Army Group Royal Artillery

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An Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) was a British Commonwealth military formation type during the Second World War and shortly thereafter, generally assigned to Army corps. An AGRA was mainly composed of medium artillery regiments but heavy regiments and field regiments were also used. They were moved at need from corps to corps within an army.

Background[edit]

World War I had been arguably the first 'artillery war', in which Britain's Royal Artillery (RA) advanced enormously, both technologically and tactically. The previously independent Heavy and Siege batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) were grouped into Heavy Artillery Groups, later termed 'brigades' (a lieutenant-colonel's command), at the disposal of Army Corps. But despite heated arguments, no higher organisational command structure was evolved.[1]

By the time World War II broke out, the RGA had been integrated into RA and the 'brigades' of 'heavy' and 'siege' guns had become 'regiments of 'medium' and 'heavy' artillery with more modern equipment. But they still lacked a higher command structure for flexibility and concentration in the control of artillery above the divisional level, the need for which became apparent to the British Expeditionary Force during the Battle of France in 1940 and the early part of the Western Desert Campaign.

Concept[edit]

The AGRA concept was developed during Exercise 'Bumper' held in the UK in 1941, organised by the commander of Home Forces, General Alan Brooke (himself a Gunner) with Lt-Gen Bernard Montgomery as chief umpire.[2][3] This large anti-invasion exercise tested many of the tactical concepts that would be used by the British Army in the latter stages of the war. The gunnery tacticians developed what became the AGRAs, powerful artillery brigades, usually comprising three medium regiments and one field regiment, which could be rapidly moved about the battlefield, and had the punch to destroy enemy artillery.[4]

Service[edit]

AGRAs made their debut with First Army in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations[5] and the concept was adopted during the North West Europe[6] and Far East[7] campaigns.

For the most part each corps in the line was assigned an AGRA but when especially heavy fire support was needed one corps area could be stripped of its AGRA to support another, as happened at |the battle for Calais in 1944 (Operation Undergo), or in the initial attack on the Italian mainland (Operation Baytown) when two AGRAs, side-by-side, fired across the Straits of Messina from Sicily. As the British Army manpower shortage developed, the weight of fire that an AGRA could add to an attack became increasingly important.[6]

Commonwealth AGRAs[edit]

Canadian corps-level concentrations of artillery were also referred to as AGRAs, despite the fact they were composed of units of the Royal Canadian Artillery as well as the Royal Artillery.[8] Canada had two AGRAs in the Second World War, one served in Italy as part of I Canadian Corps and North West Europe from March 1945 and the other only in North West Europe with II Canadian Corps.[9]

After the war, 59th AGRA appears to have been transferred to the British Indian Army in 1946, becoming 59 Army Group Royal Indian Artillery, retitled 2 Army Group RIA the following year. At Independence in 1947, the order of battle of the RIA included 1 AGRIA, 2 AGRIA and 11 AGRIA (AA).[10]

List of AGRAs during World War II[edit]

Where known, with area of operation and dates formed and disbanded.

List of postwar AGRAs[edit]

After World War II, AGRAs were mainly used to control Territorial Army (TA) units, particularly AA units that did not not form part of Anti-Aircraft Command. Later a few were created in the regular Army for British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Farndale, Western Front, Annex E.
  2. ^ Bryant, pp. 256–8.
  3. ^ Doherty, p. 35.
  4. ^ Farndale, Years of Defeat, p. 99.
  5. ^ Fraser, p. 251.
  6. ^ a b Fraser, p. 322.
  7. ^ a b c d e Farndale, Far East.
  8. ^ Falconer.
  9. ^ Dickers.
  10. ^ Kempton, p. 49.
  11. ^ 1st AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived November 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ 2nd AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived April 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Ellis, Appendix IV.
  14. ^ 3rd AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015
  15. ^ 4th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015
  16. ^ 5th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015 Archived April 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ 9th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived April 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ 7th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived November 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ 8th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015
  20. ^ 9th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015
  21. ^ 10th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived November 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ 11th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived November 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ 17th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived November 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ 17th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016 Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^ 59th AGRA at RA 39–45, accessed 30 March 2016
  26. ^ a b Routledge, p. 249.
  27. ^ Routledge, p. 323.
  28. ^ 2nd Canadian Army Group RCA at RA 39–45, accessed 4 September 2015 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ a b c d AA Brigades at British Army 1945 on. Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ Lord & Watson, p. s90.
  31. ^ RA Formation badges at British Badge Forum.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u AGRAs at British Army 1945 on. Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ a b c d Routledge, Table LXXV, p. 442.
  34. ^ Lord & Watson, p. 89.
  35. ^ Routledge, p. 434.
  36. ^ Routledge, p. 440.
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Lord & Watson, pp 197–201.
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Watson.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Litchfield, Appendix 5.

References[edit]

  • Sir Arthur Bryant, The Turn of the Tide, 1939–1943, London: Collins, 1957.
  • Dickers, Robin (2012). The History of the 2nd Canadian Army Group Royal Artillery. London: Lonsdale. ISBN 978-0-9569969-9-2. 
  • Richard Doherty, Hobart's 79th Armoured Division at War: Invention, Innovation and Inspiration, Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2011, ISBN 978-1-84884-398-1.
  • 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.
  • Falconer, D.W. (1985). Battery flashes of W.W. II: a thumb-nail sketch of Canadian artillery batteries during the 1939-1945 conflict. Madison: the University of Wisconsin - Madison. ISBN 0-9691865-0-9. 
  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Western Front 1914–18, Woolwich: Royal Artillery Institution, 1986, ISBN 1-870114-00-0.
  • 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 1-85753-080-2.
  • Gen Sir Martin Farndale, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: The Far East Theatre 1939–1946, London: Brasseys, 2002, ISBN 1-85753-302-X.
  • Gen Sir David Fraser, And We Shall Shock Them: The British Army in the Second World War, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1983, ISBN 0-340-27085-3.
  • Chris Kempton, A Register of Titles of The Units of the H.E.I.C. and Indian Armies, 1666–1947', (British Empire & Commonwealth Museum Research Paper Number 1), Bristol: British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, 1997, ISBN 0-9530174-0-0.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Cliff Lord & Graham Watson, Royal Corps of Signals: Unit Histories of the Corps (1920–2001) and its Antecedents, Solihull: Helion, 2003, ISBN 1-874622-92-2.
  • Brig N.W. Routledge, History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery: Anti-Aircraft Artillery 1914–55, London: Royal Artillery Institution/Brassey's, 1994, ISBN 1-85753-099-3.

External links[edit]