261 Battery, 94th HAA Regiment

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by mrpotato, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. mrpotato

    mrpotato Member

    Hello all,

    I am just beginning to look into the Second World War experiences of Albert Edward Spencer 855491 and any advice, info or pointers are gratefully received! We recently received his service papers so know which units he served with but they’re not clear on exactly where he was.

    He went overseas with 261 Battery of the 94th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery in the convoy WS9 on RMS Orbita and entered the Egyptian theatre on or around 25th July 1941. He remained with them for the duration of the campaign in North Africa before going to Palestine (Haifa?) and transferred to the 6th Seaforth Highlanders on or around 27th July 1944. I understand a number of Anti-aircraft soldiers were transferred to infantry at around this time for the fighting in Europe.

    I believe, having done a search on the forum here, they were part of 12 AA Brigade for most of the time in the Desert, possibly going to 2 AA Brigade for a short spell in Libya but I am having trouble finding any further information on their movements with the exception of being at the Second Battle of El Alamein. Albert re-enlisted as a regular soldier on 24th March 1943 at Medenine, Tunisia I think but on his papers it just says he was in Egypt (I guess they just listed the theatres of operation).

    We intend to get to the National Archive in the near future to look at the war diary for 261 battery but if anyone on the forum has some knowledge on the movements of either 261 battery or 94th Regiment then we would love to hear from you. If you know of any books we could look up in the library that may help to expand our understanding that would be great too!

    I do however have a few general questions as I know very little about artillery and the Second World War and so far haven’t managed to answer them in my research:

    • How many guns would a battery have, and as a side question how many men? Albert was a sergeant for the campaign but became BQMS (Battery Quarter Master Sergeant?) in Palestine. Would he have had a specific role in the battery as a sergeant i.e. in charge of a gun maybe?
    • Would 94th regiment have stayed together as a unit, as far as practical, or did the batteries move relatively independently around the theatre of operations?

    Thanks a lot for your time,

  2. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Gareth. welcome to the forum.

    My father was a driver with 94th HAA Regt RAOC/REME Workshops from August 1942 to June 1944, when the unit was disbanded and he was transferred to 23rd Armoured Brigade REME workshops and went to Greece for the remainder of the war.

    I have the Regiment war diaries between those dates, I also have the 292 battery war diaries from 1941 to 1944 courtesy of another forum member. Although its not the battery Albert was in, they would give you some insight on how a HAA battery of 94 HAA regt worked. I believe the 94 HAA were originally recruited from around the Edinburgh area, as the memorial to them is in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

    The Regt had 24 x 3.7” Anti-Aircraft guns, towed by AEC 850, 6 x 6 Artillery Tractors. Therefore each battery (261, 291, 292) had 8.

    If you PM me your email address i will email them all to you and anything else I think would be useful. If you need anything else of just ask.

    Good luck in your research.

  3. mrpotato

    mrpotato Member

    Hello Gus,

    Many thanks for your quick reply, thats very interesting! I will PM you now, that's a very kind offer.

    Kind regards,

  4. mrpotato

    mrpotato Member

    Hello again,

    Having done a little bit more searching it looks like 261 Battery was originally part of 84th HAA Regiment and was transferred over to 94th HAA Regiment (14th February 1941) just before Albert joined them from 217 Battery, 72nd Regiment.

    They were a "London Transport" territorial unit. His service record shows he was sent to Southend to join 261 Battery on 26th February 1941. The service record shows he went overseas from there but we do have a photo which places him in Edinburgh at around this time.


  5. hutt

    hutt Member


    Attached is the page from 84th HAA diary for February 41 covering the transfer out of 261Bty. Interesting entry on the 14th re state of many of the men in the battery and the need for an injection of new blood!

    Send me a PM if you would like the battery diary pages for Feb to April 41


    Attached Files:

  6. mrpotato

    mrpotato Member

    Hi Graham

    Thanks a lot for the diary entry that's very interesting. Must be the reason why Albert was transferred! I will be in touch

    Kind regards

  7. GnrGnr

    GnrGnr Well-Known Member

    I'd just like to put a public thank you here to Gus who has kindly shared the 94 Regt and 292 Bty diaries with the daughter of a man who served with 261 Bty from April 1941 to disbandment in 1944. We are also in touch with Gareth and Graham(on a related thread). Jigsaw puzzle slowing taking shape thanks to the willingness of forum members to assist.

    gmyles and JimHerriot like this.
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    In autumn and winter 1941 94 Heavy AA were deployed under command 2nd AA Brigade to protect the rear area and ports of the XIII Corps at Sidi Barrani, Mersa Matruh and Maaten Bagush before and durign operation Cruisader.

    During the retreat to El Alamein elements of 94 regiment served under 12 AA Brigade at 1st El Alamein when the AA guns were part of the main line of defence - like the German 88s.

    In January 1943 261 Battery of 94 HAA were part of the AA defences of Tripoli, under command 12 AA Brigade occupied after El Alamein and during the Tunisa Campaign. 12 HAA worked with the RAF to provide AA defences for airfields in the war of movement "leapfrogging" forwards. As a matter of honour the AA troops aimed to be at the airfield before the RAF.

    The AA defences in Palestine were disbanded or redistributed in 1944

    This is all from Routledge History of AA Artillery 1914-1955.

    The main job of a sergeant is as the No 1 (detachment commander) of a gun. There is also a sergeant in battery HQ, but this is a technical role with the fire control apparatus. Gun No 1 is responsible for everything that happens with his gun, tractor and the nine men in the detachment. We would almost always work as part of a troop of four guns deployed fairly close together firing at targets directed by others. That may not have applied in Op Crusader or the big flap after the Gazala battles of May-June 1942

    Heavy AA came in two flavours "Static" or "Semi-mobile" living in huts and serving the fixed defences of cities ports and airfields. Their only job was to serve the guns and shoot down aircraft. The extract from the War Diary of 84 HAA seems to refer to a static operation from the numbered gun sites that ringed London. Operating with the field army required more vehicles to move the unit and soldiers who could live in the field. Middle aged men could man static defences but might struggle on campaign - hence the draft for 261 battery for overseas service. Albert served in the Western Desert for 18 months.

    Battery Quarter Master Sergeant is a promotion from gun sergeant. He is the senior NCO responsible the battery's logistics. Stores clothing, Food, water, and the mail. Making sure nothing is lost (stolen) and building a surplus of buckshees (Fiddled through the system or stolen from the unwary) It is a very responsible position.

    Do you know what he did in the 6th Seaforths? They were part of the 5th Division which was withdrawn from Italy to Palestine in July 1944 after suffering heavy casualties among its infantry. Reinforcements included gunners transferred to the infantry. 5th Div returned to Italy in early 1945 and moved to NW Europe in late March 1945/ early April. It took part in the final advance into Germany.

    RA Notes of August 1944 includes some principles form releasing artillerymen to serve in the infantry. The CIGS and Adjutant General were both Gunners and aware that the AA forces were the Army's manpower reserve. Senior NCOs and Warrant officers with specialist technical skills would not find themselves as a platoon sergeant or oplatoon commander. However, Battery Quarter Master Sergeant is a logistic specialism and could free up an infantryman CQMS to a command role.
    GnrGnr likes this.
  9. mrpotato

    mrpotato Member

    Thank you Max and Sheldrake for your replies. Hopefully you find the answers you're looking for soon Max.

    Sheldrake, thanks a million for this extra info, its very much appreciated. I'm afraid the info we have on his time in the 6th Seaforths is a bit sketchy, the service records are a bit vague and I've not been able to find out very much to date on where they were or what they got up to between March 1945 and the end of the war in Europe.

    GnrGnr likes this.
  10. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    I am fascinated to see that the 3.7 AA guns of 94 HAA Regt were towed by AEC 850 6x6 tractors as I have yet to see a photo of these old trucks in use in WW2. There are pics of the recovery version in UK, BEF and even Middle East use, but I would guess that the 850s were probably replaced by Matadors fairly early on; if the 850s ever left UK at all.
  11. GnrGnr

    GnrGnr Well-Known Member

    Sheldrake - thank you very much indeed for this extra information which I shall pass on to the daughter of a 261 Battery man (Apr 41-disbandment) and which I shall meld into the story I am building from his records and diaries . In his case, he remained with the Gunners after disbandment and went on to Italy to a LAA regiment for a bit. I am on the trail of that one quite easily.


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