When the need arose in WW1 for anti-tank defence, it was considered just another role for the Field Batteries. It wasn’t until 1938 that specialist Anti-Tank Regiments were formed. Regiments with 4 batteries each were formed by converting 5 Regular and 5 TA Field Batteries plus 5 TA Infantry Battalions to the new role by 1939. The same year, the TA units were doubled giving a total of 100 Anti-Tank Batteries formed or in the process of forming by the outbreak of war.
Most units were equipped with the 2 pounder anti-tank gun although some TA units had the 25mm Hotchkiss. The 6 pounder came into service in November 1941 and the 17 pounder in February 1943. Self propelled equipments were the Archer 17 pounder introduced in October 1944 and the American M10 3 inch a lot of which were converted to 17 pounders. There was also the short lived Deacon 6 pounder SP. All of this meant numerous changes in the organisation.
The BEF in France in 1939/40 had Divisional Anti-Tank Regiments of 4 batteries for a total of 48 guns. The Mobile Divisions had a support group with two RHA Regiments. One of these was a Light Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment with two anti-tank batteries each of 12 guns. From October 1940 this became a conventional anti-tank regiment. The exception was 3 RHA in the Middle East who had always been fully anti-tank. It was decided to introduce Corps Anti-Tank Regiments to introduce defence in depth along with other tasks as required.
Examples are given below of the War Establishments for Anti-Tank Regiments and Batteries first in an Infantry Division, then an Armoured Division and finally for Corps Anti-Tank Regiments.
Please note that the Organisation section of all War Establishments contained the following:
“This table is intended merely as a guide to officers commanding units, and may be varied, within the numbers of ranks, tradesmen and vehicles provided, according to tactical or administrative requirements”
The Training Pamphlet also stated:
“These notes are a guide and cater for the normal case; it is for commanders to interpret them in the spirit rather than the letter……..”
By late 1942 it was realised that because of the number of different guns available and their different mixtures within a battery, a single War Establishment for a regiment no longer worked. So separate WE’s were produced for an RHQ commanding 3 or 4 batteries and the different batteries themselves.
Examples of the different WE’s are given below with the RHQ’s first, then the Batteries.
War Establishment II/181/2 January 1944
This WE was modified by Appendix 3 to Artillery Training Volume 2, Pamphlet 5, Deployment of an Anti-Tank Regiment
Both versions are given in the link
Because the 17 pounder Archer was now more widely available, a new War Establishment was introduced in March 1945. This was for an RHQ commanding three batteries each having one Self Propelled Troop and one battery entirely Self Propelled.
It was essentially the same as the one given above with some small changes, The Commanding Officer now had a tank as his personal “Charger”, the two Carriers were now Light Reconnaissance Cars (although they could be Carrier AOP’s) and the Sergeant Technical Storeman was now a Staff Sergeant.
As the 17pdr Archer Self Propelled Gun became available they were issued at a rate of one Troop of three in an Anti-Tank Battery. At the same time the towed 17pdr Troop had its 4×4 Tractors replaced by Halftracks fitted with a winch.
In January 1945 War Establishments were issued for 17 pounder Batteries with both towed and self propelled guns and all self propelled.
This organisation had three Troops each of three 17 pounder Archer SP’s. The Battery and Troop Commanders each had a Valetine Tank, either a Mark IX with a 6 pounder gun or a Mark X1 with a 75 mm gun.
An Anti-Tank Battery in an Assault Division had two Troops of 6 pounder guns, four in each Troop and one Troop of M10 3 inch Self Propelled Guns.
The Armoured Division Regimental Headquarters was a universal design able to command 3 or 4 batteries of different types. Some combinations of equipment might require some minor adjusts in personnel and equipment, most of these in the repair and maintenance sections.
When RHQ controlled 2 towed batteries and 2 self propelled batteries the following additions were made:
Captain Technical Officer, Batman, Driver Mechanic in a Carrier AOP
The Sergeant Storeman Technical becames a Staff Sergeant
July 1943. Three Troops each of four guns. This establishment has many motorcycles that were later replaced by the Car 5 cwt 4×4 (Jeep). The twin LMG’s were replaced by 20 mm equipments and the next version added a Signals Sergeant.
January 1944. Three Troops each of four guns. M10 3 inch Battery and the differences when the Battery has M10 17 pounders.
April 1943. Three Troops each of four 17 pounder Guns. Armoured Division units used Halftracks with a winch as Gun Tractors.
At first, the Corps Anti-Tank Regiments were the same as those in an Armoured Division. In February 1944 this changed with the War Establishment III/308/1. The Corps units were to provide defence in depth covering HQ’s, Key Points and Dumps and Installations. They were to provide a mobile force to counter any penetration by enemy tanks and re-inforce the Divisional Anti-Tank defence. The equipment used reflected the need to cover a large area. The Self propelled Batteries used the M10, both 3 inch and 17 pounder versions, as they were faster than the Valentine Archer SP. Towed Batteries used the Crusader Gun Tractor as it was fast with good cross country performance.
Later Battery Commanders and OP’s got Crusader Tractors and some towed Batteries swopped to Quad Tractors. Presumably the new Morris C8 with No. 5 body. Most Self Propelled batteries had half 3 inch and half 17 pounder M10’s but later some of these became all 17 pounder.