Dorset County Division

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Dorset County Division
Dorset County Division Insignia.svg
The shoulder insignia of the division
Active24 February 1941 –31 December 1941
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
TypeStatic Infantry
RoleHome defence
Size10,000 men

The Dorset County Division was formed on 24 February 1941. However it did not take over operational commitments from Southern Area until March 10 and it did not finally assume command of its allocated infantry brigades until 24 April. It only had a short existence, being reduced to an administrative headquarters on 24 November at midday. The whole headquarters was disbanded on 31 December.

Divisional history[edit]


In 1940, following the Second World War's Battle of France, the United Kingdom was under threat of invasion from Nazi Germany.[1] During the summer, the Battle of Britain dampened this threat.[1] As the year progressed, the size of the British Army increased dramatically as 140 new infantry battalions were raised.[2] During October, with the possibility of a German invasion during 1941, these new battalions were formed into independent infantry brigades that were then assigned to newly created County Divisions (a total of nine such formations were raised).[2][3]

The County Divisions, including the Dorset County Division, were around 10,000 men strong and assigned to defend the coastlines of threatened sections of the country, including the manning of coastal artillery.[2][4][5] These divisions were largely static, lacking mobility as well as divisional assets such as artillery, engineers, and reconnaissance forces.[5] Using the recruits in this manner allowed the regular infantry divisions to be freed up from such duties, undertake training, and form an all-important reserve that could be used to counterattack any possible German landing.[6]


The division was formed on 24 February 1941, however it did not take command of any troops until 24 April. Major-General G. I. Gartlan was given command of the division, and it comprised the 210th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) and 226th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home).[7] The Imperial War Museum comments that the division insignia was "adapted from the arms of Dorchester and the County Council."[8]

The division was assigned to V Corps, and spread out across the western coast of Dorset. Across the county line to the west was the Devon and Cornwall County Division, and likewise to the east was the Hampshire County Division. In reserve, held back from the beaches as a counterattack force, was the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division to the northwest between the Dorset and the Devon and Cornwall divisions, and the 3rd Infantry Division to the northeast between the Dorset and Hampshire divisions.[9][10]


On 22 June 1941, Germany launched a massive attack upon the Soviet Union; this attack all but removed the threat of a German invasion of the United Kingdom. However, the British still had to consider the threat of a German invasion due the possibility that the Soviet Union could collapse under the German onslaught and the ease in which Germany could transfer troops back to the west. In late 1941, the arrival of autumn and winter weather meant that the threat of invasion subsided. This, coupled with the production of new equipment for the British army, allowed the War Office to begin steps to better balance the army due to the large number of infantry units formed during the preceding year and a half.[11][12] As part of this reform, the County Divisions were disbanded. The 140 recently raised battalions were, on the whole, transferred to other arms of the British Army to be retrained, primarily within the Royal Artillery or the Royal Armoured Corps.[11][13][a]

General officer commanding[edit]

Commanders included:

Appointed General officer commanding
24 February 1941 Major-General G. I. Gartlan[9]

Order of battle[edit]



  1. ^ The large intake of men into the army had considerably increased the infantry arm. The reforms intended to address this, with many of the newly raised battalions being "converted to other arms, particularly artillery and armour".[13] In addition to this, historian F.W. Perry comments, there was considerable pressure "to increase the armoured component [of the army] and build up raiding and special forces". These pressures, and the re-balancing of the military, resulted in seven of the nine County Divisions being disbanded and only two being reformed as infantry divisions[12]


  1. ^ a b Fraser 1999, p. 83.
  2. ^ a b c Perry 1988, p. 53.
  3. ^ Forty 2013, County Divisions.
  4. ^ Churchill & Gilbert 2001, p. 1321.
  5. ^ a b Joslen 2003, p. 108.
  6. ^ Messenger 1994, p. 61.
  7. ^ Joslen 2003, pp. 373, 389.
  8. ^ "Badge, formation, Dorset County Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  9. ^ a b Joslen 2003, p. 109.
  10. ^ Collier 1957, p. 229.
  11. ^ a b Goldstein & McKercher 2003, p. 274.
  12. ^ a b Perry 1988, p. 65.
  13. ^ a b Perry 1988, pp. 53–54.
  14. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 373.
  15. ^ Joslen 2003, p. 389.