British Second Army
The British Second Army was active during both the First and Second World Wars. During the First World War the army was active on the Western Front
Western Front
Western Front was a term used during the First and Second World Wars to describe the contested armed frontier between lands controlled by Germany to the east and the Allies to the west...

 and in Italy. During the Second World War the army was the core element in the British contribution in the Normandy landings and subsequent advance across Europe.

First World War

The Second Army was part of the British Army
British Army during World War I
The British Army during World War I fought the largest and most costly war in its long history. Unlike the French and German Armies, its units were made up exclusively of volunteers—as opposed to conscripts—at the beginning of the conflict...

 formed on 26 December 1914, when the British Expeditionary Force was split in two due to becoming too big to control its subordinate formations. The army controlled both III Corps and IV Corps. Second Army spent most of the war positioned around the Ypres
Ypres is a Belgian municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote...

 salient, but was redeployed to Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 between November 1917 and March 1918.

In 1919 it was reconstituted as the British Army of the Rhine
British Army of the Rhine
There have been two formations named British Army of the Rhine . Both were originally occupation forces in Germany, one after the First World War, and the other after the Second World War.-1919–1929:...



  • 1914-1915 General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien
    Horace Smith-Dorrien
    General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien GCB, GCMG, DSO, ADC was a British soldier and commander of the British II Corps and Second Army of the BEF during World War I.-Early life and career:...

  • 1915-1917 General Sir Herbert Plumer
    Herbert Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer
    Field Marshal Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, GBE was a British colonial official and soldier born in Torquay who commanded the British Second Army in World War I and later served as High Commissioner of the British Mandate for Palestine.-Military...

  • 1917-1918 General Sir Henry Rawlinson
    Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson
    General Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson, GCB, GCSI, GCVO, KCMG , known as Sir Henry Rawlinson, Bt between 1895 and 1919, was a British First World War general most famous for his roles in the Battle of the Somme of 1916 and the Battle of Amiens in 1918.-Military career:Rawlinson was...

France, 1944

The formation was commanded by Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey
Miles Dempsey
General Sir Miles Christopher Dempsey, GBE, KCB, DSO, MC was commander of the British Second Army during the D-Day landings in the Second World War...

 and served under the 21st Army Group. Two of its formations, I Corps (also containing Canadian units) and XXX Corps took part in the D-Day landings of Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

, with its remaining units coming ashore during the remainder of the Normandy Campaign
Normandy Campaign
The Battle of Normandy or Normandy Campaign includes the following:* Operation Overlord - The Western Allied campaign in France from June 6 - August 25, 1944...

. The third corps to land, VIII Corps, entered the line during late June to add its weight to the assault; in particular for the launching of Operation Epsom
Operation Epsom
Operation Epsom, also known as the First Battle of the Odon, was a Second World War British offensive that took place between 26 and 30 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy...

. The main British objective during the early stages of the campaign was to capture the French city of Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

, the so called Battle of Caen. However due to various factors the city was not captured until mid-July during Operation Atlantic
Operation Atlantic
Operation Atlantic was a Canadian offensive during the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War, from July 18–21, 1944. This Canadian offensive was launched in conjunction with a British-led offensive, Operation Goodwood...

, conducted by Canadian troops under the command of Second Army.

By the end of July, American forces had broken out of Normandy. As they swept east, the German Seventh Army
German Seventh Army
The 7th Army was a World War I and World War II field army of the German land forces.-Origins:The 7th Army was activated in Stuttgart on August 25, 1939 with General Friedrich Dollmann in command. At the outbreak of the war, the 7th Army defended the German border and manned the Westwall in the...

 was pinned by the Second Army and trapped in pockets around Falaise
Falaise, Calvados
Falaise is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-History:The town was the birthplace of William I the Conqueror, first of the Norman Kings of England. The Château de Falaise , which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of...

. The German formation was subsequently annihilated during the battle of the Falaise Pocket
Falaise pocket
The battle of the Falaise Pocket, fought during the Second World War from 12 to 21 August 1944, was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy...

. The Second Army then commenced a dash across France in tandem with the Americans on its right, and the Canadians on its left. During the interim, I Corps was transferred from Second Army's control, and assigned to the First Canadian Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

. Due to the heavy casualties sustained by the army during the Normandy campaign, the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division was disbanded in August 1944 to make up for the infantry deficit.

Belgium and Holland

Second Army entered Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 quickly, and cleared much of the country. Its captures included the capital Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 and the port city of Antwerp.

Second Army's highest profile operation in 1944, apart from Operation Overlord was providing the main force for Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

. During the Operation American, British, and Polish parachute troops, outside the control of Second Army, were landed to capture vital bridges over several rivers, in The Netherlands, in order to allow Second Army's XXX Corps to cross the Rhine and advance into Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, relieving the parachute troops en route. However, the single road XXX Corps had to traverse, caused enormous logistical difficulties, and combined with German counterattacks, the operation failed resulting in the loss of much of the British 1st Airborne Division
British 1st Airborne Division
The 1st Airborne Division was a division of the British airborne forces during the Second World War. The division was formed in 1941, after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill demanded an airborne force...

 during the Battle of Arnhem
Battle of Arnhem
The Battle of Arnhem was a famous Second World War military engagement fought in and around the Dutch towns of Arnhem, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze, Driel and the surrounding countryside from 17–26 September 1944....


Second Army spent the rest of the 1944 exploiting the salient that it had created, during Operation Market Garden, in the German line to advance on the Rhine and Meuse
Meuse is a department in northeast France, named after the River Meuse.-History:Meuse is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

 rivers in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. The final part of this advance took place in mid-January 1945, with the clearing of the Roermond Triangle (codename Operation Blackcock
Operation Blackcock
Operation Blackcock was the code name for the clearing of the Roer Triangle formed by the towns of Roermond, Sittard and Heinsberg. It was conducted by the 2nd British Army in January 1945 between 14 and 26 January 1945. The objective was to drive the German 15th Army back across the Rivers Rur and...

) by XII and VIII Corps. This enabled the completion of the advance on the River Roer
The Rur , — not to be confused with the Ruhr — is a river which flows through portions of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It is a right tributary to the river Meuse...


During February, 1945, Second Army entered a holding phase. Whilst it pinned down the German forces facing it, the Canadian First Army and US Ninth Army made a pincer movement from north and south (operations Veritable
Operation Veritable
Operation Veritable was a Second World War pincer movement conducted by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group to clear and occupy the land between the Rhine and Maas rivers. It took place between 8 February and 11 March 1945. It was a part of General Dwight Eisenhower's "broad front"...

 and Grenade
Operation Grenade
During World War II, Operation Grenade was the plan for the U.S. 9th Army to cross the Roer river in February 1945.On 9 February, the U.S...

) which pierced the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

 in that area and cleared the remaining German forces west of the Rhine in conjunction with further American offensives in the south of the Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....


Germany, 1945

Second Army crossed the Rhine on 23 March in an attack codenamed Operation Plunder
Operation Plunder
Commencing on the night of 23 March 1945 during World War II, Operation Plunder was the crossing of the River Rhine at Rees, Wesel, and south of the Lippe River by the British 2nd Army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey , and the U.S. Ninth Army , under Lieutenant General William Simpson...

. It then headed across the North German Plain
North German plain
The North German Plain or Northern Lowland is one of the major geographical regions of Germany. It is the German part of the North European Plain...

, with the First Canadian Army on its left wheeling to clear the north of the Netherlands, and the US Ninth Army on its right helping to trap the German Army Group B
Army Group B
Army Group B was the name of three different German Army Groups that saw action during World War II.-Battle for France:The first was involved in the Western Campaign in 1940 in Belgium and the Netherlands which was to be aimed to conquer the Maas bridges after the German airborne actions in Rotterdam...

, under General Walther Model, in an enormous pocket in the Ruhr
The Ruhr is a medium-size river in western Germany , a right tributary of the Rhine.-Description:The source of the Ruhr is near the town of Winterberg in the mountainous Sauerland region, at an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet...

. With Army Group B trapped, the last major German formation in the west had been neutralized.

Second Army reached the Weser on 4 April, the Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

 on 19 April, the shore of the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 at Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

 on 2 May. 3 May Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 capitulated. By 7 May the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 had met up with the British forces. Shortly thereafter, the Second World War came to an end with the surrender of the government of Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

, who had succeeded Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 after his suicide.


  • Jul 1943-Jan 1944 Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson
    Kenneth Arthur Noel Anderson
    General Sir Kenneth Arthur Noel Anderson, KCB, MC was a British Army officer in both the First and Second World Wars. He is mainly remembered as the commander of the First Army during Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of Tunisia. He had an outwardly reserved character and did not court...

  • Jan 1944-Aug 1945 Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey
    Miles Dempsey
    General Sir Miles Christopher Dempsey, GBE, KCB, DSO, MC was commander of the British Second Army during the D-Day landings in the Second World War...

Operation Overlord

  • I Corps
  • VIII Corps
  • XII Corps
  • XXX Corps

See also

  • Sword Beach
    Sword Beach
    Sword, commonly known as Sword Beach, was the code name given to one of the five main landing areas along the Normandy coast during the initial assault phase, Operation Neptune, of Operation Overlord; the Allied invasion of German-occupied France that commenced on 6 June 1944...

  • Juno Beach
    Juno Beach
    Juno or Juno Beach was one of five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during the Second World War. The sector spanned from Saint-Aubin, a village just east of the British Gold sector, to Courseulles, just west of the British Sword sector...

  • Gold Beach
    Gold Beach
    Gold Beach was the code name of one of the D-Day landing beaches that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

  • Operation Perch
    Operation Perch
    Operation Perch was a British offensive of the Second World War which took place between 7 and 14 June 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to encircle and seize the German occupied city of Caen, which was a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of...

  • Battle of Villers-Bocage
    Battle of Villers-Bocage
    The Battle of Villers-Bocage took place during the Second World War on 13 June 1944, one week after the Allies landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of German-occupied France. The battle was the result of a British attempt to improve their position by exploiting a temporary vulnerability in...

  • Operation Charnwood
    Operation Charnwood
    Operation Charnwood was a Second World War Anglo-Canadian offensive that took place from 8–9 July 1944, during the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to at least partially capture the German-occupied French city of Caen , which was an important Allied objective during the opening stages...

  • Operation Windsor
    Operation Windsor
    Operation Windsor was a Canadian offensive launched as part of the Battle of Normandy during the Second World War. Taking place on 4–5 July 1944, the attack was undertaken by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division in an attempt to capture the Norman town of Carpiquet and the adjacent airfield from...

  • Second Battle of the Odon
    Second Battle of the Odon
    The Second Battle of the Odon was a series of operations fought by the British Army in mid-July 1944 against the German Heer as part of the Battle of Normandy...

  • Operation Goodwood
    Operation Goodwood
    Operation Goodwood was an attack launched on 18 July 1944, during the Second World War, by the British army to the east of the city of Caen...

External links

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