3rd later 2nd/3rd Light (later Composite) Anti Aircraft Regiment

About This Unit

3rd later 2nd/3rd Light Anti Aircraft Regiment 

The 3rd Anti Aircraft (AA) Regiment (Regt) was raised in 1940 in Victoria, as part of the 1st AA Brigade (A) - the '(A)' designating it as a 2nd AIF formation) - for service in the Middle East. 

Its constituent elements were the 7th, 8th and 9th LAA Batteries (Bty).  In August 1941, the entire formation was re-designated with the numeric prefix  '2/' (enunciated as '2nd/' on this site) indicating it was part of the 2nd AIF, and its Bty were re-numbered accordingly.


Fig 1. Australians of the 7 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery surround their Bofors 40mm rapid fire anti aircraft guns, one of the few heavy weapons that made it from Greece to Crete
(Army Museum of South Australia)

7th LAA Bty was detached and sent to Crete (with the 6th Division) in Apr / May 1941 and was caught up in the chaos of the defence and then the evacuation.

8th LAA Bty was detached and saw action at Derna, Barce and and Benghazi with the 6th Division in late 1940.  It was later detached in support of the 9th Division in Tobruk from Apr 41.

Regimental HQ spent a period controlling the Air Defence of Western Desert Force, particularly its forward airfields, with three other Commonwealth Bty under command, and its own 9th LAA Bty. 

In July,  9th LAA Bty was sent to Beirut in Syria where the 7th Division had been a key part of Operation Exporter, leaving just the Regt HQ with the other Commonwealth Bty remaining under command.  However, it was soon rejoined by the 7th LAA Bty after it had recovered from its travails in Crete. 

In August the 're-numbering ' was applied and all elements adopted the '2nd/' appelation.  They reconsolidated again in Egypt in September, 1941 less the 2nd/9th which rejoined them in February 1942, in time to embark for Australia.   

Return to Australia - Feb 42

On return to Australia, the 2nd/3rd LAA Regiment (less the 2nd/9th LAA Bty)  moved to WA and was therafter progressively dismembered and its contituent Bty detached to provide cover for various facilities in WA.  The Regimental HQ eventually 'morphed' into the 121st Light Anti Aircraft Regiment (2) - yes there were two of them - and the HQ re-located and eventually merged with Cairns AA Group which in turn became 7 AA Group. The original Bty by this time had become independent entities, and they were tasked accordingly.  

The Regt HQ was re-constituted in New Guinea from the Milne Bay AA Gp to form the 2nd/3rd Composite AA Regt in August 1943, and absorbed the 2nd/9th LAA Bty together with the 2nd/5th HAA Bty and the 78 AA Searchlight Bty under command. They supported the Lae campaign and relocated there from Buna from Oct 43.

They returned to Australia in Apr 44.  They were re-constituted in Oct 44 and came under command of the 9th Division (again) for the invasion of north Borneo via Tarakan as part of Op Oboe, based at Morotai and Labuan Island, remaining there until the cessation of hostilities.

2nd/7th LAA Bty - On return to Australia, the 2nd/7th LAA Bty landed in Fremantle and some via Adelaide.  They concentrated at RAAF Pearce before moving to Geraldton in Jan 43.  By Aug 42 they relocated to Melbourne and were re-constituted as part of the 2nd/2nd Composite AA Regiment, in a practice that was to become the 'new normal' - and totally confusing. 

'Composite' AA Regiments were formed with one HAA Bty and one or two LAA Bty and sometimes a Searchlight Battery under command.  In this case, the 2nd/2nd Composite Regient was to absorb the 2nd/7th LAA Bty and the 67th Mobile SL Bty along with the 2nd/5th HAA Bty, in Oct 43.

They deployed to Oro Bay in New Guinea, then to Buna in Feb 44 and returned to Australia in May 44. They were being prepared for a role in the planned invasion of Borneo but that did not eventuate and they remained in southern Quensland.  In Sep 44, personnel and troops from the disbanding 2nd/8th LAA bty were absorbed as 'C' Tp, increasing the 2nd/7th's establishment to 18 guns.

2nd/8th LAA Bty  - On return to Australia in Feb 42, the 2nd/8th LAA Bty was assigned to protect a Catalina flying boat base at Crawley and another facility at Guildford in WA.  They subsequently replaced the 2nd/7th LAA Bty at RAAF Pearce and Guildford. Elements were detached to the new submarine base at Exmouth.  They left the 2nd/3rd LAA Regt in July 1943 and were re-constituted in Melbourne as the 2nd/8th (Airborne) LAA Bty.  They were assigned to Buna at Cape Endaiadere and covered the staging area supporting the Huon Peninsula campaign.  They were withdrawn to Australia in Jun 44.  They were disbanded in Sep 44 with some personnel and guns being used to form 'C' Tp of the 2nd/7th LAA Bty boostng their establishment to 18 guns.

Fig. 2. A Bofors 40mm anti-aircraft gun position, A Troop, 2/9th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Australian Artillery, on the main fighter runway at Gili Gili airfield (Milne Bay). A Kittyhawk fighter from No.75 Squadron RAAF can be seen coming in to land. At rear of gun, left to right: VX44507 Geoffrey R George; VX47412 Jack M Crittenden and VX36313 A D (Tim) Jennings. Also included in the photograph are NX22470 B B Boughton or Buck Bearsford (?), gun loader on platform, VX28384 Robert (Bob) Waterman, ammunition supplier, VX36335 Jack Quick, gun layer (seated, on left) and gun layer NX16412 Edward Preece (with binoculars on the right behind the barrel). (AWM 026630)

2nd/9th LAA Bty - The 2nd/9th LAA Bty did not even get to rejoin its parent unit on return to Australia;  it was shipped off to Townsville covering RAAF Garbutt.  After the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, an airfield was constructed at Milne Bay, and the 2nd/9th was despatched to cover it from Jun 42, remaining there during the Battle of the same name.  The airfield was a key objective of the Japanese, but dogged defence assisted greatly by the RAAF 75 Squadron P-40 Kittyhawks operating from there, saw the Japanese repelled, inflicting the first land defeat of Japanese forces in WW2.

In Aug 43, the 2nd/3rd Composite AA Regt was formed from the 2nd/5th HAA Bty (from the 2nd/2nd HAA Regt) the 2nd/9th LAA Bty and the 78th AA SL Bty, to support the Lae campaign.  They relocated to Lae in Oct 44, and in Apr 44 they were relieved and withdrew to Australia.  They were reformed after leave as part of the 2nd/2nd Composite AA Regt placed under command of the 9th Division for the invasion of north Borneo via Tarakan.  They staged through Morotai in Apr 45, landing at Labuan Island in May 45 and remained there until the cessation of hostilities.


Light Anti Aircraft units were equipped with the ubiquitous (used by almost everyone in WW2 in one form or another) and very effective Swedish-designed (notably a neutral power) Bofors 40mm semi-automatic light anti aircraft gun, generally on a mobile, towed mounting.  

Heavy Anti Aircraft units were equipped with the British 3.7 inch Anti Aircraft gun, a near but heavier equivalent of the much vaunted German 88mm gun.  Unlike the '88',  the 3.7 inch gun was rarely used in the Anti Tank role. 

In addition they were all equipped with small arms for local defence with WW1 vintage Lewis and later Bren Guns used for defence against low flying aircraft.

Internal Structure

The formal unit structure was comprised of the Regimental Headquarters, a Signals Section, a Workshops Section and three operational gun Batteries.

RHQ included the Commanding Officer (Lt Col), Adjutant (Capt), Quartermaster (Capt), Regimental Medical Officer (Capt), Chaplain, Postal Section and their staff.

Each Battery (Bty) was commanded by a Major, supported by a Battery Captain,  and had an establishment of approximately 250 officers & ORs and 18 guns in three Troops (Tp).

Each Tp was commanded by a Lieutenant and had an establishment of approximately 80 personnel. In theory, each Tp had 6 Gun Detachments, i.e. 6 guns.

Each Gun Detachment (Det) was commanded by a Sergeant and had an establishment of approximately 8-10 men.

Signals Section was commanded by a Lieutenant (RAA) and had an establishment of 1 officer and 39 ORs. It included 5 WT (wireless telegraphy) detachments, 1 operating subsection and 1 cable subsection. Linesmen were attached to each Bty.

Workshop Section was commanded by a Captain (AEME) and had an establishment of approximately 40 men and carried out 'First Line' repairs of the units equipment.

Each Battery comprised 3 Troops and each Troop had some 80 men responsible for 6 gun detachments, a total of 54 guns.

Throughout the Regt were distributed cooks, despatch riders, drivers and others in key support roles.

Compiled by Steve Larkins Jul 21


2nd/3rd Light Anti Aircraft Regiment Association website: https://www.antiaircraft.org.au/regiment-members/regiment-structure (www.antiaircraft.org.au) (www.antiaircraft.org.au)  Accessed 20-22 July 2021

Reference: McKenzie-Smith, Graham 2018 "The Unit Guide The Australian Army 1939-45 Vol 3 of 6 Artillery Air Defence and Engineer Units" Big Sky Publishing ISBN 978-1-925675-14-6