3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA

3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA

The 3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery, RA began to form up at Marlborough Barracks, Bulford, Wiltshire on 9 May 1943, under the command of Major WR ‘Nick’ Cranmer.

The nucleus for the unit came from ‘C’ Battery, 103rd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. [1] It was one of two anti-tank battery’s formed specifically for the purpose of providing defence to the parachute brigades of the 6th Airborne Division, under whose command they were taken on 9 July 1943.

The war establishment of the Battery was three Officers (later increased to eight) and 150 Other Ranks. It was organised as a Battery Headquarters and four troops, each equipped with 4 x 6 pounder anti-tank guns. In 1944 ‘A’ Troop was issued 4 x 17 pounder anti-tank guns. His Majesty The King, The Queen and Princess Elizabeth, as well as many Senior Officers, inspected the 6th Airborne Division at Bulford Fields on 19 May 1944. The following day the Battery received the new Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot ammunition.

The Battery then proceeded to move to the marshalling area, at Gosport, on 1 June, where most of the Battery would be loaded on Landing Ship Tanks for the journey to France. The 3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery was mobilized on 20 December, and three days later it departed Bulford for Belgium. The Battery was now under the command of Major J Woodrow. By 2 January 1945 the Battery was deployed in the area of Dinant and Givet in Belgium.

The Battery remained ‘in the line’ until the end of the month, and then in early February it moved to Holland, to help with the holding of the line along the River Maas. By the end of the month the unit had returned to Bulford, and it was during this time that the 3rd Battery became part of the larger 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A. This had been formed on 22 February 1945 and would now consist of the 3rd, 4th and 6th Airlanding Anti-Tank Batteries.

Intense preparation took place between 16 and the 20 March 1945, as the Battery worked to get ready for Operation ‘VARSITY’. This would see the largest single lift/drop of Allied airborne forces in the Second World War, as over 20,000 men from the British 6th and American 17th Airborne Division’s would land on the east side of the Rhine near Hamminkeln and Wesel in Germany. The Battery was split between three different airfields, RAF’s Earls Colne, Woodbridge and Great Dunmow, for the take-off on 24 March 1945.

They landed on three different Landing Zones, ‘R’, ‘P’ and ‘A’ to support different elements of the 6th Airborne Division in their missions on that day. The Battery then remained in action until they reached Wismar on the Baltic coast in early May 1945. Between 19 and 27 May 1945 the Battery returned to Bulford. The Battery was still a part of the 2nd Airlanding Anti-Tank Regiment, serving in Palestine, when on 1 April 1947 it was renamed the 66th Airborne Anti-Tank Regiment. The 3rd Airlanding Battery was renumbered the 332nd Airborne Anti-Tank Battery.

In May 1948 the Regiment and its Batteries moved to Perham Down in England, and then on the 10 September 1948 the Regiment was re-designated the 66th Airborne Light Regiment and the 332nd Battery was disbanded. Battery Commanders. 1943 – 1944. Major WR Cranmer 1944 – 1945, Major J Woodrow 1945 – 1947, Major JE Madocks.


[1] The 103rd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery had been formed on 13 December 1942 by the conversion of the 14th Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment.

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