5th Anti-Aircraft Division (United Kingdom)

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5th Anti-Aircraft Division
5th AA div.svg
Formation sign of the 5th Anti-Aircraft division.[1]
Active 1 September 1938–30 September 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 (1938–40)
I AA Corps (1940–42)
Garrison/HQ Reading, Berkshire
Engagements Battle of Britain
The Blitz

The 5th Anti-Aircraft Division (5th 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 Southern England during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.

Origin

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 the 5th AA Division, raised on 1 September 1938 at Reading, Berkshire, to command all the TA AA units in the South, South West and South Midlands of England and South Wales. Its area was roughly aligned with that of No 10 Group of RAF Fighter Command under whose orders Anti-Aircraft Command operated.[2][3][4] The formation's first General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Major-General Alan Cunningham.[2][5][6]

The divisional badge was a falling black aircraft silhouette trailing red flames, on a khaki background.[7]

Mobilisation

The deterioration in international relations during 1939 led to a partial mobilisation of the TA in June, after which 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.[8]

Order of battle

The division's composition on mobilisation in August 1939 was as follows:[4][9][10]

Equipment

On mobilisation in August 1939, the 5th AA Division had the following equipment:[13]

The HAA guns were deployed as follows in September 1939:[14]

Phoney War

The process of training and equipping the newer AA units had hardly begun when they were mobilised, but the delay in active operations during the autumn and winter of 1939–40 (the Phoney War) gave the AA formations time to address the worst deficiencies. Modern guns remained scarce, however.[15]

Equipment

By 5 June 1940, just before the start of the Battle of Britain, the 5th AA Division's armament state was:[16]

Reorganisation

Major-General Cunningham was transferred to the command of an infantry division on 10 January 1940 and was replaced as GOC by Maj-Gen Robert Allen, brought in from the command of the artillery of an infantry division, but who was a former commander of the 48th AA Brigade.[2][5][17] (Cunningham went on to command a succession of infantry divisions before becoming GOC East Africa Command and commanding the campaign against the Italians, and then GOC Eighth Army in Operation Crusader.)

The Royal Artillery's AA regiments were redesignated Heavy AA (HAA) in 1940 to distinguish them from the new Light AA (LAA) units being formed. Also the RE and infantry AA (searchlight) battalions were transferred to the RA in August 1940.[18][19]

In July 1940, after the British Expeditionary Force had been evacuated from Dunkirk, the Regular 5th AA Brigade was reformed in the Gloucester area under the 5th AA Division. It was to consist of:[20]

Meanwhile, the 46th AA Brigade at Bristol was now to consist of:[20]

Battle of Britain

On 11 July 1940, at the start of the Battle, the 5th AA Division's guns were deployed as follows:[21]

The Battle of Britain opened with the Luftwaffe attacking shipping and coastal towns by day and bombing ports and industrial cities by night, which involved all of AA Command's divisions. In July the Luftwaffe switched to day raids in strength against ports and Midlands industry. Portland and Portsmouth were regularly raided. On 4 July, Portland was attacked by a continuous flow of Ju 87 Stukas and Ju 88s, lasting two and a half hours, yet none was shot down. But AA Command's shooting and techniques improved with experience. In attacks on Portsmouth on 12 August, six Bf 109s were shot down and a searchlight detachment on the Isle of Wight shot down another with its LMG.[22]

After these preliminary skirmishes, the battle intensified from 13 August with bombing raids primarily directed against Fighter Command's airfields. Some of the greatest battles were fought on 15 August, from South Wales to the Yorkshire Coast, when the 5th AA Division was hotly engaged. On that day Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1) made a heavy raid of 70–80 bombers escorted by single- and twin-engined fighters against the South Coast. No. 10 Group scrambled five fighter squadrons and action began at 17.20 over Portland Bill. The Stukas of IV.(St)/LG 1 and escorting Bf 110 Zerstörers of V.(Z)/LG 1 heading for RNAS Worthy Down were attacked out of the sun, dropped a few bombs at Portland and withdrew with heavy losses. The rest of the raid (II.(St)/LG 1) flew on to attack RAF Middle Wallop, causing some damage, but suffering further casualties. Between the fighters and the AA guns at Portsmouth and Southampton, the Geschwader lost 8 bombers, 4 Stukas and 13 Bf 110s, as well as many others damaged. The one-sided action was highly satisfactory for Fighter Command and the 5th AA Division.[23][24][25]

Another peak day came on 24 August, when the gunners were in action at Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol, Portland and Bramley, with the Swansea gunners claiming hits. Then on 6 September the Luftwaffe switched its attacks from airfields to London.[25]

The climax of the battle was on 15 September, when massed raids attacked London and suffered severe casualties from the fighters and guns. On the same day there were attacks against Portland and Southampton, and with all available fighters engaged elsewhere, the 5th AA Division had to defend against these on its own.[26]

Blitz

After its crushing losses in day raids, the Luftwaffe switched to night bombing of London and the industrial cities ('The Blitz'), with Southampton, Cardiff and Swansea being among the targets attacked using Knickebein navigation aids.[27] During the Portsmouth Blitz, two bombs dropped directly on a position of the 35th AA Brigade, killing an officer and 10 men, wrecking the command post and one gun. Two of the remaining guns continued to fire by improvised methods.[28]

Reorganisation

In November 1940, as the Blitz was getting under way, there was a major reorganisation of AA Command. The 5th AA Division's responsibilities were split, with the 8th AA Division created to cover South West England, and the 9th AA Division to cover the South Midlands and South Wales. Thereafter, the 5th AA Division's remit was to concentrate on Southern England. All three divisions came under the command of a newly formed I AA Corps.[2] There were other consequential reorganisations: the 5th AA Divisional Signals divided to form the 8th AA Divisional Signals at Bristol, for example.[11] Major-General Allen moved to command the 8th AA Division and was replaced as GOC by Acting Maj-Gen Robert Pargiter from the 7th AA Division.[2][5][29]

Order of battle

After the reorganisation of November 1940, the 5th AA Division had the following composition:[7][30][31][32]

Mid-War

Fringe and Baedeker raids

The Blitz ended in May 1941 when German attention switched to Russia, the Balkans and North Africa. A new Luftwaffe campaign against the mainland UK opened in March 1942, with a series of low-level fighter-bomber attacks against coastal towns, many in the 5th AA Division's area, which had few LAA guns available for defence. Both HAA and LAA guns were moved from all over England to reinforce the naval bases and create new Gun Defended Areas (GDAs) including Winchester and Brighton. As well as these 'Fringe Targets', the Luftwaffe switched night bombers from target to target in what were dubbed 'Baedeker' raids.[34] Newly-formed AA units joined the division, the HAA units increasingly being 'mixed' ones into which women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service were integrated. At the same time, experienced units were posted away for service overseas. This led to a continual turnover of units, which accelerated in 1942 with the preparations for Operation Torch and the need to transfer AA units from North West England to counter the Baedeker raids and the Luftwaffe's hit-and-run attacks against South Coast towns.[35]

Order of Battle 1941–42

During this period the division was composed as follows (temporary attachments omitted):[36][37][38]

  • 5th AA Brigadejoined from the 9th AA Division June 1942
  • 27th AA Brigade
    • 107th HAA Rgtjoined from the 4th AA Division June 1941; to the 35th AA Brigade June 1942
    • 146th HAA Rgtjoined from the 7th AA Division August 1942'
    • 124th HAA Rgtfrom the 35th AA Brigade autumn 1941
    • 68th LAA Rgtjoined from the 7th AA Division August 1942
    • 98th LAA Rgtfrom the 72nd AA Brigade August 1942
    • 132nd LAA Rgtformed from the 85th S/L Rgt March 1942;[39] to the 6th AA Division June 1942
    • 1 S/L Rgtjoined from the 9th AA Division January 1942
    • 31st S/L Rgt – as above
    • 34th S/L Rgt – as above
    • 35th S/L Rgt – returned summer 1941; to the 47th AA Brigade December 1941
  • 35th AA Brigade
    • 54th (City of London) HAA Rgtjoined from the 1st AA Division autumn 1941; returned to the 1st AA Division February 1942
    • 57th HAA Rgt – left for the 1st AA Division autumn 1941
    • 72nd HAA Rgt – left for the 6th AA Division December 1941
    • 80th HAA Rgt – left AA Command July 1941; later went to North Africa[40][41]
    • 97th (London Scottish) HAA Rgt – joined from the 1st AA Division March 1942; to the 5th AA Brigade June 1942
    • 101st HAA Rgtjoined from the 6th AA Division July 1942; left for the 1st AA Division August 1942
    • 104th HAA Rgtjoined from the 8th AA Division December 1941, left for the 6th AA Division April 1942
    • 107th HAA Brigade – from the 27th AA Brigade June 1942
    • 124th HAA Rgt – new unit formed March 1941;[39] to the 27th AA Brigade autumn 1941
    • 148 (Mixed) HAA Rgt – new unit formed February 1942;[39] to 5 AA Brigade June 1942
    • 151st (Mixed) HAA Rgtfrom the 4th AA Division July 1942
    • 157th (Mixed) HAA Rgtnew unit formed May 1942;[39]'
    • 160th (Mixed) HAA Rgtnew unit formed June 1942;[39]
    • 48th S/L Rgt – from the 47th AA Brigade August 1942
    • 5th AA 'Z' Rgt – as above
  • 47th AA Brigade
    • 35th S/L Rgt – from the 27th AA Brigade December 1941
    • 48th S/L Rgt – to the 35th AA Brigade August 1942
    • 63th S/L Rgt (Queens) – left for the 1st AA Division autumn 1941
    • 70th S/L Rgt – as above
  • 65th AA Brigadeleft for the 10th AA Division May 1942
    • 23rd LAA Rgt – left AA Command December 1941, later went to Ceylon[42][43]
    • 24th LAA Rgt – left for the 8th AA Division summer 1941
    • 35th LAA Rgt – returned from the 55th AA Brigade summer, left for Far East December 1941 and captured on Java[44][45]
    • 43rd LAA Rgt – left for the 6th AA Division June 1941
    • 46th LAA Rgt – from the 55th AA Brigade summer 1941
    • 60th LAA Rgtjoined from the 12th AA Division autumn 1941
    • 80th LAA Rgtnew unit formed August 1941;[39] left for the 9th AA Division December 1941
    • 81st LAA Rgtjoined from the 6th AA Division March 1942
    • 97th LAA Rgt – new unit formed November 1941[39] to the 5th AA Brigade June 1942
  • 72nd AA Brigadenew formation, joined June 1942

The increased sophistication of Operations Rooms and communications was reflected in the growth in support units, which attained the following organisation by May 1942:[38]

  • 5th AA Division Mixed Signal Unit HQ, RCS
    • HQ No 1 Company
      • 5th AA Division Mixed Signal Office Section
      • 27th AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 108th RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 111th RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 308th AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 346th AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 47th AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 109t RAF Fighter Sector Sub-Section
      • 313th AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 13th AA Line Maintenance Section
    • HQ No 2 Company
      • 112th AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 33rd AA Sub-Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Sub-Section
      • 5th AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 409th AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 35th AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 303rd AA Gun Operations Room Mixed Signal Section
      • 72nd AA Brigade Signal Office Mixed Sub-Section
      • 14th AA Line Maintenance Section
  • HQ 5th AA Div RASC
    • 183rd, 916th Companies
  • 5th AA Div RAMC
  • 5th AA Div Workshop Company, RAOC
  • 5th AA Div Radio Maintenance Company, RAOC

The RAOC companies became part of the new Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) during 1942.

In August 1942, the 27th and 47th AA Brigades were transferred to the 3rd AA Division, a HQ brought down from Scotland to handle the increased workload of combating the 'hit and run' raids.[38][46]

Disbandment

AA Command was reorganised again in October 1942, when the AA Corps and Divisions were disbanded and replaced by a single-tier 'Group' structure, with each group corresponding to a Group of Fighter Command. The 5th AA Division's role was subsumed into the 3rd AA Group.[2][47]

The 5th AA Divisional Signals re-amalgamated with the 8th AA Divisional Signals at Bristol, and formed the 3rd AA Group Signals. Postwar the unit became the 57th (City and County of Bristol) Signals Squadron, today part of the 39th (Skinners) Signal Regiment.[11][12][48]

General Officer Commanding

The following officers commanded the 5th AA Division:[2][5]

  • Major-General Alan Cunningham (1 September 1938 – 9 January 1940)[49]
  • Major-General Robert Allen (10 January–10 November 1940)[50]
  • Major-General Robert Pargiter (11 November 1940 – 30 September 1942)[51]

Notes

  1. ^ Cole p.55
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Palmer, A Concise History of Anti-Aircraft Command (History and Personnel) at British Military History.
  3. ^ AA Command 1940 at British Military History.
  4. ^ a b 5 AA Division 1939 at British Military History.
  5. ^ a b c d Farndale, Annex J, pp. 292–306.
  6. ^ Cunningham at Generals of World War II.
  7. ^ a b 5 AA Division 1940 at Royal Artillery 1939–45. Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Routledge, pp. 65–6.
  9. ^ Monthly Army List May 1939.
  10. ^ Routledge, Table LX, p. 378.
  11. ^ a b c Lord & Watson, p. 170.
  12. ^ a b Nalder, p. 620.
  13. ^ Routledge, Table LVIII, p. 376.
  14. ^ Routledge, Table LIX, p. 377.
  15. ^ Routledge, p. 371.
  16. ^ Routledge, Table LXI, p. 379.
  17. ^ Allen at Generals of World War II.
  18. ^ Litchfield p. 5.
  19. ^ Routledge, p. 60.
  20. ^ a b 37th (TEE) S/L Regt RA, War Diary 15 May–16 June 1940, The National Archives (TNA), Kew file WO 166/679.
  21. ^ Farndale, p. 106.
  22. ^ Routledge, p. 383.
  23. ^ Basil Collier pp. 195–6.
  24. ^ Richard Collier, pp. 97–8.
  25. ^ a b Farndale, p. 108
  26. ^ Routledge, p. 386.
  27. ^ Routledge, p. 391.
  28. ^ Routledge, p. 395.
  29. ^ Pargiter at Generals of World War II.
  30. ^ 5 AA Division 1940 at British Military History.
  31. ^ Routledge, Table LXV, p. 396.
  32. ^ Farndale, Annex D, p. 257.
  33. ^ 5 AA Z Regt at RA 1939–45.
  34. ^ Routledge, pp. 401–4.
  35. ^ Routledge, pp. 399–404.
  36. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 12 May 1941, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/79.
  37. ^ Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 2 December 1941, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/80.
  38. ^ a b c Order of Battle of Non-Field Force Units in the United Kingdom, Part 27: AA Command, 14 May 1942, with amendments, TNA file WO 212/81.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g Farndale, Annex M.
  40. ^ Routledge, p. 178.
  41. ^ Joslen, p. 465.
  42. ^ Routledge, Table XXXVIII, pp. 253–4.
  43. ^ Hoslen, p. 521.
  44. ^ Routledge, pp. 221-9.
  45. ^ Joslen, p. 558.
  46. ^ Routledge, pp. 402–4.
  47. ^ Routledge, pp. 81, 401, Map 36.
  48. ^ Brief History of 39 Signal Regt at British Army website.
  49. ^ Cunningham at Generals of World War II.
  50. ^ Allen at Generals of World War II.
  51. ^ Pargiter at Generals of World War II.

References

  • Cole, Howard (1973). Formation Badges of World War 2. Britain, Commonwealth and Empire. London: Arms and Armour Press. 
  • Basil Collier, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The Defence of the United Kingdom, London: HM Stationery Office, 1957.
  • Richard Collier, Eagle Day: The Battle of Britain, August 6–September 15, 1940, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1966/Pan Books, 1968, ISBN 0-330-02105-2.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Maj-Gen R.F.H. Nalder, The Royal Corps of Signals: A History of its Antecedents and Developments (Circa 1800–1955), London: Royal Signals Institution, 1958.
  • 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

  • British Army website
  • British Military History
  • Generals of World War II
  • Orders of Battle at Patriot Files
  • Royal Artillery 1939–1945 (archive site)
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