The Regt History of 93rd SL Regt RA

The reason for us recreating the 93rd (Mixed) Searchlight Regiment RA is self evident. It was the only all female regiment in the British Army and an ideal regiment for all our Auxiliary Territorial Service re-enactors to portray.

Once the Government had decided that women could be attached to the Royal Artillery Heavy Anti Aircraft Batteries, of Ack Ack Command, it was agreed that this could well include searchlight duties. A secret trial, called the Newark Experiment, was carried out in April 1941 to see if women were capable to carrying out the tasks that were required of Searchlight Regiments. On 23rd April 1941, 54 ATS members were sent for training at Newark. They were aged between 19 and 35. The Army Intelligence tests showed the general intelligence of ATS personel to be rather higher than that of the men": the members were fairly representative of ATS. personnel.

Following on from this successful experiment, recommendations were made that ATS be attached to Searchlight Regiments. The original concerns had been that the girls would not be able to cope with being sent to desolate and lonely places, that they would not be able to defend themselves and that they would not have the strength to turn over the huge generator that was needed to power the searchlight.

However, during the secret experiment, the girls proved themselves more than capable to coping with all these difficulties. In July 1942 the first seven searchlight troops was formed with ATS members and they were posted to 26th (M) SL Regt RA as a true mixed regiment with one complete battery of four troops in 301 Bty, two troops in 339 Bty and one troop in a third battery. There were also other ATS troops dotted around in other searchlight regiments.

93rd (Mixed ) Searchlight Regiment RA (TA) to give it its full title was formed on the 25th October 1942. The RHQ was formed at Gerards Cross, Buckinghamshire with 301, 342 and 495 Bty. The batterys came from 26th (m). 79th and 77th SL Regt's, respectively at first, apart from 301 Bty which was already all women. The Regiment was still 50% men but the whole scale transferring of ATS in, and the gunners out, soon started. The first change was A and B troops from 495 Bty swapped with A and B troop 339 Bty, 26 SL Regt RA.

Then on the 1st June 1943 C and D troops 495 Bty were disbanded and replaced by C and D ATS troops. Later on the 23rd August 1943 D troop 342 Bty disbanded and was replaced by D ATS troop. By the time the regiment was full converted there were approximately 1500 girls in the Regiment.

The girls often found the duties interesting. They learnt about electricity, radio circuits, radar, mechanics, Morse code, plotting and had to be able to recognise enemy and friendly aircraft in all weathers. One of the great dangers of operating the searchlight, however, was the risk of enemy aircraft shooting down the beam of light.

Guard duties were carried out using a 'stick', often a pick-axe handle as the girls were not allowed to carry guns, even to defend themselves. The only immediate contact with the outside world was a small radio transmitter for detachment personnel to give and receive messages from the troop officer. A dispatch rider would arrive each day with details of how friendly aircraft could be identified and deliver personal mail. The ration lorry visited detachments once a week to deliver the rations.

93rd (M) SL Regt RA commenced disbandment at The Copse, Hamble on 1st July 1945 and was completed by the 29th, thus dispatching the only all female regiment ever in the British Army to history.