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43rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade
69 Anti-Aircraft Brigade
42 (AA) AGRA
Active 1 October 1938–1 May 1961
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Anti-Aircraft Brigade
Role Air Defence
Part of 3rd AA Division
7th AA Division
5 AA Group
2 AA Group
Garrison/HQ West Hartlepool
Engagements Battle of Britain
The Blitz
Operation Diver

43rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade was an air defence formation of Britain's Territorial Army (TA). Formed in 1938, it was responsible for protecting Teesside in North East England during the early part of World War II, and later defended South East England from V-1 flying bombs. It was reformed postwar and survived under different titles until 1961.

Origin[edit | edit source]

With the expansion of Britain's Anti-Aircraft (AA) defences in the late 1930s, new formations were created to command the growing number of Royal Artillery (RA) and Royal Engineers (RE) AA gun and searchlight units 43rd AA Brigade was raised on 1 October 1938 at West Hartlepool and comprised part-time TA units from Teesside and County Durham. Initially, it formed part of 3rd AA Division, which had responsibility for defending Scotland, Northern Ireland and North East England. The first brigade commander was Brigadier K.D. Yearsley, MC.[1][2]

Mobilisation[edit | edit source]

At the time the brigade was formed, the TA's AA units were in a state of mobilisation because of the Munich crisis, although they were soon stood down. In February 1939 the TA's AA defences came under the control of a new Anti-Aircraft Command. In June a partial mobilisation of AA Command was begun in a process known as 'couverture', whereby each unit did a month's tour of duty in rotation to man selected AA gun and searchlight positions. That summer, 43rd AA Bde came under the command of the newly formed 7th AA Division, which was created to cover North East England, Yorkshire and Humberside. Its exact responsibilities were still being worked out when war broke out. AA Command mobilised fully on 24 August, ahead of the official declaration of war on 3 September.[1][3]

Order of Battle[edit | edit source]

The composition of the brigade upon mobilisation in August 1939 was as follows:[1][4][5]

  • 85th (Tees) AA Regiment, RAnew Heavy AA unit formed in 1938[6][7]
  • 47th (The Durham Light Infantry) AA Battalion, RE – Searchlight unit converted from 7th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry[10][11]
    • HQ, 386th–388th AA Companies at Sunderland
    • 389th AA Company at South Shields
  • 1/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (54th Searchlight Regiment) – Searchlight unit converted from 5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry[12][13]
    • HQ, 411th–413th Searchlight Batteries at Stockton-on-Tees
  • 2/5th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (55th Searchlight Regiment) – duplicate unit formed in April 1939[14][15]
    • HQ, 414th–416th Searchlight Batteries at West Hartlepool
  • 43rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade Company, Royal Army Service Corps

85th AA Regiment left the brigade in November 1939 to mobilise for overseas service; in April 1940 it joined the British Expeditionary Force in France.[1][7][16][17][18] Later, 54th S/L Regiment transferred to 31st (North Midland) Anti-Aircraft Brigade covering West Yorkshire.[13][19][20]

Battle of Britain[edit | edit source]

After the Fall of France and the BEF's evacuation from Dunkirk, returning AA units were re-equipped and re-integrated into AA Command as quickly as possible.[21] By the summer of 1940, all TA searchlight regiments had been transferred to the Royal Artillery (RA), and AA regiments had been redesignated Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) to distinguish them from the new Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) regiments being formed.[1][6][22]

During the early part of the Battle of Britain, German day and night air raids and mine laying began along the East Coast of England, intensifying through June 1940. Thereafter the Luftwaffe concentrated on Royal Air Force sites in the South of England, with occasional raids on the North East, such as the period 12–15 August.[23]

The Blitz[edit | edit source]

After the defeat of the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe switched to night raids over Britain's cities (The Blitz) during the winter of 1940–41. By now AA Command had been greatly expanded and reorganised. The order of battle of 43 AA Bde was now as follows:[19][20][24][25]

Later war[edit | edit source]

As the war progressed, AA units began to be sent to overseas theatres, to be replaced by new war-raised units. In January 1942, 47th and 55th (DLI) S/L Rgts were converted to the LAA role and became 112th and 113th (DLI) LAA Rgts respectively.[11][15] Both regiments later served under 21st Army Group in North West Europe.[1][10][14][22] 73rd HAA Rgt was sent to Middle East Forces by April 1942.[27][30] Similarly, 8th (Belfast) HAA Rgt went to India in May 1942, arriving there in July,[1][26][31] and 72nd LAA Rgt was in Tunisia by July 1943.[1][29][32]

In October 1942 AA Command reorganised its structure, replacing the AA Divisions with AA Groups coinciding with RAF Fighter Command's Groups. 43 AA Bde came under 5 AA Group, based at Nottingham and covering North-East England.[33][34]

In July 1944, 43 AA Bde was among the formations moved south to reinforce the AA defences of South East England against V-1 flying bombs in Operation Diver. The brigade was responsible for one of the six sectors of a new belt of anti-Diver defences under 2 AA Group.[35]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

When the TA was constituted in 1947, 43 AA Bde reformed at Leeds as 69th AA Brigade (TA), once again forming art of 5 AA Group at Nottingham. It now comprised the following units from the West Riding of Yorkshire:[36][37][38][39]

('Mixed' indicated that members of the Women's Royal Army Corps were integrated into the unit.)

AA Command was disbanded on 10 March 1955, and there was a considerable reduction in the number of TA AA units. 69 AA Bde was converted into an Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) and temporarily designated 'V' AGRA; from 1 August 1955 it became 42 (AA) AGRA at York with the following composition:[50][51]

In 1959, 42 AGRA Signals was renumbered 308 Signal Squadron. When the AGRA was disbanded, this unit transferred to become 308 Signal Sqn (Guards Brigade).[55]

42 (AA) AGRA was disbanded on 1 May 1961.[50]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 7 AA Division 1939 at British Military History.
  2. Monthly Army List, May 1939.
  3. Routledge, pp. 65–6 & 371; Table LVIII, p. 376.
  4. Routledge, Table LX, p. 378.
  5. AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Litchfield, p. 253.
  7. 7.0 7.1 85 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  8. Litchfield, p. 193.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Litchfield, p. 55.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Litchfield, p. 56.
  11. 11.0 11.1 47 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  12. Litchfield, p. 57.
  13. 13.0 13.1 54 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Litchfield, pp. 57–8.
  15. 15.0 15.1 55 S/L Rgt at RA 39–45.
  16. Routledge, p. 116.
  17. Farndale, p. 13.
  18. Joslen, p. 462.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Farndale, Annex D.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Farndale, p. 98.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Farndale, Annex M.
  23. Routledge, Table LXII, pp. 379–80.
  24. 7 AA Division 1940 at British Military History.
  25. 7 AA Div at RA 39–45.
  26. 26.0 26.1 8 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  27. 27.0 27.1 73 HAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  28. 50 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  29. 29.0 29.1 72 LAA Rgt at RA 39–45.
  30. Joslen, p. 485.
  31. Joslen, p. 519.
  32. Joslen, p. 465.
  33. Routledge, pp. 399–400; Map 36.
  34. AA Command 1940 at British Military History
  35. Routledge, p. 413.
  36. AA Bdes 67–102 at British Army 1945 on.
  37. Litchfield, Appendix 5.
  38. Watson, TA 1947.
  39. Routledge, Table LXXIV, p. 441.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 444–473 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  41. Litchfield, p. 266.
  42. 474–519 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  43. Litchfield, p. 267.
  44. 44.0 44.1 564–591 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  45. Litchfield, p. 259.
  46. 520–563 Rgts RA at British Army 1945 on.
  47. Litchfield, p. 269.
  48. Litchfield, p. 268.
  49. Lord & Watson, p. 173.
  50. 50.0 50.1 AGRAs at British Army 1945 on.
  51. Routledge, Table LXXV, p. 442.
  52. Litchfield, p. 191.
  53. Litchfield, p. 139.
  54. Lord & Watson, p. 201.
  55. Lord & Watson, p. 203.

References[edit | edit source]

  • 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.
  • 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 sources[edit | edit source]

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