52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery

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52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment
The Sparrows Insignia.png
Royal Artillery cap badge and AA patch
Active 1922–1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Role Air Defence
Size Regiment
Garrison/HQ Duke of York's Headquarters, Chelsea,
Ripple Lane Acton
Engagements The Blitz
Burma Campaign 1944–1945

52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army from 1922 until 1961. In World War II it defended London during The Blitz and later served in the Burma Campaign.

Origin[edit]

German air raids by Zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers on London and other British cities during World War I had shown the need for strong anti-aircraft (AA) defences in any future war. When the Territorial Army (TA) was reformed in 1922 it included a number of dedicated AA units of the Royal Artillery (RA). The second of these was 52nd (London) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, comprising 154th (London), 155th (London) and 156th (Barking) AA Batteries. The Regimental Headquarters, 154 and 155 Batteries were at the Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea, London, while 156 Battery was based at Empress Hall, Ripple Lane, Barking.[1][2] It formed part of 26th (London) Air Defence Brigade also headquartered at the Duke of York's Headquarters.[3] The original TA AA units were formed on a low peacetime establishment with a few old 3-inch guns on static mounts.[4]

Badge of the Royal Artillery above a door at a building of the former Duke of York's Headquarters in Chelsea, London

As Britain's AA defences expanded during the 1930s, higher formations became necessary, and the 26th AD Bde (now renamed 26th (London) AA Group), including 52nd AA Bde, was assigned to 1st AA Division organised to cover London and the Home Counties. The Royal Garrison Artillery had been absorbed into the Royal Artillery (RA) in 1924; in 1938 the RA replaced its traditional unit designation 'Brigade' by the modern 'Regiment', and the 'AA Groups' reverted to the more usual formation title of 'Brigades'. Anti-Aircraft Command was formed in April 1939 to control all the TA's AA units and formations.[1][2][5]

By 1938, RHQ, 154 and 155 Batteries had moved from Chelsea to Artillery House, Horn Lane, in Acton, and were joined by a new 271 AA Battery based at Brentford, replacing 156 (Barking) Battery, which had become part of a new 82nd (Essex) AA Regiment[2][6]

Mobilisation[edit]

The TA's AA units were mobilised on 23 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis. The call-out of key parties by telephone and telegram went well, and they assembled at their drill halls within a few hours. Because the units possessed only a small scale of transport, elaborate plans had been made to requisition civilian vehicles, ranging from heavy lorries to buses and private cars. Equipment was drawn from mobilisation stores, and the detachments ferried out to their war stations. Despite some failures and problems, the emergency positions covering London were manned and most of the equipment was in place within 24 hours. The emergency mobilisation lasted nearly three weeks before the TA units were released on 14 October.[7]

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 on 28 August 1939, ahead of the declaration of war on 3 September 1939.[8]

World War II[edit]

On mobilisation, 52 AA Regiment was assigned to a newly formed 49 AA Bde in London. At that time it included a new 313 AA Battery forming at Brentford; this battery later served with the Regular 4th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment in West Africa[9][10][11][12]

The Blitz[edit]

3.7 inch gun in London in 1939.

In the summer of 1940, along with other AA units equipped with the older 3-inch and newer 3.7-inch AA guns, the 52nd was designated a Heavy AA Regiment.[1] By the time of the Battle of Britain and during The Blitz, 52 HAA Regt had returned to 26 AA Bde in 1 AA Division, defending London.[12][13][14][15][16]

Ceylon[edit]

The regiment remained with 1 AA Division until March 1942, when it joined the War Office Reserve[17][18] and then embarked for Ceylon, arriving at Colombo on 28 May and moving to Trincomalee a month later.[12][14][19] 154 (London) Battery was stationed with East Africa Command in November 1942,[20] and in April 1943 joined 56 (Cornwall) HAA Regt in Ceylon. In its place, 52 HAA Regt received 159 (Lloyds) Battery from 53 (City of London) HAA Regt. 52 HAA Regt came under the command of 23 AA Bde, while 155 and 271 Btys were at different times detached to 24 AA Bde[12][14][19][21][22]

Burma[edit]

On 23 November 1944, 52 HAA Regt embarked again and crossed to India to take part in the reconquest of Burma. It spent the whole of December travelling to Palel in Manipur on the Burmese border, where it came under XXXIII Corps in Fourteenth Army to join in the advance across the Chindwin River.[12][14][19][23]

Assigned to 11th (East Africa) Division, it moved east from Imphal to Tamu and down the 'pestilential' Kabaw Valley to the Chindwin to meet 5th (Indian) Division at Kalemyo. 11th EA Division with its AA support then moved north up the Chindwin to Kalewa, an important ferry centre which was to be the crossing site for XXXIII Corps. A bridgehead was secured and the engineers began building a 1100-foot Bailey bridge on pontoons. Japanese air attacks had been slight up to this point, but now their aircraft made a determined attempt to knock out the bridge. Intense concentrations of fire by 52nd and the other AA units broke up the attacks, destroyed six aircraft, and ensured that the bridge remained intact.[24]

As XXXIII Corps launched its main drive from Kalewa in December, 52 HAA Rgt remained behind to defend the bridgehead area, later moving up to guard the line of communications as the Corps advanced towards Mandalay in January 1945. During the approach to Mandalay, the Corps HAA guns were frequently used as Corps medium artillery, bombarding enemy positions. Late in 1944, 52nd HAA Rgt had acquired a section of 7.2-inch howitzers to operate in this role, for which it had to find the detachments, command posts and observation post parties for this unfamiliar duty.[25]

The important airfield at Meiktila was captured by IV Corps on 20 February and turned into a defended 'box' against enemy counter-attacks, and 52nd HAA Rgt was transferred from XXXIII to IV Corps, with 271 Bty moving in to reinforce the box.[26]

As the British advance gained momentum, IV Corps' two divisions, 5th and 17th (Indian), began leap-frogging forwards. 155 and 271 Batteries of 52nd HAA Rgt accompanied 5th Division, while 159 Bty went with 17th Division. The HAA guns were mainly used in the ground role, but when the advance reached Payagyi and Pegu, only 70 miles from Rangoon, the airfield complex and the bridge over the Sittang River required AA cover, for which 271 Bty was deployed against small and scattered air raids. [27]

When Rangoon fell in early May, 24th AA Bde took over responsibility for its air defence, and 52nd HAA Rgt deployed its 24 3.7-inch guns to defend the docks, airfield and oil installations. It remained there when 24 AA Bde was replaced by 3 Indian AA Bde in June. The AA defence role at Rangoon ended in September 1945 and 52nd HAA Rgt was withdrawn. All the British regiments were on their way home by October.[19][28]

The regiment's former 154 (London) HAA Battery had been converted into Medium Artillery (as 63 Medium Battery) in July 1944 and assigned to 87 Medium Regt. It remained in Burma when the rest of 87 Medium Regt returned to India, and on 17 August 1945 it rejoined 52 HAA Regt.[29]

Postwar[edit]

The regiment was reconstituted in the TA in 1947 as 452 (London) HAA Regiment at Acton in 67 AA Bde (the prewar 41 AA Bde). In 1954 it absorbed 454 (City of London) HAA Regiment, and the following year amalgamated with 453/488 (City of London) and 497 (Hammersmith) HAA Regiments in 33 AA Bde. The combined regiment retained the number 452, with the following organisation:[1][2][30]

  • RHQ Battery – from 453/488 HAA
  • P (Middlesex) Battery – from 452 HAA
  • Q (Lloyds City of London Battery) – from 454 HAA
  • R (Hammersmith) Battery – from 497 HAA

In 1961 the regiment amalgamated again with 264 (7th London) Field Regiment, 290 (City of London) Field Regiment and 353 (London) Medium Regiment to form 254 (City of London) Field Regiment, when the 52nd Anti-Aircraft lineage ended.[1][30]

Honorary Colonel[edit]

The motor manufacturer and philanthropist William Morris, 1st Viscount Nuffield was appointed Honorary Colonel of 52 (London) AA Regiment on 4 June 1937 and continued that role with 452 HAA Regiment.[6][31]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Litchfield, p. 164.
  2. ^ a b c d 1 AA Division 1936–39 at British Military History
  3. ^ Titles and Designations 1927.
  4. ^ Routledge, p. 40.
  5. ^ AA Command at British Military History
  6. ^ a b Monthly Army List January 1938.
  7. ^ Routledge, pp. 62–3.
  8. ^ Routledge, p. 65.
  9. ^ AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  10. ^ 1 AA Division 1939 at British Military History
  11. ^ Joslen, p. 490.
  12. ^ a b c d e 52 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45
  13. ^ 1 AA Div at RA 39–45 Archived October 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ a b c d 1 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  15. ^ Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  16. ^ Farndale, Annex D, p. 257.
  17. ^ Farndale, Annex H, p. 281.
  18. ^ Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional units), 22 October 1941, 17 March 1942 Amendments, The National Archives (TNA), Kew, files WO 212/6 and WO 33/1883.
  19. ^ a b c d Joslen, p. 519.
  20. ^ Joslen, p. 491.
  21. ^ 56 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45
  22. ^ Routledge, Table XXXVIII, pp. 253–4.
  23. ^ Routledge, Table XXXIX, p. 255.
  24. ^ Routledge, pp. 245–7.
  25. ^ Routledge, pp. 244, 247–8.
  26. ^ Routledge, p. 248, Table XL, p. 255.
  27. ^ Routledge, p. 250.
  28. ^ Routledge, pp. 250–1.
  29. ^ Joslen, pp. 512, 519.
  30. ^ a b 444–473 Regiments at British Army units from 1945 on
  31. ^ Burke's.

References[edit]

  • Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 100th Edn, London, 1953.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, ISBN 978-1870114004.

External Sources[edit]