50th Northumbrian Division Disbandment

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by grayden, Sep 1, 2014.

  1. grayden

    grayden Member

    Hi Guys,
    Looking for more help please. In December 1944 the 50th Northumbrian Division was disbanded and became an infantry training formation based in Yorkshire. Some men of high medical fitness were transferred to Rifle Company's as was my uncle to what his records show as '50th Division Rifle Coy' from the 5th Battalion Eat Yorks. He then went to Norway in September of 1945 as part of the 50th Rifle Company and I would like the War Diaries for his unit, trouble is I can't find any reference to the rifle company's mentioned. Does anyone know what they were and/or what division they came under?

    Many thanks (again)

    Graham
     
  2. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    My sources do not record the 50th Northumbrian Div. disbanding (I assume you have a typo '5th') in 1944 - simply that it returned to Britain. A number of British Infantry units were frankly worn out after Normandy. They were often removed or disbanded to preserve the reputation of the unit - mixing battle weary troops mixed with fresh replacements (officer's too) was not working and experience from the Med. theater showed misplaced unit loyalty could often impede HQ's requirements.

    The usual procedure was that appropriate troops would be transferred 'in theater' with more being promoted or transferred on return to the UK. The remaining parts of the, now under strength, division would then be farmed out piece meal to training establishments where their considerable experience could be passed on. Often these ad-hoc units would have soldiers from different regiments/sub-units in the division mixed up so had non-committal names for admin. purposes usually featuring a parent organisation reference.

    After the armistice 50 Div. was employed as part of the Norway Occupation force. As such I can envisage it travelling light - without support platoons or echelon, leaving the Rifle Companies to do the work.

    I must stress this is all guesswork based on experience of other units. You would need war diaries from the time to confirm it. 5 East Yorks would be a good starting point.

    Keith
     
  3. smdarby

    smdarby Well-Known Member

    From "Monty's Men" (p.252), talking about Montgomery's concerns over manpower: "He had already accepted the effective disbandment of another infantry division (50th) in order to provide replacements".
     
  4. grayden

    grayden Member

    Sorry about the typo it was of course the 50th Northumbrian.

    In December 1944 they were returned to England as a training unit but some fitter men were absorbed into rifle companys my uncle being put in '50th Division Rifle Company' from the 5th East Yorks but I don't know what that company was. I have the War Diaries for the 5th East Yorks for all Jan to Dec 1945 which mention nothing about any rifle company embarking for Norway in September when Jims records show it. So I can only assume that he must have been elsewhere but I am at a loss to know where at the moment. Operation Doomsday involved the 1st Airborne supervising the surrender of German troops from May to August (assisted by Force 134 troops) when they returned to England. I assume when Jim went to Norway it was to perhaps take their place until December when he returned to England. If I could find out the name of the rifle company, battalion, or force I could search for the diaries I've tried various permutations on the advance search at the NRO but so far drawn a blank except for one called Disarmament Allied Land Forces Norway but it covers only Feb to July 1945.

    Grateful for any help.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  5. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I may have given the wrong tone to my post - the 50th Div as it was in Britain after December 1944 was still a proud force. It comprised men with considerable combat experience. The concern of the 'powers that be' was that there comes a point where experienced troops become a potential liability - either prepared to take un-necessary risks or be over cautious. The personal bonding and unit esprit de corps could also be a problem if replacements were not comfortable or soldiers felt they did not want to transfer. Film makers have covered these issues for years, with various lashings of ham or cheese, The British Army learnt from mistakes early in the war and took these issues seriously.

    The esprit de corps was essential to the training role with the 50th Division effectively functioning in the new role. The 50 Div. is listed as serving in Norway - not as part of Operation Doomsday however.

    Keith
     
  6. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    On 1stAugust 1945 50th Division troops ceased to come under their own Divisional command . The troops came under War Office Command and on their arrival in Norway 25th August 1945 ceased to be `50th Division ` and became `Headquarters British Land Forces Norway`. Perhaps the 50th Div Rifle Company was a title to identify their origin ?


    Kyle
     
  7. grayden

    grayden Member

    The tone was fine I'm grateful for your help. I agree Doomsday finished in August before the 50th went out there as Jims record shows him embarking for Norway 2 Sept. 1944. It's the 50th Division Rifle Company name that perplexes me, and who would be responsible for its war diaries?

    Graham
     
  8. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Headquarters British Land Forces Norway, but there`s no war diaries because there`s no war? Its now post war.Try looking for a battalion newsletter ;) ;) ;)
    Kyle




    Just an after thought but perhaps he left his parent unit to join one of the `Defence` Companies? Someone else was searching for their diaries without much success.
     
  9. grayden

    grayden Member

    Never thought of that Kyle, so with no hostilities there would be no war diaries. Thanks for the tip about newsletters, do you know if there is any other daily record or reports etc. kept by battalions during peacetime?

    Thanks again,

    Graham
     
  10. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    I would slightly challenge some assertions for the disbandment of 50th Division; other divisions in NWE could have been accused of "burn out" as well as and ahead of 50th. I will agree that it had a very bad disciplinary and morale record in Normandy (but so did 51st Highland and 15th Scottish) but this improved as the battle became fluid again (dipping in the poor combat conditions of The Island). Graham had a good staff; loss of some Brigadiers and COs was inevitable due to casualties and promotions. One suggestion put forward is that Monty did not hold the Division in high regard - despite praising it for its performance on DDay - and the feeling in the Division was mutual. Monty's subsequent criticism of the Division, and of Graham's command of it, despite his previously high regard for him - I think has an element of sour grapes about it.

    As to seeking records about operations in Norway in 1945, think laterally. There are records (in WO 219) but you'll need to trawl as they are not at battalion level.
     
    Steve Mac likes this.
  11. grayden

    grayden Member

    Many thanks for the suggestions there is a lot to go at in WO 219! Could be at the NA for some time! Lateral thinking may be the answer; newsletters, newspapers, books, local library micro fishe etc.

    Graham
     
  12. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Graham,

    I have done some more digging on this matter and although there is nothing conclusive about the 50th Division Rifle Company, hopefully what follows may assist in narrowing down the search.

    We know the 50th Division was returned to the UK as a Training Cadre in December 1944. Although the Division as a whole was removed from the order of battle, many of its personnel were drafted to other formations to make up some of the manpower shortages; which was a major problem in 21st Army Group.

    Some of the Divisional Troops/Units, e.g. Engineers, Artillery, RASC, Recce, stayed on in North West Europe as complete units, with some being permitted and continuing to wear the TT badge. I am compiling details of these occurences, units involved, etc.

    We also know that in August 1945 50th Division HQ ceased to command its formations and units when it moved, with some Divisional troops, to Norway as 'HQ British Land Forces Norway'.

    The 50th Division was only fully reformed when the TA was recreated in May 1947.

    So, I believe the answer lies in the statement '...it moved, with some Divisional troops, to Norway as 'HQ British Land Forces Norway'; who were the Divisional Troops - possibly the 50th Division Rifle Company was included?!? It may be worthwhile trying to find out the complete 'orbat' of 'HQ British Land Forces Norway' during this period. I haven't stumbled upon this yet!

    Swithching emphasis, I believe that it is not generally appreciated that 50 Div was the most battle hardened and experienced British Infantry Division at the time it was reduced to a Training Cadre, with Monty saying it had done enough - it had fought with the BEF, the Western Desert from very early 1942 in the Gazala line defences to Enfidaville (Tunisia) in April 1943 (including Gazala, the Gazala gallup, 2nd El Alamein, Mareth, Wadi Akarit), Sicily (assault Division), D-Day (assault Division), NW Europe all the way to the Island. It won three VC's in the Western Desert and the only VC awarded on D-Day. Even when reduced to a Training Cadre, the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry stayed on in NW Europe as motorised Infantry in 131st Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, and all the way through to VE Day.

    An example of this lack of appreciation was a book I read on holiday last week about the 8th Army (Western Desert) and specifically, Mareth. It stated that 50 Div was 'inexperienced'... it had earned two of its three Western Desert VC's by then and would win the third a few weeks later at Wadi Akarit. You've got to laugh at some of the dross that's written...

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  13. grayden

    grayden Member

    Hi Steve nice to hear from you.

    The whereabouts of the 50th Division Rifle has proved to be elusive but I agree with you that they were part of the HQ British Land Forces Norway and I would like to know what part they played in Norway. Jim was given a citation (as I guess all those that took part in the supervision of the German Disarmament) signed by King Olaf. I have found some war records at the NRO which I will investigate some time soon which may shed more light on it. The other area I need to investigate is General Demsey's 2nd Army HQ Defence Platoons based a Cruelly as he was attached there from July 1944. I have found some records at NRO which I will look at the same time.

    Yes there is some dross written I hope my book (if it gets published) will not fall into that category.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  14. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    I may be off to Kew in the next couple of weeks, looking at British Army files for Norway albeit the 1940 end. Not much of a stretch to look for 1945.
    No disagreement with the path of 50th - sone of its units like rifle bns. were dispersed in whole or part through 2nd Army - just as 59th Div had been in summer 44.
    As to "you have done enough" - I believe that is the public face of Monty's private criticism of the 50th and of Graham (unfairly) subsequently.
     
  15. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Steve Mac has it about right when he highlights the history of the 50th Division and it's various battles since before El Alamein-
    all through the desert - to Mareth then through Tunisia - to the landings at Sicily after which MONTY chose them along with XXX
    corps to lead the British Army into Normandy..and by December'44 they were spent and MONTY - again said that they had suffered
    enough - and sent them home and to parts of Norway…Steve can laugh at the dross written by people who don't know anything - ME - I
    get mad at this dross which I call ignorance which allows me the title of being hard of Authors etc - I fear that when the Vets
    including myself and people like Steve = who knows his stuff on the 50th Div are gone this forum will be a real botch up of Dross -
    and worse…

    Cheers
     
    Mr Jinks likes this.
  16. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Nice to hear from you too, Graham. Have you managed to read those 5th Bn East Yorks War Diaries yet? Happy to proofread your book when finished if you would like that sort of assistance...

    Nice to hear from you too, Tom and thanks for the kind words. There's only one way to keep the authors and us at WW2talk on their/our toes, Tom and that means you, Brian, Ron, Joe and all the other veterans, sticking around at least until the UK goverment have paid you all back what you paid/put into the system. Index linking should give you quite a few more years on top. I believe I once read that you believed that would take you through to 137 years of age or similar ?!?!?! :)

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  17. grayden

    grayden Member

    Well Steve I am pretty well near through them now up to October 1944 with a lot of the material written up . Been at it nearly three years now it is surprising how most of the time is spent researching and less time writing but as Barrie Barnes told me 'you can't rush a book'. If and when I get to the end I may take you up on your very kind offer! what started out as a family thing has grown into a saga but the bravery of all these men continues to humble me so I carry on. The most extraordinary thing is that my uncle like so many others never talked about their experiences probably because it was too painful.
    I need more stuff from the NRO now so a visit is being planned in the near future. If staffsyeoman finds any info on the 50th Div Rifle company it would be nice to know. The other aspect is the 2nd Army Defence Platoons from July 44 to Dec 44.

    Regards to all,

    Graham
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Steve
    It has been my intention for many years to live until I am 150 - as THAT is the only way we can be repaid for what we donated

    to the cause - as you see I am already at 90 so only 60 more to go…

    Cheers
     
  19. grayden

    grayden Member

    Well done Tom, I will look foward to the party! I will only be 137!

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  20. grayden

    grayden Member

    Hi Steve,
    The book is finally finished and I've sent you a PM!

    Reagards

    Graham
     

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