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55th (Kent) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Active 1925–1955
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Role Air Defence
Size Regiment
Engagements The Blitz
North Africa
Sicily
Italy
455th (Kent) Heavy Artillery Regiment, Royal Artillery, redirects here

55th (Kent) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army from 1925 until 1955. In World War II it defended the Thames Estuary, Medway Towns and Dover during The Blitz and later served in the North African, Sicily and Italian campaigns.

Origin[]

German air raids by Zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers on British cities during World War I had shown the need for strong anti-aircraft (AA) defences in any future war. When the Territorial Army (TA) was reformed in the 1920s it began raising five dedicated AA units of the Royal Artillery (RA). The last of these was 55th (Kent) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, with Headquarters at Fort Clarence in Rochester. At first the brigade consisted only of 163rd (Kent) AA Battery based at Tunbridge Wells and in turn formed the only unit of 28 Air Defence Brigade. In 1935 it was joined by the independent 166th (City of Rochester) AA Battery, which had been converted from a coastal defence battery (of Kent Heavy Bde RA) in 1932.[1][2][3][4]

One further subunit was added to 55 AA Bde in 1936 when 205th (Chatham & Faversham) AA Battery was transferred from 58 (Kent) AA Brigade, which had been formed the previous year by conversion of an existing Medium Regiment RA.[3][4][5]

As Britain's AA defences expanded during the 1930s, higher formations became necessary. 1st AA Division was formed to cover London and the Home Counties in 1935, and 55 AA Bde was assigned to 28th (Thames and Medway) AA Group based at Kitchener Barracks, Chatham. In 1938 the RA replaced its traditional unit designation 'Brigade' by the modern 'Regiment', which allowed the 'AA Groups' to take the more usual formation title of 'Brigades'. Anti-Aircraft Command was formed in April 1939 to command all TA air defences.[1][4][6]

Early in 1939, as part of the doubling of the strength of the TA after the Munich Crisis, 205 Battery left the regiment to provide the basis of a new 89 AA Regiment, and two new batteries were formed, 307 at Tunbridge Wells, and 308 at Rochester.[7] During 1939 a new 6th AA Division was formed to be responsible for the air defence of the Thames Estuary, Essex, and North Kent, and 28 AA Bde including 55 (Kent) AA Regt was transferred to this new formation before the outbreak of war.[8][9]

World War II[]

In the summer of 1940, along with other AA units equipped with the older 3-inch and newer 3.7-inch AA guns, the 55th was designated a Heavy AA Regiment.[1] During The Blitz 55 (Kent) HAA Regt operated as part of 28 AA Bde guarding the Thames, Chatham and Dover in in 6 AA Division.[10]

By February 1942, 308 Bty had been detached and was serving in West Africa.[11] The rest of the regiment left the UK in September 1942 and went by sea via Cape Town to Iraq, where in November it joined 'PAIFORCE' (GHQ Persia and Iraq).[1][12][13][14]

55 HAA Regiment left Iraq in April 1943 to move to North Africa, where it came under command of Middle East Forces.[1][12][13][15]

In July 1943 the regiment was assigned to 15th Army Group for the Allied invasion of Sicily. It then served throughout the subsequent Italian Campaign.[1][12][13][16]

Postwar[]

In 1946, after the end of the war, 55 (Kent) HAA Regiment was placed in suspended animation.[1] When the TA was reformed in 1947, the regiment was reconstituted as 455 (Kent) (Mixed) HAA Regiment, RA ('Mixed' indicating that some of the personnel were drawn from the Women's Royal Army Corps). It was at first assigned to 54 (Thames & Medway) AA Bde (the former 28 AA Bde), but that formation was soon disbanded. In 1950 the regiment was briefly redesignated 455 (Kent) (Mixed) AA Fort Regiment (Thames Estuary), consisting of 'P' Battery and 'Q', 'R' and 'S' AA Forts, but it reverted to its previous title before the end of the year. 455 (Kent) HAA Regt was disbanded when AA Command was abolished in 1955.[1][17]

Honorary Colonels[]

The following officers served as Honorary Colonels of the regiment:[18]

  • Col Sir Osmond E. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Bt – appointed 3 February 1932
  • Col J. Egginton, OBE, TD – appointed 26 October 1935
  • Lt-Col W.E.H. Cooke, OBE, TD – appointed 19 January 1939

Notes[]

References[]

  • 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 1843424746.
  • Norman E.H. Litchfield, The Territorial Artillery 1908–1988 (Their Lineage, Uniforms and Badges), Nottingham: Sherwood Press, 1992, ISBN 0-9508205-2-0.

Online sources[]

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