The 1st Airlanding Light Regiment first saw life in February 1941 as 458 Independent Light Battery, formed from a cluster of similar units of the Royal Artillery. Commanded by Major Pat Lloyd and equipped with 3.7" pack howitzers, this elite unit was raised and trained with a view to lending close support in amphibious assaults upon beach heads, and it had already acquired a good deal of experience in India where it had served on the North-West Frontier. In December of that year the Battery received word that it was to be transferred to the 1st Airborne Division, making the move to Bulford Camp in April 1942 and acquiring the new name of the 1st Airlanding Light Battery. Converted to the airborne role with the intention of providing field artillery support for the whole of the Division, the Battery spent the following 11 months in training, and also conducting experiments to develop superior methods of airlifting their guns into action. February 1943 saw the Battery expanded into a Regiment, consisting of two four-gun Troops in each of its three Batteries, and its twenty-four 3.7" guns were replaced with an equal number of the superior American 75mm Pack Howitzers. The original members of the Battery were divided amongst the three new Batteries, the remainder were drafted in from outside the Division, and the Light Regiment received its first commander, Lt-Colonel McLeod.

 

In May 1943 the Regiment departed for Tunisia with the 1st Airborne Division and set up camp near Sousse, where its training routine intensified. The Regiment was not needed for the airborne invasion of Sicily, but the Division's Commander Royal Artillery, Lt-Colonel Crawfurd, was killed during the offensive and McLeod was called upon to assume his responsibilities. "Sheriff" Thompson, Second-in-Command, was given charge of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment.

 

In September the Division was shipped to Italy, landing at Taranto, and it was here that the Light Regiment got its first taste of battle. Although this was not an airborne assault, the Regiment was still classed as pack artillery and therefore was ideal for deployment in the mountains, where they lent support to various units fighting in the vicinity. Frequently on the move in a harsh winter climate of mud and snow, the Regiment's services were requested by the 2nd Para Brigade, 1st Canadian Division, 5th and 78th Divisions, and the New Zealand Division, before it was withdrawn from front line service in January 1944 and shipped back to England where they rejoined the 1st Airborne Division at Boston, Lincolnshire. Training continued, however the local area was described as "a marvellous place for the troops, with two dance halls, four cinemas, eighty-three pubs, and the girls used to whistle at us; but, being in the Fens, the area was useless when it came to gunnery practice."

 

Commander of the 1st Airlanding Light Battery

 

1941-1943

Major Pat Lloyd

 

Commanders of the 1st Airlanding Light Regiment

 

1943

Lieutenant-Colonel R. W. McLeod

1943-1944

Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. K. Thompson