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3rd (United Kingdom) Division

3rd (United Kingdom) Division, based at the heart of the British Army on Salisbury Plain, is the only division at continual operational readiness in the UK. 'The Iron Division' is made up of 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade (Tidworth), 12th Armoured Infantry Brigade (Bulford Camp), 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade (Paderborn, Germany) and 101 Logistic Brigade (Aldershot).


The Iron Division can trace its history to 1809 in Spain when in the early years of the Peninsular War the future Duke of Wellington decided to adopt, for the first time in the British Army, a permanent divisional structure to help him combat the French.

The Division's first General Officer Commanding was Major General Thomas Picton, a Welshman, who moulded the Division in his own image resolute, tough, slightly eccentric and full of fighting spirit.

The Division remained part of the Army structure throughout the 19th Century, fighting at The Battle of Waterloo (1815), against the Russians in the Crimean War (1854-6) and in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1900).

World Wars

The 20th Century saw the Division fight with distinction in the First and Second World Wars. In the First World War the Division was present at Mons (1914), Ypres (1915), the Somme (1916), Arras (1917) and finally as part of the occupation force of the Rhineland (1918-9) earning the nickname 'The Iron Division'.

In the Second World War the Division had two distinct phases. Firstly it was part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France to stem the German advance, but having fought hard yet ultimately unsuccessfully, it was evacuated from Dunkirk.

The second saw it lead the assault on Sword Beach on D-Day and fight as part of 21st Army Group across northern Europe and into Germany in 1945.

Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan

In the post war years the Division has had many roles, from being the UK's Strategic Reserve to an Armoured Division based in Germany during the 1980s. The last 30 years have seen the Division deploy to Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s and as a headquarters to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, 2006 and 2008.

The headquarters has also force generated and prepared:

  • 12 Mechanized
  • 52 Infantry
  • 19 and 11 Light Brigades for operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Headquarters 3rd (UK) Division is currently located at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire. The Division is commanded by Major General Nicholas Borton DSO MBE.

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