Greetings! This website pays homage to the 59th Division of the British Army which took part in the Normandy Campaign June-August 1944.
In both World Wars the rapid expansion of the Territorial Army was achieved by creating duplicate divisions which were formed from a cadre of officers and NCO's detached from the existing unit to recruit, train and administer the duplicate. In the Summer of 1939, during the political crisis leading up to the outbreak of World War II, every division of the Territorial Army was ordered to duplicate itself.
Thus 59 Division, which had been disbanded after the First World War, was reborn as the duplicate of 55 (West Lancashire) Division. The 59th was officially labeled Staffordshire (like its WWI predecessor), even though it contained Lancashire, Norfolk, Warwickshire and Northumberland battalions.
59 Division spent the next five years training, including an extended period of field exercises in Northern Ireland, followed by a redeployment to Kent and a year of preparation for the second front.
In 1944 they were the last British Division assigned to Operation Overlord. As part of the invasion follow-up corps they arrived in Normandy in early July. From their intial battle testing in Operation Charnwood (the assault on Caen), to their successful bridging of the Orne five weeks later near Thury-Harcourt, the division demonstrated its mettle.
By mid-August 1944 severe casualties in British 2nd Army created a replacement shortage that recruiting alone could not meet. So the 59th (as the junior division) was disbanded to fill this need.
59th Division was the only WWII duplicate division to fight overseas.
I enjoy hearing from anyone who was in the 59th Division, had an ancestor in the 59th, or just has an interest in the history of the 59th during WWII. I would welcome your suggestions and would especially welcome contributions of additional material (photos, records, etc).
Sanford Maine USA
Please note that I do not have access to individual soldier's service records. British WWII service records are available from the Army Personnel Center.
The MOD will not usually release information to persons other than the individual concerned or their next of kin. There is a research fee for genealogical enquiries, and the wait time for a reply may up to six months.
Another avenue for research is the Staffordshire Regiment Museum (provided the soldier was a member of one of the Staffordshire regiments during the war). Again there is a backlog in research (with an all-volunteer staff) and they will request a financial contribution to support their work as registered non-profit.
The COVID-19 outbreak will likely cause additional delays to historical research.