28th (Essex) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery

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28th (Essex) Searchlight Regiment
Active 1935–1955
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Searchlight Regiment
Role Air Defence
Size Regiment
Engagements The Blitz

The 28th (Essex) Searchlight Regiment was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) from 1935 until 1961, at first as part of the Royal Engineers, later in the Royal Artillery. It defended the approaches to London during World War II

Origin[edit]

The regiment had its origins in a group of Independent Air Defence Companies of the Royal Engineers formed in Essex by the Territorial Army during 1929:[1]

Essex Group Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies:

In 1935 the Essex Group became 28th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers (TA), and the following year it was subordinated to the newly formed 29th (East Anglian) Anti-Aircraft Group (later termed a Brigade), based at RAF North Weald in Essex and part of 1st Anti-Aircraft Division.[2] In the years before World War II, British anti-aircraft defences continued to expand, with new regiments and formations, the whole coming under Anti-Aircraft Command. In April 1939, 310 (Essex) Company was split off to form part of the new 74th (Essex Fortresss AA Bn).[3]

World War II[edit]

When war was declared on 3 September 1939, 28 AA Bn was still in 29 AA Bde, but this had been transferred to 6th AA Division which was formed in 1939 to take responsibility for air defence of the Thames Estuary, Essex and Kent.[3][4]

In common with other RE searchlight battalions, the unit was transferred to Royal Artillery in August 1940, becoming 28th (Essex) Searchlight Regiment RA (TA), and the companies were termed batteries.[5][6] At this time AA Command was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain, in which 29 AA Bde was responsible for guarding Kent. This was soon followed by the night-bombing campaign of The Blitz, in which searchlights were a key element in the defences.[5][7][8]

By the end of 1944, however, the German Luftwaffe was suffering from such shortages of pilots, aircraft and fuel that serious aerial attacks on the United Kingdom could be discounted. At the same time 21st Army Group fighting in North West Europe was suffering a severe manpower shortage, particularly among the infantry.[9] In January 1945 the War Office began to reorganise surplus anti-aircraft and coastal artillery regiments in the UK into infantry battalions, primarily for line of communication and occupation duties, thereby releasing trained infantry for frontline service.[10][11] 28th Searchlight Regiment was one of the units selected for conversion, and redesignated 630th (Essex) Infantry Regiment RA. It was attached to 38 AA Bde, which became 304th Infantry Brigade on 22 January 1945.[3][5][6][12][13]

After infantry training, including a short period attached to 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division, 630 Regiment was sent to Norway in June 1945 to disarm German forces following the liberation of that country (Operation Doomsday).[6][12][13]

Postwar[edit]

After the end of World War II, the regiment was placed in suspended animation in 1946 before being reconstituted the following year as 563 Searchlight Regiment, RA (28th Essex). Its HQ was at Whipps Cross, Essex, and once again it formed part of 29 AA Bde, now renumbered 55 (East Anglian) AA Bde.[6][14] Two years later the regiment's role was partly changed and it was redesignated 563 (Mixed) Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight Regiment RA (28th Essex), 'Mixed' indicating that some of the personnel were from the Women's Royal Army Corps.[6]

When AA Command was disbanded in 1955, the regiment amalgamated with a number of other Essex AA units to form 517th LAA Regiment (Essex), with the former 28th Essex becoming R Battery. In 1961 a further amalgamation into 300 LAA Regiment (Finsbury Rifles) finally ended the 28th Essex lineage.[6]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Major L.F. Ellis, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: Victory in the West, Vol II: The Defeat of Germany, London: HM Stationery Office, 1968/Uckfield: Naval & Military, 2004, ISBN 1-845740-59-9.
  • Lt-Col H.F. Joslen, Orders of Battle, United Kingdom and Colonial Formations and Units in the Second World War, 1939–1945, London: HM Stationery Office, 1960/Uckfield: Naval & Military Press, 2003, ISBN 1843424746.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.

External sources[edit]