The Burma Campaign

2nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment/Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A.

The 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A. was first raised at Hyderabad as ‘L’ Anti-Tank Regiment on 1st April 1941.  However, with the re-titling of Indian artillery regiments to use a numeric system on 2nd April 1941, the Regiment was then re-titled as the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A.  Regimented batteries were the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Anti-Tank Batteries.  In February 1942, the Regiment arrived in Burma and served under the command of the 17th Indian Infantry Division.  By early 1943, the Regiment had become divisional troops to the 23rd Indian Infantry Division.[1] 

The 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A. was at Manipur Road in January 1943, without any guns.  When it was ordered to Imphal in February 1943, prior to the move, the Regiment collected 36 2-pounder anti-tank guns, a full complement, and returned to the command of the 23rd Indian Infantry Division on 26th February 1943.  By 8th March 1943, the Regiment was complete at Imphal.  During May 1943, the Regiment began to receive 6-pounder anti-tank guns.[2]

During July 1943, the Regiment was notified that the 5th and 8th Batteries were to convert to the light anti-aircraft role in the near future.  On 22nd July 1943, the unit began preparations for this conversion, liaising with the 28th L.A.A. Regiment, R.A. and receiving a demonstration of the Bofors 40mm gun and a lecture on the engagement of aircraft.  The 28th Regiment also provide Bofors guns for gun drill demonstration.  Despite the initial training with the Bofors, later in July, the Regiment was informed that it would be equipped with “Oerlikon” 20mm guns.  In the meantime, both batteries continued to train with the 2-pounder anti-tank gun.[3] 

In August 1943, information was received that the 5th and 8th Batteries would eventually receive the 20mm Hispano gun, which could be used both in the anti-aircraft and ground roles.  In November 1944, the Regiment was told to expect delivery of four Hispano guns for use in training by the 5th and 8th Batteries.[4]  However, during January 1944, further information received indicated that the two batteries would now receive Bofors guns.  Training in aircraft recognition was started.  Finally, in February 1944, two Bofors guns arrived and gun drill training began.  However, the 5th and 8th Batteries continued to retain their 2-pounder anti-tank guns for the remainder of the “campaigning season”.[5]

In March, detachments of the Regiment began to prepare defensive positions at the “Thoubal Box” in anticipation of the Japanese offensive.  Against this background of imminent action, on 16th March 1944, the 8th Battery exchanged its 2-pounder anti-tank guns for twelve 40mm Bofors guns.  The Battery was expected to have completed conversion by 1st April 1944.  The Regiment, together with the 6th, 7th and 8th Batteries settled into the Thoubal Box, the 5th Battery having been attached to the 123rd Indian Infantry Brigade and sent to Imphal.[6]

The Regiment officially converted to become the 2nd Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A. on 1st April 1944.  However, during the month it was decided that the 5th Battery would not convert to become an anti-aircraft battery until the 8th Battery had been fully trained.  Meanwhile, inside the Thoubal Box, the 8th Battery had three Bofors guns in action.  On 8th May 1944, the 8th Battery was referred to as the 208th Battery (the war diary does not record when the renumbering of the battery occurred).  However, the war diary also continues to refer to the 8th Battery throughout May, June and July 1944, reflecting the often typical delay that changes to military designations are subject to before coming in to everyday use.  The battery moved to Bull Box (Palel) during May and June 1944, accompanied by R.H.Q. and rear parties.    The location statement for the divisional artillery of the 23rd Indian Infantry Division for 28th June 1944 gives the disposition of the Regiment as follows:

2nd A.A./Atk Regiment, H.Q.     Bull Box
            5th Anti-Tank Battery     Bull Box
            6th Anti-Tank Battery     Langgol
            7th Anti-Tank Battery     Patiala Ridge
            208th L.A.A. Battery      Langgol, less one troop at Palel.[7]

At the end of July 1944, the Regiment left Bull Box for the Shenam area where the main responsibility was in patrolling the area in the infantry role, on the lookout for Japanese stragglers.  The Regiment returned to Bull Box on 7th August 1944 and the following day handed in all its remaining 2-pounder anti-tank guns.  On 9th August 1944, the 208th Battery  set off for Manipur Road where it handed in its Bofors guns.  The R.H.Q. with the 5th, 6th and 7th Anti-Tank Batteries moved to Manipur Road on 10th August 1944 as the first step in the journey to Shillong, where it arrived on 13th August 1944.[8]

Indian divisional anti-tank regiments were once again the subject of reorganisation from August 1944, when they were reorganised to consist of three batteries, each equipped with twelve 6-pounder anti-Tank guns and twelve 3-inch mortars.[9]  The 2nd Regiment converted to become one such anti-tank/mortar unit during August 1944, drawing its first 3-inch mortars at Shillong on 21st August 1944.  The 5th, 6th and 7th Batteries remained regimented and it appears that the 8th/208th Battery was disbanded before the move to Shillong took place.  The 29th Anti-Tank Battery, ex-15th (Punjab) Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A., arrived from Ranchi to join the Regiment at Shillong on 3rd October 1944, as part of a further reorganisation.  It appears that the 7th Battery was disbanded at this time.  The Regiment was now composed of the 5th, 6th and 29th Anti-Tank Batteries.  On 29th November 1944, the Regiment left Shillong for Nasik Road, arriving on 6th December 1944.[10]

The Commanding Officers of the Regiment during 1943-44 were:

Lt. Colonel J.W. Kaye until 5th November 1944
Lt. Colonel D.R. Corner.

29 July 2019

[1] “History of The Regiment of Artillery, Indian Army”, Palit D.K., Leo Cooper (1972); David Ryan; ”The British Armies in World War Two, An Organisational History”, Vol 10, Hughes, Ryan, Rothwell, Nafziger (2008).

[2] War diary 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A., WO 172/2404

[3] WO 172/2404

[4] WO 172/2404

[5] War diary 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, I.A., WO 172/4756

[6] WO 172/4756

[7] War diary H.Q.R.A. IV Corps, WO 172/4193

[8] WO 172/4756

[9] Palit

[10] WO 172/4756