Description: Formation patch – 51st (Highland) Infantry Division – World War II
Condition: Very Good
Comments: Formation patch – 51st (Highland) Infantry Division – World War II
The 51st wore the Divisional sign of the Highland Division of the 1914-18 war.
The 51st Division commanded by Major-General Victor Fortune formed part of the British Expeditionary Force at the start of World War II. With the capture of two of its brigades in France the division effectively ceased to exist. The 9th (Highland) Infantry Division was renumbered as the 51st and subsequently served in the North Africa campaign. From there it went to Sicily before returning to France as part of the invasion of Northern Europe.
After three years of training under Major General Fortune’s command, the 51st Infantry Division departed from Southampton and disembarked at Le Havre in mid-January 1940. It was stationed in front of the Ouvrage Hackenberg fortress of the Maginot Line and had thus escaped being encircled with the rest of the BEF at Dunkirk. It was then pulled back to a new line roughly along the River Somme, where it was attached to the French Tenth Army. For some time, it was forced to hold a line four times longer than that which would normally be expected of a division.The Div was attacked very heavily over the 5/6 June with the major attack initially falling on the 7th Bn Argyl and Sutherland highlanders before the other Bns of the 154 Bde we enveloped. The Argyls lost heavily the worst day in their history. being overwhelmed the Bde was forced to retire to the west. During this period, the 154th Brigade was detached to form “Arkforce” and was able to escape the German drive into central France and Normandy. However, the 152nd and 153rd Brigades were trapped at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux, and surrendered on 12 June, along with the Division’s commander. General Fortune was one of the most senior British officers taken prisoner in World War II. He was knighted by King George VI after the war. From the British point of view, the defeat of the 51st Division was the end of the Allied resistance during the battle of France.
Subsequently most were held at Stalag XX-A at Toruń, around 120 miles (190 km) NW of Warsaw. In early 1945 they took part in the Long March, marching around 450 miles (720 km) in the depths of winter to Stalag XIB/357 at Bad Fallingbostel on the Lüneburg Heath, north of Hanover.