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The 73rd (Kent Fortress) Searchlight Regiment was a volunteer air defence unit of Britain's Territorial Army (TA) from 1939 until 1955, at first as part of the Royal Engineers, later in the Royal Artillery. It served during the Battle of Britain and The Blitz.
73rd (Kent Fortress) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery Wikipedia
The unit was first formed in April 1939 as part of the expansion of TA Anti-Aircraft (AA) defences under Anti-Aircraft Command before the outbreak of World War II. It was created by combining three existing AA Searchlight Companies of the Royal Engineers (RE): 322 and 347 AA Companies from 29th (Kent) AA Battalion, and 331 AA Company from 32nd (7th City of London) AA Battalion. It appears that 347 (Kent) Company was drawn from personnel of the three Electric Light and Works companies of the Kent Fortress Royal Engineers based at Northfleet, which gave its title to the new battalion:
73rd (Kent Fortress) Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Royal EngineersHQ at Bexleyheath
322 AA Company at Drill Hall, Horns Cross, Greenhithe
331 AA Company at Bexleyheath
347 (Kent) AA Company at Lamorbey House, Halfway Street, Sidcup
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, ahead of the declaration of war, AA Command was fully mobilised at its war stations. The battalion formed part of 29th (East Anglian) Anti-Aircraft Brigade in 6th Anti-Aircraft Division, responsible for the air defence of the Thames Estuary and the adjacent Kent and Essex shores.
In August 1940 the battalion, along with all other RE searchlight units, was transferred to the Royal Artillery (RA), becoming 73rd (Kent Fortress) Searchlight Regiment. By this time (the start of the Battle of Britain) it had been transferred within 6 AA Division to 56 Light AA Bde, which was responsible for the defence of airfields in SE England. It continued to serve during The Blitz.
In February 1943, 73rd (Kent Fortress) S/L Rgt was transferred from defending airfields in Kent under 56th AA Bde to reinforce 27th AA Bde on the South Coast. 27th AA Brigade was dealing with 'hit-and-run' attacks by Luftwaffe fighter-bombers attacking coastal towns at low level in daylight, and the defensive armament of S/L positions was increased, with the existing Lewis guns being supplemented with twin Vickers K machine gun mountings and later twin 0.5-inch Browning machine guns on power mountings. On 10 April, 73rd S/L Rgt was replaced in this duty by 33rd (St Pancras) S/L Rgt and returned to 56th AA Bde.
The regiment continued to serve in AA Command until it was placed in suspended animation in September 1944.
When the TA was reconstituted in 1947, the regiment was reformed in the heavy anti-aircraft artillery role as 608th (Kent) (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA ('Mixed' indicating that members of the Women's Royal Army Corps were integrated into the unit).
Anti-Aircraft Command was disbanded in 1955, and there was a major reduction in TA air defence units. 608 HAA Regiment was amalgamated with 458 (Kent) (Mixed) HAA Regiment and 564 (Kent) (Mixed) Light Anti-Aircraft/Searchlight Regiment (the former 29th AA Bn RE). The new regiment became 458 (Kent) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, with 608 HAA Rgt providing RHQ and S Batteries.