Artillery Personnel Converted to Infantry

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by ClankyPencil, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    I came across these lists in the 6th York & Lancasters Infantry Battalion Field Returns for April/May 1944 (While the battalion was resting, retraining etc in Egypt & Palestine).

    A few of those on lists appear on CWGC as casualties, while serving with the 6th York & Lancs later on in Italy.

    I am assuming therefore, that they were all absorbed into 6th York & Lancasters and retrained as Infantry, after they came from disbanded R.A. (probably AA) Units, and have a couple of questions.

    1. Would they all have predominately come from one disbanded unit? or various units?
    2. If one unit, is there any way to identify which one?

    Thanks in advance


    Attached Files:

  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There's no mention of them in the history. I suspect the detail will only be in the individuals' service records.

    Another possible source might have been RA reinforcement holding units?
  3. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Three former Royal Artillery officers opted to serve with an infantry battalion and they joined the 7/9 Royal Scots late 1943 or early 1944. I understood at that time there were not enough vacancies for Gunner Officers.

    Joe Brown.
  4. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    That sort of thing was quite common in the last year of the war. Geoffrey Picot, mortar officer of 1st Hampshires in NWE, had been an officer in an RA ack-ack regiment until he was posted to the infantry. I found some RA numbers among 50th Division OR's as well.
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    I have been watching this apparent myth growing recently that all AA ubits personnel were drafted into the Infantry and subsequently became casualties - this is NOT so in fact

    When we look at your time line of April/May - 1944 - we didn't have too many shortages in any branch until June D Day in France when ALL of our reinforcements were cut off to serve the NWE campaign - at the same time the landings in Southern France weakened the Armies in Italy - and our casualties mounted in the Gothic Line battles in the Aug/Sep - and it wasn't until October '44 that the need was apparent to break up the AA units as the Luftwaffe was back defending the Homeland - some Naval and Airforce units along with 1st Armoured Division ...and not all went into the Infantry but - and here is where the myth really gets going that those trained people were easy to train as Infantry ignoring the fact that a fully trained infantryman take some six months to be fully capable of doing his highly specialised task - consequently many of these people were used as back ups to the fighting troops of Infantry - Armour and heavier Artillery - and just a small percentage ended up in the front lines
    The lists you show from Apl / May were obviously fully trained Infantrymen...

  6. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

    Hi Tom

    I based my assumptions on the 2 attached pages from the war diaries, which show first 57 then 108 Royal Artillery personnel attached pending posting to this unit, and then a month of continuous training.

    Also with the 6 Y & L's having just been pulled out from near Cassino after heavy losses, events at Anzio etc, i put 2 & 2 together and probably came up with 6, and jumped to the conclusion that they were likely from a disbanded RA unit, as infantry reinforcements might be a bit thin on the ground . Sorry for that.



    Attached Files:

  7. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    No need for apologies as no matter where they came from - by the time they were back in action - all ranks would have been well trained as Infantry as they lost more than heavily at Cassino - they most likely used up an existing Arty unit in Palestine - which was doing nothing...
  8. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member


    You were there and I won't contradict your first hand experience. And I know nothing about the RA.

    But according to my sources on the RAF Regiment, the War Office decided at various points late on in the war that they didn't need them all (especially post-D-day) and transferred thousands of them - many former AA squadron personnel - to the infantry. I'll need to get my books out but according to the semi-offical history by the late Kingsley Oliver, many went to Guards regiments.

    These RAF soldiers were trained infantrymen (even the AA squadron personnel). Most (if not all) had done various battle schools as well combined operations training (my grandfather did his at Inverary and Rothesay in Scotland in 1943) in anticipation that they needed to be reading for taking part in D-Day. Some of them in fact landed on Juno on D+1 (after an eventful crossing, during which they were attacked by eboats and sustained several fatalities).

    Again, according to my sources, the RAF men who were transferred were regarded by the army units who took them as trained soldiers who were a very welcome and useful addition. I have no idea - and I doubt anyone else has either - whether the transferred men suffered any different casualty rate to the army men they fought alongside.

    None of this says anything about Scott's original point. I have no idea about the training RA men have had. But in the case of the RAF Regiment men, it's no myth that large numbers were transferred to the army.


  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    And whole regiments of RA infantry were formed towards the end of the war, supposedly for garrison duties but some saw action. Of course, many artillery regiments were formed from infantry battalions earlier in the war, though the infanteers would have been diluted by gunners as the years went on.
  10. Queensman3348

    Queensman3348 Junior Member

    A lot of RA went into the Queens. Also bumped into ex RAF ground crew who was transferred to Tanks post D-Day.

    Must try and remember what it was, but they had special permission to keep a certain insignia/marking if they came from the RA.
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    as I know less than nothing about the RAF regiments - I had no doubts that they were trained infantrymen and thus would be more than welcome in any Infantry regiment - and especially post D Day as we were getting to the bottom of the barrel at that time - it should also be recalled that it was only in early 1942 - that ALL recruits did six weeks Infantry training in the General Service Corps - so they were not unaware of how to go about it - fact is that we had too many in specialized areas when the need was for
    Infantry -

    Italy for example was an Infantry war - but we had 2000 tanks at Cassino ...???
    all AA units were redundant early on in Italy when the Luftwaffe disappeared -But we only broke up ONE armoured Division.....late in October '44....when we had less than 500 Tanks
    from the 2000 in May !

  12. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    No worries Tom. I've found the main source for my earlier post. I attach it below. I've also got an Air Ministry Manpower Requirements Survey somewhere or other (downloaded from the National Archives) that confirms the demands being placed on the RAF to transfer men to the army, where they were no doubt needed.



    "However, even as the plans for RAF Regiment involvement in Operation Overlord were being finalised in May 1944, the War Office – this time with the support of the Prime Minister – was renewing its demands for more men for the infantry from the RAF Regiment.

    This was despite the fact that the deployment of RAF Regiment LAA squadrons on airfields in the UK had already released over 13,000 soldiers back to the field army and that there were less than 4,000 RAF Regiment gunners deployed on ground defence tasks at home. The Secretary of State for Air advised the Prime Minister that “there is not one man more in the RAF Regiment than is necessary to meet existing war requirements; in any event, most of those in the RAF Regiment are LAA gunners, not infantrymen.”[2] This made no impact at all on Churchill, who responded “the Army has already culled its AA gunners – now it is the turn of the RAF Regiment. I want 25,000 men transferred, including 2,000 immediately for the Guards as replacements. They will be much better employed there than loafing around already overcrowded airfields.”

    The Air Ministry answer was to offer the equivalent of 15 LAA squadrons – some 3,000 men – out of a total UK-based strength of 38,000. Faced with these unassailable facts, Churchill reluctantly amended his original demand to 10,000 men – of whom 2,000 were required immediately to bring the Guards up to strength. A call for volunteers from the Regiment and other Group V trades was made, but as the conditions included the requirement for all NCOs to forfeit their rank on transfer, there were few sergeants or corporals among the 691 volunteers. As, even in the midst of war, there was no legal method of forcibly transferring men from one Service to another against their will, the shortfall of 1,309 men had to be made up by discharging selected RAF Regiment airmen and immediately calling them up for Army service. Of the 2,000 transfers obtained in this underhand way, 1,539 went to the Guards and 461 to infantry regiments.[3]

    An eminent historian has made the point that the value-system of one society is a closed book to a member of another culture[4] and the various micro-cultures which flourish in the British Army are classic examples of a form of this phenomenon. The 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards had returned to the UK from the Middle East in 1944. Grievously under-strength after several years of hard fighting, the battalion needed some 400 reinforcements before being able to participate in the campaign in North-West Europe. These were to come from the RAF Regiment and – justifiably aggrieved at the ministerial sleight-of-hand which had forced them out of the RAF against their will – the Regiment contingent marched towards the Scots Guards camp outside Hawick dressed in No.1 RAF blue uniform (and not in their No.2 khaki battledress) defiantly chanting “we are the RAF, RAF, RAF”.

    In the disparaging manner often adopted by tribal groups towards outsiders, the Scots Guards regarded the men of the “disbanded RAF Regiment” merely as aerodrome guards who had received an extra 6d a day more than the infantry for “the so-called skilled work of guarding aerodromes against German parachutists who never appeared” and treated them as raw recruits to be moulded into the standard pattern of guardsmen.[5]

    In reality, of course, the RAF Regiment gunners were trained and disciplined airmen from LAA squadrons whose personnel were as professionally competent in that role as the LAA gunners of the Royal Artillery who had already been rebadged as infantrymen. And the higher rate of pay was one which the LAA gunners of the RAF Regiment and the Royal Regiment of Artillery shared in recognition of the higher skill standards of artillerymen vis-a-vis infantrymen. Fact and legend are uneasy bedfellows and it suited the Army to ignore the origins and qualities of its new intakes and attribute their subsequent attainments to the indoctrination received in their Army environments. The 2nd Bn Scots Guards certainly did this successfully, and went on to fight with distinction, from the Rhine to the Baltic between February and May 1945, albeit that the battalion’s achievements were based on the fighting qualities of the former RAF Regiment gunners who made up the greater part of the unit."

    2 32 field squadrons & 202 LAA squadrons
    3 LAC Frank Conn of 2772 Squadron was one of the gunners compulsorily transferred to the Army and was demobilised from the Royal Army Pay Corps in 1946. Almost fifty years later he stated “I have never forgiven the RAF for what they did to me in March 1945.” (RAF Regiment Comrades Association Journal, Summer 1994)
    4 Oswald Spengler, quoted by Hughes in Consciousness & Society p377
    5 Elliott – Esprit de Corps – A Scots Guards Officer on Active Service 1943-1945 pp104/106

    Through Adversity, Kingsley M. Oliver, pages 128 to 130
  13. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    It's useful to remember that in 1942, the army's peak strength year, there were more men in RA than in infantry and armour combined.

    In the final years of war the need for LAA, searchlights and coast arty reduced considerably, and when these regts were disbanded the men went elsewhere. I don't think there was much disbandment of field and anti-tanks regts, even when divisions in NWE disbanded because of lack of manpower, the field branch regts often joined AGRAs.
  14. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    The Air Ministry answer was to offer the equivalent of 15 LAA squadrons – some 3,000 men – out of a total UK-based strength of 38,000.

    That's a sqn of 200 men, that's a lot for a unit that was basically static and existed in the administrative framework of an airfield. How many guns?
  15. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    The list of officers of the Royal Artillery April 1942 is mind boggling!

    Army list
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    As an ex LAA man who, after his Rgt was disbanded, was posted into the RAC, I have always been grateful that we were not re-trained and then used as infantrymen.

    Interesting thread !

  17. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    This applied to LAA units in France in August 1944. Came from the war diary of 102 LAA Regt.

    Under Authority 2nd Army SA/184/SD dated 4 August 1944 the War Establishment was modified by the following reductions:-

    Less one troop per battery and the reduction of Dets from 10 to 9 ie:-

    3 Troops of 79 Other Ranks - 237
    36 Dets of 1 Other Rank - 36
    Total Reduction - 273
    Original War Establishment 818 plus 54 Officers
    Modified War Establishment 645 plus 48 Officers

    2 Officers per Troop also left the Regt.
  18. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

    Of course you have the RA Coastal Arty units who were retrained as infantry for the liberation of the Channel Islands; will find the details when I get home. Of course they did not see action
  19. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    That's a sqn of 200 men, that's a lot for a unit that was basically static and existed in the administrative framework of an airfield. How many guns?

    The composition of the LAA squadrons is not something I've really looked into much. But the 200 men per squadron is most probably paper strength. What information I have seen on actual numbers puts a squadron (LAA, field or armoured car) at about 160 officers and men. From here - No. 1 COMBINED TRAINING CENTRE, INVERARAY - the strength of two squadrons is given:

    "No.12 course for the Royal Air Force Regiment in Combined Operations was held at this Combined Operations Training Centre on the following dates:-
    No 18 Course. No. 2831 A.A. Squadron and No. 2848 A.A. Squadron - April 11th - April18th 1944.
    The Strength of the units attending were as follows:-
    No. 2831 A.A. Squadron - 8 Officers - 148 Other Ranks.
    No. 2848 A.A. Squadron - 7 Officers - 155 Other Ranks."

    That fits with the ORBs I have for 2742 Armoured Car squadron (although the numbers fluctuate).

    Kingsley Oliver quotes an establishment (in South East Asia as at February 1944) of 8 officers and 156 men (Through Adversity, page 154).

    As for how the LAA squadrons were structured, I understand that, in addition to a headquarters flight (and possibly other support flights), there would be three flights of AA guns, with either 8 20mm Hispanos per flight or 6 40mm Bofors guns per flight. The LAA squadrons that were part of 2TAF and designated for work on the continent were all equipped with Bofors. Others had a mixture (usually 2 flights of Hispanos and 1 of Bofors or 2 of Bofors and 1 of Hispanos).

    I don't know how many men were in each flight. What was the standard crew of a Bofors gun? Maybe someone can add that information.

    As far as being static, some of the LAA squadrons were but others were classified as mobile and had their own transport to move the guns etc. Two LAA squadrons were ashore on Sicily on 10 July 1943 (unfortunately, one of them without guns as the ship carrying those had been sunk!) as well as three on Juno beach on D+1 as posted earlier.

    Others, although static, were based anywhere where they were needed and not necessarily at RAF stations. 52 RAF Regiment LAA squadrons (with over 600 guns) were deployed, along with Royal Artillery HAA batteries, as part of the "Diver" anti-V1 rocket defences in the south of England.

    Also, even if "static" and tasked with air defence of a particular RAF station, they were not part of the establishment of the station and not subject to the station commander's control. That could cause "friction". Sherbrooke-Walker, in his book Khaki and Blue describes the difficulties he had, as an early staff officer in the fledgling Regiment, in stopping station commanders seeing the gunners as a labour force for general use around the base.

    As an example of how the RAF Regiment often appear to have been left to fend for themselves, the ORBs for 2742 squadron record their arrival at RAF Digby on 11th August 1944 :
    A/S/L Raine reported that “Conditions at RAF Digby are definitely bad. Something in the neighbourhood of 2000 men have been given one field in which to pitch canvas. Tents are crammed guy rope to guy rope throughout the field. Facilities of all kinds are poor and the men will not be very happy unless considerable improvements are made. Bathing facilities inadequate. Cinema is only available one afternoon per week from 1600 to 1800 hours.”

    On 12th August, “Day spent settling in. Latrines erected, sites for various departments fixed. The men have no NAAFI at the moment, as they are barred from the station NAAFI and the Salvation Army Wagons. This last facility was thought to be a service to all members of HMF this appears to be an error. A tented NAAFI is being erected and it is hoped it will be open early in the week.”

    The officers didn’t seem to have it any easier than the men. “Officers of the RAF Regiment have been ordered not to use the Officer’s mess. No amendment to King’s Regulations and ACIs rendering such an order valid has been seen by this unit”!

    While this was an armoured car squadron, not an LAA squadron, and things might have been different for some LAA squadrons, for some LAA squadrons things were exactly the same! I'm reasonably certain that my grandfather spent most of 1943 and 1944 living under canvas, first in the UK and then in NW Europe.

    All well and interesting.

    On the transfer of RA men to the Army, Kingsley Oliver (again!) gives this -
    The Commandant-General RAF Regiment had made his own enquiries into the Army’s claims for more infantrymen and these revealed that of the 17,500 artillerymen taken from AA Command, only 4,100 had gone to the infantry. The other 13,400 had been transferred to other arms and services

    Hope others find this as interesting as I do!


  20. chrisharley9

    chrisharley9 Senior Member

    Got it; the RA units which had retrained as infantry for Force 135 for the liberation of the Channel Islands were as follows

    302 Infantry Brigade comprising of

    614 Regiment RA

    618 Regiment RA

    620 Regiment RA

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