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British First Army

First Army
Emblem of the British First Army (1942-1943)
Active First World War
Second World War
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Army
Engagements World War I
Western Front
World War II
Operation Torch
Tunisia Campaign
Douglas Haig
Sir Henry Rawlinson
Kenneth Anderson

The First Army was a field army of the British Army that existed during the First and Second World Wars. Despite being a British command, the First Army also included Indian and Portuguese forces during the First World War and American and French during the Second World War.

First World War

The First Army was part of the British Army during the First World War and was formed on 26 December 1914 when the corps of the British Expeditionary Force were divided into the First Army under Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig and the Second Army under Horace Smith-Dorrien.[1] First Army had the I Corps, IV Corps and the Indian Corps under command.[2] The First Army suffered reverses at Vimy Ridge in May 1916 and at Fromelles the following month. From 1917, the First Army also included the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps. The First Army took part in the 1918 offensive that drove the Germans back and virtually ended the war.


Second World War

The First Army was also part of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed to command the British and American land forces which had landed as part of Operation Torch in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November 1942 and it was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Kenneth Anderson. First Army headquarters was formally activated on 9 November 1942 when Anderson arrived in Algiers to assume command of the redesignated Eastern Task Force.[3]

It initially consisted of British and American forces only. After the surrender of French forces following the German abrogation of their armistice agreement with Vichy France, French units were also added to its order of battle. It eventually consisted of four corps, the U.S. II Corps, the British V Corps, British IX Corps and French XIX Corps.

After the landings, Anderson's forces rushed east in a bid to capture Tunis and Bizerte before German forces could reach there in large numbers. They failed. After that failure, a period of consolidation was forced upon them. The logistics support for the Army was greatly improved and airfields for its supporting aircraft greatly multiplied. By the time the British Eighth Army approached the Tunisian border from the east, following its long pursuit of Erwin Rommel's forces after El Alamein, 1st Army was again ready to strike.

Supported by elements of XII Tactical Air Command and No. 242 Group RAF, First Army carried the main weight of 18th Army Group's offensive to conclude the Tunisia Campaign and finish off Axis forces in North Africa. The victory was won in May 1943 in a surrender that, in numbers captured at least, equalled Stalingrad. Shortly after the surrender, First Army disbanded, having served its purpose.


See also



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