British AA Forces during Op Crusader

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Tom from Cornwall
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British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 22 Feb 2013 20:34

Hi,

Further to the discussion on British AA units in the Crusader OOB thread, I thought the following information would be of interest:
APPENDIX “A” to 12 AA Bde OPERATION INSTRUCTION No. 17
16 Nov 41.

Forward Group
274 LAA Bty (less one tp) [moves with Gds Bde and provides protection LG122, 519303]

One tp 107 LAA Bty [protection LG 110]

HQ 68 HAA Regt [protection LG 122]
68 HAA Regt Signals
68 HAA Regt W/Shops
283 HAA Bty

107 LAA Bty (less one tp) [Protection LG 110 area]

HQ 12 AA Bde
12 AA Bde Signals
HQ 12 AA Bde W/Shops

HQ 2 LAA Regt [protection LGs 123 and 124]
2 LAA Regt Signals
2 LAA W/Shops
261 HAA Bty
82 LAA Bty
149 LAA Bty (less one tp)
No. 2 GOR

Rear Group
HQ 88 HAA Regt [protection No.2 Fwd Base]
88 HAA Regt Signals
88 HAA Regt W/Shops
276 HAA Bty

HQ 25 LAA Regt [protection LGs 75 and 76]
25 LAA Regt Signals
25 LAA Regt W/Shops
281 HAA Bty
81 LAA Bty

HQ 27 LAA Regt [protection Desert RH 594332]
27 LAA Regt Signals
27 LAA Regt W/Shops
200 HAA Bty
113 LAA Bty

Two secs 291 HAA Bty (with GL set) [protection LGs 75 and 76]

291 HAA Bty (less two secs) [protection LGs 75 and 76]

One tp 149 LAA Bty [Protection Army Battle HQ]
No wonder the exact composition of the British AA during Crusader is difficult to follow, there doesn't seem to be one unit that wasn't split up!

Regards

Tom

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Urmel
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Urmel » 27 Feb 2013 14:44

Nice digging Tom. Where's this from?

I find it most helpful to go through the command war diaries and figure it out from there.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 27 Feb 2013 19:15

Andreas,

Thanks! 8-)

I found it in WO169/1635 - war diary of 25 LAA Regt RA for 1941.

I've seen that there is a file for the HQ RA AA GHQ, MEF for 1941 and hoping to look in there when I go back to Kew at Easter to see if I can find similar strength returns to the field, medium and ATk gun numbers in the HQ RA GHQ file.

I'm toying with trying to put together a little piece on the AA in Middle East at this time as we have found that it isn't well recorded in the historiography.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 22 Mar 2013 20:43

In Cab80/32, I've found a table that gives the Middle East (excluding Iraq and Persia) totals for HAA and LAA guns:

Holdings of 30 Nov.
HAA: 404 (includes 100 guns for Turkey)
LAA: 750

It would be interesting (and I am trying to discover :) ) how many of the 404 HAA guns were mobile and how many were static.

Regards

Tom

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Urmel
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Urmel » 23 Mar 2013 11:00

Would also be interesting to know how many of the LAA guns were Bofors 40mm and how many captured Breda 20mm.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Dili
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Dili » 23 Mar 2013 17:59

There were also some 20mm Madsen, Oerlikon /Polsten i think.

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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Urmel » 23 Mar 2013 18:34

Thanks for the reminder :)

What's also interesting is that authorised strength was 776 HAA and 1,560 LAA (!)
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 24 Mar 2013 15:13

Hopefully I will be able to find a bit more detail in the GHQ ME files next time I get to Kew.

I think it will be interesting to see the split between forward deployed AA with 8th Army and those held back for defence of the base areas in Egypt.

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 28 Mar 2013 21:22

Further to my question:
I think it will be interesting to see the split between forward deployed AA with 8th Army and those held back for defence of the base areas in Egypt.
I found this letter of 13 Oct 41 from the New Zealand PM to Churchill in the NZ Official History of Second World War Documents Vol.2:
In the light of our experience in Greece, and particularly in Crete, you will understand that we are naturally apprehensive lest our troops should again, and for the third time, be committed to battle without adequate air support and in circumstances in which they are unable to defend themselves against unrestricted air attacks.
Churchill's reply of 24 Oct 41included:
General Auchinleck hopes to deploy 450 field guns and over 500 anti-tank guns, with 325 Bofors and over 100 heavy mobile anti-aircraft guns, the last-named exclusive of those in Tobruk. Our columns will therefore be protected by their own flak to an extent never before known by us.
Interesting sidelight, showing the pressure on the British to use their AA guns for AA defence! :idea:

Regards

Tom

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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 03 Apr 2013 17:43

For all those who are curious about the number of AA guns in Tobruk on the eve of Crusader and are in a statistical frame of mind:
LOCATION STATEMENT – AA UNITS – MIDDLE EAST SITUATION AS AT 16 NOV. 41.

TOBRUK FORTRESS
HQ., 4 AA Bde.
Bde. Signals
Bde. W/Shop RAOC

HQ., 69 Hy. A.A. Regt.
51 Hy.AA Regt. Sig. Sec.
51 Hy.AA Regt. W/Shop Sec. RAOC.

192 Hy. AA Battery
8 – 3.7-inch (M)
3 Sets FCI

153 Hy. AA Battery
5 – 3.7-inch (M)
1 – 75mm (Captured Italian)
2 Sets FCI. 1 GL Set. 1 – 75mm out of action

235 Hy. AA Battery
8 – 3.7-inch (S)
2 Sets FCI. 1 GL Set. 2 of these 3.7-inch out of action.

Det. 306 AA S/L
7 – 102mm (Captured Italian) 2 of these held in reserve. Barrage fire only.

Two Troops 306 AA S/L (less Det)
10 – AA Searchlights

HQ., 14 Lt. A.A. Regt.
13 Lt.AA Regt Sig. Sec.
13 Lt.AA Regt. W/Shop Sec RAOC
13 Lt.AA Regt. Sec. RASC on special duties.
3 Kerrison Predictors

39 Lt. AA Battery
12 – 20mm Bredas
3 – 40mm Bofors (M)

57 Lt. AA Battery
3 – 40mm Bofors (M)
11 – 20mm Bredas

40 Lt. AA Battery
12 – 40mm Bofors (S)

5 Lt. AA Battery
4 – 40mm Bofors (M)
11 – 20mm Bredas
Taken from WO169/950 - HQ AA GHQ MEF.

More to follow... :)

Regards

Tom

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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 Apr 2013 17:10

By my calculation the AA forces in the Western Desert on 17 Nov according to the Location Statement in WO169/950 were as follows:

Tobruk:
3.7inch (M) - 21
102 mm (captured Italian) - 7
75mm (captured Italian) - 1

40mm Bofors (M) - 10
40mm Bofors (S) - 12
20mm Breda - 34

Total: 29 Heavy and 56 Light

Western Desert
3.7inch (M) - 68
3 inch (SM) - 4

40mm Bofors (M) - 240
20mm Breda - 19

Total: 73 Heavy and 258 Light.

Grand Total deployed in Western Desert:
100 Heavy and 316 Light

Which is kind of interesting when you look at Churchill's letter of 24 Oct 41 quoted above:
Churchill's reply of 24 Oct 41included:

General Auchinleck hopes to deploy 450 field guns and over 500 anti-tank guns, with 325 Bofors and over 100 heavy mobile anti-aircraft guns, the last-named exclusive of those in Tobruk. Our columns will therefore be protected by their own flak to an extent never before known by us.
It is also interesting when you compare with the total numbers of AA guns in the Middle East on 30 Nov:
Holdings of 30 Nov.
HAA: 404 (includes 100 guns for Turkey)
LAA: 750
Hope that is of some interest - I'll try to get my head round the figures for Egypt, etc tomorrow. :)

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Apr 2013 11:57

Again from WO169/950 for 17 Nov:

Egypt (British forces)
3.7 inch (S) - 36
3.7 inch (M) - 54
40mm Bofors (M) - 81
40mm Bofors (S) - 19

Egyptian Army
3.7 inch (M) - 4
3 inch (M) - 36
40mm Bofors (M) - 4
AA LMGs - 128

Palestine & Syria
3.7 inch (S) - 12
3.7 inch (M) - 8
3 inch (Naval) - 4
75 mm (Captured French) - 8
40mm Bofors (M) - 24
20mm Breda - 12
AA LMGs - 12

Cyprus
3.7 inch (S) - 8
3.7 inch (M) - 8
40 mm Bofors (M) - 12
20mm Breda - 4

East Africa
20mm Breda - 4
13.2mm Breda - 4

Sudan
20mm Breda - 16

Aden
4.5 inch (S) - 2

GHQ Reserve
40mm Bofors (M) - 12

School of AA
3.7 inch (M) - 1
40mm Bofors (M) - 2

Which I make comes to a grand total of 181 Heavy and 194 Light (+ 140 AA LMGs).
If we add those in Tobruk and in the Western Desert (100 Heavy and 316 Light) we get a grand total of 281 Heavy and 510 (+ 140 LMGs) Light which is well on the way to the holdings noted on 30 Nov in CAB80/32 of 404 (inc 100 for Turkey) Heavy and 750 Light.

I'm slowly transcribing the actual Location Statement which includes details of units, their equipment and location and will try to post a link to it when it's finished.

As a sideline for the question of British employment of the 3.7 inch AA gun therefore we find that:

Of the total of 164 3.7 inch (M) with units in the Middle East on 17 Nov, 21 were in Tobruk and 68 in the Western Desert with 59 in Egypt (with both British (54) and Egyptian (4) units, plus one in the AA School), 8 in Palestine and Syria and 8 in Cyprus. Which hardly supports the assertion that there was a large number of spare 3.7 inch (M) held back in the Base Area. :)

BTW this file also contains a list of Coastal Defence artillery for 6 Nov 41 if anyone is interested in that.

Regards

Tom

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Urmel
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Urmel » 05 Apr 2013 12:01

That's great work Tom.

I'd be interested in the coastal artillery as well.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

dor1941
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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by dor1941 » 10 Apr 2013 13:58

Tom

Fascinating stuff-I've been looking for this information for many years. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Details of the Coast Regiments would be greatly appreciated.

David R

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Re: British AA Forces during Op Crusader

Post by Dili » 10 Apr 2013 18:27

Me too interested in coastal artillery.
Btw M and S are Mobile and Static?

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