3rd LAA Battery, RA, BAF
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Formed in 1941 as part of 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Regiment, RA, BAF, the 3rd LAA Battery formed part of the Rangoon Garrison until 7th March 1942 when the British evacuated the city.  It was equipped with eight 40mm Bofors light antiaircraft guns.  The battery joined the fighting retreat of British forces in Burma and on reaching India in May 1942 was sent to Mhow, in the central state of  Madhya Pradesh.

As the threat of war with Japan grew in 1941 a new Auxiliary Force unit was created for air defence. This was the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, Burma Auxiliary Force. It was formed with two batteries:

1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery with eight 3-inch guns
3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery with eight 40mm Bofors guns.

However the guns were not available immediately and training went ahead without them.  The guns arrived just before the outbreak of war with Japan. Both the heavy and light guns were stationed in and around Rangoon with a detachment at the oil refineries at Syriam.  

On 23rd December 1941, Rangoon was raided by the Japanese and again on 25th December.  The 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Regiment BAF claimed three aircraft shot down but two 3.7inch and one 40mm Bofors guns were destroyed. Along with the remainder of the garrison, both batteries left from Rangoon on 7th March 1942, and with the British 8th Heavy AA Battery, destroyed the static heavy antiaircraft gun positions before leaving. The surviving heavy antiaircraft guns available to the British were sent to Hlegu along with at least detachments of the 3rd LAA Battery, BAF.

In April 1942, most of the surviving antiaircraft guns available to the British were concentrated around the vital Irrawaddy bridges at Mandalay.  The 1st HAA Battery,  BAF destroyed its 3.7inch guns at Shwebo, being unable to move the guns any further.  The 3rd LAA Battery, BAF may have lost all its guns by this time for one account states that the only 40mm Bofors guns remaining were the six remaining to the 3rd Indian LAA Battery. Throughout the campaign, the 1st HAA Regiment, BAF claimed 19 Japanese aircraft destroyed of which four were claimed by the 3rd LAA Battery. 

The photographs included here are from the collection of Major Arthur Cockle.  Major Cockle was working as a civil servant in Burma before the war and was called into the BAF.  He served with the "3rd Ack-Ack" as a Captain.  He gathered what was left of the remaining troops and led them on foot from Rangoon, back to India. When they reached a place where a road was being constructed Mr Cockle would not allow any of his men to use it and the transport provided as the road was so treacherous. Apparently when they built the road, the materials were so poor, that any amount of precipitation caused it to act like a skid pan. The army lost endless vehicles new and old "over the edge" of this newly constructed road, in fact it was so bad that walking was just as bad. He said that all the men deserved medals just for getting from here to there using that road!

Following disbandment of the battery in India, Captain Cockle was initially transferred to Indian artillery units.  Many of the surviving men joined the Burma Intelligence Corps.  Subsequently Captain Cockle was asked to volunteer for Special Forces.  He played a significant role in organising the hill tribes to fight against the Japanese. He was awarded the Military Cross and towards the end of the war was promoted to Major.

I am very grateful to Major Cockle for permission to publish his story and photographs.

1. Burma Auxiliary Force on manoeuvres with what appear to be field guns and limbers - date unknown but appears to have be taken before the Japanese invasion.

2. Officers of the Burma Auxiliary Force - date unknown but appears to have be taken before the Japanese invasion.

3. Officers of the Burma Auxiliary Force - date unknown but appears to have be taken before the Japanese invasion.

4. Officers and men of the 1st HAA and the 3rd Light Antiaircraft Batteries, 1st Heavy Antiaircraft Regiment, RA,  Burma Auxiliary Force - date assumed to be mid/late 1941. Rangoon?

5. Captain Cockle's hand written notes on the reverse of photograph 4.

"1st Heavy A.A. Regiment, R.A. Burma Auxiliary Force (only consisted of 2 incomplete batteries - 3rd Burma Light AA and 1st Heavy A.A. Battery).  3rd (Burma) LAA Battery, which I recruited, trained and finally took the remnants out of Burma and walked to India - where we reformed at Mhow Central India only to be disbanded & the majority transferred to the [Burma] Intelligence Corps. Because of my relatively long artillery experience I was posted to Indian artillery units, until finally being called to volunteer to Special Forces."

6. Surviving officers and men of the 3rd LAA Battery, Burma Auxiliary Force on being reunited at Mhow, India shortly before being disbanded, May 1942.

Captain Cockle is seated 5th from left , 2nd row from the front.

 

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