AoS Markings – Infantry Formations

Infantry Divisions – Europe

Showing snapshots of the standard organisation and markings of an Infantry Division in the UK and Europe in 1940, 1941-42, and 1944.

Arm of Service colours and numbers are correct to the best of my knowledge.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Infantry Divisions – Middle East

Showing snapshots of the standard organisation and markings of an Infantry Division in the Middle East and North Africa in early and late 1941.

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. As such, a definitive picture is very difficult to pin down.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Other Divisions – Middle East

Showing two forms of experimental division used in the Middle East in 1942-43.

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.

The diagram below shows such a reorganisation applied to an Infantry division. Similar amendments were made to Armoured divisions around the same time, and this will eventually be describe on the appropriate page.

Click image to enlarge

This new form of division did not last long, and most divisions reverted back to standard organisation in late 1942.

Some Infantry divisions, however, were reorganised as “Mixed” divisions, in which one infantry brigade was replaced by a Tank brigade.

The serials shown in the diagram below are from a War Office document from October 1942, but it is unclear as to whether any Infantry divisions in North Africa were actually reorganised as “Mixed” divisions at this time. Only a handful of divisions were thus reorganised at all, with most serving in the UK.

As far as I can tell, only one division took the “Mixed” organisation overseas – the 4th Infantry Division as part of the First Army in Tunisia in early 1943. Most First Army formations appear to have used the UK system of AoS serials, so the serials shown below may not apply to the 4th Infantry Division in any case.

The “Mixed” division concept was abandoned in late 1943, with all “Mixed” Infantry Divisions reverting to the standard three-brigade organisation.

Click image to enlarge

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.


Sources:

  • Taylor, D (2011) Warpaint: Colours and Markings of British Army Vehicles 1903-2003 – Vol. 3
  • Foulkes, A (2011) Vehicle Markings of the B.E.F
  • Hodges, P & Taylor, M (1994) British Military Markings 1939-45 Second Edition
  • Bellis, M (1992) 21st Army Group Organisation & Markings
  • Zaloga, S (1991) Blitzkrieg Armour Camouflage and Markings 1939-40
  • Bellis, M (1986) Divisions of the British Army 1939-45
  • Wise, T (1973) Military Vehicle Markings – Part 2
  • Hodges, P (1971) British Military Markings 1939-45
  • “Unit Signs – Infantry Divisions” – CanadianSoldiers.com

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SquireBev – 2021