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Episode 523

70th Infantry Division (United Kingdom)
Wed, 2018-Oct-10 01:01 UTC
Length - 4:35

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Wednesday, 10 October 2018 is 70th Infantry Division (United Kingdom).

The 70th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the British Army that fought during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. What would become the 70th Division originated with the 7th Infantry Division, which was formed in 1938 to serve in the British Mandate of Palestine during the Arab Revolt. This division then transferred to Egypt on the outbreak of the Second World War and soon became the 6th Infantry Division, which went on to take part in the Battle of Crete and the Syria–Lebanon Campaign. On 10 October 1941, the 6th Division was re-created as the 70th Infantry Division, in an attempt to deceive Axis intelligence concerning the strength of the British military in the Middle East.

The Royal Navy transported the division to Tobruk from 19 September to 25 October, in a politically controversial move to relieve the mainly Australian garrison which had been defending the port for almost seven months, since the beginning of the Siege of Tobruk. Under daily aerial and artillery attacks, the division defended the port and conducted nightly offensive patrols against German and Italian positions. On 18 November, the British Eighth Army launched Operation Crusader. The division was tasked with breaking out of Tobruk, following the destruction of the Axis armoured forces. Following unexpected early success, the division began its attacks on 21 November, before the armoured formations of Germans and Italians had been defeated. Heavy fighting soon followed as the division captured several well-defended and dug-in German and Italian strong points. The looming threat of the Axis tanks ended the break-out offensive the following day. Renewed fighting on 26 November saw the division link up with the approaching New Zealand Division, cutting the Axis lines of communication. In response, the Germans launched several counter-attacks to throw back the 70th Division from the territory they had gained. The failure of these attacks had a lasting strategic impact on Operation Crusader; the Axis forces began their retreat and lifted the siege of Tobruk. Two men—from units attached to the division—were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during Operation Crusader.

Following the fighting at Tobruk, the division was withdrawn from the front and placed in reserve. When Japan entered the war, the division was transferred to India. It was considered the most experienced and best trained British formation available in Asia. In India, the division formed a reserve to counter possible Japanese landings while it trained in jungle warfare. It also served as a police force, protecting railways and being used to suppress civil disobedience caused by the Quit India Movement. While it was requested that the division be sent to the front line in Burma, it was instead transferred to Special Force, commonly known as the Chindits. Such a move was opposed by the highest military commanders in India and Burma, and proved controversial with the troops themselves. Despite their pleas, the division was broken up and officially ceased to exist on 24 November 1943. Historian Woodburn Kirby and Lieutenant-General William Slim (who led the British troops in Burma) believed that the division could have had a greater impact against the Japanese had it been retained as a single formation.

This recording reflects the Wikipedia text as of 01:01 UTC on Wednesday, 10 October 2018.

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