The 2nd Devons were garrisoning Malta when the Second World War began on 3rd September 1939. In June 1940 Mussolini’s declaration of war hurled Malta to the forefront of world events. The island’s position below Sicily and above Italian Libya and British Egypt made her strategically vital in both the campaign in North Africa and the war in the Mediterranean. The Italians (and later the Germans) tried to bomb and starve surrounded Malta into surrender. The siege lasted three years, during which the 2nd Devons defended the coast and airfields, repaired bomb damage, mended roads and runways, manned anti-aircraft guns and prepared for an invasion that happily never came. It was on Malta that the 2nd Devons came together with the 1st Hampshire and 1st Dorsets to form 231 Malta Brigade, with which they served until late 1944.
After training in Egypt in assault landings, the 2nd Devons landed in Sicily on 10th July 1943. In the seven-week campaign that followed they advanced north west and then east, fighting actions at Vizzini, Agira and Regalbutto and liberating the south-eastern corner of the island below Mount Etna. The campaign cost them 19 killed and 94 wounded. On 8th September they landed in Italy on the Calbrian coast at Porto San Venere and led the Brigade’s advance to the Amato River before being withdrawn and returned to the UK to play a leading role in the D-Day landings.
On D-Day the 2nd Devons landed immediately behind the 1st Hampshires and 1st Dorsets and then passed through to capture Ryes and an enemy coastal battery at Longues. In the Normandy campaign they fought at La Belle Epine(near Trungy), at Hottot, at Le Lion Vert and at Les Forges on the road to Conde sur Noireau. After the rapid advance across the Seine and through Belgium, they played a part in Operation Market Graden, fighting to consolidate the Eindhoven corridor through which XXX Corps would pass on their way to the bridges at Nijmegen and Arnhem. October and November 1944 were spent defending the island – the low-lying polderland between Arnhem and Nijmegen – against a German thrust south.
In late November 231 Malta Brigade was split up and the 2nd Devons were transferred to 7th Armoured Division, then near Sittard and with whom they served for the rest of the war. In January 1945 they took part in the bitter fight to clear the Roer Triangle in the south of Holland. In March, once across the Rhine, they forced a crossing of the River Weser and fought their last battle at Vehrendorf, outside Hamburg.
On 12th July 1945 the 2nd Devons took part in the Victory Parade in Berlin, having joined the garrison there a week earlier. In four years of war the Battalion had been under fire for more than three, had served in four campaigns and had carried out three assault landings, earning twelve battle honours for the Devonshire Regiment.