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102nd HAA Regiment, RA (TA)
502nd (Ulster) (M) HAA Regiment, RA (TA)
Hand of Ulster Badge.png
Ulster hand, as used by SR and TA units of the RA in Ulster
Active 1939–1944
Country  United Kingdom

 British Army

Type Heavy Anti-Aircraft Defence Regiment
Role Heavy AA Defence
Size Regiment
Part of Northern Ireland District
Regimental HQ Antrim, Northern Ireland

World War II

The 102nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery was a North Irish air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) raised in Antrim, Northern Ireland during the period of international tension leading up to the outbreak of World War II. It defended northern Northern Ireland. The regiment continued to serve until 1943 when it was moved to the Middle East and served in the North African Campaign before being placed in suspended animation. When the TA was reformed the next year, the regiment was reformed yet disbanded in 1955 following the concurrently disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command (AA Command).

History[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

The Territorial Army was rapidly expanded following the Munich Crisis, particularly the Anti-Aircraft (AA) branch of the Royal Artillery (RA). The 102nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA was one of these many new units formed in the spring on 1939.[1][2][3] By September 1939 the regiment was organised as follows;[2][3][4]

  • Regimental Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, Antrim
  • 314th AA Battery, Antrim
  • 315th AA Battery, Antrim
  • 316th AA Battery, Antrim
  • 175th LAA Battery, Antrim (joining on mobilisation)
  • 175th LAA Battery, Antrim (joining on mobilisation)

Following formation the regiment was assigned to Northern Ireland District and designated as a Supplementary Reserve (SR) regiment due to traditions of no TA units being based in Northern Ireland. Throughout the entire AA branch of the RA, there were 850 HAA and 510 LAA guns based throughout the United Kingdom available.[3][5]

World War II[edit | edit source]

Before mobilisation leading up to the beginning of World War II, the Anti-Aircraft Command (AA Command) was divided into seven divisions of varying brigades and a number of AA and searchlights in each. One of these divisions was the 3rd AA Division which was tasked with defending both Scotland and Northern Ireland. During this period there was one fighter squadron detached from RAF Fighter Command and two other HAA units covering the entire country, of which only one of these (8th (Belfast)) was fully organised and equipped.[3][6]

Mobilisation[edit | edit source]

In June 1939, as the international situation worsened, a partial mobilisation of TA units was begun in a process known as 'couverture', whereby each AA unit did a month's tour of duty in rotation to man selected AA and searchlight positions. On 24 August, ahead of the declaration of war, AA Command was fully mobilised at its war stations.

When General Sir Frederick Pyle took command of AA Command on 28 July 1939, the command had a sever shortage of equipment, especially in the HAA section of the AA branch. On the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939, there were a total of just 695 covering the entire country, many of which were only on loan from the Royal Navy. The situation was worse for the fact that AA Command's establishment was 2,232, yet not even half of the guns were available or produced.[5]

Phoney War[edit | edit source]

During the early parts of the Phoney War AA Command was lucky for there were very little to no air attacks over Great Britain, which allowed them to fix their structure, equipment shortages, and manpower issues. One of the first issues to solve the was the manpower, which was being steadily helped by the introduction of conscription in mid 1939, of which 20,000 were allocated to AA Command. During this period, many of the 'militia'[Notes 1] were either medically unfit or in terrible condition due to many of the better militia going to overseas posts and deployments.[3]

On 1 June 1940 those AA regiments like the 102nd equipped with 3-inch or the newer 3.7-inch guns were termed Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) to distinguish them from the new Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) units being formed. Thus, the regiment was renamed as the 102nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA). During this period, the commander of AA Command, General Sir Frederick Pile, oversaw a massive expansion of the AA branch due to the lack of AA defences during the failed Norwegian Campaign and subsequent Battle of France. The general felt that if the AA defences and RAF Fighter Command could work together they could win the air war, thus preventing an invasion of Operation Sea Lion saw. As a result of this AA Command was reorganised and formed five new AA divisions and 3 AA Corps. (See: Anti-Aircraft Command#Organisation)[3][5][7]

One of the new divisions was the 12th AA Division which was tasked with covering the Clyde (and South West Scotland) and Northern Ireland to relive the burden of the 3rd AA division. This new division was formed in accordance to the reorganisation of RAF Fighter Command which covered these same areas, therefore allowing the two groups to work more efficiently together.[5]

Battle of Britain[edit | edit source]

On 20 July 1940 No. 245 Squadron RAF was moved to RAF Aldergrove in central Northern Ireland were they were tasked with providing support to the AA and Searchlight (S/L) units based in the area. By 11 September 1940 more forces were moved to Northern Ireland due to the threat of a flank invasion through the Republic of Ireland which was being somewhat temped by the Third Reich. During this period the large TA divisions, 53rd (Welsh) Infantry and 61st Infantry Division were based along with the independent 148th Infantry Brigade were tasked with defending the NI coast and border in addition to helping the AA defences.[8][9][10] By November 1940, the following AA units were under the command of Northern Ireland District;[11][12]

By 13 November 1940 the AA defences in Northern Ireland were again expanded, with the new No. 82 Group RAF being formed from the two (soon to be many new squadrons and sections).[13] (See: Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove#Second World War)

Throughout 1941 Northern Ireland was still very unprepared, this was evident that still only 22 AA guns were based throughout the country just as the Luftwaffe started bombing Belfast later that year.[14]

Middle East[edit | edit source]

In May 1943 the regiment was sent to North Africa where it joined Middle East Forces in the HAA role of defending northern Egypt. By 23 May 1943 the regiment was one of 25 HAA units based in the Middle East, being one of the 14 HAA units sent to reinforce the area. By 10 July 1943 the regiment was assigned to the Ninth Army which was formed following the redesignation of Middle East Forces and tasked with providing replacements to the Eighth Army.[3][7][15][16] While the regiment was based in North Africa, the regiment was organised as follows;[7][17]

  • Regimental Headquarters
  • 314th HAA Battery
    • Battery HQ
    • A Troop (x4 guns)
    • B Troop ^^
  • 315th HAA Battery
    • Battery HQ
    • C Troop ^^
    • D Troop ^^
  • 316th HAA Battery
    • Battery HQ
    • E Troop ^^
    • F Troop ^^

Finally, in January 1944 the regiment was no longer deemed 'important' and was placed in Suspended animation with personnel moving to other units.[3][7]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

When the Territorial Army was reformed in 1947, the regiment was reconstituted on 1 January 1947 in Belfast designated as the 502nd (Ulster) (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA (TA) and assigned to the 51st Anti-Aircraft Brigade. On 10 March 1955 AA Command was disbanded and the regiment was amalgamated with the other Ulster AA regiments to formed the 245th (Ulster) LAA Regiment, RA (TA).[3][18]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]



  1. The term 'Conscription' or 'Draft' wasn't used, as it seemed a scary word, therefore these conscripts were designated as "Militia" or "Militiamen".

References[edit | edit source]

  • Martin Brayley, Men-at-Arms, 'The British Army 1939–45 (1) North West Europe'. Osprey Publishing. Westminster, London. ISBN 978-1-84176-052-0.
  • Basil Collier, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The Defence of the United Kingdom, London: HM Stationery Office, 1957.
  • 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 1-843424-74-6.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, 'The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges)', Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.
  • Gen Sir Frederick Pile's despatch: 'The Anti-Aircraft Defence of the United Kingdom from 28th July, 1939, to 15th April, 1945' London Gazette 18 December 1947
  • Martin Brayley, Men-at-Arms, 'The British Army 1939-45 (2), Middle East & Mediterranean'. Osprey Publishing. Westminster, London ISBN 978-1841762371.
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