warwick, Bedford, East Lancashire and North Lancashire Regiments. The North Staffordshire Regiment provided the divisional pioneer battalion. The divisional artillery had been raised for the original 31st and 32nd Divisions, which were broken up before being completed.
The division's unusual composition—the majority of higher-numbered New Army divisions were created from weakly officered Pals battalions and lacked any cadre of experienced soldiers—meant that its training at Cholderton in Hampshire proceeded rapidly, and the 37th Division moved to Saint-Omer in France in July 1915, months earlier than other divisions of the fourth and fifth New Armies. The division was to remain on the Western Front for the rest of the war.
The 37th Division, forming part of VII Corps of the Third Army, played no part in the diversionary Attack on the Gommecourt Salient staged by VII Corps on 1 July 1916, during the first day on the Somme (1 July 1916) which began the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November). The perceived poor performance of some New Army divisions in the fighting and the many losses suffered by the 34th Division, led to changes in the organisation of the 37th Division in the first half of July. The 110th Brigade was posted to the 21st Division and the 63rd Brigade received in return. The 111th and 112th Brigades were loaned to the 34th Division from 6 July to 22 August, to replace the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) and 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigades. While under command of the 34th Division, the brigades took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge and the Battle of Pozières.
The division took part in the Battle of the Ancre, the final stage of the Battle of the Somme, under the command of V Corps in the Fifth Army in November 1916. By this time Count Gleichen had left the division and his replacement, Major-General Scrase-Dickens, had fallen sick. Major-General Bruce-Williams had taken over and commanded the division for the rest of the war; the 37th Division brigades once again saw action under the command of other divisions.
The division participated in the first three phases of the 1917 Battle of Arras, capturing the village of Monchy-le-Preux during the First Battle of the Scarpe; a monument to the division stands at Monchy. The 37th Division fought in the Third Battle of Ypres, under the command of IX Corps of the Second Army, taking part in the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, Battle of Polygon Wood, Battle of Broodseinde, Battle of Poelcappelle, the First Battle of Passchendaele and the Second Battle of Passchendaele from September to November 1917.
The division took little part in the fighting begun by the German Spring Offensive in March 1918, but did take part in the first counter-offensive, the April 1918 Battle of the Ancre, which included the world's first tank versus tank combat at Villers-Bretonneux. At this time the division was under the command of Third Army's IV Corps, and remained part of this formation for the rest of the war. The division took part in the Hundred Days Offensive, fighting in the Battle of Amiens, the 1918 Second Battle of the Somme, the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, the Battle of the Selle and the Battle of the Sambre. The war came to an end on 11 November 1918.
Demobilization began on Boxing Day 1918 and the division had ceased to exist by March 1919. During its active service on the Western Front the division had suffered some 29,969 casualties, killed, wounded and missing.
General officer commanding
- Major-General A. Edward W. Count Gleichen (March 1915 – November 1916)
- Major-General Hugh Bruce-Williams (November 1916 – March 1919)
- Chappell p. 20
- Chappell, Mike (1986). British Battle Insignia (1). 1914-18. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9780850457278.
- James, E. A. (1990) . A Record of the Battles and Engagements of the British Armies in France and Flanders 1914–1918 (London Stamp Exchange ed.). Aldershot: Gale & Polden. ISBN 0-948130-18-0.
- Middlebrook, Martin (2000) Your Country Needs You. Barnsley: Leo Cooper.