11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom)

11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 11th Armoured Division

caption=An ammunition carrier of the 11th Armoured Division explodes after being hit by a mortar round during Operation Epsom on 26 June 1944
dates= World War II, 1952–56
country= United Kingdom
branch= British Army
nickname= The Black Bull
battles= Normandy
Operation Epsom
Operation Goodwood
Hill 112
Operation Bluecoat
Falaise Gap
Operation Market Garden
Battle of the Bulge
Operation Varsity
notable_commanders= Maj.Gen.Percy Hobart
Maj.Gen. Charles Keightley
Maj.Gen. 'Pip' Roberts
The 11th Armoured Division, known as The Black Bull, was a British Army division formed in 1941 during World War II. The Division was formed as a response to the unanticipated success of German panzer divisions in prior years. It was responsible for several major victories in Normandy after D-Day, and it participated in the Rhine crossings and the rapid advance across France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The Division was dissolved in January 1946 and reformed towards the end of 1950. In 1956, it was converted into the 4th Infantry Division.


In Poland and western Europe from 1939 to 1940, the German armoured formations demonstrated what some observers felt were dramatically new tactics and methods of fighting, leaving the Allied forces with a perceived need to address these developments. The continued development of the Royal Armoured Corps was the British answer to the success of the German panzer divisions.

The Division was organized in March of 1941 in Yorkshire under Major General Percy Hobart. A veteran of the Royal Tank Corps, he already had strongly influenced the shape of the 7th Armoured Division, but his original and innovative ideas had led to his retirement from the army.Fact|date=June 2008 Reinstated after the disasters of 1940, he further realised his vision with the 11th Armoured. Under his leadership the division adopted the “Charging Bull” as its emblem. From 1942 to 1944 it conducted intensive training while gradually receiving new, modern equipment.Fact|date=June 2008

In July 1944, after the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day (6 June 1944), the British 11th Armoured Division participated in Operations Epsom and Goodwood. It also participated in the drive to Amiens, the fastest and deepest penetration into enemy territory ever made at that time. This record would stand until the Gulf War of (1991)Fact|date=June 2008. On 4 September, the 11th Armoured captured the city of Antwerp.

Soon thereafter, the Division pushed forward into the German-occupied Netherlands. In March 1945, it crossed the Rhine River and captured the German city of Lübeck on 2 May 1945. It occupied the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 15 April 1945, pursuant to an 12 April agreement with the retreating Germans to surrender the camp peacefully. When the Division entered the camp, more than 60,000 emaciated prisoners were found in desperate need of medical attention. More than 13,000 corpses in various stages of decomposition lay littered around the camp. Units of the Division and its higher formations were detached to oversee the cleanup of the camp. From the end of the war in Europe (8 May 1945), the Division controlled the province of Schleswig until it was disbanded in January 1946.

The 11th Armoured Division was reformed in the fall of 1950, but was converted into the 4th Infantry Division in 1956.

In Normandy

The Division landed on Juno Beach on 13 June, 1944. It was deployed in all major operations of the 2nd British Army, including Operations Epsom, Goodwood, and Bluecoat, and the battles around the Falaise Gap.

Operation Epsom

The 11th Armoured Division, as part of the British VIII Corps, was committed by 27 June to action in the Odon river sector as part of Operation Epsom. It entered the Scottish corridor, opened beforehand by the 15th (Scottish) Division. Despite navigation mistakes, which slowed down the 159th Infantry brigade in Mouen, the 11th managed to seize the bridges at Grainville and Colleville. It then progressed southward to Hill 112 (a dominant feature in the Normandy battlefield near the village of Baron) and succeeded in capturing and holding this high ground against increasingly intense German counter-attacks. However, a renewed attack of fresh SS-Panzerdivisions transformed what was intended as a breakthrough into a battle for position. On 30 June, General Miles Dempsey, commanding the 2nd British Army, fearing a general counter-offensive, ordered the 11th Armoured to withdraw from Hill 112. Operation Epsom was considered a failure, but it did force the German army to abandon its offensive plans.

Operation Goodwood

The 11th Armoured was then moved east of Caen to spearhead Operation Goodwood. Planning and execution errors, coupled with strong German defenses, led to tactical British defeat. Operation Goodwood was cancelled on July 20th, with the 11th Armoured being withdrawn from the front line to rest and refit. In only two days of fighting, it had lost 200 tanks, representing more than half of its complement. The subsequent reorganization saw the 23rd Hussars absorb the remainder of the 24th Lancers (the 8th Armoured Brigade).

Operation Bluecoat

The 11th Armoured was directed again to the west, to take part in Operation Bluecoat. Beginning on 30 July, it progressed quickly towards the south and seized Martin-Saint-des-Besaces. The Division spotted an intact bridge on the Souleuvre river, which enabled it to drive to the Germans back. In what became the famous “charge of the bull,” the division liberated Le Bény-Bocage on 1 August and quickly progressed southward. Although severely weakened at that time, the German army remained present and dangerous. From 5 August, The 11th Armoured worked with the Guards Armoured Division and 15th (Scottish) Division to push back a counter-attack of the 9th SS-Panzer Division. On 7 August, around Chênedollé, one single Tiger managed to destroy 14 tanks of the 23rd Hussars.

After being replaced by the 3rd Infantry Division, the 11th Armoured was attached to the XXX Corps. It progressed eastward on the heels of the Germans, who were retreating after the failure of the Mortain counterstroke. The 11th Armoured seized Flers on 17 August, then moved on Putanges. From 19 August, it pushed back the Germans north of Argentan and captured the commander of the German 276th Infantry Division and more than 900 prisoners.

Once the fight of the Falaise gap was over, the 11th Armoured liberated L’Aigle on 23 August and crossed the Seine on 28 August.

Belgium and Netherlands

After its participation in the last stage of the Normandy campaign, 11th Armoured Division again performed the “charge of the bull”. This was also known as "the Great Swan". After a night ride, and an unprecedented advance of 60 miles in one day, the Division liberated Amiens September 1st. The same day, it captured Gen Eberbach, commander of the 7th German Army. Progressing by Lens, then Tournai, the Division was then committed in the fight for Antwerp, which it liberated on September 4th. Two days later, it tried to establish a bridgehead on the Albert Canal, but the attempt failed in intense enemy fire. After this failure, 11th Armoured had to cross much more to the east, at Beringen. It advanced then by Helchteren, Peer, Bree, and cleared the area between the Albert Canal and the Maas up to September 12. The 11th Armoured, known as "Taurus Pursuant" was then put at rest for one week.

Market Garden

11th Armoured was not directly committed in Market Garden. Instead, it was in charge of securing the right flank of the operation. Attached to the XIII Corps, it was put moving on September 18. Progressing in two columns, it managed to reach the 101st Airborne Division at Nuenen, while on the 22nd its engineers established a bridge on the Willemsvaart canal.The Division could then make an encircling movement around Helmond, forcing the Germans to withdraw on September the 25th.

At the beginning of October, the 11th AD was employed to clean pockets of German resistance remaining west of the Maas. The operation developed promisingly with 159th Brigade, battling its way across Deurne canal. Unfortunately, the attack was quickly stopped by obstinate German resistance. In addition to the growing supply shortage and the launching of an enemy counter-attack more in the south, this skilful German defence postponed cleaning of the Maas for several weeks. During this period the Division came into contact with troops from the United States and the divisional sign was referred to as "the swell bison"!Preparations for a new crossing attempt were delayed until the second half of following month. On November 22nd, 159th Brigade managed to cross and to seize the village of America. It progressed by Horst, before being relieved by the Scots of the 15th (Scottish) Division. November 30, it attacked the fortress of Broekhuizen, defended by German parachutists. Enemy inflicted heavy losses, before capitulating on December 5. On this date, the Western bank of the Maas was cleared.

From Ardennes to the Rhine

At the beginning of December, units which composed the 11th Armoured were redirected towards Ypres. Infantry was to benefit from a longer rest, while tank crews would receive new Comet tanks, with a powerful 77mm gun at least able to engage German panzers at comfortable range.

The start of the Ardennes offensive,(Battle of the Bulge) modified British projects. Being one of the too rare units in reserve, the 11th Armoured was urgently recalled to active service with its old tanks and directed to hold a defensive line along the Meuse, between Namur and Givet. On 24 December, its advanced positions spotted and destroyed several tanks of the 2nd Panzer Division, east of Dinant. From 26 December onwards, the Germans started to withdraw and 11th Armoured was replaced by the 6th Airborne Division, after having pushed the enemy back beyond Celles. Only 29th Brigade was maintained in support of the Airborne units. It forced the Germans back to La Bure and Wavreille between 3 January and 7 January. From the 9th on, it reached Grupont, before being finally directed the following day to Ypres for rest, refit and training activities.


On February 17th, 1945 the 159th brigade was recalled to the front, to add its weight to the allied forces committed in the Rhineland. The infantry of the 11th Armoured received the mission to seize Gochfortzberg, south of Udem, then to break the Schlieffen line and capture Sonsbeck, in order to support the II Canadian Corps which progressed towards Hochwald from the north. Attack of the brigade started February 26th. Under challenging conditions, the Brigade seized Gochfortzberg , on February 28th, then approached Sonsbeck on 3 March.


The 11th Armoured was held in reserve until March 28th. On this date, it crossed the Rhine at Wesel, in direction of the mouth of Weser. Progressing quickly in spite of sporadic pockets of resistance, it reached Gescher on March 30th, in the evening. The following day, 3rd RTR arrived on Ems River in Emsdetten, before crossing and reaching the Dortmund-Ems canal the following day.

After crossing the Dortmund-Ems canal on April 1st, the 11th Armoured approached Ibbenburen and was heavily engaged on the heights of Teutoburger Wald. The villages of Brochterbeck & Tecklenberg were captured at a high price. Further east, the wooded hills were defended by companies of NCOs, who savagely counter-attacked the 3rd Monmouthshire. Later on, intervention of the 131st Infantry Brigade (7th Armoured Division) made it possible to overcome their opposition, but 3rd Monmouthshire, already weakened during previous campaigns, had to be replaced by 1st Cheshire's.

11th Armoured continued toward the canal of Osnabruck. After having crossed it on a captured bridge, it moved towards Weser, reached by leading elements near Stolzenau on April 5th. One week later, the 11th Armoured liberated the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. A local agreement with German commanders made it possible to declare the neighbourhoods of the camp open area, and the fighting moved northeast. Progressing towards Elba, the 11th Armoured was the first British unit to reach this river in the neighbourhood of Luneburg the 18th.

Last Attack

On April 30th the 11th Armoured launched their last attack. It crossed the river Elbe in Artlenburg, then, practically without meeting any opposition, occupied Lübeck on May 2nd. It finished the war by patrolling the surroundings, and collecting 80,000 prisoners which included 27 Generals.

At the end of the war, 11th Armoured,was used as occupation force in the Schleswig-Holstein area. On May 23, the division was employed in the capture of members of the Dönitz government in Flensburg.


11th Armoured Division was dissolved end of January, 1946. During the campaign in northwestern Europe, its losses rose to 1.820 killed and more than 8.000 wounded. Its rotation in tanks was 300%.


*Major General Percy Hobart
*Major General C.F. Keightley
*Major General M.B. Burrows
*Major General G.P.B 'Pip' Roberts

Component Units

(On 6 June 1944)

;British 29th Armoured Brigade
*3rd Royal Tank Regiment
*23rd Hussars
*2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry
*8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade

;British 159th Infantry Brigade
*4th Bn, The King's Shropshire Light Infantry
*1st Bn, The Herefordshire Regiment
*3rd Bn, The Monmouthshire Regiment

upport Units

*2nd The Northamptonshire Yeomanry
*13th (H.A.C) Regt. Royal Horse Artillery
*151st (Ayrshire Yeomanry) Field Regt. Royal Artillery
*75th Anti-Tank Regt. Royal Artillery
*58th (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) Light Anti-Aircraft Regt. Royal Artillery
*15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars



*:"This article incorporates text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been released under the GFDL."

External links

* [http://www.memorial-montormel.org/?id=95 History of the Taurus Pursuant on memorial-montormel.org]
* United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10006188 The 11th Armoured Division (Great Britain)]
* http://www.memorial-montormel.org/?id=50 Battle of the Falaise pocket

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