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4th Anti-Aircraft Division (United Kingdom)
The Sparrows Insignia
Royal Artillery cap badge and AA patch
Country Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army Territorial Army
Service history
Active 1938–1942
Role Air Defence
Size 2–5 Brigades
Part of Western Command (1938–39)
Anti-Aircraft Command (1939–40)
II AA Corps (1940–42)
Battles The Blitz
Commanders
Insignia

The 4th Anti-Aircraft Division (4 AA Division) was an air defence formation of Britain's Territorial Army, created in the period of tension before the outbreak of World War II. It defended North West England during the Blitz.

OriginEdit

Increasing concern during the 1930s about the threat of air attack led to large numbers of units of the part-time Territorial Army (TA) being converted to anti-aircraft (AA) gun and searchlight roles in the Royal Artillery (RA) and Royal Engineers (RE), and higher formations became necessary to control them. One such formation was 4 AA Division, raised on 1 September 1938 in Western Command, with its Headquarters at Chester.[1] The first General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Maj-Gen Hugh Martin.[2][3][4]

The AA Divisions were unlike field formations: they were established to organise training and later exercise operational command in the static conditions of home defence, but relied entirely on the Home Forces commands for logistic support, supplies, and heavy repairs. They came under the operational control of RAF Fighter Command.[5]

4 AA Division was initially responsible for the industrial areas of the North West and West Midlands of England and North and South Wales. At first it consisted of two brigades: the existing Liverpool-based 33rd (Western) AA Bde transferred from 2 AA Division[6] and the newly formed 34th (South Midland) AA Bde based at Coventry. Shortly afterwards, 44th AA Bde was formed at Manchester.[1] The division came under the control of Anti-Aircraft Command when that was formed in April 1939.[3]

MobilisationEdit

The deterioration in international relations led to a partial mobilisation in June 1939, and a proportion of TA AA units manned their war stations under a rotation system known as 'Couverture'. Full mobilisation of AA Command came in August 1939, ahead of the declaration of war on 3 September 1939.[5] Two new brigades, 53rd (Light) AA Bde composed of Light AA (LAA) units, and 54th, composed of searchlight units, were in the process of formation in 4 AA Division as mobilisation proceeded.

Order of BattleEdit

On mobilisation in August 1939, the division was composed as follows:[1][7][8]

DeploymentEdit

At this point the division had a strength of 92 HAA guns (3-inch, 3.7-inch and 4.5-inch) while in the LAA role there were 26 3-inch, 13 2-pounder 'pom-pom' and 40 mm Bofors guns, and 469 light machine guns (LMGs), together with 244 searchlights.[44] The HAA guns were deployed in the defended areas as follows:[45]

  • Liverpool – 19 (plus 3 out of action)
  • Manchester – 12 (plus 10 out of action)
  • Birmingham – 20 (plus 4 out of action)
  • Coventry –12
  • Cardiff – 6 (plus 2 out of action)
  • Newport – 4

Phoney WarEdit

During the period of the Phoney War, the AA defences of NW England were not tested in action, and the time was spent in equipping and training the TA units. AA Command also had to provide equipment and units to the British Expeditionary Force assembling in France.[46] From 4 AA Division, 73rd AA Regiment went to France in November 1939 where it joined 12th Anti-Aircraft Brigade providing AA cover for the airfields of the RAF's Advanced Air Striking Force. In January 1940, Maj-Gen Martin went to command the AA defences of the BEF.[1][47][48][49] He was replaced by Maj-Gen Charles Cadell, recently returned from commanding the AA defences of Malaya.[3][4][50]

Battle of BritainEdit

In the summer of 1940, all AA units equipped with 3-inch or heavier guns were designated as Heavy AA (HAA) regiments to distinguish them from the newer LAA units. Also, in August the AA battalions were transferred from the RE to the RA, which designated them searchlight regiments.

DeploymentEdit

At the start of the Battle of Britain, in July 1940, 4 AA Division's guns were deployed as follows:[51]

  • Liverpool – 52
  • Manchester – 20
  • Crewe – 8
  • Birmingham – 64
  • Coventry – 44
  • RAF Ringway – 4
  • Vital Points – 52 (mainly LAA)

ReorganisationEdit

In September 1940, 4 AA Division formed 4th AA Z Regiment to command the new short-range rocket weapons known as Z Batteries.[52] Also in September 1940, RAF Fighter Command created a new HQ (No. 9 Group RAF) to cover NW England, and henceforth 4 AA Division cooperated with it.[44][53]

As the Battle of Britain fought over southern England in the summer of 1940 developed into the night bombing of the Blitz in the autumn, AA Command continued to expand. In November a new division was formed by splitting 34 and 54 AA Brigades off from 4 AA Division to create 11 AA Division, which took over responsibility for the West Midlands, while 9 AA Division took over South Wales. At the same time, 4 AA Division came under the control of a newly formed II AA Corps.[54]

The BlitzEdit

The cities of NW England were heavily bombed during the winter of 1940–41 (the Liverpool Blitz and Manchester Blitz) and 'the actions fought [by the AA batteries] were as violent, dangerous and prolonged as any in the field'.[55] 'On an HAA 4.5-inch position of 44th AA Brigade in Manchester, the power rammer on one gun failed. One Gunner loaded 127 of the 86-lb [40 kg] rounds himself in eleven hours of action, despite injuries to his fingers'.[55]

The wide Mersey Estuary left a gap in the Liverpool defences that could not be fully covered by AA guns, and by mid-1941 AA Command had begun constructing three Maunsell Forts in the estuary on which to mount AA guns.[56]

Order of BattleEdit

During the winter of 1940–41, the division was composed as follows:[54][57][58][59]

DisbandmentEdit

At the end of September 1942, AA Command disbanded the AA Corps and Divisions and replaced them with new AA Groups, whose areas of responsibility coincided with the Groups of RAF Fighter Command. 4 AA Division's responsibilities were taken over by 4 AA Group, with its HQ at Preston, which covered NW England and N Wales and operated with 9 Group RAF.[3] 4 AA Divisional Signals became 4 AA Group Signals on 21 October 1942[43] 4 AA Group in turn was disbanded in November 1944.[3]

NotesEdit

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 4 AA Division 1939 at British Military History.
  2. Martin at Generals.dk.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Robert Palmer, A Concise History of Anti-Aircraft Command (History and Personnel) at British Military History.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Farndale, Annex J.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Routledge, pp. 64–6.
  6. 2 AA Division 1936–38 at British Military History.
  7. Routledge, Table LX, p. 378.
  8. AA Command 3 September 1939 at Patriot Files.
  9. 70 HAA at RA 39–45
  10. Litchfield, p. 31.
  11. 81 HAA at RA 39–45
  12. Litchfield, p. 125.
  13. 93 HAA at RA 39–45
  14. Litchfield, p. 32.
  15. 38 S/L at RA 39–45
  16. Litchfield, p. 132.
  17. 62 S/L at RA 39–45
  18. Litchfield, p. 134.
  19. 69 HAA at RA 39–45
  20. 20.0 20.1 Litchfield, p. 242.
  21. 73 HAA at RA 39–45
  22. Litchfield, p. 211.
  23. 95 HAA at RA 39–45
  24. Litchfield, p. 241.
  25. 65 HAA at RA 39–45
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Litchfield, p. 131.
  27. 39 S/L at RA 39–45
  28. 28.0 28.1 Litchfield, p. 133.
  29. 71 S/L at RA 39–45
  30. Litchfield, p. 135.
  31. 15 LAA at RA 39–45
  32. Litchfield, p. 105.
  33. 21 LAA at RA 39–45
  34. 25 LAA at RA 39–45
  35. 33 LAA at RA 39–45
  36. Litchfield, p. 129.
  37. 41 S/L at RA 39–45
  38. Litchfield, p. 215.
  39. 45 S/L at RA 39–45
  40. 59 S/L at RA 39–45
  41. Litchfield, p. 243.
  42. 61 S/L at RA 39–45
  43. 43.0 43.1 Lord & Watson, p. 171
  44. 44.0 44.1 Routledge, Table LVIII, p. 376.
  45. Routledge, Table LIX p. 377.
  46. Routledge, p. 373.
  47. Routledge, Table XVII, p. 125.
  48. Farndale, Annex A, p. 236.
  49. Ellis, Appendix I.
  50. Cadell at Generals.dk.
  51. Farndale, p. 106.
  52. 4 AA Z Rgt at RA 39–45
  53. Routledge, p. 382.
  54. 54.0 54.1 Farndale, Annex D, pp. 259–60.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Routledge, p. 395.
  56. Routedge, p. 395.
  57. 4 AA Div at RA 39–45
  58. Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  59. 4 AA Division 1940 at British Military History
  60. 103 HAA at RA 39–45
  61. 106 HAA at RA 39–45
  62. 42 LAA at RA 39–45
  63. 65 LAA at RA 39–45
  64. 98 HAA at RA 39–45
  65. Litchfield, p. 86.
  66. 115 HAA at RA 39–45
  67. 54 LAA at RA 39–45
  68. Litchfield, p. 281.
  69. 76 LAA at RA 39–45
  70. 92 S/L at RA 39–45
  71. 13 AA Z Rgt at RA 39–45

ReferencesEdit

External sourcesEdit


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