33rd (Western) Anti-Aircraft Brigade

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33rd (Western) Anti-Aircraft Brigade
Active1936–1955
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
TypeAnti-Aircraft Brigade
RoleAir Defence
Part of2nd AA Division
4th AA Division
4 AA Group
Garrison/HQChester
Liverpool
Warrington
EngagementsThe Blitz

The 33rd (Western) Anti-Aircraft Brigade was an air defence formation of Anti-Aircraft Command of the Territorial Army, part of the British Army, formed shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It defended Merseyside and West Lancashire during The Blitz.

Origin[edit]

The 33rd (Western) Anti-Aircraft Group (later Brigade) was formed on 1 November 1936 at the Drill Hall, Chester, as part of 2nd AA Division, with the following AA units of the Royal Artillery (RA) and Royal Engineers (RE) under command:[1]

The 33rd AA Brigade was reassigned to 4th AA Division when that formation was created in Western Command on 1 September 1938. AA Command took over all TA air defences in 1939.[1][2] From its formation, 33 AA Bde was commanded by Brigadier R.S. Ellis. By early 1939 its headquarters was at 'Crossacres', Woolton, Liverpool.[5][6]

World War II[edit]

Mobilisation[edit]

AA Command mobilised in August 1939, and its units were already at their war stations on the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939. 33rd AA Brigade was responsible for the air defence of Liverpool and West Lancashire, controlling the following units:[2][7][8]

A panoramic view of bomb damage in Liverpool; Victoria Monument in foreground, the burned-out shell of the Custom House in middle distance
Another panoramic view, looking towards the River Mersey

Phoney War and Battle of Britain[edit]

During the early part of the war the brigade's searchlight regiments were transferred to other formations and were replaced by new HAA and Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) regiments. By the end of the Battle of Britain 33 AA Bde had the following units under command:[9][10][11][12]

The Blitz[edit]

While the Battle of Britain raged over the skies of Southern England by day, there were also night raids on industrial cities, and Liverpool was heavily attacked for four nights in a row from 28 August.[19] The night raids continued into the following Spring, during which period the city and its docks along the Mersey became the most heavily bombed area of Britain outside London. The campaign became known as the Liverpool Blitz, with particularly heavy attacks at Christmas 1940 (the Christmas Blitz), in April 1941, and again in May (the May Blitz).[20][21]

Order of Battle 1940–41[edit]

By the end of the Blitz the brigade had the following units under command:[22]

  • 1st HAA RgtRegular Army mobile regiment, transferred from 1st AA Bde at Crewe; part of War Office Reserve[23]
  • 93rd HAA Rgt
    • 267, 288, 289, 290 HAA Btys
  • 103rd HAA Rgt
    • 322, 323, 324 HAA Btys
    • 420 Bty (joined between 27 June and 11 July 1941)
  • 107th HAA Rgtnew unit formed September 1940, partly from 103rd HAA Rgt[14]
    • 334, 335, 337, 390 HAA Btys
  • 33rd LAA Rgt
    • 67, 68, 132 LAA Btys
  • 4th AA 'Z' Rgt – new unit equipped with Z Battery rocket projectors, formed in 4 AA Division September 1940[14]
    • 104, 108, 122, 132, 139 Z Btys

Mid-War[edit]

4 AA Division formation sign.

The Blitz ended in May 1941, but occasional raids continued.[24][25] Newly-formed units joining AA Command were increasingly 'mixed' ones into which women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service were integrated. Some of these were armed with Z Battery rocket projectiles that were partly manned by members of the Home Guard.At the same time, experienced units were posted away for service overseas. This continual turnover of units accelerated in 1942 with the preparations for Operation Torch and the need to relocate guns to counter the Baedeker Blitz and the Luftwaffe 's hit-and-run attacks against South Coast towns.[24][26]

Order of Battle 1941–42[edit]

During this period the division was composed as follows (temporary detachments omitted):[14][22][27][28]

  • 1st HAA Rgt – as above; to Northern Ireland July 1941
  • 93rd HAA Rgt – as above; to 44 AA Bde June 1942
    • 267, 288, 289, 290 HAA Btys
    • 416 HAA Bty – joined May 1942
  • 95th HAA Rgtjoined September 1942; left for India October 1942[29]
    • 267, 288, 289, 290 HAA Btys
  • 103rd HAA Rgt – as above; left for mobile training May 1942
    • 322, 323, 324 HAA Btys
    • 420 HAA Bty – joined July 1941; left April 1942
  • 107th HAA Rgt – as above; left December 1941
  • 117th HAA Rgtjoined autumn, to 70 AA Bde December 1941, returned May, left for Orkney and Shetland Defences (OSDEF) late August 1942
    • 370, 371 HAA Btys
    • 358 Bty – joined May, left July 1942
    • 369, 392 HAA Btys – left early August 1942
  • 137th (Mixed) HAA Rgtnew unit formed November, joined December 1941, to 1 AA Group October 1942[14]
    • 476, 481 (M) HA Btys
    • 477 (M) HAA Bty – to 142nd (Mixed) HAA Rgt January 1942
    • 487 (M) HAA Bty – from 142nd (M) HAA Rgt January 1942
Loading a mobile multiple Z Battery launcher.
  • 149th (Mixed) HAA Rgtnew unit formed February, joined April 1942[14]
    • 506, 507, 512 (M) HAA Btys
  • 154th (Mixed) HAA Rgtnew unit formed March, joined May 1942[14]
    • 522, 526 (M) HAA Btys
    • 560 (M) HAA Bty – joined June 1942
    • 550 (M) HAA Bty – joined August 1942
  • 29th LAA Rgtjoined autumn 1941, to 10 AA Division February 1942
    • 108, 121, 237 LAA Btys
  • 33rd LAA Rgt – as above; to 2 AA Division autumn 1941
  • 63rd LAA Rgtfrom 70 AA Bde August 1942
    • 188, 189, 190, 457 LAA Btys
  • 98th LAA Rgtnew unit formed December 1941, joined February, to 5 AA Division May 1942[14]
    • 304, 305, 306, 481 LAA Btys
  • 134th LAA Rgtnew unit formed February, joined June, to 57 AA Bde August 1942[14]
    • 192, 275, 287 LAA Btys
    • 230 LAA Bty – left July 1942
    • 475 LAA Bty – joined July 1942
  • 4th AA 'Z' Rgt – as above; to 70 AA Bde summer, rejoined autumn 1941, to 57 AA Bde August 1942
    • 194, 132, 139, 172 Z Btys
  • 33 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section (part of No 2 Company, 4 AA Division Mixed Signal Unit, RCS)

Later war[edit]

A reorganisation of AA Command in October 1942 saw the AA divisions disbanded and replaced by a smaller number of AA Groups more closely aligned with the organisation of RAF Fighter Command. 33 AA Brigade came under a new 4 AA Group covering North West England and the West Midlands.[30][31]

Order of Battle 1942–44[edit]

AA Command formation sign worn by all units from October 1942

By this time the brigade was composed solely of HAA regiments following the redeployment of LAA guns to the South Coast. It was only in early 1943 that the brigade was reinforced:[30][32][33]

  • 93rd HAA Rgt – returned by October 1942; left for Middle East Forces (MEF) by mid-March 1943[34]
    • 267, 288, 289, 290 HAA Btys
  • 149th (M) HAA Rgt – to 53 AA Bde May 1943
    • 506, 507, 512, 587 (M) HAA Btys
  • 154th (M) HAA Rgt – to 2 AA Group October 1943
  • 522, 526, 590 (M) HAA Btys
  • 550 (M) HAA Bty – left December 1942
  • 552 (M) HAA Bty – joined January 1943
  • 157th (M) HAA Rgtfrom 2 AA Group October 1943
    • 505, 539, 550, 551 (M) HAA Btys
  • 179th (M) HAA Rgtfrom 2 AA Group October 1943
    • 584, 606, 607, 641 (M) HAA Btys
  • 184th (M) HAA Rgtnew unit formed November 1942, joined April 1943; to 44 AA Bde by August 1943[14]
    • 616, 617, 625, 627 (M) HAA Btys
  • 190th (M) HAA Rgtnew unit formed January 1943, joined May 1943[14]
    • 642, 664, 665, 667 (M) HAA Btys
  • 4th (M) AA 'Z' Rgt – returned May 1943
    • 104, 132, 214 Z Btys
    • 230 Z Bty – left end 1943
  • 14th (M) AA 'Z' Rgt – from 1 AA Group May 1943
    • 108, 172, 201, 202, 226 Z Btys

Order of Battle 1944[edit]

In March 1944 the number of brigade HQs in 4 AA Group was reduced, and 33 AA Bde HQ was temporarily given additional responsibilities until these units were redistributed, mainly to the south of England to cover the embarkation ports for Operation Overlord:[33][35]

  • 157th (M) HAA Rgt – as above
  • 159th (M) HAA Rgtjoined March, to 6 AA Group August 1944
    • 542, 543, 563, 614 (M) HAA Btys
  • 167th (M) HAA Rgtjoined March 1944; to 1 AA Group May 1944
    • 464, 562, 610 (M) HAA Btys
  • 179th (M) HAA Rgt – as above; to 2 AA Group May 1944
  • 190th (M) HAA Rgt – as above; to 61 AA Bde May 1944'
  • 196th HAA Rgtfrom OSDEF June 1944; disbanded July 1944[14]
    • 351, 661, 662 HAA Btys
  • 88th LAA Rgtjoined March, to 2 AA Group May 1944
    • 178, 289, 293 LAA Btys
  • 4th AA Area Mixed Rgt – redesignated 1944
  • 13th AA Area Mixed Rgt – joined March 1944
    • 122, 203, 204, 205, 216 Z Btys
  • 14th AA Area Mixed Rgt – redesignated 1944

By October 1944, AA Command was being forced to release manpower to 21st Army Group fighting in North West Europe and 33 AA was reduced to one HAA regiment (157th; replaced by 169th – 566, 571, 576 (M) HAA Btys – in December) and its three AA Area Mixed regiments.[35] At this date its own HQ establishment was 9 officers, 8 male other ranks and 25 members of the ATS, together with a small number of attached drivers, cooks and mess orderlies (male and female). In addition, the brigade had a Mixed Signal Office Section of 5 male other ranks and 19 ATS, which was formally part of the Group signal unit.[36]

War's end[edit]

As the war neared its end there was a continued run-down of AA Command: 4 AA Group was disbanded in mid-March 1945, and 33 AA Bde transferred to the command of 5 AA Group. By this time, the brigade consisted solely of the rocket batteries of the three AA Area Mixed Rgts, and as these were disbanded in April. were disbanded during March and April, the brigade HQ soon had nothing to command.[14][35] In May 1945, after the end of the war in Europe (VE Day), it was given control of 12 Area AA Maintenance HQ to administer the demobilisation process, with 37th (Tyne Electrical Engineers) and 69th (3rd City of London) S/L Rgts added in June. By November it was commanding a number of returned Regular Army units, together with others awaiting demobilisation:[37]

  • 2nd HAA Rgt – returned from MEF[34]
    • 16, 20, 28 HAA Btys
  • 4th HAA Rgt – returned from MEF[34]
    • 5, 6, 258 HAA Btys
  • 7th HAA Rgtreturned from Siege of Malta[34]
    • 10, 13, 27 HAA Btys
  • 130th HAA Rgt
    • 442, 443, 448 HAA Btys
  • 69th (3rd City of London) S/L Rgt
    • 354, 456, 457 S/L Btys

Postwar[edit]

On 1 January 1947, 33 AA Bde was redesignated 59th Anti-Aircraft Brigade in the reformed TA, constituting part of 4 AA Group based at Warrington:[38][39]

AA Command was disbanded on 10 March 1955 and there was a series of reductions and mergers in the TA's AA units. 59 AA Brigade was itself placed in suspended animation on 31 October 1955 and formally disbanded on 31 December 1957.[39]

A new brigade[edit]

A new 33rd AA Bde was formed on 1 November 1955 at Shepherd's Bush, London, by redesignation of X AA Bde (formerly 63 AA Bde). It had no links with Western Command or Merseyside. This brigade was reorganised on 1 May 1961, becoming 33 Artillery Brigade in 56th (London) Division.[39]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "2 AA Division 1936 at British Military History" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  2. ^ a b c "4 AA Division 1939 at British Military History" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  3. ^ 62 S/L at RA 39–45 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Litchfield, p. 134.
  5. ^ a b Monthly Army Lists 1937–39.
  6. ^ Farndale, Annex J.
  7. ^ AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  8. ^ Routledge, Table LVIII, p. 376; Table LX, p. 378.
  9. ^ "4 AA Div 1940 at British Military History" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  10. ^ 4 AA Div at RA 39–45 Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  12. ^ Farndale, Annex D, p. 258.
  13. ^ 103 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2011-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Farndale, Annex M.
  15. ^ 106 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "33 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  17. ^ 42 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2013-10-20 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "65 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  19. ^ Routledge, Table LXII, p. 379–80; p. 385.
  20. ^ Routledge, pp. 394–5.
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ a b Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 12 May 1941, with amendments, The National Archives (TNA), Kew, file WO 212/79.
  23. ^ Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional Units), 25 March 1941, TNA file WO 212/5.
  24. ^ a b Pile's despatch.
  25. ^ [http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-Defence-UK/UK-DefenseOfUK-17.html Collier, Chapter XVII.
  26. ^ Routledge, pp. 399–404.
  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. ^ Joslen, p. 521.
  30. ^ a b Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 1 October 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/82.
  31. ^ Routledge, pp. 400–1, Map 36.
  32. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 13 March 1943, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/83.
  33. ^ a b Order of Battle of AA Command, 1 August 1943, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/84.
  34. ^ a b c d Joslen, pp. 484–5.
  35. ^ a b c Order of Battle of AA Command, 27 April 1944, TNA file WO 212/85.
  36. ^ AA Command Organisation Table, October–November 1944, TNA file WO 212/148.
  37. ^ Order of Battle of AA Command, 15 November 1945, TNA file WO 212/86.
  38. ^ Litchfield, Appendix 5.
  39. ^ a b c AA Brigades 30–66 at British Army Units from 1945 on

References[edit]

Online sources[edit]