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Formation badge, Guards Armoured Division, HQ 21st Army Group, 1939 (c)-1945 (c)

The Guards Armoured Division was formed on 17 June 1941 from elements of the Guards units - the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Welsh Guards - and the Household Cavalry.

The idea was driven by General Sir Alan Brooke, then Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, in order to help address the shortage of armoured troops in England to face an expected German invasion. Several Foot Guards battalions had already seen action in the war before this point; The 2nd Irish Guards had taken part in the Narvik expedition in Norway, while the 1st Coldstream Guards, 1st and 2nd Grenadier Guards and 1st and 2nd Welsh Guards had all served in France in 1940.

There was initial opposition to plans to establish an armoured division, as it was felt that Guardsmen should not be tank crews, but the unit was formed under the command of Major General Sir Oliver Leese. Unlike armoured regiments, the Guards Armoured Division retained its infantry company structure, with the tanks organised into companies and battalions, rather than squadrons and regiments.

Major-General Sir Alan Adair took command in September 1942 and remained in command until the end of the war. The Division became part of 21 Army Group for the invasion of Europe. It landed in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord and fought at Caen and Falaise. After the breakout at the end of July 1944 it took part in the dash to the Seine and was later the first formation to enter Brussels in September.

The Division led the XXX Corps drive as part of Operation MAREKET GARDEN, the ambitious attempt to seize bridges across the Rhine and break into Germany. It eventually crossed the Rhine as part of Operation PLUNDEWR, and fought its way to Bremen by the end of the war in May 1945.

On 9 June 1945 the division was selected for conversion back to infantry, and held a 'Goodbye to Armour' parade overseen by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. It then became part of British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1997-09-120--1


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National Army Museum, Study Collection

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