Armoured Division – Europe
Showing snapshots of the standard organisation and markings of a typical Armoured Division in the UK and Europe in 1940, 1941-42, and 1944.
Armoured Divisions – Middle East
Showing snapshots of the standard organisation and markings of a typical Armoured Division in the Middle East and North Africa in 1940, early 1941, late 1941, and 1942.
Arm of Service colours and numbers are correct to the best of my knowledge, but the situation in North Africa was extremely fluid, with division composition and organisation subject to frequent changes. Armoured forces in particular often operated as independent brigades or brigade groups rather than as complete divisions.
As such, a definitive picture is very difficult to pin down.
In 1940 the only British armoured division active in North Africa was the nascent 7th Armoured Division, until recently simply named “The Armoured Division (Egypt)”. Very little record survives of the division’s serial numbers at this time, hence the many gaps in the diagram below.
In early 1941, the 7th Armoured Division was joined in North Africa by the 2nd Armoured Division, which appears to have sailed from the UK wearing the “standard” UK/Europe serial numbers. Although these serials came from a War Office instruction, It is unclear whether or not the 7th Armoured Division adopted the same serials, or continued to follow their own system.
In late 1941 further instructions were issued regarding vehicle serial numbers – this time from GHQ Middle East rather than from the War Office. As can be seen from comparison with the Europe diagrams above, Middle East practice continued to differ quite considerably.
As previously mentioned, division composition in North Africa changed frequently, both to reflect the conditions of fighting in the desert, and to trial new, experimental formations in the field.
Divisions frequently operated as semi-independent brigades or brigade groups rather than as complete divisions, and in early 1942 an attempt was made to make this arrangement official, and several divisions were reorganised along Brigade Group lines.
Unfortunately I am as yet unable to locate a list of serials for an Armoured Division organised along these lines, and so cannot provide a diagram.
The brigade group experiment didn’t last long in any case, and by late 1942 most armoured divisions has adopted a new organisation, with one armoured brigade and one lorried infantry brigade, as shown below.
First Army formations fighting in French North Africa and Tunisia mainly used the “standard” UK/Europe serial numbers.
With the surrender of Axis forces in May 1943 the First Army was disbanded and its units absorbed by the Eighth Army. Eight Army units then began to standardise their markings in preparation for the invasion of Sicily and Italy, officially adopting the UK system across the board in December 1943.
Further diagrams will follow with a more detailed exploration of markings in the Italian campaign.
Independent Armoured Brigades
Showing composition and markings of independent armoured and tank brigades and Italy and North-West Europe in 1944.
Arm of Service colours and numbers are correct to the best of my knowledge but should only be assumed to reflect a snapshot. Some independent brigades were subject to frequent changes of composition, and therefore also of seniority and markings. This is partially reflected in the current timeline diagram, and will be properly expanded upon as work progresses.
79th Armoured Division – 1944
The 79th Armoured Division was not organised as a standard armoured division, nor did it operate as a cohesive formation. The division was instead used for the development and deployment of specialist armoured vehicles, with it units being attached to other formations as and when required.
The two diagrams below show snapshops of the composition and markings of the division in June and November 1944. A more comprehensive picture of the changes to the division’s composition can be found on the Timelines page.
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- “British Tank Markings in Normandy” – FlamesofWar.com
- “Churchill Tanks in Normandy” – FlamesofWar.com
- “British, Commonwealth and Polish tank formations in Italy 1944 and their Markings” – FlamesofWar.com
- “Unit Signs – Armoured Divisions” – CanadianSoldiers.com
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SquireBev – 2021