The Burma Campaign

1st Anti-Aircraft/Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Marines

1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.

United Kingdom: February 1940 – January 1941

Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I.

The nucleus of the Regiment formed at Fort Cumberland on 5th February 1940.  The Regiment formed with 'A' and 'B' Batteries (heavy) and the 22nd Light Battery, R.M.[1]  Training was conducted at several Army establishments at Yeovil, Carlisle and Arborfield; the latter being where the Regimental H.Q. was established.  In April 1940, a cadre from the Regiment was posted to form the nucleus of the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. which formed on 15th April.  On 8th May 1940, the Regiment moved to the Royal Marine Reserve Depot at Exton, near Exmouth.  Later that month, ‘B’ Battery moved to Air Defence of Great Britain sites at Cosham where it came under Army command.  ‘A’ Battery moved to A.D.G.B. on 7th June, taking up gun sites at Folkestone.  The 22nd L.A.A. Battery went to Durham on 9th June.  The Regimental H.Q. moved to Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth on 2nd July 1940.  ‘B’ Battery moved to Plymouth, arriving on 20th October 1940.  ‘A’ Battery, having spent time at Dover, reverted to the command of the Regiment and moved into billets at Horndean in Hampshire on 20th December 1940.  Regimental H.Q. moved to Eastney on 23rd December.  On 5th January 1941, R.H.Q., ‘A’ Battery and the 22nd L.A.A. Battery embarked at Gourock on troopship H6, the M.V. Rangitata for Egypt.  'B' Battery, which travelled separately, also embarked for Egypt.  The units of the Regiment sailed as part of convoy WS 6A, later WS 6.  The Regiment arrived at Durban on 26th March 1941 where it disembarked and went to Clairwood Transit Camp.  The R.H.Q. alone embarked in transport J.8, the S.S. Costa Rica, on 29th March which sailed for Egypt on 1st April 1941.  The R.H.Q. disembarked at Port Said on 21st April 1941 and moved to El Tahag.  The Batteries appear to have arrived on or shortly after the same date.[2]

Egypt and Crete: May 1941 – January 1942

Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I.

On 2nd May 1941, the 1st Regiment H.Q., ‘B’ Battery and the 22nd L.A.A. Battery were put on four hours notice to go to Crete but in the end these units remained in Egypt.  Instead, ‘A’ Battery of the 1st A.A. Regiment together with ‘C’ Battery, elements of the 23rd Light Battery and an advance party from ‘D’ Battery of the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M., were sent to Crete where these detachments later suffered heavy casualties, mainly prisoners.  ‘D’ Battery of the 2nd Regiment came under command on 15th May.  The R.H.Q. with ‘B’ and ‘D’ Batteries moved to Abbassia on 20th May while the 22nd L.A.A. Battery remained at El Tahag.  One troop of the 22nd L.A.A. Battery went to Crete on or shortly after 27th May.  The other troop appears to have been sent to help defend the R.A.F. Station at Abu Sueir, west of Ismalia.  The initial order was for the Battery to form an infantry company as part of the Royal Marines Striking Force however this was countermanded on 29th May and the company never formed.  Instead, it seems that the Battery was detailed to man Bofors guns at the airfield.[3]

After the disaster at Crete, the survivors gathered in Egypt.  ‘A’ Battery moved to El Tahag to Abbassia on 30th June with a total strength of only 89 all ranks and remained under the command of the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.  The Battery returned to the 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M. on 15th August and ‘D’ Battery rejoined the 2nd Regiment.  During this period, the 23rd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. came under the command of the 1st Regiment but reverted to the 2nd Regiment on 19th September 1941.  On 20th September, the 22nd L.A.A. Battery left Abbassia for the Alexandria area.  The Regiment was mainly occupied with training and internal security duties.[4]

At the beginning of December 1941, the Air Defence Brigade of M.N.D.B.O. I in Egypt was reorganised:

- 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M.  (‘A’ and ‘B’ A.A. Batteries R.M., 22nd Light A.A. Battery R.M.)
- 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.  (‘C’ and ‘D’ A.A. Batteries R.M., 23rd Light A.A. Battery R.M.)
- 11th R.M. Searchlight Regiment (‘R’ & ‘S’ Searchlight Batteries R.M.).

 ‘A’ Battery was reduced to cadre strength.

1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.

Egypt: December 1941 – January 1942

1st R.M. A.A. Brigade

At the end of December 1941, a major reorganisation of the Royal Marine anti-aircraft units took place.  On 21st December, the 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade came into being by reorganisation and re-designation of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.  The 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.  was re-designated to become the 1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M. with ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Anti-Aircraft Batteries, R.M., each with eight 3.7-inch guns.  ‘A’ Battery was amalgamated with ‘C’ Battery and the new battery remained as ‘C’ Battery.  The 22nd L.A.A. Battery R.M., having absorbed ‘A’ Troop and elements of Battery H.Q., 23rd L.A.A. Battery, became an independent unit with sixteen 40mm Bofors guns in four troops, under the direct command of the Brigade.  The 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. was formed at the same time with personnel left over from the amalgamation of ‘A’ and ‘C’ Batteries, but with only the 23rd L.A.A. Battery R.M. under command.  The 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M. was relieved of all guard and internal security duties on 26th December and moved to El Tahag the next day where it made ready for transfer overseas.[5]

Ceylon: February 1942 – March 1943

1st R.M. A.A. Brigade

The SS ‘City of Paris’ sailed from Suez on 16th January 1942 and arrived at Aden on 21st January with 1,375 personnel of M.N.B.D.O.1,  including Headquarters, 1st Royal Marine Anti-Aircraft Brigade and the 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M. on-board, the latter equipped with twenty four 3-.7-inch guns.   It sailed from Aden in Convoy AJ1-1 along with the SS ‘Yoma and arrived at Colombo on 1st February 1942.  Upon arrival in Ceylon, the Brigade Headquarters was designated as Headquarters, Anti-Aircraft Command Ceylon, responsible for the anti-aircraft defence of the entire island.  The Headquarters, 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M. with ‘D’ Battery and the 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M., less ‘A’ Troop deployed to Trincomalee on 2nd February 1942, arriving there the following day.  Brigade Headquarters with ‘C’ and ‘B’ Batteries and ‘A’ Troop, 22nd L.A.A. Battery remained in Colombo.  ‘B’ Battery moved from Colombo to Trincomalee on 13th February.  ‘A’ Troop, 22nd L.A.A. Battery, in Colombo, was joined by a Royal Navy troop equipped with 12-pounder guns which was attached to the Royal Marines Battery on 21st March.[6]

On 5th and 9th April 1942, Japanese carrier-borne planes attacked Ceylon.  ‘A’ Troop, 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. claimed three hits on enemy aircraft during the raid on Colombo.  ‘C’ Battery fired 252 rounds.  Following the raid on Trincomalee on 9th April, ‘B’ and ‘D’ Batteries, R.M. each claimed two enemy planes destroyed whilst the 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. claimed four.  One plane was claimed destroyed by the 163rd L.A.A. Battery, R.A.[7]  On 18th June 1942, ‘A’ Troop, 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. moved to Puttalam, relieving ‘A’ Troop, 164th L.A.A. Battery, R.A.[8]

The 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade Headquarters returned to the Ceylon order of battle at the end of August or early September 1942, when the headquarters ceased to be H.Q. A.A. Command Ceylon.  The responsibilities for anti-aircraft defence on Ceylon were now split between the newly formed 23rd A.A. Brigade and the 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, the latter being responsible for the northern area based on Trincomalee.  The 1st Regiment at Trincomalee came under the command of the 1st Royal Marine A.A. Brigade.  In the months that followed, the 1st Regiment participated in training, practice firings and exercises.  ‘D’ Battery, R.M. moved from Trincomalee to Colombo, swapping places with ‘C’ Battery, which replaced it at Trincomalee, on 2nd October 1942.[9]

On 29th January 1943, ‘C’ Troop, 22nd L.A. Battery, R.M. moved from Puttalam to Diyatalawa and the Puttalam defences came under the command of the 23rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade.  Elements of the Battery had been at Puttalam since at least 18th September 1942.

‘D’ Battery moved to Katukurunda on 25th January 1943.  The Battery swapped with ‘B’ Battery in Trincomalee on 28th January, taking over the positions of ‘B’ Battery which went to Colombo and Katukurunda.  This move was complete by 2nd February.[10]

‘C’ Battery began moving to the R.M. Camp at Wilson’s Plains on 2nd February, followed by Rear R.H.Q. on 9th February.  The main party of H.Q. Battery, R.M. left Trincomalee for Wilson’s Plains (Moon Plains) on 27th February 1943.  At the newly established camp, the sub-units of the Regiment were to undergo infantry training.  However, from 2nd March 1943, remaining units also began to concentrate at Wilson’s Plains in preparation for transfer to India.  ‘D’ Battery left Trincomalee and the command of the 24th A.A.  Brigade on 29th March 1943.[11]  

India: April – June 1943

1st R.M. A.A. Brigade

On 9th April 1943, the 1st R.M. Brigade H.Q. and the 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. entrained for Bombay.  They were followed the next day by the R.H.Q., ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries, 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M.  The Brigade Headquarters arrived at Bombay on 15th April 1943 and assumed command of the air defence of Bombay two days later.  The R.H.Q. of the 1st Regiment arrived on 15th April and ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries arrived the next day.  ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘D’ Troops, 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. relieved the 12th L.A.A. Battery, I.A. and took over their twelve guns.  ‘C’ Troop took over the duties as Naval Patrol.  ‘B’ Battery, 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M. remained in Ceylon, moving from Colombo to Trincomalee on 21st April 1943 and coming under the command of the 24th A.A. Brigade the next day.[12]

1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.

India: July 1943 – January 1944

1st R.M. A.A. Brigade

On 1st July 1943, the 1st H.A.A. Regiment R.M. reverted to being an ‘anti-aircraft’ regiment, dropping the word “Heavy” from its title, when it took under command the 22nd L.A.A. Battery.  ‘B’ Battery, in Ceylon, became part of the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.  The time at Bombay was spent practice firing and in infantry, jungle warfare and mobile training.  The 101st H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. began relieving the 1st Regiment of air defence commitments at Bombay on 15th August.  The 22nd L.A.A. Battery was relieved by the 14th L.A.A. Battery, Indian Artillery.  On 23rd August the 1st Regiment moved to Poona, a projected return to Ceylon having been cancelled.  While at Poona, the 22nd L.A.A. Battery drew eighteen American-made Bofors guns, thus coming becoming an eighteen gun battery in line with the most recent Royal Artillery war establishment.  As part of the 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, the Regiment came under the command of the H.Q. Indian Expeditionary Force on 15th September 1943.  This headquarters was responsible for training selected formations in combined/amphibious operations for future operations then planned against Japanese-held territory.  However, it subsequently became apparent that such operations would not be conducted in the near future and the headquarters was disbanded, merging with that of the XXXIII Indian Corps by November 1943.[13]

The Regiment moved to Bhiwandi, to the north of Bombay, on 28th September 1943 and then to Gulunche between 1st and 4th November.  The 165th Battery, 56th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. came under command on 4th November.  At Gulunche, the Regiment underwent training and exercises in combined/amphibious operations.  The 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. returned from Madh Island on 17th November and was placed under the command of the 60th L.A.A. Regiment, R.A.  Training continued until January 1944 when on the 14th of that month the 165th Battery transferred to the 101st H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. and the 22nd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. returned to the 1st Regiment.  On 26th January 1944, the 1st Regiment began moving to Bombay where on 28th January it embarked upon the H.T. Dunnottar Castle for return to the United Kingdom.[14]

United Kingdom: March – April 1944

5th R.M. A.A. Brigade

Having called at Aden on 4th February 1944, the Regiment disembarked at Suez on 8th February before re-embarking in the Dunnottar Castle on 24th February.  The ship eventually sailed from Port Said to the United Kingdom on 1st March.  The Regiment disembarked at Greenock on 24th March and was billeted at Largs.  The Regiment came under the command of the 5th R.M. A.A. Brigade on 27th March and proceeded on leave three days later.[15]

1st Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.

United Kingdom: May – August 1944

5th R.M. A.A. Brigade

On 1st May 1944, the 1st Regiment began mobilising and with only the three heavy batteries – ‘A’ (from the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.), ‘C’ and ‘D’ – once again it reverted to being titled a ‘Heavy Anti-Aircraft’ regiment.  Three days later the Regiment moved to Clacton-on-Sea.  After some training, extended foreign service leave commenced, the expectation being that the Regiment would be involved in the invasion of France.  This expectation was further reinforced during June when drivers went to Colchester to practice driving into landing craft.  On 19th June, the Regiment moved to Horsham where waterproofing of the vehicles began.  However, this activity was stopped on 24th June when the Regiment was assigned to Operation ‘Diver’ – the scheme designed to counter the V1 flying bomb.  The Regiment moved to Tunbridge Wells on 26th June where it deployed against the V1 under the operational command of the 40th A.A. Brigade, R.A.  Between 26th and 30th June, five V1’s were claimed as destroyed.  The Regiment moved to Hastings on 14th July and then to the Burnham-on-Crouch area on 21st July.  During August, the Regiment fired 164 rounds at V1 targets, bringing two down to explode on the ground.  The total V1s claimed by the Regiment during the time it was assigned to Operation ‘Diver’ was four destroyed in the air and 27 brought down.[16]

North West Europe: August 1944 – May 1945

5th R.M. A.A. Brigade

At the end of August, the move to the Continent began when on 28th August the Regiment went to the South Coast Marshalling Area.  Embarking in stages at Denmead between 1st and 2nd September 1944, the R.H.Q. and ‘A’ Battery, less guns, disembarked at Arromanches on 2nd September and moved to Cherbourg.  ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries followed and the Regiment was complete at Cherbourg by 5th September.  Guns and radar equipment began arriving at Cherbourg on 8th September and was completed by 16th September.  On 28th September, the Regiment left for Antwerp and began to deploy north and east of the city on 6th October.  ‘C’ and ‘A’ Batteries operating in the ground role supported the infantry of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division between 7th and 12th October.  On 13th October, several explosions were heard in the Antwerp area, later confirmed to have been V2 ballistic missiles.[17]

The Regiment deployed on the east bank of the Scheldt, north of Antwerp, on 16th and 17th October.  During the re-deployment, orders were received that the Regiment was to cease operating in the anti-aircraft role and was now to operate entirely in support of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.  The German defenders holding the neck of the South Beveland isthmus were engaged up until 21st October when the Regiment was ordered to return to anti-V1 operations and to the Brussels outer gun belt.  The Regiment deployed south of Louvain on 22nd October, coming under the operational control of the 101st A.A. Brigade, R.A., and the Regiment destroyed its first V1 since leaving the United Kingdom two days later.  The Regiment remained in the Brussels area until 6th December when it went to the Antwerp area, returning to the direct command of the 5th R.M. A.A. Brigade.  At this time, the Battle of the Bulge was raging and the Regiment, in the infantry role, made ready to defend the approaches to Antwerp in the event of a successful German advance.  On 31st January 1945, ‘C’ Battery moved to the Bergen Op Zoom area on anti-V1 duty, under the operational command of the 107th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. which appears to have been under the command of the American 30th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Brigade.  The Battery returned to the Regiment on 2nd February but remained on anti-V1 duty.  The Regiment moved to Ostend on 25th February where it came under the operational command of the 75th A.A. Brigade, R.A.  On 7th April, ‘D’ Battery was visited by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother of the Belgians.  In what was an unusual engagement, on 18th April ‘D’ Troop, ‘C’ Battery engaged and sank an enemy midget submarine involved in unsuccessful anti-shipping operations in the Scheldt Estuary.  That same day, the Regiment reverted to the operational command of the 5th R.M. A.A. Brigade, although it remained under control of the 75th A.A. Brigade, R.A. for coast defence.  The Regiment provided a Guard of Honour for the Liberation Ceremonial and Service at Zeebrugge on 22nd April.  As part of the ceremony, a plaque (presumably commemorating the famous raid of World War One) hidden during the German occupation was replaced and unveiled on the harbour mole.[18]

United Kingdom: April – December 1945

5th R.M. A.A. Brigade

Towards the end of May 1945, with the Allied victory in Europe secured, the Regiment stood down from operations and began handing in its guns and equipment.  On 29th May, the men embarked at Ostend for the United Kingdom and disembarked at Tilbury the following day before proceeding to Exeter.  Throughout, the Regiment remained under the command of the 5th R.M. A.A. Brigade.  At Exeter, leave was granted and postings to other units began.  In September 1945, men began to be drafted for demobilisation.  Lt. Colonel R. Garret relinquished command on 8th September, handing over to Major W.A. Kinnear until the arrival of Lt. Colonel R.H. Ogden on 17th September, on which date the Regiment moved to South Brent and Ivybridge, near Plymouth.  On 1st October, the 4th L.A.A. Regiment, R.M. was disbanded and absorbed into the 1st Regiment.  Men continued to be posted away until on 15th December 1945, at Ivybridge the 1st Regiment was disbanded and the remaining men posted to the ‘Z’ Company, 28th Battalion, R.M.  The H.Q. 5th R.M. A.A. Brigade was disbanded the same day.[19]

29 January 2021

[1] “The Royal Marines, 1919-1980”, Ladd J.D., Jane’s (1980)

[2] War diary 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, ADM 202/149;, accessed August 2020; War diary ‘S’ Battery, R.M., ADM 202/166

[3] Ladd; War diary R.M. Striking Force, ADM 202/139; ADM 202/149

[4] Ladd; ADM 202/149

[5] ADM 202/149

[6] ADM 202/149

[7] ADM 202/149; War diary 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M., ADM 202/153

[8] War diary of the 55th L.A.A. Regiment, R.A., WO 172/1530

[9] War diary 23rd A.A. Brigade, WO 172/3790; War diary H.Q. A.A. Command Ceylon, WO 172/1521; ADM 202/149; War diary 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, WO 172/1522; “The Royal Marines, 1919-1980”, Ladd J.D., Jane’s (1980); ADM 202/153

[10] ADM 202/153

[11] War diary 24th A.A. Brigade, WO 172/3792; ADM 202/153

[12] WO 172/3788; WO 172/3792; ADM 202/153

[13] WO 172/2139; ADM 202/153

[14] WO 172/2139; ADM 202/153

[15] ADM 202/153

[16] War diary 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, ADM 202/292

[17] ADM 202/292

[18] ADM 202/292

[19] ADM 202/292