In June 1940, following the Dunkirk evacuation, the division was shipped to France as part of the Second BEF to cover the withdrawal of forces near Cherbourg during Operation Ariel. From May 1942 until June 1944, the division was trained in a mountain warfare capacity, but was never employed in this role. Following June, the division was reorganised and trained in airlanding operations. As part of this new role, the division was transferred to the First Allied Airborne Army.
Several operations were planned for the division, following the successful conclusion of the Normandy Campaign. Operation Transfigure planned to have the 1st British Airborne and the US 101st Airborne Divisions capture landing strips near Rambouillet, for the 52nd Division to land at. The three divisions would have then blocked the German line of retreat towards Paris. Operation Linnet proposed, the usage of most of the First Airborne Army including the 52nd Division, to seize areas in north-eastern France to block the German line of retreat. As part of Operation Market Garden', the 1st Airborne Division was given a subsidiary mission of capturing Deelen airfield, on which the 52nd Division would land.
Due to the disastrous course of events that unfolded during the Battle of Arnhem, where the 1st Airborne Division was virtually destroyed, the 52nd Division was not deployed
Arrived European Theatre of Operations June 1940