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The formation of reserve or 2nd Line TF units was authorised by the War Office on 31 August 1914. At first they comprised those members of the pre-war parent unit who had not volunteered for or were unfit for overseas service, who trained the flood of volunteers who came forward. Later, the 2nd Line formations were also prepared for overseas service and 3rd Line units were formed to provide replacements. In the case of the 2/1st London Division, this process began early, when the 2/1st London Brigade went to Malta in December 1914 to relieve its 1st Line counterpart that had been despatched there on the outbreak of war. It was replaced in the 2/1st London Division by its 3rd Line (the battalions were renumbered when the original 2nd Line battalions were disbanded in 1916). The artillery, engineers and two infantry battalions of the 1/1st London Division had not gone overseas, and these were attached to the 2/1st Division for the first year of its existence.
In August 1915, the division concentrated around Ipswich in Eastern England and received the number 58, its brigades being numbered 173-5. Here it formed part of First Army in Central Force. In September 1915 the 1st Line artillery brigades went to France and were replaced by the division's own 2nd Line units. In the Spring of 1916 the division took over a sector of the East Coast defences. Then in July 1916 it went to Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plain for final training before deploying overseas. The artillery were now equipped with modern 18-pounder field guns and 4.5-inch howitzers while the infantry had been issued with the .303 Lee-Enfield service rifle in place of the .256-in Japanese Ariska rifles with which they had done their early training.
The division began embarking for France on 20 January 1917 and had concentrated by 8 February. It then served for the remainder of the war on the Western Front.
Order of battle
The division had the following composition during World War I:
2/1st London Brigade
Brigade left to relieve 1/1st London Brigade at Malta between December 1914 and February 1915
After the Armistice with Germany the division was billeted in the area of Peruwelz in Belgium. Skilled tradesmen and 'pivotal' men began to be demobilised during December 1918, and by March 1919 the division had dwindled to a brigade group concentrated around Leuze as units were reduced to cadres. The artillery left for the UK on 4 April, and the last units left France at the end of June, when 58th Division ceased to exist.
The division was 'reformed' as a 'phantom division' created as part of 'Operation Fortitude North' as a replacement for the 3rd Infantry Division which was going south to take part in a D-Day rehearsal. Unlike other 'phantom divisions' the 58th's number was chosen on the basis of Ultra reports that showed the Germans believed a 58th Infantry Division existed in the vicinity of Windsor. This misidentification was then supported by simulated radio traffic and by fictitious reports from double agents working for the British Security Service, MI5.
As part of the Fourth Army'sII Corps, the division took the role of a mountain trained assault formation in 'Fortitude North' (HQ: Aberlour) and the role of follow up unit in 'Fortitude South' (HQ: Gravesend). It was disposed of by announcing that the division had moved to Hertfordshire and been disbanded in April 1945.,
The formation's insignia, a stag's face full on a black square was chosen to support the division's fictional back-story, that it had been formed in the Scottish Highlands around cadres from combat experienced Highland regiments.
Imaginary formations assigned to the division included the 173rd Infantry Brigade, 174th Infantry Brigade, 175th Infantry Brigade, and support units.
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Maj R. Money Barnes, The Soldiers of London, London: Seeley Service, 1963.
Maj A.F. Becke,History of the Great War: Order of Battle of Divisions, Part 2b: The 2nd-Line Territorial Force Divisions (57th-69th), with the Home-Service Divisions (71st-73rd) and 74th and 75th Divisions, London: HM Stationery Office, 1937/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2007, ISBN1-847347-39-8.
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Maj W.E. Grey, 2nd City of London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) in the Great War 1914-19, Westminster: Regimental HQ, 1929/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN978-1-843423-69-0
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Derek Harrison with Peter Duckers, Shropshire Royal Horse Artillery 1908-1920, Shrewsbury: Kingswood/Shropshire Regimental Museum, 2006.
Roger Hesketh, Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign, St Ermine, 1999, ISBN0316851728.
Thaddeus Holt, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, Phoenix, 2005, ISBN0753819171.
Maj C.A. Cuthbert Keeson, The History and Records of Queen Victoria's Rifles 1792-1922, London: Constable, 1923//Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ASINB00NPNKEZA
Joshua Levine, Operation Fortitude: The Greatest Hoax of the Second World War, London: Collins, 2011, ISBN978-0-00-739587-3.
David Martin, Londoners on the Western Front: The 58th (2/1st London) Division in the Great War, Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books, 2014, ISBN978-1-78159-180-2.
Lt-Col H.R. Martin, Historical Record of the London Regiment, 2nd Edn (nd)
C. Digby Planck, The Shiny Seventh: History of the 7th (City of London) Battalion London Regiment, London: Old Comrades' Association, 1946/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2002, ISBN1-84342-366-9.