160th (Welsh) Brigade

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160th (Welsh) Brigade
160th Infantry Brigade & HQ Wales
160th (Welsh) Infantry Brigade
160th (South Wales) Brigade
Welsh Border Brigade
Current shoulder sleeve insignia of the 160th (Welsh) Brigade.
Active1908–1919, 1920–1947
1947–1967, 1984–present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
TypeRegional Brigade
Part ofRegional Command
Brigade HQThe Barracks, Brecon, Wales
EngagementsFirst World War:
* Gallipoli Campaign
* First Battle of Gaza
* Battle of Nablus (1918)
Second World War:
* Battle of Normandy
* Battle of Falaise
* Battle of the Bulge
* Battle of the Reichswald
* Western Allied invasion of Germany
Sir John Dill
Robert Ross
Eric Dorman-Smith
Sir Lashmer Whistler

160th (Welsh) Brigade or Brigâd 160 (Cymru), is a regional brigade of the British Army that has been in existence since 1908, and saw service during both the First and the Second World Wars, as part of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division. It is a regional command responsible for all of Wales. The Brigade is also regionally aligned with the Eastern European and Central Asian regions as part of defence engagement.[1]


The Welsh Border Brigade was originally raised in 1908, upon creation of the Territorial Force, and was part of the Welsh Division. The brigade was composed of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Volunteer battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment along with the 1st Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment.

First World War[edit]

In 1915 the brigade was re-designated the 160th (1/1st South Wales) Brigade and the Welsh Division the 53rd (Welsh) Division. The brigade fought with the division in the First World War, in the Middle Eastern theatre.

The brigade was reconstituted as a result of British troops being sent to the Western Front during the emergency following the German March 1918 Spring Offensive.

Order of battle[edit]

Inter-war period[edit]

After the war the brigade and division were disbanded as was the Territorial Force. However, both the brigade and division were reformed in 1920 in the Territorial Army. The brigade, now the 160th (South Wales) Infantry Brigade, was again composed of the same four battalions it had before the Great War. However, these were all posted to the 159th (Welsh Border) Infantry Brigade early in the 1920s and were replaced by the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Battalions of the Welch Regiment. The 6th and 7th Battalions were amalgamated as the 6th/7th Battalion, Welch Regiment and the 4th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry joined in the same year.

Second World War[edit]

The brigade, now composed of two battalions of the Welch Regiment and one of the Monmouthshire Regiment, together with the rest of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, was mobilised in late August 1939 and soon afterwards Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. In April 1940 160th Brigade was sent to Northern Ireland and, after the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was evacuated from France, the brigade was mainly involved in anti-invasion duties and exercises training to repel a potential German invasion of Northern Ireland. In late 1941 160th Brigade, and the rest of the 53rd Division, were sent to Southeast England, where they began years of training for Operation Overlord, the planned Allied invasion of Northern France.

Infantrymen of the 4th Battalion, Welch Regiment advance along a railway embankment during the capture of 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, 25 October 1944.

On 14 January 1944 Brigadier Lashmer 'Bolo' Whistler was appointed to command 160th Bde. He had just returned to the UK after a successful year commanding the lorried infantry brigade of the famous 7th Armoured Division in North Africa. General Sir Bernard Montgomery regarded Whistler as 'the best and most experienced Brigadier in the British Army' and had earmarked him for a future divisional command. Meanwhile, Whistler's appointment to 160th Bde was in line with Montgomery's policy of giving experienced leadership to the inexperienced formations in 'Overlord'. Whistler took over command of 160th Bde on 28 January, and the brigade was immediately involved in two corps-level training exercises. In March the 53rd (W) Division's HQ and all its brigade and ancillary HQs took part in 'Exercise Shudder' to study 'thrust line' technique, then in April the whole division was engaged in 'Exercise Henry' on the South Downs training area; this included a river crossing and full-scale simulated attack. In May 'Exercise Bud' practised loading vehicles on to landing craft. Finally, in the last week of May, the brigade began moving into its concentration area at Herne Bay, ready for the invasion.[2][3]

As a follow-up formation, 53rd (W) Division did not take part in the invasion on D Day (6 June). 160th Brigade began loading men and equipment aboard its ships on 20 June, but that night Brig Whistler was called away to take over 3rd Division whose commander had been wounded in the early fighting in Normandy. Lieutenant-Col Charles Coleman of the 4th Welch, who had been acting-Brigadier before Whistler's arrival, was now promoted to take command permanently.[2][4]

160th Brigade landed in Normandy on 28 June and with the rest of the 53rd (W) Divisionwas almost immediately involved in severe attritional fighting around the French city of Caen, facing numerous German panzer divisions, in what came to be known as the Battle for Caen. 160th Brigade later participated in the Second Battle of the Odon, sustaining heavy casualties, which resulted in the 1/5th Battalion, Welch Regiment being transferred to the 158th Brigade of the same division and replaced by the 6th Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers. The decision was made by the divisional commander, Major-General Robert Ross (a former commander of the brigade), due to an acute shortage of infantrymen in the British Army at this stage of the war, even more so in finding sufficient numbers of battle casualty replacements (or reinforcements) for three battalions of the same regiment all serving together in the same brigade, which, like 160th Brigade, had also suffered heavy losses.[2]

The brigade went on to fight in the Battle of Falaise, capturing large numbers of German troops as prisoners of war (POWs) and the subsequent Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine, later playing a minor role in the Battle of the Bulge, a large role in Operation Veritable in February 1945 and crossing the River Rhine into Germany over a month later, where it took part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany, finally ending the war in Hamburg, Germany.[2]

160th Brigade remained in Germany on occupation duties until it was demobilised in late 1946.

Order of battle[edit]

Men of the 2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment in Bocholt, Germany, 29 March 1945. Note the Nazi slogan painted on the wall.

160th Infantry Brigade was composed as follows during the war:[2]


The following officers commanded 160th Infantry Brigade during the war:[2]

  • Brigadier A.E. Williams (until 10 May 1940)
  • Brigadier R.K. Ross (from 10 May 1940 until 17 September 1942)
  • Brigadier E.E. Dorman-Smith (from 17 September 1942 until 22 November 1943)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel C.F.C. Coleman (acting, from 22 November 1943 until 28 January 1944)
  • Brigadier L.G. Whistler (from 28 January 1944 until 22 June 1944)
  • Brigadier C.F.C. Coleman (from 22 June 1944 until 27 May 1945)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel H.B.D. Crozier (acting, from 27 May 1945 until 3 June 1945)
  • Brigadier C.F.C. Coleman (from 3 June 1945)

Post War[edit]

Following the reformation of the Territorial Army after the end of the war, the brigade was reformed as the 160th (South Wales) Infantry Brigade on 1 April 1947. The brigade was organised as a 'three-battalion' brigade with the 2nd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment in Pontypool, 4th (Carmarthenshire) Battalion, The Welch Regiment in Llanelli, and 5th (Glamorgan) Battalion, The Welch Regiment in Pontypridd under its command. The brigade itself remained under the guise of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division during this time.[6][7]

Though the TA seemed stable in 1947, it was continually cut and reduced in size time and time again from 1950 onwards. In 1961, the first wave of major cuts came when the old territorial divisions were merged with their local districts to become 'Division/Districts', thus the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division became the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division/District that year and the brigade became a regional brigade now just tasked with home defence.[8] As a result of the 1966 Defence White Paper, the TA became the 'TAVR' (Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve) and was organised into four categories: TAVR I: those units tasked with quick-deployment support, ie: SAS and NATO-specific units; TAVR II: Units tasked with NATO-support and/or deployable as normal TA units were; TAVR III: Home defence infantry and light-equipment only units (reduced to cadres in 1969 and disbanded in 1975), and TAVR IV: Sponsored bands, UOTC, and miscellaneous units.[9][10][11]

Following the above changes, the old Division/Districts were renamed as 'Districts', with the 53rd (Welsh) Division/District becoming Wales District and now oversaw all units within Wales, with the TA brigades disappearing shortly thereafter. These changes caused little or no direction in doctrine and training from above the battalion level, thus creating a complicated atmosphere.[9]

In 1967, with the Territorial Army reorganised, the brigade's battalions were completely reorganised too. The 2nd Monmouths was disbanded and concurrently reconstituted as two units in TAVR II, B (South Wales Borderers) Company in the Welsh Volunteers based in Newport and in TAVR III, forming the whole unit, the Monmouthshire (Territorial) Battalion, The South Wales Borderers also based in Newport.[12][13] The 4th Welch was reduced to three companies: in TAVR II, C (Welch) Company in the Welsh Volunteers and in TAVR III, B and C Companies of the 4th (Territorial) Battalion of the Welch Regiment.[14][15] Finally, the 5th Welch was reduced to two units: in TAVR II, part of C (Welch) Company, and in TAVR III, B Company in Bridgend part of the 5th/6th (Territorial) Battalion, The Welch Regiment.[16][17] With the wholescale reductions of the TA, the fully territorial brigades and divisions were disbanded and the brigade soon followed suite.[9]

Cold War[edit]

In 1984, as a result of the 1981 Defence White Paper, many of the old disbanded territorial brigades were reformed as part of their respective regional districts. These brigades were not like their predecessors however, as with the enhancement of the TA, the brigades became purely administrative headquarters for training.[9] As part of these changes, 160th (Welsh) Infantry Brigade was reformed as the operational formation of Wales District with its headquarters at The Barracks in Brecon.[7][18] The brigade's task was to protect Wales in its role of a home defence brigade. If mobilised, the brigade would have been the 8th Regional AF Headquarters.[9][19][20]

In 1989 the brigade's structure was as follows:

By the end of the Cold War, the German Army (Bundeswehr) had a battalion-sized tank (panzer) training unit based at the Castlemartin Training Area in West Wales, which was within the brigade's geographical area. The battalion was equipped with the Leopard 1 main battle tank and its personnel rotated through for gunnery and/or manoeuvre training.[20]

After the end of the Cold War, the government published the Options for Change reform which saw several districts either merge or reduce in size, with some having both. Wales District was part of this later group and on 1 April 1992 merged with West Midlands District to form the new Wales and Western District. Following these changes, the brigade was moving under the new district which, in March 1995, was merged with North West District and consequently reduced to 5th Division in 1995.[9]

Twenty-first century[edit]

By 2003, the brigade was organised as follows:[7][31][32][33][34][35]

Army 2020[edit]

Under the Army 2020 programme, the brigade was renamed as the 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, retaining its regional commitments, but now commanding several regular and territorial (becoming the Army Reserve in 2015) units.[36][37][38] By 2017, the brigade was organised as follows:[39]

  • Brigade Headquarters, at The Barracks, Brecon
  • 1st Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment, at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill (Light Mechanised Infantry w/ Foxhound MRAPs)
  • 1st Battalion, The Rifles, at Beachley Barracks, Chepstow (Light Infantry)
  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment (Army Reserve)
  • 6th Battalion, The Rifles (Army Reserve)
  • 160th Infantry Brigade & Headquarters Wales Cadet Training Team, at The Barracks, Brecon[40]
  • Clwyd and Gwynedd Army Cadet Force, at Kinmel Park Camp, Bodelwyddan[41]
  • Dyfed and Glamorgan Army Cadet Force, in Bridgend[42]
  • Gwent and Powys Army Cadet Force, in Powys[43]

Under the Army 2020 Refine programme, the brigade dropped its operational commitments and became simply 160th (Welsh) Brigade, responsible for regional duties within Wales. Since 2019, the brigade has no operational units under its control, but does oversee cadets:


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  2. ^ a b c d e f Joslen, p. 348
  3. ^ Smyth, pp. 101–7.
  4. ^ Smyth, p. 108.
  5. ^ 53rd (W) Recce Regiment at Recce Corps website.
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  21. ^ British Army, 1991 Master Order of Battle, Ministry of Defence, London. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
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  40. ^ a b "Freedom of Information (Act) request regarding current Army Cadet Training Teams (CTTs)" (PDF). What do they know?. Ministry of Defence. 7 December 2021. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
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