Royal Artillery Detachment, Bahrain (H.K.S.R.A)

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by RobG64, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    In the course or researching another item I came across a document in the Qatar National Library Digital Repository (beta version) that said, following the Italian raid on Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on 19th October 1940 (in itself a feat of flying!) the defence of the Bahrain oil refinery was a matter of urgency. Of course, the only problem was lack of resources but one 12-pdr High Angle Gun was landed by the Royal Navy in October followed by a 3-inch AA gun in early November. The Royal Navy could only supply a scratch gun crew of 6 men and the request to use volunteers from the Bahrain Petroleum Company was met with a firm NO! There was also one (!) lorry-borne searchlight. In a December 1940 meeting it was decided to send a detachment of H.K.S.R.A. men from 5th Heavy (Coast) Regiment, RA at Aden to man these two guns.
    My question is does anyone know the data of arrival of these 33 men (1 British officer, 1 British Sergeant, 1 British Bombardier and 30 Indian ORs) from Aden and when they left?
    The documents seem to indicate January or February 1941 but I am unsure!

    ‘File 28/1 K I Defence of oil field and refinery’ | QNL Repository

    RobG64
     
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  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  3. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    A.A. Troops at Bahrain (Bahrein) - 1943

    By January 1943 it seems that there were at least two units of British anti-aircraft artillery at Bahrain, under the overall command of H.Q. PAIFORCE.

    At least two four-gun static sites were manned at Bahrain at this time: BRN 1 and BRN 2. In addition, there was a troop of L.A.A. guns, ‘B’ Troop, 247th L.A.A. Battery, 79th L.A.A. Regiment, R.A.

    No. 1 Troop, 223rd Battery, 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. was located at BRN 2 when it was ordered to Abadan, Persia, embarking at Bahrain on 24th January 1943. The troop disembarked at Khorramshahr two days later and took over the site ABN 5 (or 4?) at Abadan the next day. A small maintenance party was left behind to look after the equipment at BRN2. Battery Headquarters remained at Bahrain, with No. 2 Troop at BRN 1. The Battery Commander was at that time A.A.D.C. (Anti-Aircraft Defence Commander) Bahrain.

    On 26th February 1943, a warning order was received from H.Q. 4th A.A. Brigade, R.A. regarding the move of B.H.Q. and No. 2 Troop, 223rd H.A.A. Battery from Bahrain to Abadan. The advance party embarked on 13th March 1943 and was followed some days later by the main body. Battery H.Q. and ‘B’ (No.2 ) Troop arrived at Abadan on 13th April 1943 and took over the site ABN 5.

    The anti-aircraft defence of Bahrain seems to have passed then to ‘B’ Troop, 247th L.A.A. Battery. The Commanding Officer of the L.A.A. troop became the A.A.D.C. following the departure of B.H.Q. 223rd H.A.A. Battery. When the H.A.A. guns left BRN 1, the L.A.A. troop concentrated three guns each at BRN 1 and BRN 2.[1]

    [For further clues as to the A.A. defences at Bahrain, the above prompts further research into the war diaries of the units involved. These may also give details of the section of the 8th H.A.A. Battery, Indian Artillery believed to have been stationed at Bahrain until around July 1942. I'll add the files to my list:

    - 247th L.A.A. Battery, R.A. – WO 169/4970 (Dec. 1942); WO 169/10102 (1943); WO 169/16115 (Jan.- June 1944)
    - 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. – WO 169/4802 (May – Dec.1942).
    ]


    [1] War diary 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A., WO 169/9836.
     
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  4. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    Wow! Superb research Steve.
    Thank you

    RobG
     
  5. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    Additional research into the war diaries of Royal Artillery units with detachments at Bahrain means the story of these detachments can be completed. Elements of the 75th H.A.A. Regiment and the 79th L.A.A. Regiment arrived at Bahrain (Bahrein Island) in September 1942. The heavy A.A. was withdrawn in March 1943, followed by the light A.A. in May/June 1943.

    Unfortunately, the diaries of the above units have nothing to say about gunners from either the H.K.S.R.A. or 'A' Section, 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A.

    The updated story of the R.A. units follows below.

    Steve

    A.A. Troops at Bahrain (Bahrein) - 1943

    The 75th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.A. disembarked at Basra, Iraq on 27th August 1942, following at temporary stay in Egypt after journeying out from the United Kingdom. The Regiment was complete at Barjasiya Camp the following day, 28th August 1942. A week later, on 6th September 1942, the 223rd H.A.A. Battery, R.A. was detached from the Regiment and ordered to make preparations to move to Bahrein Island (Bahrain). The main body of the Battery boarded the ship “Jaladurga” during the evening of 12th September 1942 and arrived at Bahrain and disembarked on the morning of 16th September. A detachment of light anti-aircraft guns, ‘B’ Troop, 247th L.A.A. Battery, 79th L.A.A. Regiment, R.A. disembarked the same day and came under the command of the 223rd H.A.A. Battery for all purposes.[1]

    Whilst no guns or heavy equipment had arrived, preparation of gun pits and a general camp began the following day. Two four-gun sites were built for the heavy guns and named BRN1 and BRN2. Six individual gun sites were built for the light guns and numbered BRN21-BRN26. Guns and equipment, including predictors, height finders and stores, arrived and began to be offloaded on 29th September 1942. The force at Bahrain appears to have been under the command of the 4th A.A. Brigade, R.A., under the overall command of H.Q. PAIFORCE.[2] The balance of the 247th L.A.A. Battery was based at Shaiba (R.A.F. Shaibah).[3]

    No. 1 Troop, 223rd Battery, 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A. was located at BRN 2 when it was ordered to Abadan, Persia, embarking at Bahrain on 24th January 1943. The troop disembarked at Khorramshahr two days later and took over the site ABN 5 (or 4?) at Abadan the next day. A small maintenance party was left behind to look after the equipment at BRN2. Battery Headquarters remained at Bahrain, with No. 2 Troop at BRN 1. The Battery Commander was at that time A.A.D.C. (Anti-Aircraft Defence Commander) Bahrain.

    On 26th February 1943, a warning order was received from H.Q. 4th A.A. Brigade, R.A. regarding the move of B.H.Q. and No. 2 Troop, 223rd H.A.A. Battery from Bahrain to Abadan. The advance party embarked on 13th March 1943 and was followed some days later by the main body. Battery H.Q. and ‘B’ (No.2 ) Troop arrived at Abadan on 13th April 1943 and took over the site ABN 5.

    The anti-aircraft defence of Bahrain seems to have passed then to ‘B’ Troop, 247th L.A.A. Battery. The Commanding Officer of the L.A.A. troop became the A.A.D.C. following the departure of B.H.Q. 223rd H.A.A. Battery. When the H.A.A. guns left BRN 1, the L.A.A. troop concentrated three guns each at BRN 1 and BRN 2.[4] Meanwhile, the 247th Battery H.Q. and ‘A’ Troop moved from Shaibah to Abadan on 30th March 1943. The 4th A.A. Brigade issued orders on 12th May 1943 for ‘B’ Troop to leave Bahrain to rejoin its parent battery at Abadan. It is thought that this move took place the following month. By this stage in war, with the defeat of Axis forces in Africa and Russia, the threat of air attack on Bahrain had diminished to almost zero.[5]

    Unfortunately, none of the war diaries consulted recently provide any further details regarding the detachments of gunners from the H.K.S.R.A. and the 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A.



    [1] ‘B’ Troop, 247th L.A.A. Battery, R.A. is referred to as ‘C’ Troop in the 1942 war diary of the 75th H.A.A. Regiment. However, the 247th Battery at the time appears to have been organised on the 12-gun battery establishment, with two troops each of six guns. The war diary for the 247th Battery describes itself in Iraq as being “Battery Headquarters (less one troop)”, the remaining troop being referred to as ‘A’ Troop. It is therefore likely that the detachment was in fact 'B' Troop (War diary 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A., WO 169/4802; War diary 247th L.A.A. Battery, R.A., WO 172/4970, WO 172/10102).

    [2] War diary 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A., WO 169/4802.

    [3] War diary 247th L.A.A. Battery, R.A., WO 169/10102.

    [4] War diary 75th H.A.A. Regiment, R.A., WO 169/9836.

    [5] WO 169/10102. Unfortunately, the war diary for June 1943 is missing. The orders issued by the 4th A.A. Brigade were received in May 1943 and the war diary entries from July 1943 onwards make no further mention of Bahrain.
     
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  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The Wiki account is somewhat lacking. I have found a more detailed account written by a local historian. Having worked in both Bahrain and Saudi for the oil industry it matches what I know.

    The bombers were lightened by dispensing with all defensive armament and only having a two man crew
    The Italians claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on the Bahrain refinery and on at least one oil well but as the field and the refinery were not co-located this is impossible
    Damage in Bahrain appears to have been limited to hitting a coke bunker and an oil pipe. This latter caused a fire that created large clouds of black smoke which gave the Italians the impression that the refinery was badly damaged - in fact the raid caused no loss of production. Damage in Saudi was equally light.

    There was greater opportunity for the Italians in bombing the refinery at Haifa which was within relatively easy range of bombers based in the Dodecanese. This refinery was the main source of fuel for the British Mediteranean fleet. The threat to Haifa caused the Admiralty to consider withdrawing the bulk of the fleet through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea. That way it would still be capable of intervening in the Indian Ocean should Japan enter the war. Churchill vetoed this. So limited were the RAF's assets in Egypt and Palestine as a result of the foreign policy of the Chamberlain administration which had not wanted to appear to threaten Italian interests in Libya etc in 1939/40 in the illusory hope of separating Mussolini from Hitler. Consequently the RAF was starved of reinforcements and it was impossible to provide air defences to both Egypt and Palestine. There would be no fighters in Palestine until the RN managed to land a few Sea Gladiators. As a result Haifa was virtually an open target. Destroying the refinery would cripple the British Fleet. When raided the refinery was not badly damaged. An oil storage tank was set alight and again produced an enormous amount of black smoke which also convinced the Italians that the job was done. After this the bombers in the Dodecanese were reassigned to targets in Greece or sent to support the air campaign against Malta. So slight was the effect on production that the available storage soon became full and the Navy began diverting ships through the canal to the Med to refuel and allow the refinery to maintain full production. Oik refineries are only really efficient when running at 95% or higher.
     
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  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron


    might be an idea to update the wiki page with your info
     
  8. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    Brilliant Steve! Thank you
     
  9. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    A (long) update on the planning for the A.A. defences of Bahrein. It now seems pretty certain that Indian gunners were deployed to Bahrein sometime during the second half of 1941, to man two 3.7-inch heavy A.A. guns sent via Egypt. Unfortunately, while the exact date of the deployment has not yet been determined, from piecing together different pieces of data it seems that the Indian gunners were 'A' Section, 8th H.A.A. Battery, Indian Artillery. There is an unidentified source (provide by David Ryan) which list this section as arriving at Karachi by sea on 24th July 1942, but does not give the point of departure.

    Steve

    Indian Anti-Aircraft Artillery Defending Bahrein

    In late 1940, after the Italian air raid in October, the provision of anti-aircraft defences for Bahrein was the subject of correspondence between the various regional military and political authorities.

    On 4th November 1940, Army Headquarters, Iraq, wrote that the first steps had been taken towards providing a token anti-aircraft defence for Bahrein . Three anti-aircraft guns had been installed, having been landed by the Royal Navy. Only one scratch crew could be provided temporarily whilst the ship (?) was in harbour. Three permanent crews were urgently requested, to be provided by the Admiralty, the War Office or India Command.[1]

    G.H.Q. Middle East was unable to spare any equipment or personnel, giving the reason that even with reinforcements the anti-aircraft defences in the Middle East were inadequate to meet all demands, especially given the additional need to send guns and personnel to defend the naval and air bases on Crete. It was then confirmed that only two guns had been landed by the Royal Navy, a 12-pounder and a 3-inch gun, the third gun not being immediately available. Three crews were needed, two to man the guns and a spare crew to allow a readiness level of constant alert to be maintained. An additional source of possible manpower considered was the Iraq Levies.[2]

    On 1st December 1940, G.H.Q. Middle East then suggested that temporary crews for Bahrein might be found from trained personnel at Aden. These men were currently without equipment and, provided that replacements could be sent from India, the men might be transferred to Bahrein on a more permanent basis. The manpower requirements were estimated at: three British officers; one Indian officer; seven British other ranks; 120 Indian other ranks. A response to this estimate subsequently reduced the manpower requirement to no more than 30 other ranks plus an officer, non-commissioned officers and artificers.[3]

    On 15th December 1040, a copy of the "Bahrein Defence Scheme" was issued. The attached operation order for the defence of the oil refinery confirmed that the anti-aircraft defence was reliant on the two Naval guns already landed. These were to be manned by Naval personnel and volunteers, "pending the arrival of the Indian A.A. detachment". Furthermore, it was noted that "On the arrival of Indian personnel" both guns would become ready for instant action at all times. It is also worth noting that seven anti-aircraft light machine gun positions had also been prepared in the refinery area. These were manned by members of the Local Defence Volunteers. Confirmation that anti-aircraft gunners would be provided from Aden had still not be received by as late 23rd January 1941.[4]

    However, a subsequent message the following day indicated that two 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns had been allocated for Bahrein but a firm date for their arrival could not be given at that time. The guns were expected in Egypt and it was anticipated that they would shortly be shipped to Bahrein. No personnel were accompanying these guns and reference is made to the accommodation needs of Indian other ranks, so it would seem that Indian gunners were expected at some point in the future.[5]

    Unfortunately, no documentation has yet been discovered to confirm the arrival at Bahrein of Indian gunners from Aden during 1941. There were no Indian anti-aircraft gunners of the Indian Artillery in Aden but there were Indian gunners of the Hong Kong & Singapore Royal Artillery. These men served with the 15th and 23rd H.A.A. Batteries, H.K.S.R.A., in the 5th Heavy Regiment, R.A. There was (or had been) also a detachment of British gunners sent to Aden from India in September 1939. These men were from the 8th H.A.A. Battery, R.A. which, in September 1939, was stationed at Peshawar.

    One source indicates that a detachment from the 8th H.A.A. Battery, Indian Artillery (a different unit than its Royal Artillery counterpart, but confusingly with the same unit number) was sent to Bahrein during the second half of 1941 in response to an "emergency".[6] Another source, a summary of the status of Indian anti-aircraft units prepared by G.H.Q., India for The War Office in London, dated 10th August 1942, indicates that the 2nd H.A.A. Regiment, I.A., then serving with Eastern Army at Calcutta, was complete except for three sections "ex BURMA & BAHREIN reforming at Karachi".[7]

    The three sections referred to were from the 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A.: 'B' and 'C' Sections which had served in Burma; 'A' Section which is presumed to have served at Bahrein (and appears to have returned to Karachi on 24th July 1942). 'D' Section, 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A. deployed to Calcutta and later Assam with the 2nd H.A.A. Regiment, I.A. That only a section was apparently sent to Bahrein ties in with the fact that only two heavy 3.7-inch guns had been allocated for the defence of the oil refinery at Bahrein (see above) - a heavy anti-aircraft section being the normal organisation for a two-gun detachment. The 8th H.A.A. Battery was not reunited with 'D' Section under the command of the 2nd H.A.A. Regiment, I.A. until the Battery Headquarters and three sections arrived at Lekhapani, Assam, on 11th May 1943.[8]

    The anti-aircraft defences of Bahrein were taken over and extended by British units deployed from Iraq during September 1942 (see post 3 above).

    [1] "Bahrein Defence Plan - 1940-1941", AIR 23/5896

    [2] AIR 23/5896

    [3] AIR 23/5896

    [4] AIR 23/5896

    [5] AIR 23/5896

    [6] “The Anti-Aircraft Branch of the Indian Artillery, 1940 to 1947”, Sawyer H.V., National Army Museum collection

    [7] "Anti-Aircraft - Sites, Establishments and Requirements", March 1942-October 1943, WO 106/4562

    [8] War diary 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A., WO 172/325, WO 172/835, WO 172/2431; War diary 2nd H.A.A. Regiment, I.A., WO 172/2423
     
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  10. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    next stop is war diaries for the 5th Coast Regiment, R.A. for 1941 and those for the 15th and 23rd Batteries, HKSRA for 1940..........
     
  11. Rothy

    Rothy Well-Known Member

    I've now had chance to review the following war diaries and there is no new information contained therein, I'm afraid:

    WO 169/682 15th (Singapore) A.A. Battery, H.K.S.R.A. June-December 1940
    WO 169/683 23rd A.A. Battery, H.K.S.R.A. June-December 1940
    WO 169/3236 5th Coast Regiment, R.A. (formerly 5th Heavy Regiment, R.A.) January-December 1941

    There is not one single mention of Bahrein in any of the above. It might be possible to conclude from this that no H.K.S.R.A. detachment was sent to Bahrein.....but it would be nice to have some evidence either way.

    The best candidate for "Indian" gunners at Bahrein remains 'A' Section, 8th H.A.A. Battery, I.A., arriving sometime during the second half of 1941 and leaving to arrive at Karachi on 24th July 1942.

    Steve
     
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  12. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

    Brilliant research Steve, thank you! In awe at the detail here!
    WW2 covered such a vast area with millions of men - trying to track down 30 plus Indians who were posted to Bahrein for a short period of time may be almost impossible...

    RobG
     
  13. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Rob:

    Could this be the Bahrein detachment that you are trying to locate. It was from the 3/11th Sikh Regiment from Iraq.

    3_11thSikhRegt.jpg
     
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  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The use by British forces of ex-Persian 75mm guns is news to me. The Persian Army had several types of 75mm guns. The most numerous were the 75mm Bofors mountain gun and the M1909 Schneider mountain gun. There were also some M1919 Schneider mountain guns, a few Russian 75mm Obukhovs, and 75mm M1929 AA guns. The source above doesn't say which type 3/11th Sikh had, but if anyone does know or has any more information about British use of ex-Persian equipment by all means let me know.
     
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