223rd Anti-Tank Battery, RA, later the 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA November 1938 – April 1943

223rd Anti-Tank Battery, RA, later the 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA

November 1938 – April 1943

Historical time-line.

56th (King’s Own) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA

Supporting 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division:                  03/09/39 – 19/07/40

31st Independent Infantry Brigade Group.

223 Anti-Tank Battery attached.:                                               30/07/40 – 09/12/41.

1st Air Landing Brigade Troops.

As 223 Anti-Tank Battery:                                                        10/12/41 – 17/06/42.

1st Air-Landing Anti-Tank Battery:                                            18/06/42 – 27/09/42.

Airborne Divisional Troops. (Later 1st Airborne Division)

1st Air-Landing Anti-Tank Battery:                                            28/09/42 – 00/03/46. [1]


[1] On the 24/03/45 it becomes part of the 1st Air-Landing Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A. until 31/08/45, when the 1st A/L A-Tk Regt, RA is officially disbanded.



The 56th (King’s Own) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA was a Territorial Army unit of the British Army, which converted from the 4th Battalion, The King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), in November 1938. It was  based at Ulverston in the Furness area of north Lancashire. It formed the Anti-Tank Regiment of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The Regiment comprised four Anti-Tank Batteries, the 221st, 222nd, 223rd and the 224th  Anti-Tank Batteries.

The Territorial Army was doubled in size after the Munich Crisis and the 56th Anti-Tank Regiment formed a duplicate regiment at Crosby, near Liverpool, on the 9 May 1939. Originally, this was to be the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, but the designation was changed to the 66th Anti-Tank Regiment on the 1 June, and it was recruited to full strength by July. The Regiment consisted of the 261st, 262nd, 263rd and the 264th Anti-Tank Batteries.

At this time the establishment of an Anti-Tank Battery was 12 x 2-pounder guns organised as three Troops of four guns each. In general a Battery would support a Brigade, and another would act as a Divisional asset.

In September 1939, the unit was mobilised at Ulverston and went to guard important points at Barrow in Furness docks.

2 September 1939 – The Regiment locations were as follows:

RHQ Ulverston.

221 A/Tk Bty, RA Ulverston.

222 A/Tk Bty, RA Barrow.

223 A/Tk Bty, RA Barrow.

224 A/Tk Bty, RA Millom.


The Battle of France.

The 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France in April 1940. The 56th Anti-Tank Regiment, then commanded by Lt-Col BH Palmer, provided the defence on a section of the Dunkirk perimeter before being evacuated;

3 April 1940. Advance party of an Officer and three Other Rank’s of the Regiment move to France.

At this time the strength of the Regiment was 28 Officers and 588 Other Ranks.

5 April 1940. The Regiment now has its full complement of new 2 pounder anti-tank guns.

14 April 1940. The road convoy, with 169 vehicles and all 48 guns, set off for Southampton Docks.

21 April 1940. All of the Regiment are now in France, at Cherbourg.

22 April – 9 May 1940. Various moves and positions taken up along the French/Belgium border.

10 May 1940.The German attack begins, whilst the Regiment, is based in Lambersart.

Bty Locations: 221 and 223 at Lambersart. 222 at Le Corbeau. 224 at Chateau Blanc.

0430 hrs. Area vicinity RHQ bombed. 2- - 25 HE and anti-personnel bombs dropped, one exploding in 223 Bty HQ Billet. 2 x O.R’s of this Bty slightly wounded and several civilian houses destroyed. About 20 civilian casualties including some killed. Unit LAD personnel took charge of rescue and demolition. Civilian casualties attended by RMO

11 May 1940. Work in fwd area continued. CO called to Div HQ for orders. Lambersart crowded with sight-seers. Bty Comdrs conference.

12 May 1940. 221 Bty under Comd 125 Inf Bde, deployed over frontier for protection of frontier roads into Belgium. Unit preparations for move forward.

13 May 1940. Unit prepared to move. Anti-Parachute patrols continue.

14 May 1940. Funeral of civilians killed in raid. Unit representatives attended.

15 May 1940. CO on recce on Escaut with Cdr 125 Inf Bde.

16 May 1940. Bty Cmdrs Conference. Order issued for AA protection  of Division route fwd by the Regt. Recce by Bty Cmdrs of routes. Two M.C’s ridden by Signal D.R.’s damaged by bombs in Tournai. Machines recovered later by LAD.

17 May 1940. Division moves fwd to Tournai area on line of Escaut. Route protected by this unit. C.O. appointed O/C column. RHQ established Hem. C.O. moves fwd for orders with CRA RHQ moved fwd in evening and established at Caphin-en-Pevele in vicinity Div HQ.

18 May 1940. RHQ in office truck on village green at Caphin-en-Pevele. Bty’s move fwd in Battle positions. CO & 2nd i.c. recce Mt St. Aubert, for 2-pdr area’s for co-operation with projected holding force. 212 Bty less 1 Tp reported for orders and given defnce Division H.Q. area from right flank.

223 Anti-Tank Battery detached with ‘MACFORCE’.

This force was centred on the 127th Infantry Brigade, which was detached from the 42nd (East Lancashire) Infantry Division. It was put under the command of Maj-Gen. FN Mason-Macfarlane, the Director of Military Intelligence at GHQ. and operated as an independent force for ten days. During this time it was mainly engaged on the western side of the withdrawal corridor, as the British and French forces fell back on Dunkirk.

27 May 1940. In the area of Cassel with the 42nd Infantry Division, the Regiment is ordered to withdraw to Dunkirk.

28 May 1940. 223 Battery is in a heavy engagement with the Germans and accounted for the destruction of ten German tanks.

OC 223 Battery, Major. I.C Pedley, found wounded near RHQ, having been brought from Hazebrouck area by Lt. Thompson, 223 Battery. Attended by RMO and evacuated to nearest Field Ambulance.

29 May 1940. Regiment at Rousbrugge protecting L.O.C.

30 May 1940. Some elements of the Regiment are withdrawn from Dunkirk whilst others defend. The remainder of the unit was later evacuated.



5/6 June 1940. The Regiment is moved from Southern England to North East Yorkshire, and assembles at Darlington, where it starts to re-equip.

12/13 Jun 1940. Regiment locations as follows:

R.H.Q. at 31 Southend Avenue, Darlington.

221 A/T Bty, RA Two empty shops near Grange Road, Darlington.

222 A/T Bty, RA Dance Hall, Skinnergate, Darlington.

223 A/T Bty, RA Baptist Chapel, Grange Road, Darlington.

224 A/T Bty, RA Football Ground, Darlington.

21/22 Jun 1940. The first 7 replacement officers arrived at the Regiment.

26 Jun 1940. Battery and HQ move to new locations:

R.H.Q. Simonstone Hall, Hawes.

221 A/T Bty, RA Hawes Village.

222 A/T Bty, RA Hawes Village.

223 A/T Bty, RA Askrigg

224 A/T Bty, RA Bainbridge.

27/28 Jun 1940. 84 Other Ranks posted to the Regiment., 34 of them to 223 Battery.

13 July 1940. Six 2 Pounders arrive at Regiment and two are allotted to each Battery.

21 July 1940. Six 15cwt Bedford Portees delivered to unit and two are allotted to each Battery.

31 July 1940. Advance Party 223 Battery moves to Wheatley near Oxford.

1 August 1940. Main body 223 Battery moves to Wheatley near Oxford and takes over 203 A/Tk Battery’s role as an Independent Battery in an Independent Brigade Group.


The first War Diary entry by 223rd Anti-Tank Battery, R.A., in its independent role, was quite extensive.

Commanding Officer: Major. TIJ Toler, RA

Place: Welsingham.


31 July 1940.

The Battery left for Oxford where they were to be attached to the 31st Brigade commanded by Brigadier Smyth, brother of Brigadier Smyth, VC, of 127th Brigade. Lieutenant Thompson went with the Advance Party yesterday morning. The OC.Battery went down by car last night. The train left at 1647 from Welsingham and after three very trying changes arrived at Oxford at five o’clock in the morning where we were met by the OC Battery and conveyed to Port Meadow Camp by civilian buses. After breakfast the Battery was allowed to rest until 0900 hours.

At Port Meadow the full G1098 stores were waiting for us to take from 203rd Anti-Tank Battery and we had to be fully equipped within the next 48 hours. This forty-eight hours was fully occupied in the issue of stores and equipment and the taking over our full complement of guns and trucks. The eight cwt’s were Ford V8s, the gun tower 15 cwts Bedfords, and the 30 cwts Fordsons.

Heat wave – bathing in the Isis.

On arrival in the Oxford area the Battery took over all stores and equipment from 203rd Anti-Tank Battery of the 51st Anti-Tank Regiment. This Battery eventually moved to Wolsingham to take up the position in the 56th Anti-Tank Regiment vacated by 223rd Battery.

A UPT. was received, stating that 223rd Anti-Tank Battery would shortly become an Independent Battery and the Order of Battle of 56th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA., would include 203rd Anti-Tank Battery.

The present role was in 31st Independent Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier HEF. Smyth, MC, brother of the commander of 127th Infantry Brigade to which this Battery was previously affiliated. 31st Brigade consisted of three regular infantry battalions., lately returned from India. 2nd Bn, South Staffords, 2nd Bn, Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, 1st Bn Royal Ulster Rifles, 75th Field Regiment, RA., 223rd Anti-Tank Battery, 237 (Highland) Field Coy, RE, ‘D’ Company, 5th Devon MG. Battalion, 250 Gp Company, RASC., 152 Field Ambulance & 39 Motor Coach Company, RASC. The Brigade is part of 4th Corps, consisting of 43rd Division, 2 Armoured Division & 31st Infantry Brigade, and this group formed GHQ. Reserve.

The role of the 31st Brigade was four fold:-

1). Independent attack.

2). To follow up 2nd Armoured Division and exploit their success.

3). To follow up 2nd Armoured Division and hold the ground they gained.

4). If Corps moves South west to take up temporary defensive positions while 2nd Armoured Division attacks from the flank.

A secondary role in the present area was the supply of three mobile columns to counter attack aerodromes at which enemy may have landed.

As a provisional allotment one Troop was put under command of each Infantry Battalion for training and operations as follows:

South Staffs                 - ‘G’.

Oxford & Bucks           - ‘H’.

RUR.                           - ‘I’.

Training was carried out while at port Meadow in rapid occupation of positions on roads.


War Diary Extracts 1940 – 1941.

14 September 1940. The Battery was formally detached from the 56th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA. and became an independent battery with the title of 223rd (Independent) Anti-Tank Battery, RA.


12 November 1940. The Battery moves to Kings Langley, and would remain there until the 12 February 1941, when they moved to Llangattock in Wales (mid-way between Brecon and Newport) via Larkhill, arriving there on the 17 November 1941.


25 February 1941. The birth of the 4th Troop – ‘J’ under the command of 2/Lt. AF Worthington, RA. One gun and truck and personnel from each Troop and one truck and driver from HQ formed the Troop until a draft arrived.

The 4th Troop has only been formed under the instructions of Bde.

The Bty now consists of 4 x 3 gun Troops.


7 November 1941. Brigadier GF Hopkinson visits the Battery, and gives a short talk to the Officers on the Brigades new operational role.

9 November 1941. The OC went to Brigade in the afternoon and took with him a gun and gun team. This detachment was transported in the new vehicle which we understand we are to have.

18 November 1941. The OC Bty and a gun team with 2 pdr and Portee and full gun kit (war load) left at first light for Ringway Aerodrome (Airborne Forces HQ) to experiment with loading gliders etc.

21 November 1941. The Bty Captain left for Ringway Aerodrome together with other Bde Officers to see and experiment with Gliders.

29 November 1941. 31 new personnel arrived from different A/Tk Units, to replace unsuitable personnel of the Bty – 16 of these new men were immediately returned to their units as being equally unsuitable.


Newbury, BERKS. 1941 – 1942.

1 December 1941. Trp training was carried out in the morning. The Advance Party moving to our new area was sent off early. In the afternoon ‘I’ Trp played ‘J’ Trp at soccer winning 11 – 2, the remainder of the Bty carried out a route march. 15 men of the Bty who had been found unsuitable for our new role were sent off to their new units in exchange for the 15 new draft. Gnrs Marks and Murray. F, being lucky enough to rejoin their old Regiment, the 56th A/Tk.

3 December 1941. The morning until 1200 hrs was spent in Trp training – at 1210 hrs the Bty paraded all present to be inspected by the MG, RA who arrived at 1245 hrs. After the inspection he was entertained to lunch by the Officers Mess and left at 1400 hrs.

Recreational training in the afternoon for the men – the Officers having an opportunity of trying out the new “Blitz Buggy”, which is to be our Gun towing vehicle in the future. Its performance was highly satisfactory – towing a gun, eight containers of ammo, plus 5 Officers up a gradient of 1 in 4. The train party left for our new area in the early morning.

5 December 1941. Reveille was timed for 0200 hrs and by 0330 hrs the Bty was on the move for Newbury being due in there at 1600 hrs.

6 December 1941. The day opened with an address by the Bty Comdr on the meticulous attention to discipline and smartness which now more than ever was required from the Bty. Thereafter the arrangement of stores and equipment was carried out and the new camps prepared for training. Maintenance of the vehicles following the move was carried out.

16 December 1941. A gun team went to Ringway for loading trials and an NCO and 3 men on Air Sickness trials.

17 December 1941. The Battery Commander visited RAF Ringway, and returned the next day.

19 December 1941. OC Bty attended a Bde conference and later, on his return, announced the death of Lt. DN Timms, ‘I’ Trp Comdr in a flying accident at Ringway *. The Loading Party returned from Ringway.


* Footnote: 87834. Lieut. Dennis Northmore Timms is buried at BARROW-IN-FURNESS (THORNCLIFFE) CEMETERY AND CREMATORIUM. Sec. 4. Nonconformist. Grave 69.


6 January 1942. The Officers attended a lecture by the Divisional Commander at Barton Stacey in the morning.

2 February 1942. PT Trp training in the morning. Gas Cadre for 8 men. The afternoon there was a lecture on First Aid to all ranks by the MO Evening lecture by OC on ‘Present position regarding Airborne Forces’.

18 February 1942. Battery moved to Foulness Island. Last truck reported in at 15:50 hrs. There were no incidents, the journey being a good one – but very cold for men in portees and open trucks.

19 February 1942. Firing on Foulness Range. The weather was fine and bright, but cold. Good results were obtained by all Troops.

20 February 1942. Firing practice was completed in the morning. The Battery returned to Camp in the afternoon and evening. The results of the Battery firing were quite good – 62% including everyone firing. 2/Lt. Lonsdale and Sgt. Jeannotte left for Bulford Fields Camp to begin their sabotage work on the Lifeguards Camp. The OC Has detailed reports of the exercise.

21 February 1942. Maintenance on 2-pdr and vehicles. Afternoon recreational training. In the early hours of Sunday morning 15 men attacked the Life Guard Camp. OC has report.

22 February 1942. 60 men made a dawn attack on Life Guards Camp. Some damage was done – casualties heavy. The exercise ‘Rommel’ was very successful and interesting for this Unit. OC has detailed report. Remainder of the day was free.


Bulford Camp. 1942 – 1943.

6 April 1942. Monday. The move to Bulford was carried out.

17 April 1942. Friday. One Gun and Detachment, with ‘Blitz Buggy’, under Lt. J Pocock, RAA, OC Bty and Gnr Makepeace attended as part of demonstration at Netheravon Aerodrome and were seen by the Prime Minister – the Rt Hon. Winston Churchill.

18 April 1942. Saturday. The Demonstration at Netheravon was repeated for Lord Louis Mountbatten, i/c Combined Operations.

1 May 1942. Friday. A night gliding trial was held. Three ‘Hotspurs’ with full loads, consisting of Recce Coy, A/Tk Bty, and Lt Bty landed safely – first occasion.

6 June 1942. Saturday. The Battery was inspected by the GOC. – Maj-Gen. FAM Browning, DSO.

16 – 17 June 1942. Exercise ‘MERCURY’.

26 June 1942. Friday. A Party of 10 x ORs left for a Parachute Training course of 2 weeks. After the selection process at Hardwick Hall, they went to RAF. Ringway and did parachute course No 17, which ran from the 7th to 12th July 1942. This was the shortened course of four descents, especially for Airlanding Brigade troops.

27 June 1942. Saturday. The entire Battery visited the Lulworth AFV School, Gunnery Wing, to watch a demonstration of fire power and anti-tank shooting. Both 2-pdr and 6-pdr shooting was seen to be highly effective.

By authority of WO Letter 79/MOB/5321(A.G. 6a) the Battery’s name & address was changed to No 1 Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA Home Forces.

29 June 1942. Monday. ‘G’ Troop was engaged in loading the Horsa ‘Mock-up’. ‘H’ Troop in A/Tk training with the Ox & Bucks. The BSM held a cadre class of BHQ and new draft. Tiger Moth flying for 8 Officers and NCOs too place in the morning. In the afternoon there was medical inspection, baths, and the Padre’s hour.

30 Jun 1942. Tuesday. ‘G’ Troop again on loading trials. Remainder prepare to move to intensive glider training area. BHQ moved yesterday evening, ‘J’ Troop (from their attachment to the Border Regt) on Tuesday, and ‘I’ Troop [usually in support of Ulster’s Bn] on Wednesday.

1 July 1942. Wednesday. Maintenance and gliding exercise with RAF Kidlington. ‘G’ Troop left for a fortnight’s camp with the South Staffs at Ilfracombe.

2 July 1942. Thursday. Intensive training continued with three Troops engaged in gliding exercises. ‘I’ Troop – maintenance.

3 July 1942. Friday. Apart from routine glider flying, the day was free and the whole Battery were engaged in sports, football, cricket and swimming.

4 July 1942. Saturday. The day was occupied by a large scale glider exercise in co-operation with the RAF and the RAF Ground Defence Regt.

5 July 1942. Sunday. After handing over accommodation stores to the incoming unit, the Bty prepared to move, and returned to Bulford in the afternoon.

10 July 1942. Friday. A further part of 10 x O.Rs left to attend a Parachute training course at Chesterfield and Ringway. Again, after the selection process at Hardwick Hall, they went to RAF Ringway and did parachute course No 19, which ran from the 20 to 27 July 1942. This was another shortened course of four descents , especially for Airlanding Brigade troops. [On this course was the future Battery Commander, Maj WF Arnold.]

15 – 16 July 1942. Exercise ‘PEGASUS’.

17 July 1942. Friday. 32 Officers and men experienced a 1 ½ hours ‘Harrow’ flight. Remaining personnel carried out a glider exercise, with guns, in the Imber area.

18 July 1942. Saturday. The glider exercise ‘NEW ZEALAND’ occupied the afternoon, maintenance and preparations in the morning.

23 July 1942. Thursday. A further party of NCOs went on a Parachute training course for 2 weeks.  Again, after the selection process at Hardwick Hall, they went to RAF Ringway and did parachute course No 21, which ran from the 4 to 10 August 1942. This was another shortened course of four descents, especially for Airlanding Brigade troops. [This is one of the courses missing from the Archives, so no exact details are known]

31 July – 1 August 1942. 1 A/L Bde Exercise.

7 August 1942. Capt. Horne took a party of 33 men to Greenford to collect 16 new 6-pdrs.

11 August 1942. Tuesday. In the morning all Troops were on the 6-pdr cum Bren Range and on gun drill.

13 – 14 August 1942. Exercise ‘AVON’.

18 August 1942. Tuesday. During the morning Troops practiced gun drill and used the 6-pdr cum Bren in preparation for the firing at Foulness. The afternoon was spent in packing and preparing for the move.

19 August 1942. Wednesday. The Bty moved by Troops to Foulness Practice Camp, arriving there during the late afternoon. Two copies of movement orders attached.

20 August 1942. Thursday. As the range was not clear until 1400 hrs, the morning was spent in laying practice and general instruction under the I.G. Three Troops fired during the afternoon. The scores were ‘G’ Tp = 43 hits ex 72 rounds. ‘I’ Tp = 45 hits ex 71 rounds and ‘J’ Tp = 43 hits ex 72 rounds.

21 August 1942. Friday. The remaining Troop ‘H’ fired during the morning and scored 31 hits ex 72 rounds. Each Troop fired 20 rounds at the Cambrai run. 45 hits ex 80 rounds were obtained. The practice was repeated and the scores were the same, 12 tanks ex 13 being hit. The guns used were the Bty’s remaining 2-pdr’s. Battery averages were as follows: 6-pdr = 55%. 2-pdr = 56%. The Battery left the Practice Camp at 1400 hrs  and arrived at their bivouac area at approximately 2000 hrs.

22 August – 6 September 1942. Based at RAF Kidlington for glider training, etc.

5 September 1942. No. 3532595. Gr Smith H was killed in a road accident at Ringwood, Hants, while on a day pass from Bulford.

7 September 1942. Moved back to Bulford.

16 – 17 September 1944. Divisional Exercise ‘MERLIN’.

20 September 1942. Sunday. 50 x Officers and men proceeded to Brize Norton, 40 by air, and 10 by road, for one weeks flying training in Horsa gliders.

23 September 1942. Wednesday. 12 personnel returned from Brize Norton and 12 more took their place. Training in Whitleys and Horsa gliders proceeded each day at the aerodrome.

26 September 1942. Saturday. Inspections by Bty Captain, maintenance and interior economy.

A Horsa glider was loaded with ‘Jeep’,  6-pdr and stores. Captain P. Spencer-Thomas, RA and a gun detachment consisting of Sgt. Holmes, Dvr. Townsend, Dvr. Towell, Gnr. Greaney and Gnr. Flaherty [all from ‘J’ Troop] were towed off by an Albemarle at Netheravon Aerodrome. This is the first time that a gun has been taken into the air by glider. The landing was successful and a second trip completed the same day.

6 October 1942. Tuesday. Lt Englefield, RA. And 23 O.Rs proceeded on attachment to Stoke Orchard aerodrome for flying training. The Battery ceases to be under command of the 1st Airlanding Brigade, and comes under command of Lt-Col CHP Crawfurd, RA, CRA, Airborne Division, although the Battery is still affiliated to the Brigade.

9 October 1942. Friday. The Unit serial number was changed today, from 115 to 46.

13 October 1942. Tuesday. Lt A Lonsdale RA and 22 O.Rs left for Stoke Orchard Aerodrome for glider training. Lt GF Cox RA and 6 ORs proceeded on the 6th Short Parachute Course.

Again, after the selection process at Hardwick Hall, they went to RAF Ringway and did parachute course No 35, which ran from the 19 October to 7 November 1942.

14 October 1942. Wednesday. The morning was occupied by a rehearsal for CRA’s inspection. The Bty moved to concentration area to practice march discipline, concealment, etc. Vehicles were painted and camouflage nets scrimmed in the afternoon.

15 October 1942. Thursday. During the morning, painting and re-scrimming continued. In the afternoon, maintenance and buffer filling in preparation for firing. ‘J’ Troop provided gun and detachment for glider loading demonstration.

16 October 1942. Friday. 6-pdr firing on Redhorn A/Tk Range was carried out today, the GOC and CRA being present. Other personnel were engaged in maintenance.

17 October 1942. Saturday. The CRA (Lt-Col CHP Crawford, RA) made a training inspection of the Bty, which included a move to concentration area, concealment, deployment and march discipline, etc. In the afternoon football matches were played against 9th Fd Coy, RE and 181 Fd Amb, RAMC.

24 October 1942. Saturday. OC’s inspection in the morning of garage, vehicles, gun parks and guns. Recreational training in the afternoon. With effect from today, the four Troops of this Bty, were renamed ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ Troops.

29 October 1942. Thursday. Troops were occupied by ‘Horsa’ mock-up loading trials, checking of stores, small arms & ammo.

31 October 1942. Saturday. The OC Inspected vehicles, barrack rooms, cookhouse, clothing stores and Fitters Shop. In the afternoon a rugger match was played against the Reconnaissance Squadron. We lost 14-12.

1 November 1942. Sunday. Major TIJ Toler RA relinquished command of the Battery today, and Major WF Arnold RA assumed command.

4 November 1942. Wednesday. To mark the first anniversary of the founding of the Airborne Division, the Divisional Commander directed that today be kept as a holiday for all ranks. This was done.

6 November 1942. Friday. After inspection of small arms, garage and vehicles, etc, the Bty paraded for a photograph.

7 November 1942. Saturday. Exercise ‘CHEESE’ with the Airlanding Light Tank Squadron.

18 November 1942. Wednesday. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Tps were medically re-graded and inoculated in the morning.

‘C’ and ‘D’ Tps firing rifles on the Bulford Range. In the afternoon ‘A’ and ‘B’ fired, while ‘C’ and ‘D’ were individually interviewed by the OC.

19 November 1942. Thursday ‘C’, ‘D’ and BHQ Tps were medically re-graded and inoculated. ‘A’, ‘B’ and BHQ were individually interviewed by the OC.

22 November 1942. Sunday. The day was fully occupied with training, including the Horsa ‘Mock-up’, the Bulford A/Tk Range, and a route march for ‘B’ Tp.

23 November 1943. Monday. One gun team from each Tp was zeroed at Redhorn Range. Other personnel spent a full day in normal training, which again included experience in loading and unloading from the Horsa ‘Mock-up’.

28 November 1942. Saturday. After maintenance and the OC’s inspections, ‘B’ Tp prepared for exercise at Netheravon aerodrome. A football match v Border Regt, was played in the afternoon.

29 November 1942. Sunday. The exercise ‘Airworthy’ took place in which ‘B’ Tp and a skeleton BHQ were lifted in 7 Horsa gliders (3 full load and 4 half load). Free day for remainder.

30 November 1942. Monday. The day was spent in Troop training and maintenance of guns and vehicles after exercise ‘Airworthy’.

3 December 1943. Thursday. Road party for Foulness (4 guns and cooks lorry) under Bty Capt, left at 04:00 hrs and arrived at 14:00 hrs. Rail party under OCC left at 0700 hrs. The journey was through London and arranged by Movement Control. A cinema show was given in the evening at the Camp.

4 December 1942. Friday. After the morning’s shoot, guns were boiled out. The Bty entrained at 1600 hrs and arrived back in Camp at 2330 hrs.

9 December 1942. Wednesday. The Bty fired on the A/Tk Range in the morning in competition with the No 2 Airlanding A/Tk Bty, R.A. The Bty won by 99 hits against 59. ‘A’ Tp having the highest score.

24 December 1942. Thursday. Pay, medical inspection and baths occupied the morning. The OC, Bty Capt and Loading Officer inspected the made up glider loads for the forthcoming exercise ‘ABLE’.

25 December 1942. Friday. The day was free except for Church Parade in the morning. The Officers and Sgts served the men’s meal at 1300 hrs.

26 December 1942. Saturday. The only parade was 1 hours maintenance; after which the day was spent in inter troop football matches.

27 December 1942. Sunday. ‘D’ Tp was on the rifle ranges in the morning. The afternoon was free to all personnel.

28 December 1942. Monday. Two Tps spent the morning on the A/Tk range – the remainder on maintenance. PT occupied the afternoon.

29 December 1942. Tuesday. The A/T k Range was again in use in the morning. In the afternoon the BC. held a Signal exercise.

30 December 1942. Wednesday. The BC attended the funeral of the late Adjutant RA, Captain D Cooper, RA.

31 December 1942. Thursday. Day was spent in Horsa loading, pay and Troop training. ‘A’ Troop preparing for exercise ‘ABLE’.


1943 and North Africa.

1 January 1943. Briefing and loading for the exercise ‘ABLE’ took place in the morning. The rest of the Bty were on normal training.

2 January 1943. Owing to weather conditions, the gliders did not take off for exercise ‘ABLE’. About 30 of the Bty were given flights in a C. 47 in the afternoon.

4 January 1943. In the morning eight 6-pdrs were zeroed on Redhorn Range. Maintenance for the rest of the Bty, and sight testing.

5 January 1943. 6-pdr firing all morning on Blackball Firs Range, followed by cleaning of guns and general maintenance.

9 January 1943. The C.R.A. inspected glider loading on the ground, after which BCs attended a conference on loading problems. Afternoon free.

12 January 1943. The Bty was visited during the morning by the GOC in C and the Director of Air, accompanied by the Divisional Cmdr. They watched the Bty on normal training.

13 January 1943. The Inspector General of Quartering visited the Bty during the morning. The CRA directed the brass RA shoulder titles should be worn on battle dress. BSM. Nesbitt was awarded the Certificate of Good Service by the C in C Home Forces.

14 January 1943. ‘C’ Troop drill order in the morning. Pay Parade was at 1400 hrs. A night march was held in the evening. Lt. A.D. Jones joined.

15 January 1943. ‘A’ Tp were watched on their drill order in the morning by the CRA All Troops were on a night march during the evening. The BC attended a CRA’s Conference at 1800 hrs. 2/Lts. Clapham and Porter joined the Battery.

26 January 1943. Two Troops and Bty HQ took part in exercise ‘HARASS’.

27 January 1943. Exercise ‘HARASS’ finished during the morning. The rest of the day was spent in maintenance.

28 January 1943. The Bty was split into 9 Courses of Instruction to cover every activity of an A/Tk Bty, and to last a fortnight. Each Course to be taken by an Officer. The BC went to Woolwich to inspect a German A/Tk gun.


NOTE: There is no War Diary for February and March 1943. However the Batteries activities can be pieced together. The ‘Course of Instruction’ would have gone onto mid-February, and then normal training would have resumed. By March 1943 the ‘Order’ for Mobilisation would have been received and that month and the beginning of April would have been taken up with preparing the guns, vehicles and stores for shipment – destination as yet unknown!


13 April 1943. PT was as usual at 07:15 hrs. Both morning and afternoon was spent in final preparations for the move (Ex OPTIMIST). Tea for the men was at 1700 hrs, Bty Parade at 18:30 hrs. Ready to move off 1900 hrs. The Bty entrained Bulford Sidings together with two other units. Major. WF Arnold, RA was also OC Train. The train moved off at 2015 hrs. Rations were distributed to the troops at 2130 hrs.

14 April 1943. The special train arrived at Gourock Stn at 1045 hrs. The Bty detrained and boarded the ferry steamer which took them to their ship – the ‘Nieuw Holland’. The men were guided to their mess decks on C.2. deck. Lunch was served at 1330 hrs. The afternoon was spent in settling in. The O.C. Ship (Col. Preston) spoke to all Officers in the lounge at 1800 hrs.

15 April 1943. Green envelopes were collected at 0900 hrs. Ships inspection took place at 1030 hrs. Boat drill took place twice during the day. The Bty boat station was allocated (Promenade deck, port side). During the afternoon Major .W.F. Arnold, R.A. (O.C. Bty) re-allotted seating arrangements on the mens mess deck. Chits to enable purchase in bulk from the canteen were issued.

16 April 1943. The convoy set sail in the early hours of the morning proceeding at a slow speed until all ships were in position, when speed was increased to 13 knots approx.. Boat drill was practiced at 1600 hrs. Pay parade at 1645 hrs. The slight rolling of the ship made ‘Casualties’ of a few Officers and several O.R’s.

17 April 1943. Clocks were put back one hour at 0200 hrs. Boat drill was practiced at 1000 hrs. The showers on the well deck forward were allotted to the Bty during the morning. P.T. took place on the promenade deck in the afternoon.

18 April 1943. Voluntary Church Services were held at 0700 hrs, 1000 hrs, 1100 hrs and 1800 hrs. The afternoon was free.

19 April 1943. Morning – Showers for O.R’s. Sten gun instruction for Officers. During the afternoon two Troops competed in an intelligence test and Captain The Hon, J.B. Coventry gave the Bty a talk on ‘Horse-racing’. An Officers discussion was held at 1430 hrs when the subject under discussion was the ‘taking and holding by Airborne Forces of an enemy aerodrome or landing ground’. The Padre ran a ships concert in the lounge during the evening.

20 April 1943. Showers P.T. lecture and rifle cleaning occupied the morning. Major. W.F. Arnold, R.A. (O.C. Bty) took the chair at the Officers afternoon discussion on Anti-Tank. A repeat performance of Monday nights concert was held in the evening. Permission was given for 10% of the Bty to sleep on deck.

21 April 1943. Cape St Vincent was passed at approx. 1400 hrs. Major. Drummond of the Signals gave a talk to the Bty on ‘Escape’. The Officers discussed Artillery co-operation in the afternoon.

22 April 1943. The convoy passed through Gibraltar at 0200 hrs. The C.R.A. (Lt-Col. Crawfurd, R.A.) lectured the Bty at 1300 hrs. The daily Officers discussion took place at 1430 hrs. The ship docked at 2130 hrs at Oran, North Africa. Troops started disembarking at 2200 hrs – this Bty at 2215 hrs. We were taken to Oran Station in American M.T. and then by train to Perregaux where we arrived at 0800 hrs Friday.


The 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA

ORDER OF BATTLE.                                                              Date joined Unit.

Battery Commander:                 Major WF Arnold.                    01/11/42.

Battery Captain/2 i/c:                Capt N MacLeod.                     10/04/43.

Battery Transport Officer:         Lieut WP Carpenter                  23/07/42

Loading Officer:                       Lieut LT Sheasby                     07/04/42

Liaison Officer:                        Lieut JC Pocock                       14/09/40

‘A’ Troop Commander:            Lieut WJ Hegan                        01/08/42

Asst Tp Comd:                         2/Lieut EE Clapham                 01/01/43

‘B’ Troop Commander:             Lieut FG Tansley                      20/06/42

‘C’ Troop Commander:             Lieut AD Jones                           10/01/43

‘D’ Troop Commander:            Lieut JA Cox                            29/11/42


1 x BSM.

1 x BQMS

20 x Serjeants

18 x Bombardiers

123 x Gunners

This number does not include the 12 men of the Laid Aid Detachment, REME attached to the Battery.




56 Anti-Tank Regiment, RA War Diary. 1939 - 1940.

223 Anti-Tank Battery, RA War Diary. 1940 – 1942.

1 Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA War Diary 1942 – 1945.

Orders Of Battle. Second World War 1939-45 Lt-Col HF Joslen.

Destination Dunkirk. The story of Gort’s Army. Gregory Blaxland. 1973.

‘POINT BLANK, OPEN SIGHTS’. By John C Howe. 1999.

Article researched and created by R Hilton

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