1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery RA

1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery RA

1942 to 1947

1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery RA was formed from the redesignation of 1st Light Battery (Airborne) RA.

In 1942 under Major Bill Arnold, who took over from GPR-bound Major Ian Toler, the battery was kept in peak physical fitness. Arnold insisted upon daily PT sessions, usually at 0700hrs.

The battery saw its first action in Sicily during July 1943. It was tasked with supporting 1st Parachute Brigade in its operation to capture the Primosole Bridge. This was the first airborne operation to transport 6-pounder anti-tank artillery into action, using WACO and Horsa gliders. 1st Airlanding A-Tk Bty was allocated 11 Horsas and 8 WACO gliders to take 6 officers and 69 men. The battery commander parachuted in as part of a 'recce party' to select gun positions with 2 NCO troop commanders and 3 NCOs from each troop (although records show Major Arnold actually arrived some hours after the Operation began, at 0930hrs).

The battery was also deployed during the seaborne invasion to Italy in September 1943, before returning with the rest of 1st Airborne Division to the UK. After several cancelled operations, the battery was sent to Arnhem, during Op Market Garden.

By now the battery consisted of A, B and C Troops who were to support the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Parachute Battalions respectively. These three troops each had four 6 pounder guns. D Troop, equipped with four 17 pounders, was deployed to protect the divisional area. P and Z Troops, with four 17 pounders and two 6 pounders respectively, were to support the 1st Parachute Brigade and divisional troops.

Travelling at the tail of the 2nd Parachute Battalion 'snake', the HQ Battery group advanced towards Arnhem road bridge, and eventually succeeded in reaching the bridge. Five of the battery guns reached the location and over the following days of the Battle of Arnhem. They formed a key component to the defensive force at the bridge. As the battle progressed however many of the gun crews were killed or wounded. Towards the end of the battle, it was recorded that a crew consisting of Major Arnold, Captain Llewellyn-Jones, Lieutenant McFarlane and Sergeant Colls fired the final rounds fired from the last serviceable gun.

Following its losses at Arnhem, the battery was gradually reinforced with new personnel and became part of the 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Regiment RA in March 1945.

The battery deployed with 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Regiment, as part of 1st Airborne Division, for the liberation of Norway in Operation Doomsday.

Although the regiment was disbanded in August 1945, shortly after its return, the 1st Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery continued until March 1946.

Further reading:
John C Howe, Point Blank Open Sights, (1999) Hough Publishing.
Peter Wilkinson MC, The Gunners at Arnhem, (1999) Spurwing.

Battery Commanders

1942 Maj TIJ Toler DFC
1942-44 Maj WF Arnold
1944-46 Maj EAB Garrett

With assistance from Niall Cherry and Bob Hilton.

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