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Kent & Middlesex AA Group
36th (Middlesex) Searchlight Regiment, RA
571 Searchlight Regiment, RA
Active 1936–1 May 1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Searchlight Regiment, Infantry Battalion, Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Role Air Defence
Engagements The Blitz
36th (Middlesex) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers and 634th (Middlesex) Infantry Regiment, Royal Artillery redirect here

The 36th (Middlesex) Searchlight Regiment was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) from 1936 until 1961, at first as part of the Royal Engineers, later in the Royal Artillery.

Origin[edit | edit source]

The regiment has its origins in 317 (Middlesex) Independent Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Company, one of a number of air defence companies of the Royal Engineers formed in the Home counties by the Territorial Army during 1924. 317 Company, based at Hendon, was grouped with two companies from Kent to form the Kent & Middlesex Group.[1] John (later Sir John) Perring (1870–1948), a businessman and prominent member of the London County Council and Middlesex Territorial Association was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Group in 1931.[1][2][3]

In 1936, 317 Company was separated from the Kent & Middlesex Group and expanded into a full battalion, the 36th (Middlesex) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal Engineers (TA). The battalion raised three new companies (344, 345 and 346), and formed part of 29th (East Anglian) Anti-Aircraft Brigade. Major Edward Boggis, MBE, was transferred from 26th (London) Air Defence Brigade Signals, Royal Corps of Signals, to be Officer Commanding of 344th AA Company. Sir John Perring was reappointed Honorary Colonel of the new unit.[1][4]

Towards the end of 1938, 344 AA Company, based at Harrow, was detached to form the cadre for a duplicate unit, which became 58th (Middlesex) AA Bn, RE under the command of Lt-Col Boggis.[5]

World War II[edit | edit source]

By the outbreak of war, the 36th (Middlesex) battalion had moved to Edgware, forming part of 40th Anti-Aircraft Brigade, and an additional company had been raised, giving it the following organisation:[6][7][8][9]

  • HQ (Edgware)
  • 317 AA Company (Edgware)
  • 345 AA Company (Edgware)
  • 346 AA Company (Southall)
  • 424 AA Company (forming)

In common with other RE searchlight battalions, the unit was transferred to Royal Artillery in August 1940, becoming 36th (Middlesex) Searchlight Regiment RA (TA), and the companies were termed batteries.[8][10] At this time, Anti-Aircraft Command was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain, in which 40th AA Bde was responsible for guarding airfields in East Anglia. This was soon followed by the night-bombing campaign of The Blitz, in which searchlights were a key element in the defences.[8][11][12][13]

In early 1941, 36 S/L Rgt sent a cadre of experienced men to 236 S/L Training Rgt at Oswestry, where they formed 542nd S/L Bty with recruits mainly from London. This battery then formed part of 89th S/L Rgt, which was later converted into 133rd Light AA Rgt, and fought in the North West Europe campaign.[14]

By the end of 1944, however, the German Luftwaffe was suffering from such shortages of pilots, aircraft and fuel that serious aerial attacks on the United Kingdom could be discounted. At the same time, 21st Army Group fighting in North West Europe was suffering a severe manpower shortage, particularly among the infantry.[15] In January 1945, the War Office began to reorganise surplus anti-aircraft and coastal artillery regiments in the UK into infantry battalions, primarily for line of communication and occupation duties, thereby releasing trained infantry for frontline service.[16][17] 27th (Home Counties) Anti-Aircraft Brigade was one of the HQs selected for conversion, becoming 303rd Infantry Brigade on 22 January 1945. Within the brigade, 36 Searchlight Regiment was redesignated 634th (Middlesex) Infantry Regiment RA.[4][8][10][18][19][20]

After infantry training, including a short period attached to 61st Infantry Division, 634 Regiment was sent to Norway in June 1945 following the liberation of that country (Operation Doomsday).[10][18][19]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

In 1947, the regiment was reconstituted in the TA as 571st Searchlight Regiment RA (Middlesex) at Edgware. Two years later, it was redesignated 571st (Mixed) Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight Regiment (Middlesex), ('Mixed' indicating that it was composed partly of women of the Women's Royal Army Corps). The regiment formed part of 82nd Anti-Aircraft Brigade.[10][20][21]

In 1955, Anti-Aircraft Command was disbanded, and many of its TA regiments were disbanded or reduced. The 571st was amalgamated with two other LAA/SL regiments in NW London – 595th (9th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment) and 604th (Royal Fusiliers) – to form a new regiment: 571st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA, (9th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment, Duke of Cambridge's Own), in which the old 571st formed 'P' Battery. The new unit was in 33 AA Brigade[10][21][22][23]

Finally, on 1 May 1961, the 571st (9th Middlesex) amalgamated with the 7th and 8th Middlesex Regiment to form a combined infantry battalion, (5th Bn) and all links with air defence and the Royal Artillery were severed.[10][21][22]

Honorary Colonels[edit | edit source]

The following officers served as Honorary Colonel of the unit:

  • Sir John Perring, see above, was Hon Col successively of the Kent & Middlesex AA Group, 36 AA Bn, and 36 S/L Rgt.[1]
  • Lieutenant-General Sir Maurice Grove-White, former General Officer Commanding of 2 AA Corps, was Hon Col of 571 S/L Rgt until 4 September 1950.[24]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Monthly Army List, 1924–39.
  2. 'Colonel Sir John Ernest Perring', Who Was Who 1941–50.
  3. Sir John Ernest Perring at Thepeerage.com
  4. 4.0 4.1 1st AA Division 1936–38 at British Military History
  5. Monthly Army List, January 1939.
  6. 2nd AA Division 1939 at British Military History
  7. AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 36 SL Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Routledge, Table LX, p. 378.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Litchfield, p. 178.
  11. 2nd AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  12. 2 AA Div at RA 39–45 Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  14. 89 S/L Rgt War Diary 1941, The National Archives (TNA), Kew file WO 166/3109.
  15. Ellis, pp. 141–2.
  16. Ellis, pp. 369, 380.
  17. Infantry Regiments RA at RA 39–45 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Joslen, p. 399.
  19. 19.0 19.1 634 Infantry Rgt at RA 39–45 Archived 2013-11-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Farndale, Annex M, p. 339.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 564–591 Regiments at British Army units from 1945 on Archived 2016-01-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. 22.0 22.1 9th Middlesex at Regiments.org
  23. 3rd City of London Regiment (The Royal Fusiliers) at Regiments.org
  24. Grove-White at British Military History.

References[edit | edit source]

  • 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 1-84574-059-9.
  • 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 1-84342-474-6.
  • 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 1-85753-099-3.
  • Who Was Who 1941–50.

External sources[edit | edit source]

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