Indian Armored Divisions in World War II
v.1.1 August 25, 2002

Ravi Rikhye

[The information below is taken mainly from Mr. Todd Mills' and is the work of an American historian, Mr. David Ryan.]

While four armored divisions were raised during World War II in the British-Indian Army, only one saw service.  The rest were broken up before they could serve overseas.

31 Armored Division was raised in September 1940 as 1 Armored Division, and was redesignated 31 Armored Division in December 1941.  It was redesignated 1 Armored Division on September 1, 1945.  The division served in Iraq, Persia, Palestine, and North Africa.  It had two armored brigades, 1st and 2nd, the designations of which were changed to 251 and 252 Armored Brigades.  31 Division had the 252 Armored and 43 Lorry Brigades.  1 Division had 1 Armored and 43 Lorry Brigade, a scheme it retained till after the 1971 War, when armored divisions were changed to a three-brigade layout, and 43 Lorry Brigade became 43 Armored Brigade.

Three Indian cavalry regiments served with 31 Division: 4 Horse (Hodson's) then known as 4 Duke of Connought's Own Lancers, 14 Horse (Scinde) then known as 14 Prince of Wales' Cavalry, and the 13 Duke of Connought's Lancers, which went to Pakistan.  One Indian infantry battalion served with the division, the 1/14 Bombay Grenadiers (Motorized).  The three other battalions in the division, under 43 Lorry Brigade, were 2/6, 2/8 and 2/10 Gurkha Rifles, all three of which were retained by the Crown on Independence.

32 Armored Division was raised as 2 Armored Division in 1940, redesignated 32 Armored Division in 1942, disbanded in 1943 and merged with 43 Armored Division to form 44 Armored Division.  This division had as its sign a white rhino on a red background.

43 Armored Division was raised in 1942 and disbanded in 1943 to be merged with 44 Armored Division.  Its sign was a charging longhorn buffalo.

44 Armored Division was raised in 1943, but disbanded in 1944.  The divisional HQ fought as HQ 44 Airborne Division in the Northeast.

It needs noting that these divisions were fully raised with all constituent units before being disbanded, representing a colossal waste of time and effort.  Even 31 Division was used only in an auxiliary role for protecting oil wells and maintaining internal security in Palestine.  Readers with information as to why this happened are welcome to comment - click on Questions.

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