6th Army Group Royal Artillery

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The 6th Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA), developed by the British Army to add weight of fire and increased artillery flexibility to the battlefield, was one of a number of AGRAs created and one of the main AGRAs to fight in the Italian Campaign during World War 2.

Under the command of Brigadier Julian St. Clair Holbrook, C.B.E, M.C, 6th AGRA was created at the Royal Artillery Base Depot near Almaza, North Africa on 15 March 1943. As with all newly formed units, the Headquarters was established initially and the administrative centre set up. The men in charge chose the 6th sign of the Zodiac as their formation badge - this was worn on the right sleeve of the Battledress uniform, with the 8th Army badge on the left sleeve.

The HQ 6th AGRA then moved to Beni Yusef, near Cairo in April 1943 to begin the task of establishing the numerous regiments that would form its order of battle. By the end of that month, the Group consisted of three Medium Regiments, RA as follows:

The first action of 6th AGRA was during Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, with the advanced guard of 66th Medium Regiment landing on 10 July 1943 and the guns themselves being deployed and ready to fire by 12th.

The AGRA then took part in the Invasion of Italy, firing across the straight of Messina onto Italian soil. For this operation, both 5th and 6th AGRA fired side-by-side. Through the Italian Campaign, 6th AGRA fought at Sangro, Cassino, Arezzo, Florence, the assault on the Gothic Line. They held station on Monte Grande beside the British 1st Infantry Division over the winter of 1944/45, before beginning the Spring Offensive in the Po Valley.

6th AGRA finished the war in Austria, Brigadier Holbrook having left the formation 3 weeks prior to the final surrender of Axis Forces in Europe. The AGRA was the commanded by Brigadier T. F. K. Howard, DSO, who following the war, gave this assessment of the AGRA and of his late command of the units in it:

"It was like giving the final tap to a truly driven nail with a nicely balanced hammer. It was so nicely balanced too."

6th AGRA was disbanded in November 1945.

Order of Battle[edit]

During the various stages of its time in action, 6th AGRA's order of battle varied widely as regiments were seconded to it and other regiments were assigned elsewhere. The following is a list of all the units engaged within 6th AGRA at some time during its operational establishment, during the war:

  • Headquarters 6th Army Group R.A
  • 66th (Lowland) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 76th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 78th (Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 75th (Highland) Heavy Regiment, R.A
  • Counter Battery Staff XIII Corps
  • 80th (Scottish Horse) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 2nd Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 69th (Pembroke & Carmarthen) Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 61st Heavy Regiment, R.A
  • 5th Medium Regiment, R.A
  • 194th (U.S) F.A. Group
  • 3rd Survey Regiment, R.A
  • 376th (Artillery) Company, R.A.S.C
  • 655th Air O.P. Squadron, R.A.F
  • 126th Meteorological Section, R.A.F
  • 21st Canadian Meteorological Section, R.C.A
  • 40th Squadron, S.A.A.F

Post War[edit]

Brigadier Hollbrook later went on to command 86th AGRA (TA), a post-war Territorial Army Group Royal Artillery, which had command ties to the 6th AGRA, through Holbrook. The post-war 86th AGRA (TA) had a very similar sign to the 6th AGRA, but with the tail of the 'M' separated.

References[edit]

Meddemmen, G, The Guns of 6th AGRA, HMSO. Date Unknown.