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11th Anti-Aircraft Division
11th AA div.jpg
Formation sign of the division.[1]
Active 1 November 1940–30 September 1942
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Anti-Aircraft Division
Role Air Defence
Size 3–4 Brigades
Part of 2 AA Corps
Garrison/HQ Birmingham
Engagements Coventry Blitz
Birmingham Blitz
Baedeker Blitz

11th Anti-Aircraft Division (11 AA Division) was an air defence formation of the British Army during the early years of World War II. It defended the West MIdlands during The Blitz, including the notorious raid on Coventry, and the subsequent Baedeker Blitz, but only had a short career.

Mobilisation[edit | edit source]

11th Anti-Aircraft Division was one of five new divisions created on 1 November 1940 by Anti-Aircraft Command to control the expanding anti-aircraft (AA) defences of the United Kingdom. The division was formed by separating two Territorial Army (TA) brigade areas (34 (South Midland) and 54) from 4 AA Division in North West England and adding a Regular Army headquarters (1 AA Bde) that had recently returned from the Dunkirk evacuation.[2][3][4][5][6]

The divisional headquarters (HQ) was at Birmingham and the first General Officer Commanding (GOC), appointed on 14 November 1940, was Major-General Sidney Archibald, who had been Major General, Royal Artillery, of Home Forces and was a former commander of 34 (South Midland) AA Bde. 11 AA Division formed part of 2 AA Corps.[7][8][9][10]

The Blitz[edit | edit source]

The division's fighting units, organised into three AA Brigades, consisted of Heavy (HAA) and Light (LAA) gun regiments and Searchlight (S/L) regiments of the Royal Artillery. The HAA guns were concentrated in the Gun Defence Areas (GDAs) at Birmingham and Coventry, LAA units were distributed to defend Vulnerable Points (VPs) such as factories and airfields, while the S/L detachments were disposed in clusters of three, spaced 10,400 yards apart.[11]

Coventry Blitz[edit | edit source]

Coventry city centre following the 14/15 November air raid

At the time 11 AA Division was created, the industrial towns of the UK were under regular attack by night, to which the limited AA defences replied as best they could. The West Midlands had already suffered badly, with Birmingham and Coventry receiving heavy raids in August and October.[12][13] The new division was still being formed when the Luftwaffe launched a series of devastating raids, beginning with the notorious Coventry Blitz on 14/15 November.[14]

The Coventry raid was preceded by a dozen pathfinder aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 100 riding an X-Gerät beam to drop flares and incendiary bombs on the target. The huge fires that broke out in the congested city centre then attracted successive 40-strong waves of bombers flying at heights between 12,000 and 20,000 feet to saturate the defences. The AA Defence Commander (AADC) of 95th HAA Rgt had prepared a series of concentrations to be fired using sound-locators and GL Mk. I gun-laying radar, and 128 concentrations were fired before the bombing severed all lines of communication and the noise drowned out sound-location. Some gun positions were able to fire at S/L beam intersections, glimpsed through the smoke and guessing the range. Although the Coventry guns fired 10 rounds a minute for the whole 10-hour raid, only three aircraft were shot down over the UK that night, and the city centre was gutted.[14][15][16]

The change in enemy tactics led to HAA guns being moved from London to the West Midlands (for example, 6 HAA Regt).[17]

Birmingham Blitz[edit | edit source]

Birmingham High Street, looking towards the Bull Ring area, after heavy bombing on 10 April 1941.

The Coventry raid was followed by three consecutive nights (19–22 November) of attacks on Brimingham and other Black Country industrial towns including West Bromwich, Dudley and Tipton were all hit. Birmingham was bombed again during December (3, 4, 11) and on 11 March 1941, but the full Birmingham Blitz came in April 1941, with heavy raids on the nights of 9/10 and 10/11 of the month, causing extensive damage and casualties.[14][18]

The Blitz is generally held to have ended on 16 May 1941 with another attack on Birmingham. By now the HAA sites had the advantage of GL Mk I* radar with an elevation finding (E/F or 'Effie') attachment, and several attackers were turned away by accurate fire and their bombs scattered widely, some on nearby Nuneaton.[19][20] The city was attacked again in July, but the Luftwaffe bombing offensive was effectively over.[18][21] The West Midlands had been the hardest hit area of the UK after London and Merseyside.[22]

Order of Battle 1940–41[edit | edit source]

The division's composition during the Blitz was as follows:[5][6][23][24][25]

By March 1941, 1 AA Bde HQ together with the Regular 1st and 6th HAA Rgts had returned to the War Office (WO) Reserve pending deployment overseas, but temporarily remained part of AA Command. By mid-May 1941, 1 AA Bde had handed over its units and responsibilities to a new 68 AA Bde and left AA Command, while 67 AA Bde had also been created by splitting 34 AA Bde.[25][47][48]

Mid-War[edit | edit source]

By October 1941 the availability of S/L control radar was sufficient to allow AA Command's S/L sites to be 'declustered' into single-light sites spaced at 10,400-yard intervals in 'Indicator Belts' in the approaches to the GDAs, and 'Killer Belts' at 6000-yard spacing to cooperate with the RAF's Night-fighters.[49]

Although the Luftwaffe 's so-called Baedeker Blitz of 1942 was mainly aimed at unprotected cities, Birmingham was hit on several occasions in June and July that year.[50]

Newly-formed AA units joined the division, the HAA and support units increasingly becoming 'Mixed' units, indicating that women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) were fully integrated into them. At the same time, experienced units were posted away to train for service overseas. This led to a continual turnover of units, which accelerated in 1942 with the preparations for the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) and the need to transfer AA units to counter the Baedeker raids and the Luftwaffe 's hit-and-run attacks against South Coast towns.[3][49]

Order of Battle 1941–42[edit | edit source]

During this period the division was composed as follows:[25][51][52][53][54]

  • 54 AA Bde
  • 67 AA Bde
    • 95th HAA Rgt – from 34 AA Bde by May 1941, returned December 1941
    • 122nd HAA Rgt – from 34 AA Bde by December 1941; to 68 AA Bde December 1941
    • 138th HAA Rgt[76]from 9 AA Division August 1942; to 3 AA Division September 1942
    • 142nd (Mixed) HAA Rgt – new unit formed December 1941;[29][77] to 34 AA Bde June 1942
    • 22nd LAA Rgt – from 34 AA Bde by May 1941; returned by December 1941
    • 79th LAA Rgtnew unit formed July 1941;[29][78] to PAIFORCE by May 1942[60]
    • 10th AA 'Z' Rgt – from 34 AA Bde Summer 1941; returned by December 1941

By May 1942, 67 AA Bde consisted only of 142nd (M) HAA Rgt; thereafter it was joined by:

In June 1942, 67 AA Bde transferred to 9 AA Division, and by October 1942 it once again consisted of a single regiment (143rd (M) HAA).

  • 68 AA Bde
    • 60th HAA Rgt – from 34 AA Bde Summer 1941; to 12 AA Division by December 1941
    • 106th HAA Rgt – from 1 AA Bde; to 2 AA Division Summer 1941
    • 115th HAA Rgtfrom OSDEF September 1942
    • 122nd HAA Rgt – from 67 AA Bde December 1941; to unbrigaded July 1942
    • 45th LAA Rgt – from 1 AA Bde; to 2 AA Division December 1941
    • 63rd LAA Rgt – from 1 AA Bde; to WO Control September 1942; later to Operation Torch[71][72]
    • 98th LAA Rgtnew unit formed by a cadre from 45th LAA Rgt December 1941;[29][86] to 4 AA Division by May 1942
    • 122nd LAA Rgt – from 87th S/L Rgt, 54 AA Bde, May 1942; to 6 AA Division by September 1942
    • 128th LAA Rgt – from 54 AA Bde July 1942
    • 38th (The King's Regiment) S/L Rgt[31][87] from OSDEF June 1941
    • 61st S/L Rgt – from 1 AA Bde
    • 83rd S/L Rgt – from 1 AA Bde; to 54 AA Bde Summer 1941
    • 78th S/L Rgt – from 1 AA Bde

The increased sophistication of Operations Rooms and communications was reflected in the growth in support units, which attained the following organisation by May 1942:[52]

  • 11 AA Division Mixed Signal Unit HQ, RCS
    • HQ No 1 Company
      • 11 AA Division Mixed Signal Office Section
      • 68 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 118 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section (RAF Atcham)
      • 320 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section (Crewe)
      • 344 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section (RAF Valley)
      • 20 AA Line Maintenance Section
    • HQ No 2 Company
      • 401 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section (Birmingham)
        • 1 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
        • 2 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
        • 3 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
        • 4 AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
      • 413 AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section (Coventry) – formed from 4 Sub-GOR July 1942
      • 34 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 54 AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 119 RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section (RAF Honiley)
      • 28 AA Line Maintenance Section
      • 29 AA Line Maintenance Section
  • HQ 11 AA Div RASC
    • 254, 912 Companies
  • 11 AA Div RAMC
  • 11 AA Div Workshop Company, RAOC
  • 11 AA Div Radio Maintenance Company, RAOC

The RAOC companies became part of the new Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) during 1942.

Disbandment[edit | edit source]

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 groups of RAF Fighter Command. 11 AA Division merged with 4 AA Division into 4 AA Group based at Preston and cooperating with No. 9 Group RAF.[3][4][5][7][49][88]

11 AA Divisional Signals was amalgamated back into its parent 4 AA Divisional Signals as 4 AA Group (Mixed) Signals.[46][89]

General Officer Commanding[edit | edit source]

The following officer commanded 11th AA Division:[7][8][9]

  • Major-General Sidney Archibald (11 November 1940 – 30 September 1942)

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Cole p. 56
  2. Routledge, p. 394; Map 34.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Pile's despatch.
  4. 4.0 4.1 AA Command 1940 at British Military History
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 11 AA Division at British Military History.
  6. 6.0 6.1 11 AA Division at RA 39–45.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Robert Palmer, 'AA Command History and Personnel' at British Military History.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Farndale, Annex J.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Archibald at Generals of WWII.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lord & Watson, p. 251.
  11. Routledge, pp. 388-9, 393.
  12. Collier, Chapter 13.
  13. Collier, Chapter 16.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Collier, Chapter 17.
  15. Routledge, p. 391.
  16. Walker, p. 72.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Walker, pp. 73–4.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Collier, Appendix XXX.
  19. Walker, pp. 77, 92–3.
  20. Routledge, pp. 98–9, 393.
  21. Collier, Chapter 19.
  22. Collier, Appendix XXXI.
  23. Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  24. Farndale, Annex D, pp. 257–9.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 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.
  26. 1 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  27. 106 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  28. 28.0 28.1 45 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  29. 29.00 29.01 29.02 29.03 29.04 29.05 29.06 29.07 29.08 29.09 29.10 29.11 29.12 29.13 29.14 Farndale, Annex M.
  30. 63 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Litchfield, pp. 132–3.
  32. 61 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  33. 78 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  34. 83 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  35. 6 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  36. Litchfield, p. 165.
  37. 60 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 Litchfield, pp. 241–2.
  39. 95 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  40. 110 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  41. 112 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  42. 22 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  43. 45 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  44. 80 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  45. 10 AA 'Z' Rgt at RA 39–40.
  46. 46.0 46.1 Nalder, p. 622.
  47. Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional Units), 25 March 1941, TNA files WO 212/5 and WO 33/2323.
  48. Walker, p. 83.
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 Routledge, pp. 399–401.
  50. Collier, Appendix XXXVII.
  51. Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 2 December 1941, TNA file WO 212/80.
  52. 52.0 52.1 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.
  53. 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.
  54. Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 1 October 1942, TNA file WO 212/82.
  55. Walker.
  56. Joslen, p. 557.
  57. Litchfield, p. 112.
  58. 55 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  59. Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional units), 2 April 1942, TNA files WO 212/515.
  60. 60.0 60.1 Joslen, p. 488.
  61. Litchfield, p. 91.
  62. 57 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  63. Litchfield, p. 283.
  64. 71 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  65. Joslen, p. 521.
  66. Routledge, p. 236.
  67. 122 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  68. 134 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  69. 42 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  70. Joslen, p. 484.
  71. 71.0 71.1 71.2 Order of Battle of the Field Force in the United Kingdom, Part 3: Royal Artillery (Non-Divisional Units), 14 August 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/7 and WO 33/1927.
  72. 72.0 72.1 72.2 Joslen, p. 465.
  73. 111 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  74. Litchfield, p. 226.
  75. 30 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  76. 138 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  77. 142 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  78. 79 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  79. 119 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  80. 143 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  81. 87 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  82. 128 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  83. 135 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  84. Litchfield, p. 196.
  85. 37 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  86. 98 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  87. 38 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  88. Routledge, Map 36.
  89. Lord & Watson, pp. 170–1.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Cole, Howard (1973). Formation Badges of World War 2. Britain, Commonwealth and Empire. London: Arms and Armour Press. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Maj-Gen R.F.H. Nalder, The Royal Corps of Signals: A History of its Antecedents and Developments (Circa 1800–1955), London: Royal Signals Institution, 1958.
  • 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.
  • Patrick Walker, 6th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, Rev Edn, Gloucester: Choir Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9562190-4-6

External sources[edit | edit source]


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