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2nd Anti-Aircraft Division (United Kingdom)

The 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division (2 AA Division) was an Air Defence formation of the British Army from 1935 to 1942. It controlled anti-aircraft gun and searchlight units of the Territorial Army (TA) defending the East Midlands and East Anglia during The Blitz.

2nd Anti-Aircraft Division
2nd AA div.svg
Formation sign of the 2nd Anit-aircraft Division.[1]
Active 15 December 1935 – 1 October 1942
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Anti-Aircraft Division
Role Air Defence
Part of Northern Command (1936–39)
Anti-Aircraft Command (1939–40)
2 AA Corps (1940–42)
Garrison/HQ RAF Hucknall
Motto(s) We sweep the skies.[1]
Engagements The Blitz

Contents

OriginEdit

In December 1935 the TA's 46th (North Midland) Division (which also acted as HQ for the North Midland Area of Northern Command) was disbanded and its headquarters was converted into 2nd Anti-Aircraft (AA) Division to control the increasing number of AA units being created. At first it administered all AA units in Great Britain outside London and the Home Counties, which were covered by 1st Anti-Aircraft Division. The new division was first organised at York, but shortly afterwards took over 46 Division's HQ at Normanton, Derby.[2][3][4]

Order of BattleEdit

By the end of 1936 the division had the following order of battle, though many of the units were in an easily stage of formation or conversion:[2][4][5]

General Officer Commanding: Major-General James Harrison[5][6]

40, 41, 42, 44 and 46 AA battalions had previously been infantry battalions in 46th Division.[4]

In 1938 the Royal Artillery replaced the traditional unit designation 'Brigade' by 'Regiment', which allowed the AA Groups to take the more usual formation title of Brigades.

MobilisationEdit

The TA's AA units were mobilised on 23 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis. Because the organisation of 2 AA Division and its component units was not yet complete, it was only partially mobilised. The emergency mobilisation lasted nearly three weeks before the TA units were released on 14 October. The experience led to improvements in equipment scales, and a rapid expansion of AA defences brought many new AA gun and searchlight units into existence.[7] In November 1938, 33 AA Bdes transferred to the newly formed 4th Anti-Aircraft Division respectively. In June 1939, 30 and 31 AA Bdes joined 7th Anti-Aircraft Division.[8] They were replaced in 2 AA Division by new brigadescreated in September 1938: 39th at Retford in Nottinghamshire and 40th and 41st in London.[4] 39th AA Bde also transferred to 7th AA Division just before the outbreak of war.[9] In April 1939, AA Command was formed to control all the AA gun and searchlight defences of the United Kingdom.

Major-General Harrison was transferred to command RA Training Establishments and was replaced as GOC 2 AA Division on 30 May 1939 by Maj-Gen Claude Grove-White.[6][10]

The deterioration in international relations during 1939 led to a partial mobilisation in June, and a proportion of TA AA units manned their war stations under a rotation system known as 'Couverture'. Full mobilisation of AA Command came in August 1939, ahead of the declaration of war on 3 September 1939.[11]

World War IIEdit

On the outbreak of war 2 AA Division had the following order of battle:[4][12][13][14]

When these units went to their war stations, the division had 97 heavy AA (HAA) guns (3-inch and 3.7-inch)ready for action, distributed as follows:[16]

  • Hull: 28 (plus 2 out of action)
  • Leeds: 24 (plus 6 out of action)
  • Sheffield: 20 (plus 3 out of action)
  • Derby: 6
  • Nottingham: 6 (plus 2 out of action)

The division also had 6 3-inch and 12 40mm Bofors light AA (LAA) guns, as well as 88 light machine guns (LMGs).[10]

By 11 July, at the start of the Battle of Britain, this had risen to 231 guns of all types (HAA and LAA excluding LMGs):[17]

  • Leighton Buzzard: 4
  • Nottingham: 16
  • Derby: 40
  • Humber: 38
  • Mobile battery: 8
  • Airfields: 20 (mainly LAA)
  • Vital points: 82 (mainly LAA)

In August 1940, all RE AA battalions became Searchlight regiments of the RA, and AA regiments became HAA regiments to distinguish them from the new LAA regiments being formed.

In July 1940, at the height of invasion fears, a mobile column called 'Macduff' was formed by 50th AA Bde, consisting of one HAA battery and one S/L Company to operate directly under 2 AA Division, available to combat enemy paratroopers.[18][19]

The BlitzEdit

By late 1940, 2 AA Division formed part of 2 AA Corps. Grove-White had been promoted on 11 November to command the new corps and it shared 2 AA Division's HQ at RAF Hucknall.[6][8][10] The brigades were the same, but by February 1941 their locations and composition had changed:[15][20][21][22][23]

  • GOC: Major-General F.L.M. Crossman, DSO, MC (transferred from 1 AA Division)[24]
  • 32 AA Bde covering the East Midlands
  • 40 AA Bde covering airfields
  • 41 AA Bde covering East Anglia
    • 78 HAA Rgt (part)
    • 29 LAA Rgt
    • 60 S/L Rgt
    • 65 S/L Rgt
    • 69 S/L Rgt
    • 121 AA Z Battery formed by May 1941, equipped with Z Battery rocket projectiles
  • 50 AA Bde covering Derby & Nottingham
    • 67 HAA Rgt
    • 113 HAA Rgt (part)
    • 28 LAA Rgt
    • 38 LAA Rgt (part)
    • 64 LAA Rgt (part)
    • 42 S/L Rgt
    • 38 S/L Rgt (part)
    • 50 S/L Rgt
  • 2 AA Divisional Signals

In the Spring of 1941, 50 LAA Bde was split up, keeping the S/L regiments while a new 66 AA Bde took the HAA guns and rockets:[15]

  • 50 AA Bde
    • 28 LAA Rgt
    • 42 S/L Rgt
    • 50 S/L Rgt
  • 66 AA Bde
    • 67 HAA Rgt
    • 113 HAA Rgt
    • 38 LAA Rgt
    • 64 LAA Rgt
    • 15 AA 'Z' Rgt[25]

Mid-warEdit

The division's order of battle thus contained a large number of S/L units. AA Command redeployed its S/L units during the summer of 1941 into 'Indicator Belts' of radar-controlled S/L clusters covering approaches to the RAF's Night-fighter sectors, repeated by similar belts covering AA Command's Gun Defence Areas (GDAs). Inside each belt was a 20-mile deep 'Killer Belt' of single S/Ls cooperating with night-fighters patrolling defined 'boxes'. The pattern was designed to ensure that raids penetrating deeply towards the Midlands GDAs would cross more than one belt, and the GDAs had more S/Ls at close spacing. The number of LAA units to protect Vital Points such as airfields was growing, albeit slowly.[26]

After December 1941 the division's order of battle was as follows:[27][28]

32 AA Bde

  • 136 HAA Rgt (new regiment formed October 1941; left March–April 1942; returned June 1942) [29]
  • 45 LAA Rgt (from 41 AA Bde August 1942; left September 1942)
  • 64 LAA Rgt (to 41 AA Bde by May 1942)
  • 120 LAA Rgt (converted from S/L; joined September 1942)[29]
  • 134 LAA Rgt (new regiment joined February–March 1942; left May–June 1942)[29]
  • 41 S/L Rgt
  • 44 S/L Rgt (to 66 AA Bde December 1941)
  • 58 S/L Rgt
  • 60 S/L Rgt (from 41 AA Bde January 1942; left and converted to 126 LAA February–March 1942)[29]
  • 65 S/L Rgt

40 AA Bde

  • 30 LAA Rgt (left December 1941)
  • 33 LAA Rgt (left December 1941)
  • 96 LAA Rgt (new regiment joined December 1941; left by May 1942)[29]
  • 138 LAA Rgt (new regiment joined June 1942)[29]
  • 36 S/L Rgt
  • 64 S/L Rgt (to 32 AA Bde, May–June 1942)

41 AA Bde

  • 78 HAA Rgt (left April 1942)
  • 82 HAA Rgt
  • 106 HAA Rgt (from 66 AA Bde May 1942; left July 1942)
  • 128 HAA Rgt (joined July 1942; left August 1942)
  • 161 (Mixed) HAA Rgt (new regiment joined August 1942)[29]
  • 64 LAA Rgt (from 32 AA Bde by May 1942; left June 1942)
  • 113 LAA Rgt (converted from S/L, joined March–April 1942) [29]
  • 126 LAA Rgt (converted from 60 S/L, joined Mary 1942) [29]
  • 60 S/L Rgt (to 32 AA Bde January 1942)
  • 69 S/L Rgt
  • 72 S/L Rgt

50 AA Bde

  • 144 (Mixed) HAA Rgt (from 66 AA Bde August 1942)
  • 20 LAA (joined August 1942)
  • 111 LAA (left July 1942)
  • 139 LAA (new regiment joined August 1942; left September 1942)[29]
  • 42 S/L Rgt
  • 50 S/L Rgt (left May–June 1942)
  • 15 AA 'Z' Rgt (from 66 AA Bde August 1942)

66 AA Bde

  • 106 HAA Rgt (to 41 AA Bde May 1942)
  • 113 HAA Rgt (left March 1942)
  • 144 (Mixed) HAA Rgt (new regiment joined by May 1942; to 50 AA Bde August 1942)[29]
  • 38 LAA Rgt (left December 1941)
  • 45 LAA Rgt (joined by May 1942; to 32 AA Bde August 1942)
  • 44 S/L Rgt (from 32 AA Bde December 1941; left by May 1942)
  • 15 AA 'Z' Rgt (to 50 AA Bde August 1942)

'Mixed' indicates that women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) were integrated into the unit.

The increased sophistication of Operations Rooms and communications was reflected in the growth in support units, which attained the following organisation by May 1942:[30]

  • 2 AA Division Mixed Signal Unit HQ, RCS
    • HQ No 1 Company
      • 2 AA Division Mixed Signal Office Section
      • 40 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 104 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 41 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 115 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 331 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 333 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 6 AA Line Maintenance Section
    • HQ No 2 Company
      • 32 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 105 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 50 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 106 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 407 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 22 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
      • 24 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
      • 66 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 324 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 6 AA Line Maintenance Section
  • HQ 2 AA Div RASC
    • 904, 929, 932 Companies
  • HQ 2 AA Div RAMC
  • 2 AA Div Workshop Company, RAOC
  • 2 AA Div Radio Maintenance Company, RAOC

The RAOC companies became part of the new Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) during 1942.

66 AA Brigade HQ, with its signal section and transport company, left AA Command in August 1942 and came under War Office control ready to join First Army in the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch).[31][32]

DisbandmentEdit

2 AA Division, like the other AA Corps and Divisions, was disbanded and replaced on 1 October 1942 by a new AA Group structure. The Midlands and East Anglia were covered by 5 AA Group, headquartered at Hucknall. 2 AA Divisional Signals was apparently converted into the new Group signal unit.[8][33]

General Officer CommandingEdit

The following officers commanded 2nd AA Division:[34]

  • Major-General James Harrison (1 September 1936 – 29 May 1939)[35]
  • Major-General Maurice Grove-White (30 May 1939 – 10 November 1940)[36]
  • Major-General Francis Crossman (12 November 1940 – 30 September 1942)[37]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Cole p. 54
  2. ^ a b 2 AA Division 1936–38 at British Military History
  3. ^ Northern Command 1930–38 at British Military History
  4. ^ a b c d e Monthly Army List 1936–39.
  5. ^ a b Routledge, p. 59.
  6. ^ a b c Farndale, Annex J, p. 299.
  7. ^ Routledge, pp. 62–3.
  8. ^ a b c Sir Frederick Pile's despatch: "The Anti-Aircraft Defence of the United Kingdom from 28th July 1939, to 15th April 1945" London Gazette 16 October 1947
  9. ^ 7 AA Division 1939 at British Military History.
  10. ^ a b c Grove-White at British Military History.
  11. ^ Routledge, p. 65.
  12. ^ Routledge, Table LVIII, p. 376.
  13. ^ 2 AA Division 1939 at British Military History
  14. ^ AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  15. ^ a b c Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 12 May 1941 with amendments, TNA file WO 212/79.
  16. ^ Routledge, Table LIX, p. 377.
  17. ^ Farndale, p. 105.
  18. ^ 365 AA Coy (41st AA Bn) War Diary July 1940, TNA file WO 166/3208.
  19. ^ Routledge, p. 382.
  20. ^ Routledge, Table LXV, p. 397.
  21. ^ Farndale, Annex D, p. 259
  22. ^ 2 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  23. ^ 2 AA Div at RA 39–45 Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Farndale, Appendix J, p. 295.
  25. ^ 15 AA Z Rgt at RA 39–45
  26. ^ Routledge, pp. 398–400.
  27. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 2 December 1941, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/80.
  28. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 14 May 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/81.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Farndale, Annex M.
  30. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 14 May 1942, TNA file WO 212/81.
  31. ^ Routledge, p. 177.
  32. ^ Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional Units), 22 November 1942, TNA file WO 212/8.
  33. ^ Lord & Watson, pp. 251, 269.
  34. ^ Robert Palmer, 'AA Command History and Personnel' at British Military History.
  35. ^ Harrison at Generals of World War II.
  36. ^ Grove-White at Generals of World War II.
  37. ^ Crossman at Generals of World War II.

ReferencesEdit

  • Cole, Howard (1973). Formation Badges of World War 2. Britain, Commonwealth and Empire. London: Arms and Armour Press. 
  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Years of Defeat: Europe and North Africa, 1939–1941, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1988/London: Brasseys, 1996, ISBN 1857530802.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Cliff Lord & Graham Watson, Royal Corps of Signals: Unit Histories of the Corps (1920–2001) and its Antecedents, Solihull: Helion, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-92-2.
  • Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, OCLC 852069247

External sourcesEdit