The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, which fought briefly in the Battle of France during the Second World War. In March 1939, following the re-emergence of Germany and its subsequent occupation of Czechoslovakia, the British army increased the number of divisions within the Territorial Army by duplicating existing units. The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was formed in October 1939, as a second-line duplicate of the 50th (Northumbrian) Motor Division. It was made up of two brigades, unlike regular infantry divisions that were composed of three, with the battalions hailing from the north of England.

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  • The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, which fought briefly in the Battle of France during the Second World War. In March 1939, following the re-emergence of Germany and its subsequent occupation of Czechoslovakia, the British army increased the number of divisions within the Territorial Army by duplicating existing units. The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was formed in October 1939, as a second-line duplicate of the 50th (Northumbrian) Motor Division. It was made up of two brigades, unlike regular infantry divisions that were composed of three, with the battalions hailing from the north of England. It was intended that the division would remain in the United Kingdom to complete training and preparation, before being deployed to France within twelve months of the war breaking out. The division spent little time training and its soldiers were dispersed and used to guard strategically important and vulnerable locations across North East England. Guard duty and little preparation for war was seen as a hindrance to good morale. In France, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was suffering from a manpower shortage among rear line units. To boost morale, provide additional labour and guards for the rear echelon of the BEF and score political points with the French Government and military, the division was sent to France in April 1940, leaving behind most of its administration and logistical units as well as heavy weapons and artillery. The men were assigned to aid in the construction and guarding of airfields. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff Edmund Ironside secured a promise from the BEF that the division would not be used in action due to it being untrained and incomplete. When Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands, the BEF and French armies moved to meet the German attack, leaving behind the 23rd Division to continue guarding airfields. The main German attack came through the Ardennes and moved to surround the British and French forces in northern France. With no other reserves, the 23rd Division was ordered to the front line to defend the Canal du Nord—the only river obstacle between the main German assault and the English Channel—and the only defensible position to stop the German attempt to encircle the BEF. By the time the division arrived at the canal, the Germans had already crossed south of their sector where French forces had yet to take up positions. Having destroyed the bridges in their area, the division was ordered to fall back to new positions to defend the town of Arras. Before the 70th Infantry Brigade could take up this new position, it was caught by advancing German armoured forces and overrun. The military situation further deteriorated, resulting in the decision to begin the Dunkirk evacuation. Elements of the division conducted delaying actions and rearguards around the perimeter, before being evacuated on 31 May 1940, having suffered heavy losses. In Britain, the division was disbanded and its units were transferred to other formations to bring them up to strength. (en)
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  • 1940-01-01 (xsd:date)
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  • ~6,000 deployed to France
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  • The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was an infantry division of the British Army, which fought briefly in the Battle of France during the Second World War. In March 1939, following the re-emergence of Germany and its subsequent occupation of Czechoslovakia, the British army increased the number of divisions within the Territorial Army by duplicating existing units. The 23rd (Northumbrian) Division was formed in October 1939, as a second-line duplicate of the 50th (Northumbrian) Motor Division. It was made up of two brigades, unlike regular infantry divisions that were composed of three, with the battalions hailing from the north of England. (en)
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  • 23rd (Northumbrian) Division (en)
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  • 23rd (Northumbrian) Division (en)
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