The 55th was a pre-war territorial division, recruited in an area extending northwards from the Mersey to the Lune. The divisional and two of the brigade headquarters were located in Liverpool, the third brigade in Lancaster. The divisional sign was the red rose of Lancaster and the infantry battalions came from the King’s Own (R Lancaster), the King’s (Liverpool), the Loyal N Lancs and the S Lancs. The artillery, engineers, signals, transport and medical units were all designated West Lancashire, the Mounted troops were the Lancashire Hussars (Yeomanry). Between November 1914 and March 1915 eight battalions left the division for France to provide reinforcements for the BEF. In April a complete brigade, the North Lancashire, was transferred to the 51st Highland Division and having been redesignated 3rd Highland Brigade went to France with that division in May, whether they were in kilts or not is not made clear. In January 1916 the division was reformed in France, with the original battalions returning, and numbered 55th. Subsequently it fought on the Somme at Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette and Morval. It took part in Third Ypres and was at Cambrai for the tank attack and the German counter-attack. In April 1918 the 55th was engaged in the fighting on the Lys during the German offensive, doing exceptionally well in their stubborn defence of Givenchy where their memorial stands today bearing the inscription “They Win or die who wear the Rose of Lancashire.” By the end of the month they had suffered 3,871 casualties and been awarded three VCs. The division earned a high reputation, it won the highest number of VCs (12) among the non-regular divisions including the only double VC to be awarded during the war, Capt Noel Chavasse RAMC, the MO of the 1/10th King’s (Liverpool) – the Liverpool Scottish. Appendices give the citations for these VC awards, full casualty details, totals of honours and awards and reproduce the first and last operation orders issued by the division (9 February 1916 and 10 November 1918). In all the division had 35,701 casualties of which 6,520 were dead.
STORY OF THE 55TH (WEST LANCASHIRE) DIVISION
Pre-war TF division, broken up between November 1914 and March 1915. Reformed in France January 1916, fought at several of the Somme battles, at Third Ypres and Cambrai. 35,701 casualties, twelve VCs, highest number for non-regular division, includes Chavasse’s VC and bar