This website was setup and funded by The 51st Highland Division and Ross Bequest Trust, a charity registered in Scotland (Charity No: SCO02288).
The charity was established post World War 2 and has at its heart the aim of preserving the memory of Scotland's most famous fighting Division. Sadly, most of the Division's veterans are no longer with us and so the Trustees felt that an online museum that traced the history of the Division from its formation during the Great War (1914 -18) through to World War 2 would be a fitting way to perpetuate their memory.
If you would like to help support this project we have created a fundraising page on BT's charity platform on which you can make online donations which go directly to the charity with 0% going to BT. It is a great way to help secure the continued future of the project and all donations big or small are most gratefully appreciated.
During the First World War the Highland Division became renowned for their bravery and ability in combat.
They served in France in the B.E.F. in 1915 and achieved a great deal in the Battle of the Somme, at Beaumont Hamel, Arras, the 3rd Battle of Ypres, Cambrai and the Aubers Ridge before the final costly actions at the close of the WWI.
In 1938 the decision was taken to double the strength of Territorial Army. This required the raising of a "mirror" divisions which, in the case of the 51st (Highland) Division was 9th (Highland) Division.
In late 1939 the TA was "called out"; that is notice was sent out to all reservists mobilising them. On the 1 September the regiments of the 51 Highland Division were mobilized.
The 51st Highland Division landed in Le Havre in January 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force [B.E.F.] On 28th March they were deployed into the defensive line relieving the French 21st Division between Bailleul and Armentiéres. This was part of a rotation to familiarise the British brigades but in April it was decided that the Division would take over a sector on the Saar front in the area of Hombourg-Budange.
A decision had been made to strengthen the territorial divisions with regular battalions and 1st Gordons, 1st Black Watch and 2nd Seaforths replaced the 6th Battalions of the Black Watch, Gordons and Seaforths.
Within hours of the dispatch of Ark Force, reports early on 10th June of the German advance made it apparent that the remainder of the Division was being cut off and the opportunity to evacuate through Le Havre was increasingly unlikely.
General Fortune decided to evacuate through St.Valéry-en-Caux. This news reached the Navy at 0400 hours on 10th June and preparation began.
St.Valéry-en-Caux was a small and far from ideal port for such an operation but there was no alterative.
A box was drawn around the town with the 2nd Seaforths, 1st Gordons and 4th Camerons on the west side and 4th Seaforths, 5th Gordons and 1st Black Watch on the east side. The French were due to take up the bottom or south side of the box but until they arrived the Lothian's, Norfolk's and the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers (Pioneers) would cover the gap. The Division was in position early on the 11th June but the perimeter was never fully established.
In late August 1942 the Division took up positions to defend the western approaches to Cairo... At this time the enemy were no more than 50 miles west in the area of El Alamein and to its south.
They did not have long to wait - Rommel commenced his attack on the night of 30th August. The 8th Army weathered the storm and by 7th September the Battle for Alam Halfa, Rommel's main objective, was over. The initiative, and the decision when and how to counter attack, was with Montgomery.
As the North Africa campaign was coming to an end the location for further operations remained a closely guarded secret. Winston Churchill and the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with their senior military advisers to devise a military strategy for the coming year.
After several days of negotiations, they agreed to make Sicily their next target...
The 7th Argylls lead the way, landing on the beach at the southeast tip of the island near Pachino at 0245 hrs on 10 July.
April 1944 transferred from 30th Corps to 1st Corps and commenced training for the invasion of main land Europe - Operation Overlord.
The 51st Highland Division landing at Normandy in June 1944 took place to the west of the Ornnemouth. The operations in the following weeks were some of the worst the Division had experienced.
For Operation Totalise the 51st Highland Division was placed under command of the Canadian Corps and on 6th August moved forward to begin the operation.
The attack began on the night of the 7th August with an large bomber attack. At 0230 hrs 154 Brigade advanced in two columns with over 350 armoured tracked vehicles.
152 Brigade cleared the enemy that had been bypassed and met stiff resistance in Tilly...
With the "Breakout" battle complete the 51st Highland Division advance continued. From Lisieux they advanced East crossing the Seine dealing with the enemy rear guard.
The intention was to isolate the port of Le Havre. It was also Montgomery's wish that the Division should recapture St Valéry...
In late September the 51st Highland Division moved east through France and into Belgium.
The next phase of the campaign was to establish Antwerp as an operating port and clear the Germans south of the River Mass. Operations Colin, Ascot and Noah would push the division on in to Holland and on to the Ardennes...
On 16 December 1944 Hitler launched an offensive through the Ardennes aimed at driving a wedge between the allies, securing Antwerp and the important fuel supplies, cutting off the forces in the north and reversing the tide of the war in Germany's favour.
The attack came as a complete surprise to the Allies and became know as the Battle of the Bulge...
After the defeat of the German Ardennes offensive the 51st Highland Division returned to Holland to recommence offensive operations.
Operation Veritable was the code name for the operation which would clear the Germans from the ground between the parallel rivers of the Maas and the Rhine and drive them back over the latter...
The Operation to cross the Rhine was to be called Operation Plunder.
The time taken to cross the River was little more than two and a half minutes but it seemed longer to the exposed troops. Never the less the lead battalions of 154 Brigade crossed with few casualties and secured their initial objectives but their third battalion, 1 Black Watch, met very stiff resistance but by dawn had advanced to Speldrop
Orders were received on the 3rd April for the 51st Highland Division to concentrate at Enschede with the intention of clear the enemy out of North East Holland to the sea.
Germany was now collapsing, however, there was also sporadic and determined resistance along the route...
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Every photograph on the site has 'supporting information' included on the page, which you can view by clicking on the 'i' icon below each photo. You can also 'launch' larger versions of each photograph by clicking the image itself or by clicking on the icon of the magnifying glass below the photo. If a high resolution image is available we'll include a link to it within the 'supporting information'.
Within the history section, we've tried to clearly highlight the various sections of the history that have more information for you to click through to by display '[Chapter]' or '[Account]' indicators next to links into other sections of the site.
We've made it easier for those of you who are interested in reading through the history of the 51st Highland Division in a chronological thread by including dates in page titles and menu links and by adding 'previous' and 'next' links at the bottom of the page (which also list their corresponding page titles). This should hopefully help those of you who would like to read through the history section from start to finish.
We've gone to great lengths to make the information held within the various sections of our site more accessible to visitors. We're currently in the process of painstakingly re-indexing ALL of the content, including the Divisional History pages, Personal Accounts, Extracts and Photographs, to allow us to more easily link related content via a new 'Content Tag' system.
This should now allow visitors to simply and easily follow threads of content relating to keywords that particularly interest them, such as viewing all content relating to the 'Seaforth Highlanders' or 'North Africa' for example.
We have a new interactive map tool that allows you to find history/extracts/photos according to where they relate too. Clicking on a pin shows its title and description along with a link to the related content. You can also choice to view all pins, just those from WWI or just those from WWII...
We hope you like the site and enjoy finding out more about the history of the 51st Highland Division.
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