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2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Marines

United Kingdom: August 1940

Air Defence of Great Britain

The 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M. was formed at Arborfield on 15th April 1940 with ‘C’ and ‘D’ [heavy] Batteries and the 23rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, R.M.  Lt. Colonel C.T. Brown, R.M. was the commanding officer.  The Regiment moved to practice camp  on 17th July: Regimental H.Q. and ‘C’ Battery went to Cleave; ‘D’ Battery to Towyn; the 23rd L.A.A. Battery to Penhale.[1]

The Regiment came under the command of the 50th Anti-Aircraft Brigade, 2nd Anti-Aircraft Division, Air Defence of Great Britain in August 1940 and deployed to the north-east of England.  On 8th August, the Regiment joined A.D.G.B. and located as follows: Regimental Headquarters at Stanton Woodhouse, Rowsley near Matlock; ‘C’ Battery at Spondon near Derby; ‘D’ Battery at Mexborough, Yorkshire; the 23rd L.A.A. Battery at Seaham Harbour, Durham.  Lt. Colonel Brown relinquished command of the Regiment on 26th September 1940 and was succeeded the next day by Lt. Colonel C.M. Sergeant, R.M.  The first information of a possible move of the M.N.B.D.O. to the Mediterranean was received on 8th November 1940. 

At a meeting of the War Cabinet on 18th November, it was decided that the M.N.B.D.O. should be fully equipped and brought up to strength for overseas service by 7th January 1941.  Anti-Aircraft Command was notified by Home Forces on 21st November that all Royal Marines anti-aircraft batteries were being placed at seven days’ notice to revert to Royal Marines control.  A warning order for units to prepare for overseas service was issued on 25th November. 

The Regiment ceased to be operational in the Nottingham and Derby areas on 4th January 1941 and went into billets in the Derby area.  It remained in Derby until moving to Glasgow for embarkation on 5th February 1941.[2]

At Sea: February – April 1941

1st Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I

In 1941, the Regiment came under the 1st Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. – or M.N.B.D.O. I - and travelled to Egypt under this command.  The Regimental Headquarters sailed on board H.M.T. Bergensfjord, with ‘C’ and 23rd Batteries, while ‘D’ Battery, was embarked upon the S.S. Almanzora, as part of convoy WS 6A, which assembled off Oversay on 9th February 1941.  Proceeding by way of Freetown, Capetown, Durban (where ‘D’ Battery transhipped to the Dilwara) and Aden, the Regiment disembarked at Suez on 22nd April 1941 and moved to El Tahag Camp.[3]

Crete: May 1941

1st Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I

In May 1941, with elements of the Air Defence Brigade H.Q., the Headquarters, 2nd A.A. Regiment, ‘C’ Battery, elements of the 23rd Light Battery and an advance party from ‘D’ Battery were sent to Crete, along with ‘A’ Battery of the 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M., where these detachments later suffered heavy casualties, mainly prisoners.  The main party arrived on Crete on 10th May, followed by the 23rd L.A.A. Battery, without guns, on 15th May.[4] 

Lt. Colonel Sergeant was appointed Anti-Aircraft Defence Commander, ‘S’ Group which took in the Canea and Suda areas.  The balance of Regimental Headquarters arrived at Crete on 24th May.  ‘D’ Battery remained in Egypt under the command of the 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M.  Regimental Headquarters was evacuated from Crete to Egypt on 30th May 1941.[5]

Egypt: June 1941 – June 1943

1st Royal Marine Group, M.N.B.D.O. I

During June 1941, the survivors from Crete were gathered at El Tahag before moving to Abbassia on 30th June 1941.  Only elements of two batteries remained under command, ‘A’ and ‘C’ Batteries.  Cadres from ‘D’ Battery joined ‘C’ Battery and some from the 22nd Light Battery of the 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M. joined the 23rd Light Battery.  At Abbassia, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Batteries remained under command until 15th August when ‘A’ Battery returned to the 1st Regiment, and ‘D’ Battery returned to the 2nd Regiment. 

The 23rd L.A.A. Battery did not revert to the command of the 2nd Regiment until 19th September 1941.  For the remainder of 1941, the Regiment undertook training and internal security duties in the Cairo area.[6]

At the beginning of December 1941, the Royal Marines anti-aircraft units of M.N.D.B.O. I in Egypt were reorganised:

- 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M.  (‘A’ and ‘B’ A.A. Batteries R.M., 22nd Light A.A. Battery R.M.),- 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M.  (‘C’ and ‘D’ A.A. Batteries R.M., 23rd Light A.A. Battery R.M.)- 11th R.M. Searchlight Regiment (‘R’ and ‘S’ Searchlight Batteries R.M.).

‘A’ Battery was at cadre strength at this time, the losses at Crete not having been replaced.

At Abassia on 21st December 1941, a major reorganisation of the R.M. anti-aircraft units took place.  The 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade came into being by reorganisation and re-designation of the 1st Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M.  The 2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.M. combined with elements of the 1st Regiment and was re-designated to become the 1st R.M. (Heavy) Anti-Aircraft Regiment with ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ Anti-Aircraft Batteries, R.M., each with eight 3.7-inch guns.  ‘A’ Battery was amalgamated with ‘C’ Battery and the new battery remained as ‘C’ Battery.  The 22nd L.A.A. Battery R.M., having absorbed ‘A’ Troop and elements of Battery H.Q., 23rd L.A.A. Battery, became an independent unit with sixteen 40mm Bofors guns in four troops, under the command of the 1st Brigade.  A new 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. was formed at the same time with personnel left over from the amalgamation of ‘A’ and ‘C’ Batteries, but with only cadre strength ‘A’ Battery and the 23rd L.A.A. Battery R.M. under command.  Lt. Colonel R.A.K. Hill, R.M. took over command on 21st December 1941.  The 2nd Regiment moved to El Tahag on 26th December 1941.  The 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade was formed officially on 29th December at El Tahag Camp, Egypt.[7]

The 2nd Regiment remained in Egypt with ‘A’ Battery and the 23rd Light Battery under command but at very low manning levels.  The Regiment moved to Geneifa on 10th January 1942.  By 11th March 1942, significant reinforcements had arrived and were split between the two batteries.  Five days later, a six-week regimental training programme began.  The batteries were not organised into troops and sections until completion of this course.  The Regiment was ordered to form an emergency infantry battalion from 24th March 1942.  The intention was that this ad hoc unit could be called upon at short notice to defend vital points.  The Regiment organised two infantry companies based upon the two batteries.  ‘W’ Company, Royal Marine Auxiliary Battalion, provided a third company of two platoons only.  The unit was known as ‘2 A.A. Battalion, Royal Marines’.[8]

The Regiment began drawing guns on 2nd April 1942, when two Bofors guns were collected from ordnance stores.  Four 3.7-inch guns were drawn seven days later.  The regimental training programme was completed on 25th April and the next day the batteries were organised into troops and sections: ‘A’ Battery into two 4-gun sections; the 23rd L.A.A. Battery into three 3-gun troops.  Nine additional Bofors guns were drawn at the end of the month.  During June, the 2nd Regiment was ordered to prepare to come under the command of H.Q. British Troops Egypt. 

The Regimental H.Q. was ordered to reform at Geneifa and to come under the command of H.Q. B.T.E. on 26th June.  The 23rd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. was to come under this command from 30th June.  At this time, ‘A’ Battery was organised into two sections of four guns each and the 23rd L.A.A. Battery into three troops.  The ‘A’ Battery appears to have come under the command of the 1st A.A. Brigade in the Suez area from 28th June.[9]

Egypt: July 1942 – September 1942

2nd A.A. Brigade

In July 1942, the Regiment came under the command of the 2nd A.A. Brigade, R.A. and the R.H.Q. and the 23rd L.A.A. Battery moved from Geneifa to the Alexandria area, to Shubra El Namla and Benha respectively.  The Regimental Commander by this time was Lt. Colonel E.J.C. Chaytor, R.A., who took up the post from 10th July.  The R.H.Q. was established at Tanta the next day.  During the period that followed, frequent attachments of R.A. anti-aircraft units were made under the command of the 2nd Regiment.  ‘A’ Battery appears to have remained in a non-operational role at Geneifa. /

On 9th August 1942 the Regimental H.Q. moved to Dekheila.  The next day, sufficient additional Bofors guns and personnel joined the 23rd L.A.A. Battery to allow the battery to be organised into three 4-gun troops.  In September, ‘A’ Battery was attached to the 89th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. in the Canal Zone. 

Egypt: October 1942 - ??

18th A.A. Brigade

The 2nd Regiment came under the command of the 18th A.A. Brigade, R.A. on 1st October 1942, upon the withdrawal of the 2nd A.A. Brigade into the G.H.Q. Reserve.[10] 

On 1st December 1942, the ‘A’ Battery, with four 3.7-inch guns, came under command of the 2nd Regiment, R.M., in the Alexandria area.  Lt. Colonel Chaytor left the Regiment on 19th March 1943 and was succeeded by Lt. Colonel J.T. Hall, R.M. on 29th March.  On 15th May 1943, the Regiment was withdrawn from an operational role and concentrated at Dekheila. 

By the now the Regiment was equipped with eight 3.7-inch and twelve Bofors guns; the 23rd L.A.A. Battery being organised as a three-troop battery.  In November 1942, the ‘A’ Battery appears to have been attached operationally to the 73rd H.A.A. Regiment, R.A.[11]

Ceylon: June – October 1943

24th Anti-Aircraft Brigade

On 16th June 1943, the S.S. Dominion Monarch sailed from Suez with Headquarters, Royal Marine Group M.N.B.D.O. I, the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. and other units of the R.M. Group on board and arrived at Colombo on 26th June 1943.  The H.Q. 2nd Regiment disembarked the next day and opened at Trincomalee on 28th June. 

Under command were the ‘A’ Battery and the 23rd L.A.A. Battery, R.M.  The Regiment was now under the command of the 24th A.A. Brigade, R.A.  When the 1st A.A. Regiment, R.M. left for India in April 1943, it left behind ‘B’ Battery which was by then located in Trincomalee.  This battery now came under the 2nd Regiment.  Twelve Bofors guns arrived to equip the 23rd L.A.A. Battery on 7th July 1943.  The 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. was now organised thus:[12]

- Regimental H.Q.- ‘A’ Battery, R.M.- ‘B’ Battery, R.M.- 23rd L.A.A. Battery, R.M. [13]

Royal Marines training with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun, Ceylon - September 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

Ceylon: July 1943 – February 1944

3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade

The 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade was formed at Katukurunda on 24th July 1943 and the 2nd A.A. Regiment came under the administrative command of this formation but remained under operational command of the 24th A.A. Brigade for the time being.  

On 20th October 1943, the Regimental Headquarters left China Bay, Trincomalee for Katukurunda, leaving the command of the 24th A.A. Brigade.  Upon arrival at Katukurunda, the Regiment came under the command of 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade.  ‘A’ Battery however, went to Ratmalana, Colombo where it came under the operational command of the 23rd A.A. Brigade until 21st January 1944.  ‘B’ Battery went to Bamford Camp, Katukurunda on 22nd October where it put four guns into action and used the remaining four for training.  It too came under the 23rd A.A. Brigade for operations until 18th January 1944.[14] 

The 23rd L.A.A. Battery left Trincomalee on 25th October for Katukurunda and went into Haliday Camp the following day.  One six-gun troop went to Paiyagala North, near Katukurunda, under the command of the 23rd A.A. Brigade.  The remaining six guns, organised as a second troop, went to Katukurunda under the command of the 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade (3 M.N.B. Brigade) but at twelve hours notice to come into action on sites to be designated by the 23rd A.A. Brigade.[15]

The 3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade had originally been allotted an emergency defence role whereby it would form two infantry battalions and an independent company in the event to defend the Katukurunda area in the event of a Japanese attack. New orders were received at the end of October 1943 resulting in a re-organisation of the emergency infantry units. In the event of a Japanese sea or airborne attack the Brigade, as before, was to field an emergency infantry force. This force would come under the command of the 11th East African Infantry Division.

The organisation of this force was changed from that established in September. One infantry battalion continued to be found by the 24th Battalion, R.M, and the 2nd Landing Company, R.M. provided the independent company. The second infantry battalion, previously the role of the 3rd Coast Regiment, R.M. was now allotted to the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. which, when mobilised, would be referred to as ‘H’ Battalion, R.M. The battalion would be organised as three rifle companies, one each from ‘A’ and ‘B’ Batteries and one from ‘S’ Searchlight Battery, R.M. Lt. Colonel Hall left the Regiment to assume command of the 3 M.N.B. Brigade on 8th November and was succeeded by Major B.C. Canavan, R.M.[16]

Royal Marines training with Bofors light anti-aircraft guns at Ceylon, September 1943. Royal Marines training with Bofors light anti-aircraft guns, Ceylon - September 1943. (Imperial War Museum)

The batteries of the 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M. ended their operational commitments under the 23rd A.A. Brigade during January 1944: ‘B’ Battery on 18th January; ‘A’ Battery on 21st January; the troop of the 23rd L.A.A. Battery on 22nd January. Lt. Colonel Hall re-assumed command on 17th January 1944.

During February 1944, the Regiment received orders to return to the United Kingdom and began handing over its remaining operational commitments and returning guns and equipment to ordnance depots. The 23rd L.A.A. Battery embarked at Colombo on 17th February 1944, the Regimental H.Q. and ‘A’ Battery embarking the next day. [17]

United Kingdom: March – May 1944

3 Mobile Naval Base Brigade

The Regiment disembarked at Glasgow on 16th March 1944 and went into camp at Johnstone Castle. Two days later it came under the command of 3 M.N.B. Brigade once again but was transferred to the 5th R.M A.A. Brigade on 27th March 1944. Many of the Officers and men of ‘A’ Battery were transferred to the 1st H.A.A. Regiment, R.M., which actually reformed ‘A’ Battery under its command, and many others from the 23rd L.A.A. Battery went to the 4th L.A.A. Regiment, R.M. during April 1944. On 5th May 1944, the Regiment moved to Largs. On 15th May it took on three officers and 22 men from the now disbanded ‘S’ Battery. The 23rd L.A.A. Battery was disbanded on 23rd May, the remaining men of the battery transferring to ‘B’ Battery. Many of the men remaining with the Regiment were posted to training units or shore bases. Many went to train as landing craft crews. The Regiment moved from Largs to West Kilbride on 12th June 1944 and was disbanded on 18th July 1944.[18]

Reproduced here with kind permission, original content copyright of the Burma Campaign web site - all rights reserved. © 2015-2022

[Steve Rothwell - 02 July 2022]

[1] “The Royal Marines, 1919-1980”, Ladd J.D., Jane’s (1980); War diary 2nd A.A. Regiment, R.M., ADM 202/157; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/131

[2] ADM 202/157; ADM 202/131; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/132

[3] ADM 202/157; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/132

[4] Ladd; “Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-1945, Crete”, Davin D.M., (1953)

[5] ADM 202/157

[6] ADM 202/157

[7] ADM 202/157; ADM 202/149

[8] ADM 202/157; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/133

[9] ADM 202/157

[10] ADM 202/157; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/134

[11] ADM 202/157; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/134

[12] War diary 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade, WO 172/2139; War diary 24th A.A. Brigade, WO 172/3792; ADM 202/157

[13] WO 172/3792; ADM 202/157

[14] War diary 23rd A.A. Brigade, WO 172/3790; WO 172/4472; War diary 3 Mobile Base Naval Brigade, ADM 202/190

[15] WO 172/3792; ADM 202/157; ADM 202/190

[16] ADM 202/190

[17] ADM 202/190

[18] ADM 202/157; War diary ‘S’ Battery, R.M., ADM 202/166; ADM 202/190; War diary M.N.B.D.O. I, ADM 202/136

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