Operation Sand Dune: The 4th Indian Infantry Division part 1

The History of the 4th Indian Infantry Division, by Carl Titterington


With my Operation Compass list completed it is now time for me to move on to my Indian force, which will be roughly set in 1941/42 and will be based around the Operation Lightfoot list. The ultimate plan is to build my Indian force in a way that it can be used for both the mid war period and the early war period. In order to do this I wanted to base my force around a historical unit that fought in North Africa from the start of the campaign through to the end of the conflict in the desert. After some research I have decided to represent the Indian 4th Infantry Division with my force. This gives my force flexibility for playing games in the desert at any point during the desert war.


The 4th Indian Infantry Division was formed in 1939 in Egypt. It was part of the Western Desert Force and was involved with Operation Compass in December of 1940. During the campaign, they fought with the 7th Royal Tank Regiment against the Italian Maletti group, which was destroyed at Nibiewa Camp. The division was rushed later in December to the British Sudan. There they joined with the Indian 5th Infantry Division and were tasked with preventing the numerically superior Italian forces from taking the sea supply routes to Egypt as well as the Suez Canal and Egypt itself. The campaign in the Sudan ended in March with the defeat of 42 Italian battalions by 19 British and Indian battalions. During the final battle at Keren, Subadar Richhpal Ram, who served with the 4th Indian Infantry Division, was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross. The rank of Subadar, used in the Indian army, was technically above that of a non-commissioned officer but below a commissioned officer. The British equivalent was that of a Captain.


Following the conclusion of the campaign in East Africa, the division returned to Egypt and was heavily involved with the advances and retreats past Tobruk from June 1941 right through into 1942. A significant event to note was the capture of the 11th Brigade, part of the 4th Indian Infantry Division, when Tobruk fell to the Germans on the 21st of June 1942. The Division also played a very important role in the lead up to the Second Battle of El Alamein. Their task was to create a diversion by holding in stiff fighting at the Ruweisat Ridge, which was at the centre of the Allied front. Montgomery’s plan was for the diversionary attack to hold up Axis infantry and stop them moving north where two lanes through minefields were being cleared under the codename, Operation Lightfoot.


The Division was dispersed on several occasions during the North African campaign, however, as a division they fought with distinction, particularly in May 1943 at the fall of Tunis. Their performance earned the division a reputation for its prowess in mountainous country. Another honour won by the division was the capture of General von Arnim in Tunisia, which brought about an end to the North African campaign. During the conflict the major battles that the 4th Division fought in were Benghazi, Tobruk, Wadi Akarit, Enfidaville and Tunis.


I am very much looking forward to getting into this part of the project and creating a force that represents this great unit, which perhaps has not been in the spotlight due to the fame of the Desert Rats. I plan to use the Crusader tank with this force as well as a 2 pounder anti tank gun. I also plan on purchasing a Matilda II tank so I can use this force for an early war period game. They will have similar support units to my Desert Rats force and will also have a Bedford 3 ton truck for transport.


To see more of my forces check out my YouTube channel where I have videos on the forces, terrain for the desert, live chats and many other project videos and reviews. Check out my channel at the link below or search YouTube for T’s Creative Ramblings.

View T’s Creative Ramblings on YouTube

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Next Week

Turning these into the 4th Indian Division:


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