Branch Territorial Army
|Country United Kingdom|
Role Air Defence
|Type Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment|
Part of 3rd AA Division Allied Forces Headquarters Eighth Army French XIX Corps US IV Corps 3 AA Group
The 71st (Forth) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery was an air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) formed in Scotland just before World War II. It served in North Africa and Italy during the war. Its successors continue to serve in the Army Reserve as part of the Royal Logistics Corps.
The regiment was raised in the Royal Artillery (RA) in January 1938 as part of the expansion in Britain's anti-aircraft (AA) defences in the period of tension before World War II. The cadre for the new unit was provided by 224th (Fife) Medium Battery at Dunfermline, transferred from 56th (Highland) Medium Regiment, RA, descended from the Highland (Fifeshire) Heavy Battery of World War I. 224 Battery was redesignated 227 AA Battery and two new batteries were raised:
71st (Forth) AA Regiment
The Commanding Officer, Lt-Col A.R. Black, and senior Major, Sir Eric Hutchison, 2nd Baronet of Hardiston, were veterans of World War I. The Honorary Colonel was the 10th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine (who, as Major Lord Bruce, had been commander of the Highland Heavy Battery in World War I). Adam Dundas of Dundas, 29th Chief of Clan Dundas, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the regiment in 1938 and rose to command a battery in World War II, ending as Major.
The regiment became part of 36th (Scottish) Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based at Edinburgh, when that was formed on 1 May 1938 to take responsibility for the AA defence of the city of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. That formation in turn was subordinated to the new 3rd Anti-Aircraft Division formed at Edinburgh on 1 September 1938. 3rd AA Division commanded all the AA units within Scottish Command, transferring to Anti-Aircraft Command when that formation was created on 1 April 1939.
Early in 1939, 228 Battery was transferred to provide the cadre for another new regiment in 36 AA Bde, 94th AA Regiment.
The TA's AA units were mobilised on 23 September 1938 during the Munich Crisis, with units manning their emergency positions within 24 hours, even though many did not yet have their full complement of men or equipment. The emergency lasted three weeks, and they were stood down on 13 October. In February 1939 the existing AA defences came under the control of a new Anti-Aircraft Command. In June a partial mobilisation of TA units was begun in a process known as 'couverture', whereby each AA unit did a month's tour of duty in rotation to man selected AA and searchlight positions. On 24 August, as the crisis in Europe developed, AA Command was fully mobilised at its war stations.
Unlike most of Britain's defence forces, 3 AA Division was frequently in action during the so-called Phoney War that lasted from September 1939 to May 1940. The first action occurred unexpectedly on 16 October 1939, when nine enemy aircraft suddenly appeared out of cloud and dived on warships off Rosyth Dockyard, close to the Forth Bridge. No warning had been given, but the crews of 71 HAA Rgt were undergoing gun drill and the gun positions hastily loaded for a 'crash' action under individual gun control, normal prediction being impossible against diving and turning targets. A total of 104 rounds were fired and one aircraft had its tail shot off (fighters accounted for another two). HMS Southampton was damaged. These are thought to have been the first British guns to open fire against the enemy during the war.
AA Command expanded and reorganised as the war progressed. The AA regiments of the RA were designated 'Heavy AA' (HAA) from 1940 to distinguish them from the newer Light AA (LAA) units. 71 HAA Regt continued to defend the Edinburgh and Firth of Forth area during The Blitz. Additional batteries were added to the regiment: 325 Bty in July 1940 and 382 Bty on 8 February 1941. On 18 June 1941, 382 Bty went to the Orkney and Shetland Defences (OSDEF) where it was attached to 108th HAA Rgt and was replaced by 317 Bty from 101st HAA Regiment in OSDEF.
By October 1941, 71st HAA Rgt was part of the War Office Reserve and available for service in the field, though still in AA Command. At this time the regiment moved south to join 34th (South Midland) AA Bde in 11th AA Division, defending Birmingham and Coventry. Then in January 1942 it moved again, to 29th (East Anglian) AA Bde in 6th AA Division in Kent.
On 19 February 1942, 317 Bty left the regiment and returned to 3rd AA Division in Scotland to join 147th HAA Rgt, while 71st HAA Rgt became an unbrigaded regiment before leaving AA Command completely in May.
The regiment was now a mobile unit under direct War Office control and was joined by its own Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) workshop. By November it was fully equipped for a mobile role, with the following composition:
North African campaign
In November 1942, equipped with mobile 3-inch guns, the regiment sailed for North Africa, landing in December after Operation Torch to join 52 AA Brigade (formerly defending Edinburgh) under Allied Force Headquarters in Algeria. By January 1943 it was located in the Philippeville area. In mid-January, two Btys of 71st HAA were stationed at Djidjelli airfield (1 Bty), Philippeville port and airfield (1 Trp), and Ain Beida airfield (1 Trp), with the third battery still en route. By mid-March, one Bty was at Youks-les-Bains Airfield, a full Bty at Ain Beida, and the third battery was guarding French XIX Corps HQ. In the final phase of the campaign, the regiment was deployed guarding Tunisian airfields under 22 AA Bde.
71 HAA Regiment followed AFHQ to Italy in September 1943 and served under Eighth Army. It joined 66 AA Bde covering the Salerno area in January 1944, and the brigade took over defence of the Anzio area as well in July 1944. In June 1944, the regiment joined 62 AA Bde supporting US IV Corps in its advance to the Arno and beyond. All the British HAA regiments working with US forces retained their AA role, but one battery was also assigned a corps ground role as medium artillery, providing fire tasks for US and British troops. With ample stocks of AA ammunition, and few German aircraft remaining in the theatre, the modern 3.7-inch guns then in use were in great demand for tasks such as Counter-battery fire, 62 AA Bde forming a flash-spotting troop from HAA command post staff. When the Germans launched a counter-attack to retake Leghorn, 71 HAA responded to 104 calls for support, firing 1840 rounds. The regiment left Italy in January 1945 and returned to the UK where it rejoined Home Forces in February, preparatory to disbandment.
71st (Forth) HAA Regiment was placed in suspended animation in 1945.
When the TA was reconstituted in 1947, 71st HAA Regiment was reformed at Dunfermline as 471st (Forth) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA (TA), forming part of 78 AA Bde (the former 52 AA Bde in North Africa) at Perth, in 3 AA Group. (The postwar 71st HAA Regiment was a Regular Army unit formed in Libya from personnel who had been serving with the former 51st (London) HAA Regiment when it was demobilised.) 471 Regiment was designated 'Mixed', indicating that members of the Women's Royal Army Corps were integrated into the unit.
In 1954 the regiment absorbed 494 (City of Edinburgh) HAA Regiment (the former 94th HAA regiment for which 71st HAA Regiment had provided the cadre). The 494 Regiment personnel formed R (City of Edinburgh) Battery. However, AA Command was disbanded in March 1955 and there was a major reduction in AA units of the TA. R Battery left again to merge with other Edinburgh units, and 471 HAA Regiment absorbed 531 Light AA/Searchlight Regiment from Perthshire to form 433rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA (TA):
The following year the regiment absorbed a battery from 413 (Fife) Coast Regiment, RA, which was being broken up.
A further reduction in the TA in 1961 saw the regiment converted to the transport role as HQ and 512 and 531 Companies of 433 (Fife) Transport Column, Royal Army Service Corps based at Dunfermline. This unit was later designated 433 (Forth) Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport and now forms part of the Scottish Transport Regiment of the Royal Logistics Corps.