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6th Anti-Aircraft Division
Active 1939–1942
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg Territorial Army
Type Anti-Aircraft Division
Role Air Defence
Part of Anti-Aircraft Command (1939–40)
1 AA Corps (1940–42)
Engagements Battle of Britain
The Blitz

The 6th Anti-Aircraft Division (6 AA Division) was an air defence formation created within Anti-Aircraft Command of Britain's Territorial Army just before World War II. It defended the Thames Estuary and the approaches to London during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

Origin[edit | edit source]

6 AA Division was formed during 1939 to take responsibility for the air defence of the Thames Estuary, Essex and North Kent, with its HQ at Uxbridge, Middlesex. The existing 27 (Home Counties), 28 (Thames & Medway), 29 (East Anglian) and 37 AA Brigades were transferred to this new formation, together with the new formations and units of the Royal Artillery (RA) and Royal Engineers (RE) being raised as part of the expansion of the TA after the Munich Crisis.[1]

The divisional HQ was provided by duplicating 1 AA Division's headquarter elements at RAF Uxbridge, including 1st AA Divisional Signals.[2] The General Officer Commanding was Major-General F.G. Hyland, appointed on 30 May 1939.[1][3]

The divisional badge was a red arrow piercing a black and white target on a black square.[4]

Order of Battle[edit | edit source]

The division's composition on the outbreak of war in 1939 was as follows:[1][5]

27 (Home Counties) AA Bde at Lingfield, Surrey

28 (Thames & Medway) AA Bde at Kitchener Barracks, Chatham, Kent

29 (East Anglian) AA Bde at South Kensington, London

  • 28th (Essex) AA Bn, REsearchlight unit formed in 1935
    • HQ, 309 (Essex), 311 (Essex) and 312 (Essex) AA Companies
  • 29th (Kent) AA Bn, REsearchlight unit formed in 1935
    • HQ, 313 (Kent), 314 (Kent) and 468 AA Companies
  • 73rd (Kent Fortress) AA Bn, REsearchlight unit converted from fortress engineers in 1939
    • HQ, 310 (Essex), 335 and 469 AA Companies
  • 29th AA Bde Company RASC

37 AA Bde at Edmonton, London

56th Light AA Bde at Uxbridge

6th AA Divisional Signals Royal Corps of Signals

6th AA Divisional Workshop, Royal Army Ordnance Corps

World War II[edit | edit source]

During 1940, the RE's AA Bns were transferred to the RA as Searchlight regiments, while the AA regiments were designated Heavy AA (HAA) to distinguish them from the Light AA (LAA) regiments that were being formed.[6]

The area covered by 6 AA Division coincided with the RAF Sectors of Debden, North Weald, Hornchurch, Biggin Hill, and Kenley, being the major part of No. 11 Group RAF. The coastal boundary ran from Lowestoft in the north to Worthing in the south, while the internal boundary was that of Metropolitan London.[7]

The HAA guns were contained in four main 'gun defended areas' (GDAs) at Harwich, Thames & Medway North (guns emplaced along the north bank of the Thames Estuary), Thames & Medway South (guns emplaced along the south bank of the Thames Estuary and defending Chatham and Rochester), and Dover (including Folkestone). The four GDAs were controlled by 'gun operations rooms' (GORs) at Felixstowe, Vange, Chatham and Dover respectively. Each GOR was linked directly to No. 11 Group Operations Room at Uxbridge. The armament of each HAA site consisted of four (sometimes two) 4.5-inch, 3.7-inch or 3-inch HAA guns.[7]

Forty-five 'vulnerable points' (VPs) in the divisional area were defended by LAA guns: these included Air Ministry Experimental Stations, fighter aerodromes, dockyards, oil depots, magazines, and factories. The armament ranged from Bofors 40 mm, 3-inch 20 cwt, and 20 mm Hispano cannon to light machine guns (LMGs).[7]

Searchlights were deployed in single-light stations at approximately 6000 yard spacing, with 3500 yard spacing along the coast and in the GDAs. Each searchlight site was equipped with AA LMGs.[7]

On 11 July 1940 (shortly before the Battle of Britain began), 6 AA Division's guns were deployed as follows[3]

  • Dover – 18 HAA
  • Thames & Medway South – 70 HAA
  • Thames & Medway North – 46 HAA
  • Harwich – 17 HAA
  • Aerodromes – 37 HAA
  • Aerodromes, vital points etc – 101 LAA + 376 AA LMGs

During the London Blitz of Autumn 1940 to Spring 1941, the division was assigned to I AA Corps and was constituted as follows:[4][8]

6 AA Bde covering Essex airfields – recently returned from the Norwegian Campaign

28 AA Brigade covering Thames, Chatham and Dover

  • 55th HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 58th HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 90th HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 4th LAA Regiment, RAconverted from searchlight unit 1942

29 AA Brigade covering Kent

  • 48th LAA Regiment, RA – new unit formed 1940'
  • 28th (Essex) Searchlight Regiment, RA – as above
  • 74th (Essex Fortress) Searchlight Regiment, RA – searchlight unit converted from fortress engineers in 1939

37 AA Brigade' covering North Thames

  • 59th (The Essex Regiment) HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 61st (Middlesex) HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • Part of 75th (Home Counties) (Cinque Ports) HAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 17th LAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 2nd LAA Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (from 1st Canadian Division)

56 AA Brigade covering Kent airfields

  • 16th LAA Regiment, RA – as above
  • 29th (Kent) Searchlight Regiment, RA – as above
  • 73rd (Kent Fortress) Searchlight Regiment, RA – as above

In March 1941, 6 AA Division formed 12th Anti-Aircraft Z Regiment, Royal Artillery equipped with Z Battery rocket projectiles.[9]

A reorganisation of AA Command in October 1942 saw the AA divisions disbanded and replaced by a number of AA Groups more closely aligned with the groups of RAF Fighter Command. 6th AA Division became 2 AA Group cooperating with No. 11 Group RAF.[1][2][10]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Basil Collier, History of the Second World War: The Defence of the United Kingdom, [1]
  • 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.

Online sources[edit | edit source]

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