The Durham Light Infantry (D.L.I.) was a light infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 to 1968. It was formed in 1881 under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 68th (Durham) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 106th Regiment of Foot (Bombay Light Infantry) along with the Militia and Volunteers of County Durham.
The 50th Division with its 151st brigade was withdrawn to Britain in October 1943 to be trained for the Normandy landings, General Montgomery had wanted veteran divisions to be part of the invasion. The news that it was to be an assault division was not universally well received by the other ranks.The brigade landed in the second wave on Gold Beach King sector on which the 18th battalion was also present in its capacity as a reserve beach group. Advancing inland they faced the grenadiers of the Panzer Lehr Division in the bocage around St Pierre, Verrieres and Tilley-sur-Seulles throughout mid June.
The 10th and 11th battalions were landed with the 49th Infantry Division on 10 June and were committed to the attempt to outflank Caen. The 70th brigade with support of the tanks of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry captured Rauray (11th battalion) and the high ground beyond (10th battalion) on 27–28 June.
The German counter-attack by troops of II SS Panzer Corps was held by the 11th and Tyneside Scottish battalions after such hard fighting that Lord Haw Haw called the division the Polar Bear Butchers(referencing their formation sign).] After some days rest and reinforcement the five D.L.I. battalions in Normandy were briefly together when 70th brigade relieved 151st brigade around Tilley-Sur-Seulles on 7 July.
Later in the month the brigade was transferred to the east of Caen and covered the right flank of Operation Spring.
Advancing to Mezidon on the River Dives after the German defeat at Falaise, the brigade fought its last action on 18 August, after which the brigade (as a second line formation) received news it was to be disbanded to reinforce other units of the Second Army.
The 151st brigade advanced in line with the other advances made by the allies in July and by early August was attacking hills south of St.Pierre la Vielle on what was to become the northern edge of the Falaise pocket. After the break out from Normandy the division crossed the Seine on 29 August and reached the Belgian border on 6 September.After a brief rest in Brussels the brigade was tasked to cross the Albert canal in the wake of 69th brigade, and take the village of Gheel. After holding a series of counter-attacks the 15th Division entered the village on 12 September without a shot being fired, as the Germans had retreated.In October the division was moved to the 'Island', the low-lying ground between the Wall and the Lower Rhine north of Eindhoven.After a short operation to expand the bridgehead the brigade garrisoned the area in the early winter. In December, due to its heavy losses, the 50th Division was broken up to reinforce other formations, the 6th and 8th battalions were reduced to a training cadres of time expired men and returned to Britain.
Men of the 9th Durham Light Infantry clearing resistance in the village of Weseke, 29 March 1945.
The 9th battalion was reinforced and transferred to 7th Armoured Division, 131st Infantry Brigade, as a motorised battalion fighting at the Roer Triangle in January 1945 and the town of Ibbenbüren in March. The battalion ended the war near Hamburg.
The 18th battalion had been serving as lines of communications troops of 21st Army Group, however one company fought the Germans during an attack from besieged Calais in February 1945, the battalion was disbanded at Calais in August 1945.
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Philip Reinders, 2016