30th (Surrey) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery

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30th (Surrey) Searchlight Regiment
Active 1924–1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Searchlight Regiment
Role Air Defence
Size Regiment
Motto Quae sursum sunt quaerite (Seek the things that are above)[1]
Engagements The Blitz
Tunisian Campaign
Italian Campaigns

30th (Surrey) Searchlight Regiment was an air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army from 1924 until 1961. During World War II it served in The Blitz and later in the Tunisian and Italian Campaigns, while detachments from the regiment served in the Far East and were captured at the Fall of Singapore.

Origins[edit]

The regiment had its origins in independent Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies of the Royal Engineers formed in the Territorial Army (TA) during 1924. Those in Surrey were grouped as follows:[2]

Surrey Group Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies

In 1935 the Surrey Group was redesignated 30th (Surrey) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers (TA). By then an additional company (323 (Surrey) AA Company) had been formed at Ewell, later based at Lower Ham Road in Kingston. The battalion was subordinated to 27th (Home Counties) Anti-Aircraft Group (later termed a Brigade) based at RAF Kenley in Surrey, forming part of 1st AA Division.[3][4]

World War II[edit]

Home Defence[edit]

By the summer of 1939, 30 Searchlight Bn had been transferred to 47th AA Bde, also based at Kenley. It was part of 5th AA Division, responsible for defending Southern England in Anti-Aircraft Command. 30 Searchlight Bn mobilised on 24 August (10 days before the declaration of war) and moved to its war stations in Hampshire.[5][6][7][8]

In March 1940 the battalion HQ moved to Market Rasen Racecourse in Lincolnshire as part of 39 AA Bde, whose responsibilities included airfields and other vulnerable points in Lincolnshire and along the Humber. The battalion's searchlights were deployed accordingly.[8][9][10] Some of these airfields were attacked during June, some searchlight equipment was damaged by bomb splinters, and one site engaged an enemy aircraft with its Lewis gun.[8]

After a short period (29 April–30 June) under command of Lt-Col F.L Congreve of the Royal Artillery (RA), the Commanding Officer from 1 July 1940 was Lt-Col Valentine Christian Green, a former infantry officer and veteran of the Kamerun Campaign in World War I, who had recently transferred to the RA.[8][11] On 1 August 1940, the AA Battalions RE were transferred to the RA, so the battalion became 30th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA) and the companies were termed batteries.[8][12][13]

The Blitz[edit]

As German night air raids on the UK intensified (The Blitz), 30 Searchlight Regt sent detachments to London in September and then to Sheffield in November to assist in their defence. In March 1941, German bombers began dropping mines in the Humber Estuary, and 39 AA Bde ordered 30 Searchlight Regt to establish a mobile detachment to help the defenders engage these raiders. The 'Northern Rovers' and 'Southern Rovers', each of three sections, patrolled the north and south bank of the estuary.[8]

At the end of March the regiment moved to Bristol for fire-watching and fire-fighting duties, particularly at Bristol and Avonmouth Docks. Bristol was heavily blitzed, especially on 11 April. 315 and 316 Batteries were ordered to prepare for deployment overseas, and they left the regiment on 5 June, 567 Battery joining in their place. During the summer of 1941 the regiment's batteries were successively relieved from fire duties at Bristol and went to Birmingham for rest and retraining for a mobile role. In October the regiment rejoined 39 AA Bde, deployed along the Humber and in the East Riding of Yorkshire.[8]

At the start of 1942, 511 Battery was attached to the regiment. On 1 February Lt-Col Green was promoted away to command 41 AA Bde. He was replaced by Lt-Col F. Howard Phillips. In the spring of 1942, 318 and 511 batteries were engaged with German raiders over Birmingham, while 323 and 567 were deployed to airfields in East Anglia.[14]

In September 1942, 30 Searchlight Regt was ordered to mobilise for overseas service. 318 and 511 Batteries were detached to remain in the UK as independent batteries, while 400 Battery (from 50 (Northamptonshire Regiment) Searchlight Regiment) and 568 Independent Battery replaced them. The regiment's order of battle on the eve of departure was thus as follows:[14]

30th (Surrey) Searchlight Regiment, RA

  • 323 (Surrey) Battery
  • 400 (Northampton) Battery
  • 567 Battery
  • 568 Battery

Overseas Service[edit]

The Croydon and Kingston Batteries, 315 and 316, had been sent by sea with 18th Infantry Division bound for the Middle East, but were diverted to Malaya, where they were attached to 5th Searchlight Regiment. As Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight units equipped with Bofors guns they were involved in the defence of airfields against Japanese attack before retreating to be captured in the Fall of Singapore. The men remained prisoners of war until 1945, many dying in captivity.[15][16][17][18][19][20] A new 315 SL Battery was formed in Ceylon and served there in Air Defence Command 1942–44.[18][21]

The headquarters and leading elements of 30 Searchlight Regt embarked at Liverpool aboard the troopship HMS Otranto on 7 January 1943 and landed at Algiers on 17 January.[22] Some of the regiment's lorries and searchlight equipment were lost when a following troopship was torpedoed on 7 February.[23]

30 Regiment was the only British searchlight unit serving with Allied Force Headquarters in North Africa.[24] It was split into two parts: RHQ, 567 and 568 Batteries moved to Bone and came under the command of 66 AA Bde, while 323 and 400 Batteries (collectively known as '30/62 Regiment') moved into Tunisia in February with 62 AA Bde, initially running ammunition columns for the rest of the artillery.[22][23]

Both detachments saw action, replying to direct air attacks on their sites with light machine-guns, 20 mm Hispano cannon on home-made mounts, and 20 mm Oerlikon cannon manned by 218 Battery, RA. Later, 567 and 568 Batteries' sites were each supplied with a Bofors gun manned by 64 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment for close defence. In April, 567 and 568 Batteries were cooperating with 76 and 79 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, while from March onwards 30/62 Regt had 131 Z Battery under command.[22][23]

During the Italian Campaign, 30 Regiment was once again the only British searchlight unit operating under AFHQ, but late in 1943 it was placed in suspended animation and its personnel dispersed to other units.[13][25]

Postwar[edit]

On 1 January 1947 the regiment was reconstituted in the TA as 565 Searchlight Regiment, RA (Surrey), with its HQ once more at Kingston. Two years later the regiment's role was partly changed and it was redesignated 565 (Mixed) Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight Regiment, 'Mixed' indicating that some of the personnel were from the Women's Royal Army Corps.[13][26][27]

When AA Command was disbanded in 1955, 565 LAA regiment absorbed two other Surrey AA units: 566 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (City of London Rifles), based at Sutton, and 598 LAA Regiment (formerly 4th Bn, Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey)), at Croydon, the original 565 personnel becoming R Battery in the merged regiment:[13][27][28]

  • P (City of London Rifles) Bty
  • Q (4th Queen's) Bty
  • R (Surrey) Bty
  • S (City of London Rifles) Bty

In 1961 a further reorganisation saw 565 Regiment converted to infantry and merged with 6th Battalion The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) to form 4th (V) Battalion The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment, when the RE and RA lineage ended.[13][27][29]

First-hand account[edit]

To hear an Imperial War Museum interview with Sergeant Percy Mutimer on his experiences with 316 Searchlight Battery in peacetime Kingston, in the Malayan campaign, and as a Japanese POW, visit http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80004760.

Honorary Colonel[edit]

Richard Onslow, 5th Earl of Onslow (1876–1945) was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Surrey Group of AA Companies in 1927 and continued in the role for 30th (Surrey).[4][30]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Lt-Col Green's Special Order of the Day to 315 & 316 S/L Batteries, 4 June 1941, TNA file WO 166/3044.
  2. ^ Monthly Army List 1924–25.
  3. ^ 1 AA Division 1936–38 at British Military History
  4. ^ a b Monthly Army List, 1939.
  5. ^ AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  6. ^ 5 AA Division 1939 at British Military History
  7. ^ 5 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  8. ^ a b c d e f g 30 Searchlight Regiment War Diary, 24 August 1939–31 December 1941, The National Archives (TNA), Kew file WO 166/3044.
  9. ^ 10 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  10. ^ 10 AA Div at RA 39–45
  11. ^ Gradation List, Army List, January 1939.
  12. ^ 30 SL Rgt at RA 39–45
  13. ^ a b c d e Litchfield, p. 226.
  14. ^ a b 30 Searchlight Regiment War Diary, 1 January–31 December 1942, TNA file WO 166/7780.
  15. ^ 18 Infantry Division 1942 at British Military History
  16. ^ Malaya Command 1941–42 at British Military History
  17. ^ 5 SL Rgt at RA 39–45
  18. ^ a b Farndale, Annex A, p. 328.
  19. ^ Imperial War Museum Document 8917
  20. ^ Imperial War Museum Document 11206
  21. ^ Farndale, Annex H, pp. 347–8.
  22. ^ a b c 30 Searchlight Regiment War Diary 1943, TNA file WO 175/479.
  23. ^ a b c 30/62 Searchlight Regiment War Diary 1943, TNA file WO 175/480.
  24. ^ Joslen, p. 465.
  25. ^ Joslen, p. 467.
  26. ^ Graham Watson, The Territorial Army 1947 at Orbat.com
  27. ^ a b c 564–591 Regiments at British Army units 1945 on
  28. ^ 592–638 Regiments at British Army units 1945 on
  29. ^ 4th Bn Queen's at Regiments.org
  30. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.

References[edit]

  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Far East Theatre 1939–1946, London: Brasseys, 2002, ISBN 185753302X.
  • 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]