A couple of 1950s- army org questions

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Chris C, Aug 23, 2021.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Does anyone happen to know -

    How long the "Divisional anti tank regiment RAC" lasted? I doubt past about 1957-1960.

    How long the "Light regiment RA" lasted? These also seem to have been formed around 1950, to be equipped with the 4.2" mortar. I have no idea if this form of regiment lasted a long time with different equipment or not.

    PS also, I don't know the history of the 4.2" mortar in the army in the 1940s. I gather it was used by support regiments of some sort during the war. The file I was looking at made some reference to the mortar being "given" to the Royal Artillery, so I suppose originally it was not part of their responsibilities.

    A number of anti-tank regiments RA were converted to these light regiments RA.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2021
  2. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Hello Chris……having spent 18 years in the Canadian Army from 1970 onwards I can get you most of that info (I’m just away from home right now, a death in my family)……but in the 1970’s and onward the “largest” permanent formed units in the Canadian Forces were Brigade Groups (which were “large” Brigade groups with all the supporting arms within the Brigade…..so they were not the same Brigade’s sizes of WW2 and after), and within these groups the Infantry Battalion’s were in the most part fully armed with Mortar Platoons, and with Anti Tank weapons…….varying from the 105 recoilless rifles, then the TOW’s, 88 mm Carl G’s and LAW’s at the Platoon/Section Level etc etc. And thru the years new improved anti tank (Improved TOW, Eryx etc etc) Again, I have most of the organization tables etc at home and can get you more info…..but probably you’ll have all your answers from other members before I get back (looking like next Monday? For me). If not, I will check this post and give you/get you all I have…

    During my time I was only on one Division based exercise/deployment (but that was while I was with a Combat Engineer Regiment)……but they did have them every couple of years…..and again I’ll have to look to see how the Canadian Forces were “practicing” their Division training and what supporting units were at the Division level (Engineers, Artillery etc etc)……and of course, beginning an Engineer I tended to focus on Engineer issues at Brigade and Division level but I have all my Field Manuals etc that gives the total Brigade/Division layouts and information (and yes, we Engineers did practice “often” our secondary function to act as Infantry if required)
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  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi Temujin,

    I'm afraid that I am looking only at British forces for this, since this stems from my writing about the Archer (transferred to the RAC for use with these divisional anti-tank regiments of the RAC) and we stopped using the Archer at the end of WW2.

    But thank you very much for sharing your experiences with the Canadian army! And I'm sorry to hear of a loss in your family.
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  4. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Oh, got you…….I’ll leave it to our British friends
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  5. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I can't offer anything on the 1950s queries I'm afraid, my research doesn't extend that far in terms of WEs and organisation. I might be able to get a few clues from what Military Training Pamphlets were issued around then.

    Re the 4.2-in mortar in WW2 usage, it is a long and involved story in some respects. The shortened version (from memory) is;

    4.2-inch mortars debuted in the desert in late 1942, with 66 Mortar Coy, RE, which had 18 weapons for Second El Alamein. Also in 1942, back in Home Forces, it was decided to add both the 20-mm light AA gun and the 4.2-in mortar to the various types of Div (Inf, Armd and Mixed). This meant creating what were titled Support Battalions, which it was thought would replace the MG Battalion in each Inf and Mixed Div. In the first version, the Support Bn was to field a Divisional Sp Coy (effectively an LAA Coy, as it was only armed with the 20-mm) and one Inf Bde Sp Coy per Inf Bde in the relevant Div. The Inf Bde Sp Coys were to have a mix of 20-mm Pls and 4.2-in mortar Pls, with seemingly 12 mortars in three Pls. These first WEs aren't in the UK archives, possibly something tucked away in LAC...

    Second phase, the Support Bn was reorganised in early 1943, this time into two or three Brigade Support Groups, depending on whether they were for a Mixed or an Inf Div. These Groups had three Coys, one each of Vickers MMGs, 20-mm LAA guns and 4.2-in mortars. The Mortar Coy had two Pls, each of four 4.2-in mortars.

    Third and final phase, the Support Bns in 21AG were converted back to MG Bns beginning early 1944. This saw them move to three MMG Coys and one 4.2-in Mortar Coy, the latter now with four Pls each of four mortars. Armd Divs gained an Independent MG Coy, with three MMG Pls and one 4.2-in mortar Pl. The Support Bns persisted in Italy for longer, but as I recall the 20-mm LAA Coys had been dispensed with quite early on. British Divs in the Med gradually shifted over to MG Bns of the type introduced in 21AG, though there was some resistance to ending up with fewer 4.2-in mortars as a result. I have found some info in the Heritage Canadiana reels on the Div org of the immediate post-war British Army, which continued to have the 4.2-in mortars in MG units.

    The deployment of the 4.2-in in the Far East had a different story, which sadly I can't offer anything on.

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  6. op-ack

    op-ack Senior Member

    The 4.2 mortar remained in service with Light Regts RA until about 1960, although it did see a short revival in Borneo in 1966, but not with Light Regts.

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  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Thanks, that is all very interesting to me! Will write more later.
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  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I think the RE's link to the 4.2-in mortar was because they were originally intended for chemical warfare use. As they were never needed in that role, a home was found for them in the infantry.
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  9. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I think I read (on Wikipedia?, make of that what you will) that 66 Mortar Company RE at El Alamein completely expended their supply of HE while supporting the infantry.

    Maybe the LAC database would point towards the WE for that first iteration of the support batralion. I'll take a look.

    As an aside, I'm not sure what it stood for but in the documents I was looking at (1949-50), War Establishment seems to have been replaced with another term with the abbreviation HE.
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  10. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    HE in that instance should, I think, be Higher Establishment, which might be considered as for units being maintained at war strength. There were a flurry of WEs marked as LE (Lower Establishment) issued in 1948 I seem to recall (yes, I had a peek at 1948 but didn't commit!).
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  11. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I've got a guide to the 1950's British Army which I will forward to you Chris. It will at least give you a start.

    If anyone else here wants it, PM me.
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  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Thank you VERY much! I'm looking forward to reading it.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2021
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  13. op-ack

    op-ack Senior Member

    PM sent

  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    From WO 268-46: FARELF R.A. Jul-Sept 1949:

    New units to be sent to Hong Kong and added to 40 Infantry Division Orbat:

    Two 4.2-in Mortar Btys (each 12 mortars).


    The mortar btys were required to support the two forward brigades.
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  15. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Also from Hong Kong: WO 268-265 HQ Royal Artillery 1949 Jun-Dec

    Screenshot 2021-08-29 at 1.31.41 PM.jpg Screenshot 2021-08-29 at 1.32.09 PM.jpg
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  16. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    33rd Para Light Regiment RA was disbanded in 1960 whilst part of 16 Para.Bde. replaced by 7th Para Light Reg Regiment RHA.
    In 1966 name changed to 7th Para Regiment RHA.
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  17. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

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