Notes on the Infantry Divisions of the BSF

The Order of Battle is not exhaustive and largely focuses on the combatant units, but each Infantry Division would also have had a Signal Company (RE), a Divisional Train (ASC transport), a Divisional Ammunition Column (RFA), Field Ambulances and a Sanitary Section (RAMC) and a Mobile Veterinary Section (AVC). The excellent The Long, Long Trail website provides plenty more detail.

Infantry Battalions

Photograph from 1915: British infantry on the march after landing at Salonika.
British infantry on the march after landing at Salonika (1915). From the part work, ‘The Great War’ Volume V, Chapter LXXXIV, p.25.

The infantry of the British Salonika Force came from the infantry of the line – county regiments, light infantry and fusiliers, so no Guards, just ‘The Feet’ – from all corners of the UK. They were a mixture of:

  • Regular – 1st, 2nd and the few 3rd and 4th battalions
  • Territorial Force – indicated by TF
  • New Army (Service) battalions.

The regimental titles given are those current in 1914.

Machine Guns and Light Trench Mortars

Infantry Battalions originally had four Vickers guns, these were exchanged for Lewis guns in July 1916. The scale of issue increased steadily until by September 1918 it was officially 32 per battalion, although a number of units still only had twenty. The low rifle strengths would have made it difficult to man even the lower scale effectively and provide enough bayonets.

Each Infantry Brigade of 10th, 22nd, 26th, 27th and 28th Divisions received a Machine Gun Company from the UK in July 1916 and a Light Trench Mortar Battery formed in the theatre between July and November 1916, both identified by brigade number (some batteries originally with local numbers). 60th Division arrived with theirs complete.

228th Brigade’s company and battery were formed in September 1917, the company being renumbered 277th on 20-Nov-17. Machine Gun Companies ultimately had 24 Vickers guns and Light Trench Mortar Batteries eight 3” Stokes mortars. Machine Gun Battalions were authorised but not formed in the theatre.

Divisional Cyclist Companies

The 10th, 22nd, 26th, 27th and 28th Divisions had Cyclist Companies with the divisional number which were consolidated into XII (22nd & 26th) and XVI (10th, 27th and 28th) Corps Cyclist Battalions in December 1916. The 60th Division had left its company in France.

Divisional Artillery

Originally the Royal Field Artillery of 10th, 22nd, 26th, 27th and 28th Divisions was organised with three brigades of three batteries of four (10th, 22nd and 26th) or six (27th and 28th) 18pdr guns and the fourth with three (CXXIX/27th and CXXX/28th) or four (LVII/10th, CI/22nd and CXVII/26th) batteries of four 4.5” howitzers. The batteries were lettered A to C or D with the following exceptions:-

27th Division

  • I Brigade: 11, 98 (battery broken up on 28-Dec-16), 132 (renumbered 98 on 28-Dec-16), 133 (to CXXIX Brigade 25-Jul-16).
  • XIX Brigade: 39, 95 (to CXXIX Brigade 25-Jul-16), 96, 131.
  • XX Brigade: 67, 99, 148 (battery broken up 27-Dec-16), 364 (to CXXIX Brigade 25-Jul-16).
  • CXXIX Brigade: (from 25-Jul-16) 95 (battery broken up 27-Dec-16), 133, 364 (battery renumbered 95, 27-Dec-16).

28th Division

  • III Brigade: 18, 22 (to CXXX Brigade 19 to 25-Jul-16), 62, 365 (battery broken up on 11-Aug-17).
  • XXXI Brigade: 69, 100, 103 (battery broken up on 25-Dec-16), 118 (to CXXX Brigade 19 to 25-Jul-16).
  • CXXX Brigade: (from 19 to 25-Jul-16) 22, 118, 149 (battery broken up on 28-Dec-16).
  • CLXVI Brigade: 75, 149 (to CXXX Brigade 19 to 25-Jul-16), 366, 367 (battery broken up on 28-Dec-16).

In July 1916 the brigades were reorganised and the howitzer batteries became D (Howitzer) Battery in three of the four brigades. The final organisation (December 1916) was into four brigades; three of two six-gun and one four-howitzer batteries and the fourth of three six-gun batteries. The all-gun brigades (July & December 1916) were: III (28th Division), XIX (27th Division), LIV (10th Division, then 28th replacing III), C (22nd Division) and CXIV 26th Division), there was a plan in 1917 to convert them to mountain artillery and a start was made with C Brigade but it was not completed for lack of resources.
60th Division arrived with three brigades each of three four-gun and four-one howitzer batteries and maintained that organisation. In set-piece attacks the field artillery brigade organisation was set aside and tasked groups were formed.

Divisional artilleries also included a Divisional Ammunition Column with the divisional number (10th Division’s numbered 29th until 04-Mar-16) until January 1917 when they were consolidated into XII (22nd and 26th) and XVI (10th, 27th and 28th) Corps Ammunition Columns. The 60th Divisional Ammunition Column went to Palestine with its division.

British ammunition column moving along the Struma Valley. 4th October, 1916. © IWM (Q 32438)
British ammunition column moving along the Struma Valley. 4th October, 1916. (Click on image to see full size) © IWM (Q 32438)

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