by: Alan McNeilly [ ]
Originally published on:
Archer Fine Transfers are well known for their quality, both in vehicle and uniform patches. Recently released are a set of uniform patches for troops from the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division.
The 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division was formed in September, 1939 as a first- line Territorial Infantry Division. Territorial units provided the backbone of the British reserve units to be called up in times of war, and the 53rd saw service throughout the campaigns in Northwest Europe. The 53rd was known as the Welsh Division for the simple reason that the majority of its regiments were of Welsh origin.
A typical British Infantry Division can be thought of as in two parts: the “teeth” (arms), those units that do the fighting; and the “tail” or support units that provide all the logistical support for the “teeth.” A typical division’s “teeth” was composed of three infantry brigades, with three regiments/battalions of infantry in each brigade. To support these troops were units not always without some teeth, including the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Divisional REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) and Medical Units. In the Divisional HQ, a recce regiment, medium machine gun regiment, provost company, postal unit (RE), and Royal Signals completed the mix.
Formations within the British Army are grouped in order of seniority, and this is something that can be quite confusing. Within the 53rd (Welsh) Division, the order of seniority was as follows:
Senior Brigade– 71st Infantry Brigade
Senior Regiment– 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (replaced by 4th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers March 8, 1944)
2nd Senior Regiment– 1st Battalion Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Junior Regiment- 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry
2nd Senior Brigade– 158th Infantry Brigade
Senior Regiment– 4th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (replaced by 7th Battalion March 8, 1944)
2nd Senior Regiment– 6th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (replaced by 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment March 8, 1944)
Junior Regiment– 7th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers (replaced by 1/5 Battalion Welsh Regiment at the same time as the other units)
Junior Brigade– 160th Infantry Brigade
Senior Regiment– 4th Battalion Welsh Fusiliers (replaced by 6th Battalion Welsh Fusiliers March, 1944)
2nd Senior Regiment– 1/5 Battalion Welsh Regiment (replaced by 4th Battalion Welsh Regiment in March of 1944)
Junior Regiment– 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment
A word of caution here: Firstly, individual battalions moved around within the brigades, and depending on which source you may use, change dates may vary slightly. But the majority of the moves I’ve shown happened in March 1944. Plus I’m focusing on the campaign in N.W. Europe during 1944 and 1945. Battalions could also be moved or detached to other divisions as deemed necessary.
Archer provide a small 4 page information booklet with the transfers and the division structure, which differs slightly to the one I have show above, most notably by the omission of 1st Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Were I to sit down and research the division from beginning to end, this review would never get written. So my advice to you is check the time period you want to model your figure in, then check the divisional structure at that period and you should be OK.
The brigade structure for 71st Infantry Brigade as shown on the information booklet is as follows:
1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment (until Aug ’44)
1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry
4th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusilier (after Aug ’44)
The reason for this is simple: 1st Ox and Buck were off preparing for the landings in Arnhem.
Research for the decals was carried out by fellow Armorama member Patrick Selitenny, and Patrick has provided more detailed information on the unit moves within the infantry brigades, together with a breakdown of the battles they took part in during 1944/45.
The set comes in a small sealed plastic bag, and contains uniform patches for 12 figures, together with a small 4-page information booklet, a small piece of wet media paper and in my package, a small important information sheet.
Shoulder insignia are provided for 5 soldiers in each of the following Regiments:
Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
So although not listed anywhere in the Information booklet, I am please to say you get markings for the Ox and Bucks. The Manchester Regiment patches included in the set are for the 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment, who provided the medium machine gun battalion for the division.
To go with the regimental markings, you also get 24 divisional badges which were worn under the regimental insignia on both left and right arm. Under the divisional badge would have been worn brigade stripes in red: one stripe for the Senior Brigade, two stripes for the 2nd Senior Brigade, and three stripes for the Junior Brigade. There are 12 sets of each type of stripes in the set. These are tiny!
Finally to round off the set, you get twelve “Sospan” markings that were worn by Welsh Regiments only. “Sospan Fach” is Welsh for “little saucepan,” and this was a popular and well-known Welsh folk song. And that’s what these marking look like: a little red saucepan on a khaki background. Llanelli in Wales was also known for its tin works, and I believe that is what the Sospan is linking back to, but a Welshman could tell you more.
While called "dry transfers," items this small should be applied using Archer's wet medium paper. Simple instructions are given on the last sheet of the small booklet to help you achieve this.
The shoulder titles for the division were white writing on a red background, and the layout and writing of the six sets of Regimental markings are correct. The divisional sign was a stylised red “W” (standing for “Wales”) on a brownish/khaki background, and this is well-done and accurately represented. The small brigade stripes are again correct, as are the Sospan badges provided for the Welsh Regiments.
I often hear it said that British Uniforms tend to be boring, but I would disagree. One thing that brightens them up is adding the Regimental Shoulder Insignia, Divisional and Brigade markings. Archer have given us a very useful and accurate set of markings here. Couple these with their excellent British rank insignia patches, and your troops will look far from boring.
The British Soldier, Volume 2 by Jean Bouchery.
Thanks to Archer Fine Transfers for supplying a review sample. Please be sure to mention Armorama when ordering.