Order of Battle – 8th Army, 18 November 1941


In WO216/15 an overview of 8th Army units is given, probably dating to mid-October 1941 which I reproduce here. Based on my research, and on the report by GOC 8th Army after the battle (WO201/2693), I have amended it a bit, with explanations given in the notes.

South africans desert

South African Patrol Returning, 21 July 1941, probably Matruh sector. IWM E.4350

Order of Battle

Eighth Army (General Cunningham)

13 Corps (Lt.-General Godwin-Austen)

2 New Zealand Division (Major-General Freyberg)

4 Indian Division (less one brigade)* (Major-General Messervy)

1 Army Tank Brigade (less one regiment)** (Brigadier Watkins)

Corps Troops

64, 67, 68 Medium Regiments RA

65, 2 SA AT Regiments RA

A Sqdn 6 SA Armoured Car Regiment

37 RTR (dummy tanks)

30 Armoured Corps (Lt.-General Willoughby-Norrie)

7 Armoured Division (Major-General Gott)***

7 Armoured Brigade (Brigadier Davy)

22 Armoured Brigade (Brigadier Scott-Cockburn)

Support Group (Brigadier Campbell)

4 Armoured Brigade (Brigadier Gatehouse)

1 South African Division (less one brigade)**** (Major-General Brink)

22 Guards Brigade (Brigadier Erskine/Brigadier Mariott)*****

Tobruk Fortress (Major-General Scobie)******

70 Infantry Division (Major-General Scobie)

Polish Brigade Group (Major-General S. Kopanski)

32 Army Tank Brigade (Brigadier Willison)

Fortress Troops

Corps Troops

4 SA Armoured Car Regiment

51, 60 Field Regiment RA

7 Medium Regiment RA

73 AT Regiment RA


Jarabub Group (Force E)

29 Indian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Mariott/Brigadier Reid)*******

6 L.A.A. Bty. R.A.

1 Squadron 7 S.A. Recce Battalion

2 Squadrons 3 S.A. Armoured Car Rgt.

1 Bty. 2 S.A. Field Regiment

C Bty 73 A.T. Rgt. R.A.

38, “F” RTR (dummy tanks)

2 South African Infantry Division at El Alamein (Major-General de Villiers)

2 South African Infantry Brigade at Matruh Fortress (Brigadier Poole)

Army Troops

Total Strength:

118,000 men

849 medium, field, and anti-tank guns

529 cruiser tanks

205 infantry tanks


* 11 Indian Infantry Brigade, held back at Mersa Matruh

** Probably a regiment held back in reserve

*** Detailed breakdown not in the document.

**** The division consisted of 1 and 5 SA Brigades in the line and 2 SA Brigade at Matruh.

***** Brigadier Erskine was replaced by Brigadier Mariott around 20 October 1941, to let Brigadier Reid take charge of 29 Indian Brigade and the Jarabub Group. I have no idea what happened to Brigadier Erskine, since he seems to be a different Erskine to the BGS 13 Corps.

****** This detailed breakdown is not in the WO document, but from me. The fortress came under command 8th Army on the night 30/31 October, and was under operational control 30 Armoured Corps, which would give the order to start the breakout. Later in the battle it went under control 13 Corps.

******* Only HQ 29 Indian Infantry Brigade and one infantry battalion, otherwise support troops including a lot of armoured cars. Under direct control of 8th Army throughout.

3 thoughts on “Order of Battle – 8th Army, 18 November 1941

  1. What I have read in the book ‘The Chronological Atlas of World War II’ by Barrie and Frances Pitt mentioned 100,000 men, 600 tanks and 5,000 vehicles, what I am after is the detailed number of small arms and vehicles. Thanks if you can lent a helping hand for the right information.


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