Brief History Of The British 7th Armoured Brigade
"The Green Jerboa"
The British 7th Armoured Brigade was originally formed as Light Armoured Brigade consisting of 7th, 8th & 11th Hussars as part of what was then known as the Mobile Division (before it became the 7th Armoured Division) in 1938.
The Brigade was formed in the desert of North Africa just before the Second World War and fought in most of the major campaigns of the war, and theatres of operations against Italian, German and Japanese forces. Much detail can be found throughout this website and within the reference material highlighted on theOther Sites and Books page. What follows here is a brief outline of the Brigades history, but much can be found elsewhere by careful reading. Please read the History of the 7th Armoured Division, too.
In December 1939, Major General Michael Creagh took command, of the Mobile Force, with it continuing its exercises and receiving better equipment, through out the Winter. During this time the three brigade changed their names. The Light Armoured became the 7th Armoured Brigade, (Click here to see the Order of Battle as this time) and at this time it used the Division Sign was as shown to the right.
On 16th February 1940, the Mobile Division became the 7th Armoured Division and at about the same time the famous Jerboa Divisional Sign appeared, which all its units adopted.
In April 1940, it became clear that the Italians were moving troops upto the frontier wire near Sollum and so at the end of that month the Division and its Brigades began to deploy.
What followed is chronicled as part of series of engagement pages, but during June 1940 the 7th Armoured Division and with it 7th Armoured Brigade took part in a series ofborder raids along the frontier and the counter attack at Sidi Barrani, in November that year, where large numbers of Italian prisoners were taken. Then in January 1941, it took part in the successful capture of Tobruk and Bardia and culminating with the action at Beda Fomm, in February 1941, when the retreating Italians were held by a small force while the rest of the 7th Armoured Division caught up causing the surrender of over 25,000 Italians. This campaign effectively destroyed the Italian Army in North Africa. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time
When the Deutsche Afrika Korps and Italians attacked in April 1941 the Division was refitting in the Nile Delta, but was soon back in the Western Desert. In May 1941, the Brigade took part inOperation Brevity and later in Operation Battleaxe, in an attempt to lift the siege of Tobruk, but suffered heavy loses in tanks and men. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time. In November 1941, the Brigade as part of 7th Armoured Division took part in Operation Crusader and particularly the bloody battles around Sidi Rezegh and Rommel's Raid, where it was nearly wiped out. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time.
In January/February 1942, the Brigade was sent to the Far East arriving in Rangoon (Burma) in February 1942. It was then that it adopted the Green Jerboa Brigade TAC sign show left. Once on Burma it took part the opening phases of the Japanese invasion of Burma, before covering the retreat to Rangoon, the defence of the oil fields at Yenangyaung then Mandalay and through the rest of Burma to the Chindwin and then India during that year. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time. It returned to the Middle East in 1943 serving in Iraq, Syria (Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time) and back to Egypt before moving to Italy in May 1944 as an Independent Armoured Brigade. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time. There the Brigade took part in various battles to break the Gothic and Hitler lines and the push along the Adriatic coast of Italy, in late 1944. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time. In 1945 the Brigade fought its way across the Senio River and then on towards Venice and Trieste, where it ended the war. Click here to see the Order Of Battle at this time
The end of the Second World War found 7th Armoured Brigade based in northern Italy as part of the occupying forces. Sometime in late 1945 and early 1946 the Brigade was disbanded and the 22nd Armoured Brigade (the Armoured Brigade then serving with the 7th Armoured Division in Germany) was re-designated the 7th Armoured Brigade. It is the re-named Brigade that is now serving in the British Army of today After the war the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded in January 1948(as per the National Archives record WO 204/432: Disbandment of Units), its heritage being perpetuated by 7th Armoured Brigade.
In its entire history it the 7th Armoured Brigade never served in the United Kingdom. Some of the regiments that served have been disbanded or merged over the years, but the Jerboa emblem is still worn proudly by the men of the 7th Armoured Brigade. It is good to know that one of the first Brigades that served with the Division, but left it, now continues its heritage. Likewise the other original Armoured Brigade (the 4th) is also still serving in the British Army, who still wear their "Black Rat" badge.
In 2014 an end of an era was announced by the MoD that as part of the reorganisation of the British Army that the 7th Armoured Brigade, would cease to exist and become the 7th Infantry Brigade and HQ East. The new Brigade will continue to wear the Jerboa and carry on the traditions of the Desert Rats. Effectively, after over 74 years of existence there will no longer be a 7th Armoured Brigade in the British Army.
Over the years the men that served with 7th Armoured Brigade have become fewer in number, but on 23rd October 1998, a permanentmemorial to the 7th Armoured Division (shown below) was dedicated at Mundford, in Thetford Forest, Norfolk, by Field Marshall Lord Carver.
On 10th November 2002, the memorial was Dedicated by the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Foottit (assisted by Rev. David Hanwell), during the Remembrance Day service that year, to the memory of the Division and those who served in it, giving the 'Desert Rats' a permanent War Memorial here in the UK.
During the Open Day on the 27th June 2004 the present day successors to the 7th Armoured Division, namely 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades, installed an additional plaque on the Memorial plinth, commemorating the Desert Rats from 1945 to date. The Dedication of the plaque was conducted by Rev. David Hanwell in the presence of Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw Commanding 7th Armoured Brigade and other senior officers from both the 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades.
In 2014 to commemorate the Normandy Landings and Campaign an additional plaque was added to the reverse side of the memorial, as below.
Please click here to find out more about the location of 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats) Memorial.
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