1. Skip to content

2819 (LAA) Squadron

Background

Anti-Aircraft (AA) Squadrons were formed in late 1941 to defend the RAF's airfields (the government finally accepting the Army didn't have time or resources to spare). When the D-Day landings were being planned, it was recognised that AA protection would be required. It was agreed that these AA squadrons would need better weapons and so the Army would "give" the RAF some of its 40mm Bofors AA guns. In exchange, the RAF would disband a large number of its AA Squadrons and transfer the released servicemen over to the Army. This is the story of an AA Squadron that survived...

Formation at RAF Chelveston

Formed as No 819 Defence Squadron at RAF Chelveston on 4th September 1941 under the command of Flying Officer J.M.Reiss, who was appointed to Acting Squadron Leader on 1st September. The unit suffered its first loss when Aircraftman 2nd class Moseley died in Northampton General Hospital on 29th December.

On 13th February 1942 the Squadron number changed to 2819 (all Ground Defence squadrons absorbed into the RAF Regiment had 2000 added to their unit numbers in this month).

On 18th August 1942, the Squadron carried out a defence exercise "backers up", attacking the airfield. A further defence exercise "backers up" was carried out on the 29th August, this time in open countryside.

Move to RAF Ludham (Norfolk)

On 31st August 1942, the unit relocated to RAF Ludham (Norfolk).

Whilst undergoing gunnery training at Holkham on 10th December a Smith Gun exploded (Ed - apparently not uncommon), fatally injuring Temporary Corporal C.E.Maynard and severely injuring three others. A Court of Inquiry was held 3 days later at RAF Coltishall.

A Smith Gun

(Creative Commons Licence)

On 1st March 1943 Acting Major L.Stag MC assumed command with Flight Lieutenant Reiss transferring to the RAF Regiment depot at Grantham, until Flying Officer O. L.Hamer was appointed Acting Squadron Leader and assumed command on 7th May, at which time the squadron converted to a Light Anti Aircraft (LAA) unit.

On 25th June, a mock attack was undertaken on RAF Marston Moor (Yorks) - "Exercise Cromwell".

Move to RAF Gravesend (Kent) and then RAF North Weald (Esssex)

On 28th August 1943, the unit moved to RAF Gravesend (Kent), before moving on to winter quarters at RAF North Weald (Essex) on 7th October. The convoy made the 96 mile journey in 6.5 hours, with a police escort through London.

During the winter months the unit took part in exercises (Ongar, Ongar II, Nazine) and undertook a number of courses (swimming, mine detection, booby traps, night convoys, firing practice) and received inoculations (Typhus).

On the 7th February 1944, the 1939/43 Star for services in operational theatres of war were awarded to Flight Sergeant Lay and Leading Aircraftman Russell.

Move to RAF Swanton Morley (Norfolk)

20mm Hispano Gun

(Creative Commons Licence)

The unit relocated to RAF Swanton Morley (Norfolk) on the 18th February 1944, where they were issued with sea kitbags. After 7 days privilege leave, the unit deployed for 3 weeks specialist training on the 40mm Bofors with 106th AA Brigade Royal Artillery in March, and the following month they handed in their 20mm Hispano guns and re-equipped with 40mm Bofors. In April they became part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF).

Bofors 40/L60 (AA), the type used by the 2819 (LAA) Squadron

(Public Domain image)

Move to RAF Funtington (Sussex) and then move to the Marshalling Area

In May 1944 they moved to RAF Funtington (Sussex), with practice firing at Bognor.

On 19th May the unit received the warning order for Operation Overlord and by 1st June had moved to Marshalling Area T3 (Canning).

Embarkation

"A" Echelon embarked on 2nd / 3rd June 1944 at Victoria Docks, Silverside and set off down river on the 3rd June (D-Day - 3). However due to congestion on Juno beach they were not landed until 7th June (D-Day + 1) and lost 5 vehicles and equipment in the process. "B" Echelon embarked on 6th June.

Move to St Croix-sur-Mer and Beny-sur-Mer Advanced Landing Grounds

Initially formed up at Assembly Area Jig on Gold Beach on 8th June 1944, Leading Aircraftman Frary was injured by shrapnel and 2 German prisoners were captured and handed over. On the 9th June the unit moved to the adjacent Assembly Area King and then deployed their guns at Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) B3 St Croix-sur-Mer airfield (completed by a Royal Engineers Airfield Construction Group on the 10th June 1944) and ALG B4 Beny-sur-Mer airfield (completed on 15th June 1944 by Royal Engineers). The latter suffered intermittent shelling from a nearby German position.

The Luftwaffe attempted to drop supplies to the besieged garrison on 15th June, resulting the 2819 claiming its first kill on the 16th June. The following day a naval bombardment and tanks liquidated the garrison.

On 24th July, Hilary St George Saunders (author of Air Ministry Publications) visited the unit and interviewed several personnel.

Move to Cristot

On the 22nd August 1944, the unit moved to ALG B18 Cristot. The following day a war artist, Frank Wooton, arrived to make a painting of the RAF Regiment in action, departing 3 days later having painted the No. A4 gun site.

  • Painting of 2819 (LAA) Squadron (PDF, 71 Kb)

    2819 LAA Squadron 40/60 Bofors Gun detachment in a gun pit at Cristot, France, by the war artist Frank Wootton. Taken from the RAF Regiment Property Booklet 1942 - 2008.

Move to Fanville, then Poix airfield and then Brussels Evere Airport

The unit then moved to Fanville on the 28th August 1944, but this was a short stay as they then moved to Poix airfield on the 4th September, before setting out for Brussels Evere Airport on 6th September.

This journey was one that everyone taking part would remember, with crowds in every village and town cheering as they passed through Belgium. By the time they arrived on the 7th September, every vehicle was loaded up with champagne, cognac, cider, beer, flowers, cigarettes and bedecked with flags.

Move to Eindhoven airfield (Netherlands), then Keent (know as Grave) airfield

On the 22nd September 1944 the unit moved to Eindhoven airfield (Netherlands), but again a brief stay before moving to Keent (know as Grave) airfield on 28th September.

On the 2nd October Me262 jet bombers dropped anti-personnel mines on airfield, resulting in a posterior flesh wounds to Corporal West, Corporal Kendal and Leading Aircraftman Wallace. Three further injuries were sustained on the 7th October.

Move to Heesch airfield (Netherlands)

On the 7th November 1944 the unit moved to Heesch airfield (Netherlands) and settled in. V1 and V2 rocket launches were reported from 12th - 16th December.

On the 22nd December the unit held a Christmas party of 100 local children, donating sweets from their rations. There was a brief disruption on Christmas Day by a Me262, but otherwise party time.

The 1st January 1945 saw the launch of Operation 'Bodenplatte' (the Luftwaffe attack on Allied airfields) with 5 engagements for the 2819 and 146 rounds fired at attacking FW190s, Me109s and Me262s.

The following 2 months saw more V1 attacks and on 22nd March Flying Officer Thompson and Sergeant Pike suffered burns in a training accident with a grenade.

Crossing into Germany

On the 1st April 1945, the unit crossed the Rhine into Germany. On the 6th April the unit was inspected by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery.

Move to Langerhagen

On the 17th April 1945, the unit was at Langerhagen when 12+ FW190s and Me109s attacked. 168 rounds fired. A second attack on the 20th April resulted in one kill claimed.

Move to Luneburg airfield

On the 21st April 1945 the unit moved on to Luneburg airfield.

The 1st and 2nd May saw multiple engagements, but on the 3rd May thousands of German POWs were observed marching past the airfield and on the 8th May VE (Victory in Europe) day was announced. The following two days were taken as a holiday.

Move to Lubeck airfield

On the 11th May 1945 the unit moved to Lubeck airfield.

On the 3rd June, the Marshall of the RAF, Viscount Lord Trenchard, visited and the 2819 formed the Guard of Honour and provided an armed escort to Travemunde.

Air Marshall Sir William Sholto Douglas, CB, MC, DFC

(Air Chief Marshall from 6th June 1945)

(Public domain image)

On the 30th June, ballot papers arrived for the General Election and on the 10th July Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and Air Chief Marshall Sir William Sholto Douglas visited and the 2819 again formed the Guard of Honour .

Move to Priwell airfield, Travemunde and disbandment

By mid August 1945, the personnel are starting to be released from service. The unit moved again to Priwell airfield, Travemunde, but on 6th December Flight Lieutenant Logan (RAF Regiment Disbandment Officer) arrived and on 21st December 1945 the final disbandment took place.

[Based on information drawn from the Squadron Operations Record Book (Air 29/105) retained at the National Archives with the kind assistance of the Air Historical Branch (RAF)]