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Fantastic! Thanks John!
The excellent divisional history ‘War Bush’ by John Hamilton covers 81 (West African) Division, but only mentions 82 WA Div where their paths crossed during the 2nd Kaladan Campaign. Information on 82 WA Div has (until now!) been very thin on the ground.
It’s worth mentioning that the 81 WA Div also adopted this organisation at the time, less one brigade, which was detached to Special Force. The organisation was largely based on their experiences of the 1st Kaladan Campaign. The 82 WA Div joined them in mid-1944 and the two divisions fought alongside each other for a time until 81 WA Div was withdrawn at the end of 1944/early 1945.
Interesting detail re the 3-inch mortars being an established secondary role in standard Indian AT Regts. There have been numerous discussions on this in the past, but I’ve never seen it described as a formal secondary role before. Doubly interesting to see that the West Africans AT gunners’ secondary role was that of infantry (presumably because the 81 & 82 Divs uniquely had a Mortar Regt).
What isn’t really explained (and might therefore confuse some readers) is that the West African Light Batteries had previously been organised with a unique organisation, consisting of two Troops with 4x 3.7-inch howitzers and one Troop with 8x 3-inch mortars. There was no artillery regimental organisation; each battery was theoretically independent and reported to an infantry Brigadier. In practice, these ‘independent’ batteries fought as a Gun Group consisting of the 3.7s and a Mortar Group consisting of the Mortar Troops (sometimes with the infantry battalion 3-inch mortar platoons added), all under the command of the CRA. So artillery regiments in all but name.
Following the conclusion of the 1st Kaladan Campaign, this ad hoc structure was largely formalised, with a Light Regiment and a Mortar Regiment being formed and the numbers of 3.7s being doubled, as shown in the 82 WA Div history. The 81 WA Div had already been working this way, but this clearly came as a surprise to the newly-arrived 82 WA Div!
The AT Regt had previously been an AA/AT Regt, with two batteries of 2pdrs and two batteries of Bofors. During the 1st Kaladan Campaign, 81 WA Div had actually flown one Troop of Bofors into action via a jungle strip and had then flown them out again. So the switch to three batteries of 6pdrs was quite a marked change in organisation. Perhaps they were anticipating a renewed Japanese tank threat with the advance into Burma proper? They certainly encountered quite a few tankettes along the Arakan coast.
Thanks again John! 🙂
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