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Anti-Aircraft Brigades to Support Amphibious Operations Against Japanese-held Territory - 1945

A.L.F.S.E.A. A.A. Proposals - 1945
The Burma Campaign web site
Anti-Aircraft Brigades to Support Amphibious
Operations Against Japanese-held Territory - 1945
The inclusion of coast defence artillery within anti-aircraft formations destined for operations in
Southeast Asia was considered as far back as late 1942. At that time, planning was being
undertaken for a two-pronged offensive in Burma. Eastern Army was to conduct overland operations
in the Arakan and from Assam. The second prong was to be an amphibious assault, with Rangoon
as the objective, was given the codename ‘Anakim’. To control the seaborne forces, a new
headquarters was formed during March 1943, H.Q. Indian Expeditionary Force. In November 1943,
this Headquarters was redesignated as the H.Q. XXXIII Indian Corps. The organisation of this
formation continued to evolve and an important component to emerge was an artillery brigade
headquarters, controlling both anti-aircraft and coast defence artillery in the defence of a beach head
or port facilities seized from the Japanese. From October 1943, this role was undertaken by the H.Q.,
1st Royal Marine Anti-Aircraft Brigade, which moved to India from Ceylon. 1
When the 1st R.M. A.A. Brigade was recalled to the United Kingdom in January 1944, a replacement
was sought to fill what continued to be seen as a vital role in support of any major amphibious
operation in Burma. After some deliberation, it was decided that the H.Q. 9th A.A. Brigade, a mobile
headquarters, would fill the role when it could be released from active service with the Fourteenth
Army. This Headquarters moved to Gulunche, near Poona in May 1944, to supervise the training of
anti-aircraft units for possible amphibious operations. Under command were three heavy and two
light mobile anti-aircraft regiments of the Royal Artillery.2
Given the decline in the air threat to India and the need to repatriate large number of British Officers
and Other Ranks to the United Kingdom under the ‘Python’ scheme, the Indian anti-aircraft units
became more prominent in plans for future operations in Southeast Asia. In late 1944, at a time when
the requirements for anti-aircraft units in India and Burma were being revised and several, mainly
British regiments were being considered for disbandment, H.Q. A.L.F.S.E.A. was tasked to identify
the requirement up to the end of the 1945 monsoon for the anti-aircraft defence of captured ports and
beaches, for which an additional reserve should be maintained. Mainly Indian Regiments were
identified for inclusion in this reserve and were to prepare to begin training in the mobile role and for
seaborne landings. In the meantime, British and Indian anti-aircraft units would continue to support
the Fourteenth Army in Burma, while other, static or semi-mobile units would continue to operate
under G.H.Q. India for the defence of India and part of the lines of communications in the East. 3
In January 1945, it was proposed that the anti-aircraft artillery organisation within A.L.F.S.E.A.
required several completely mobile anti-aircraft brigades for allotment to Fourteenth Army (Army
Troops) and Corps (Corps Troops). The role of these brigades would include landing operations to
defend beach heads and the defence of Army and Corps areas. They would subsequently be redesignated as Army Groups Royal Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) or A.G.R.A.(A.A.). A number of semi-mobile
anti-aircraft brigades were also needed, to act as follow up forces to relieve the mobile formations and
to defend base ports, installations and airfields. An early proposal was for three mobile anti-aircraft
brigades and for three semi-mobile anti-aircraft brigades. The composition of the semi-mobile
brigades was to be flexible, with two brigades providing the anti-aircraft and coast artillery defence of
two major ports and/or airfield bases and with one brigade in reserve. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Indian
A.A. Brigade Headquarters, all static, would fulfil the latter role, following conversion to and training for
the semi-mobile role.4
These proposals for the first time identify the inclusion of a coast artillery battery as part of a semimobile anti-aircraft brigade. As noted above, these brigades were to be held in reserve for allotment
by H.Q. A.L.F.S.E.A. to the amphibious operations envisaged as being undertaken in 1945 against
Steve Rothwell
© 2015-2022
Page 1 of 3
15 September 2022
A.L.F.S.E.A. A.A. Proposals - 1945
The Burma Campaign web site
Burma (Rangoon), Malaysia, Singapore and Sumatra. In the same way that the threat of Japanese
aerial attack to India had declined, so too had the possibility of attacks against Indian ports by the
Japanese fleet. The coast defence batteries defending these ports, almost entirely Indian batteries,
were now available for allocation to the proposed semi-mobile anti-aircraft brigades. The January
1945 proposals for the semi-mobile brigades included the 15th, 16th and 17th Coast Batteries, Indian
Artillery, forming part of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Indian A.A. Brigades respectively. Two additional coast
defence batteries, then training in India, were identified as surplus, being available for re-allocation or
disbandment: the Hong Kong & Singapore Coast Battery; 1st Coast Battery, Burma Auxiliary Force.5
The first opportunities to deploy coast defence artillery were at Akyab and Ramree. However, in
February 1945, the Navy subsequently confirmed that it would not be needed at either place. As a
result, those coast defence units on standby to move were ordered to stand down.6
By 23rd February 1945, the proposals had been revised and the suggested order of battle for the
three semi-mobile anti-aircraft brigades were to now include the 15th Indian, the Hong Kong and
Singapore and the 1st Burma Coast Batteries. It was now proposed that the 16th and 17th Coast
Batteries, Indian Artillery would remain in India Command. 7
The A.L.F.S.E.A. order of battle for anti-aircraft troops was revised in April 1945. The coast batteries,
by now referred to as ‘Forward Coast Batteries’, previously to be included with the three semi-mobile
anti-aircraft brigades, were removed from this order of battle. Their use in future operations was then
under review and it was noted that the 17th Coast Battery, I.A., would probably be allotted to the 34th
Corps (however this battery has not been found in the orders of battle for the 34th Corps relating to
Operation ‘Zipper’). In May 1945, it was suggested that the coast defence of ports and bases might
be undertaken by heavy anti-aircraft batteries. However, it was quickly pointed out that the antiaircraft units were unlikely to be well sited for coast defence and lacked the specialist radar and
In the event, only the Headquarters, 3rd Indian A.A. Brigade was deployed. It moved to Rangoon in
June 1945 to relieve the mobile H.Q., 24th A.A. Brigade. It appears that the 1st Coast Battery, B.A.F.
did not accompany the formation to Rangoon. In August 1945, Japan surrendered, and the
amphibious operations envisaged did not take place, except for the unopposed landing in Malaya,
Operation ‘Zipper’.
15 September 2022
"The War Against Japan, Volume II, India's Most Dangerous Hour", Woodburn Kirby S., H.M.S.O.
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1713
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1843; WO 203/1844
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1844
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1844
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1844
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1844
Steve Rothwell
© 2015-2022
Page 2 of 3
15 September 2022
A.L.F.S.E.A. A.A. Proposals - 1945
The Burma Campaign web site
ALFSEA A.A. Artillery, WO 203/1845
Steve Rothwell
© 2015-2022
Page 3 of 3
15 September 2022